A close up of a woman's hands in front of a computer, as if she's speaking - representing hos the Italki Challenge lessons work.

The October Italki Challenge – Was It Worth It?

For the first time, I thought I would try out an Italki Challenge. So, for the last week of September, I saddled up, yanked out my calendar, and scheduled 20 language lessons. If I was going to do this, I was going all out.

Was it worth it? Here’s what I learned:

Setting Up A Successful Italki Challenge

For my first challenge, I decided to focus primarily on Hindi, and ten of my scheduled lessons were devoted to this one language. My goal was to smoothen out my speech.

My main issue – aside from limited vocabulary – was being tongue-tied. But more than just struggling to get the right words out, I discovered that I had a particular problem with verbs. Sure, I understood the concept on paper and could write the tenses decently. But when it came to conversation, verb tenses just sprayed out with consideration for person or gender.

But that wasn’t all.

I had also taken up Greek – a heritage language that has been languishing on my to-do list. Additionally, there were several other languages I had studied in-depth in college but haven’t used, as well as other relevant Indian languages.

But I had to focus if I wanted to measure anything properly. This is how my scheduled hours broke down:

  1. Hindi – 10 Hours
  2. Greek – 5 Hours
  3. Bengali – 2 Hours
  4. German – 1 Hour
  5. Russian – 1 Hour
  6. Arabic – 1 Hour

I stuck to languages I have spoken before, even if only for five minutes, in real conversation.

Other languages I’m working on are Spanish, Japanese, and some Marathi. But for those three languages, I have barely had any speaking practice – even in college.


Working full-time, my biggest challenges outside the classroom were to prepare for the class. Often times, I didn’t. This sometimes meant that lessons were awkwardly constructed, especially since I took on a lot of new community tutors, and we had to plan on the fly.

The next biggest challenge was the act of speaking itself. In some languages like Russian and Arabic, it’s been a long time since I’ve even attempted to speak the language! In others, like Bengali, I just didn’t know enough to speak for an entire hour.

Finally, one obstacle will always be money. I normally budget about $20-30 a month for language lessons. In order to complete the challenge, I needed over $100. It was a bit of an investment, but it’s still significantly less than a college course.

The Results

How did the language challenge turn out? It wasn’t too bad. But there were some hiccups.

First, I only completed 18 hours. One Hindi lesson, and my sole German lesson needed to be rescheduled because of overbooking. It happens.

On the plus side, I did learn quite a bit:

  • First, my Hindi improved. While it’s still a bit awkward, by the last two or three lessons, I was able to speak more clearly, with fewer mistakes. My mother-in-law agrees.
  • For languages like Hindi and Bengali, drills are useful. Normally, I despite drills, and they never helped me with German, Russian, or reading other languages. But for Hindi and Bengali, where the word order is reversed, doing spontaneous drills were extremely beneficial.
  • For languages like Greek, where I am still accumulating new vocabulary and mastering basic structures, doing a 30-50 split between conversation and grammar rules works pretty well.
  • Balancing a difficult language (Hindi) with a more familiar one (Greek) helps boost motivation.
  • Reading extensively really does support speaking. I read more in the final two weeks than in the first two, especially in Hindi, and I believe that may have contributed.
  • Despite not speaking Russian or Arabic for over four years, I remembered quite a bit! That was a big boost. And I felt like I improved my mindset, almost “rewriting” any anxiety from my college days.

Things to Consider

In addition to the October Italki Challenge, I have started using LingQ and Readlang to keep up with my studies on a busy schedule. I would spend at least 30 minutes reading in my languages, much lower than before the challenge.

However, in the second half of the month, my Hindi-reading shot up to probably 30-45 minutes a day. This correlates to the improvement I found in the second part of the month.

Of course, despite getting a boost, there’s still a lot to be done. I’m planning to up my reading, continue some Hindi and Greek lessons, and go back to journaling.

So was it worth it? For me, I think YES. Although next time, I may limit it to two languages max only.

Did you participate in the challenge? What were your thoughts?

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