Jenny’s daughter Grace was a finalist in the 2015 Junior Language Challenge – and one of the stars of our video from the day! In today’s blog post, Jenny tells us about her experience of the competition as a mum, and what taking part in the JLC has meant to Grace.
I was amazed by the commitment she put into the challenge, especially as she was only 7 at the time. She practised daily with her Daddy and it became a really fun part of the day. Even though she was ‘learning’, she didn’t/doesn’t class it in the same way as homework.
Grace got through to the semi-finals in Cambridge. She was so very nervous and had no idea what to expect (similarly to myself!). She completed the first round and got through to the final 12. It was this round I sat in to watch, oh my goodness… It was nerve wrecking watching the scores go up and down. Unfortunately Grace didn’t make it through to the final that year. She wasn’t too downbeat about it and declared she would do better next time! I wasn’t sure my nerves could stand another one!
March 2015 came and Grace started the challenge again. Proudly, she got through to the semi-finals and this time she came top in the final 12, so she was through to the Grand Final at Olympia! To us, this was an amazing achievement and we were so proud.
On the day she made it through to the last round but only came 10th. Although, only 10th at the age of 8 from thousands of entrants is fairly epic for us all. The JLC team were fabulous throughout the trials, very reassuring and putting the children at ease.
Grace is determined to make the top three in the finals this autumn!
I cannot speak highly enough of the JLC and would thoroughly recommend all parents let their child experience this modern way of learning a language. It is a fun and challenging game with only positive results. So, as we commence the new challenge with Romanian, Grace reiterates her desire to make the Grand Final! Fingers crossed!
Good luck to Grace and everyone who takes part in this year’s JLC, which will launch on March 11th and is open to children aged 10 and under across the UK. Entry costs just £5 and is donated to our charity onebillion. The first of our three languages this year will be Romanian!
So we’re now a few weeks into 2015, and chances are all the resolutions we made in a fit of great excitement on January 1st are a dim and distant memory. If one of your goals for this year is to learn a new language, here are a few tips to help you stick at it, even when real life gets in the way, and your motivation starts to fade…
Make it fun
You’re far more likely to learn if you’re enjoying yourself. Of course, the best way to pick up a language is to take a trip to the country where they speak it, but that’s not an option for most of us, particularly so soon after the expense of Christmas! So instead, get yourself an app like uTalk or pick up some Flashsticks to post up all over your house (and office, and car…). Or if you’re on a budget, make up your own game. There is no right way of learning a language, and everyone’s different – but wouldn’t you rather be having fun while you study than poring over a grammar book trying to memorise verb endings?
Make it a competition
I’m currently learning German, and know for a fact I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the uTalk challenge. I don’t really need to learn German – I’m not going to Germany in the immediate future, nor do I have a German mother-in-law to impress – but I fancied trying something new and different. The problem with learning a language just for fun, though, is that it’s very easy to give up without a pressing reason to keep going. The uTalk challenge gave me that reason; I’m a very competitive person, and I wasn’t about to let my colleagues beat me (well, except Nat, who destroyed us all). Knowing that I had to come into work each morning and update my score on the board has kept me motivated, and as a result I now know probably several hundred new words that I didn’t know before.
Focus on the end goal
While there are many people who, like me, decide to learn a language just for the fun of it, there are many more who do it for a specific reason. So if you feel your enthusiasm starting to wane, focus not on learning the language, but on what it’ll mean when you’ve learnt it. Maybe it’s a new job, a new relationship or a forthcoming trip. If you concentrate on what you’re getting from knowing a new language, suddenly putting the time in to study won’t seem nearly such a chore.
Reward yourself regularly
Remembering your ultimate goal is important, but that can sometimes seem far, far away. If you were about to climb Everest and didn’t plan to stop till you got to the summit, you’d probably never start (and who could blame you). So make sure you set yourself achievable ‘in-between’ goals, and reward yourself appropriately when you get there. Personally, I find chocolate to be an excellent incentive. Or you could allow yourself an episode of your favourite TV show, or a shopping trip. Whatever works for you and will keep you motivated to press on.
Set aside time
Life can be incredibly busy, and often it feels like there isn’t enough time to do everything, so learning a language can slip down the to-do list behind other, more pressing tasks. To combat this argument, try setting aside a fixed amount of time each day, or a few times a week, which is only for language learning. Where that time fits into the rest of your schedule is up to you, but the important thing is that nothing else gets in the way. And if you can make use of ‘dead time’ like your daily commute, so much the better – that way you’re not using up hours that would ordinarily be used for other jobs.
Tell other people
I’m a great believer in this one. Tell friends and family that you’re learning a language, and chances are at some point, they’re going to ask you how it’s going. And if they don’t, ask them to. If I know that at any moment someone’s going to demand that I say something in another language, I’m much more likely to keep learning it, just in case. (Of course, when they do ask me to say something, my mind will instantly go blank – but that’s another story.)
Don’t give up, even if you slip up
As with any goal, there are going to be pitfalls along the way. You’d have to be incredibly determined (and slightly superhuman) to never have an off-day or consider giving up. And that’s ok, but the important thing is to pick yourself up after this wobble and keep going. Knowing you’ve overcome a few obstacles is only going to make the moment you have your first conversation in another language that much sweeter, because after all…
Good luck (or should I say Viel Glück)!
We’ve had a great response to the uTalk challenge, with people all over the world getting on board and committing to learning a new language for the new year. There’s still time to join in – we’ll be starting on January 1st, but even after that there’s no reason you can’t take part if you’d like to. It’s never a bad time to learn a language, so just drop us an email and let us know your name and chosen language (there are 100 to choose from) if you’d like to join in.
Here are a few more details on how it’s going to work:
1. First things first
The challenge is intended to be fun. As competitive as we may get between ourselves here in the office (and we will!), we don’t want to put any pressure on anyone. So if you do find the language is a bit more challenging than you expected, or you don’t have as much time as you thought you would, nothing bad will happen. We promise.
Secondly, more than anything this is a personal challenge. We do ask that everyone starts together on January 1st 2015, and we’ll be keeping you posted on how others are doing, but we’ll let you decide how you go about learning. You can tackle the topics and games in any order you like; there’s no set order. Maybe you could get some friends to join you and have your own private contest – or you may find that your main competition ends up being yourself!
A few people have asked why the challenge is only for iOS users. It’s nothing personal – it’s just because at the moment, the uTalk app is only available for iOS devices. We’re really sorry that we can’t offer this opportunity to everyone right now.
2. What you’ll learn
The code we’ve sent to participants unlocks the Essentials upgrade, which contains eleven categories to learn. (If you haven’t yet received your Essentials code, please email us and let us know which language you’re waiting for.) There is a further upgrade – the Premium upgrade – but this isn’t part of the challenge, so you’re under no obligation to purchase it. However, should you wish to learn more later, as uTalk challenge participants, this upgrade will only cost you £4.99 instead of the usual £12.99, which we hope you’ll agree is a bit of a bargain.
(On a side note, the EuroTalk team are taking on the full Premium app for our challenge, so don’t be alarmed if our scores look a bit higher than everyone else’s…)
3. Keeping in touch
We’ll be keeping in touch with everyone by email at regular intervals throughout the month to let you know how we’re doing and check on your progress. If at any point you don’t want us to do this, because you’ve had to put the challenge aside for the time being, or you’d just rather be left alone to get on with it by yourself, let us know and we’ll take you off the list.
When we contact you, we’ll ask you to email us a screenshot showing your current score (this will appear at the bottom of the topic menu once you start collecting points). This is so we can verify the scores, but also because it’s the quickest and easiest way for you to send them to us. If you’re not sure how to do this, we’ll be happy to explain! We’ll also be posting updates on our own social media on how you’re all doing in different languages, but we promise not to use anyone’s name without prior permission.
4. Sharing your progress
But don’t feel you can only share your progress with us when we email you. We’d love to hear from you at any time, so you’re always welcome to tweet us (@EuroTalk), email us or write on our Facebook page to let us know how you’re getting on. We’re also on Instagram so if you’re sharing any photos from the challenge, please tag us: @uTalk_learnalanguage
We’re not the only ones who’ll want to know how you’re doing. From personal experience, we know that sharing your goal with friends and family is a great way to keep your motivation up when it starts to flag (which it probably will at some point – you’re only human, after all). You may even inspire them to join in too.
If you are talking about the uTalk challenge on social media, please use hashtag #NewYearNewuTalk to join the conversation.
This is the first time we’ve done the uTalk challenge, so please bear with us if it doesn’t always go entirely smoothly! If it goes well, we’d like to make it an annual event, so if you have any suggestions at any point on how we could make it better in the future, we’d love to hear them. (We have lots of ideas already…)
Good luck, and if you have any questions now or during January, we’ll be happy to answer them.
Happy New Year – and Happy Learning!
So you’ve heard about our January challenge. You haven’t?! Quick, you still have time, have a look here.
So I thought I’d give you my reasons for learning French, you know, in case you need some inspiration. The main reason is because I’ll be going to Paris for New Year (woop woop) and I am basically getting into ‘French mode’ by listening to French songs, eating croissants, and I even bought a chic beret.
As a kid, teenager and young adult I have been learning German and English, and although I think they are both brilliant languages, I have always felt that I want to have that nice, delicate French accent and sing along with Edith Piaf while putting on my winged eyeliner.
I’m expecting it to be quite similar to my native language, Romanian for numerous reasons among which are the facts that they are both romance languages and that for quite a long period of history, Romania looked up to the French politics, lifestyle and architecture so many words come from French language – really excited about it!
Come play with us, it’ll be fun! Choose a language and let us know!
So I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and I’m taking part in the New Year uTalk challenge too.
It took me a while to finally decide on Italian. I was going to attempt Arabic or Mandarin; however given the time frame of just one month, I thought the challenge would be too great for myself. However I will attempt either Arabic or Mandarin at some point next year, you can hold me to that!
So why Italian I hear you say? Well there are many reasons.
I often go skiing in Italy and it’s very different to skiing anywhere else in Europe, as not many people speak English. It can be quite a struggle sometimes, so hopefully by the end of January with my newfound Italian it should be a breeze.
Near the office there is an Italian delicatessen, which sells some seriously good food. When you enter they’re always talking to you in Italian, and as I speak none I feel slightly embarrassed that I can’t respond in their own language. My goal by the end of January is to be able to order my food in Italian, as well as have a conversation with the employees there.
My final reason is that there are many beautiful cities that I wish to visit over the next few years in Italy. Even though it is a given that I will do the ‘touristy’ things whilst I’m there, I would also like to think I may be able to go off the beaten track and find some true wonders hidden from the tourists. I also don’t want to be a typical tourist and ignore the locals; I want to be able to interact with them and get a real feel for the city.
So those are my reasons for learning Italian.
Anyone else going to join me?