How much of a new language can you really learn in 1 month?

Our friend was learning Spanish on Duolingo and she told Calvin and I that we should learn a new language so she could have some competition. We laughed about it but then thought, “why don’t we?”

We both had written down learning another foreign language on our dream list earlier in the year. We just thought it would be later down the road, and in the country that the language was spoken. Calvin suggested we study in the evenings after the kids go to sleep (which is 6:30pm) and at first I was like no way.

I am usually so tired in the evenings and I look forward to mindlessly looking on social media or watching my hallmark movies, but I decided to give it a go anyways. Here’s what I did and what has happened in one month’s time.

I knew it would be different this time around. When we learned Spanish we:

  1. Didn’t have any kids.
  2. Went to Mexico.
  3. Did 3 months of formal training with a private teacher.
  4. Actually personally knew quite a few Spanish speakers.
  5. Went on to live in Spain for 2 years.

This time we:

  1. Have 2 kids.
  2. Are in Hawaii—12 time zones away from Italy.
  3. Are doing it on our own. (Me studying Italian and Calvin Portuguese).
  4. I didn’t personally know any Italians. (Now I have met one here in Kona). We know a lot of people that speak Portuguese.
  5. We don’t have any plans to move to Italy or Portugal/Brazil.

With Spanish as our first foreign language and both languages falling under the romance category (meaning there would be similarities from the Latin roots (what Rome spoke, hence Romance Languages), we set out on our journey.

Latin Language Tree
Romance (Latin) Language Tree

Here is a bit of my process:

  1. I started out with Duolingo and went through the entire program in the first two weeks. Duolingo was very repetitive so I learned a lot of new words, sentence structure, pronunciation and listening skills. I was pretty addicted as it’s a competitive game as well.

  2. Along with Duolingo I listened to a “Earworms: Rapid Italian” 3 hour audiobook set to music and with lots of repetition when I went walking. I also watched lots of Youtube videos finding Weilà TomItaliano Automatico, and Italian Made Easy. All incredible and extremely helpful.

  3. I quickly realized I wanted a grammar book to help me so I found one on Amazon called Italian Demystified and focused on that in the last two weeks doing more than half of the book. It was full of explanations, exercises and even tests at the end of each chapter.

  4. I also started listening to Pimsleur Italian on my walks since my audiobook had finished.

  5. I had also messaged the only girl I knew that spoke Italian as a second language, and quite well since she had lived in Italy and I asked her if I could message her to practice. We began sending short messages every other day which was very helpful. I had to use google translate for almost everything. She also recommended that I watch tv shows and listen to music. I watched a season of a dubbed tv show on Netflix and found Marco Mengoni (seriously so good).

  6. I discovered the app “HelloTalk” which is so fabulous.

    italian convo on HelloTalk AppConversing with an Italian

    You create a short profile and can basically text back and forth with people that are trying to learn your language and you theirs. However you can correct each other when you say it wrong. I am pretty much corrected every other sentence! But I am learning. In a sense you learn better when you are corrected because you remember the right way to say it the next time.

  7. About four weeks in, I found out there is a cafe 15 minutes down the road with an Italian owner! Nervous as could be I planned a morning where I could go, hoping to catch her to try to chat. She was there and it was a pretty rough first conversation in Italian. I accidentally kept saying Spanish words and thinking in Spanish. However she was so encouraging and couldn’t believe I had only been studying for 4 weeks. She told me I can go by and practice (which I plan to do).

They say it takes about 480 hours to reach basic fluency in a level 1 language such as Italian. So at an hour a day that’s 1.5 years. I honestly don’t want to wait that long so in my first month I averaged 3 hours a day, hoping to get there in 6 months instead. It sounds like a ton of time but it’s so possible.

99% of my social life is play/lunch dates in the day so every evening except 2 in the month, I studied 2+ hours. I also would do 30-45 minutes of listening/talking on my morning walks and then sometimes be able to squeeze in a bit of studying when Ivory napped.

My life went on as normal except my time on social media was cut to a maximum of 10 minutes a day. I discovered quickly that 10 minutes a day was more than enough for me. Anytime I would want to go on my phone to scroll instagram, I would do an Italian Duolingo lesson instead.

I have dreamt in Italian and often I drift off to sleep thinking how to say different things in my head in Italian. I have LOVED it. I feel like a passion has awakened in my soul for the language and my desire to learn continues to be so strong.

So how much can you learn in a month?

The short answer is A TON. Way more than you think. I can understand, read and speak so much more than when I started a month ago. I have a long way to go before I reach fluency but I feel like I have a huge jumpstart, especially for not being in any formal training or in Italy for that matter.

I really believe that if you want to learn a foreign language no matter your age, you can do it. It takes a lot of work, yes. It takes time, yes. But the rewards are so wonderful. 63 million people speak Italian as their first language, so it’s like a whole new world of people has opened up to me.

So I cannot encourage you enough to just go for it! You can do it. Are you learning a language? If so which one? How has your journey been?


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Camille Hanson

Hi friends! I create American English content for you and ESL Learners around the world!

When I am not creating videos, books or blogs, you will probably find me in a cafe somewhere around the world, studying my next target language or at home cooking up food for my family of five.

Stick around, read some posts and learn some English with me :)

NEVER. GIVE. UP. ~Camille

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