Lessons Learnt so Far
Having a group of people around you (even though it's a virtual group) also learning languages, is so motivating. The facebook group is amazing, and I have gotten so much support and advice from it. There's a real sense of achievement when a member does something they've struggled with for the first time, so much kindness and resource sharing, and a feeling that we're all in it together. I think when we're all sat at home on our own learning our languages, it's easy to undervalue how important it is to have a little network of like minded people around you. To an extent I try and get that through posting here, being on twitter and reading and commenting on other language learners blogs or forums, but it's not quite the same.
A significant number of us (myself included) finally managed to get over the fear of having online lessons with a native speaker. This topic alone has produced lots of great posts, and I think it was probably the no.1 concern for a lot of us! It was so great to see all the 'yay, I did it' posts, and to realise that even when you have a session that perhaps you feel didn't go well, you will survive it!
I found that booking my next online tutoring session, the moment the one I was having finished works well for me (I picked that tip up on the fb group as well!). Otherwise I start procrastinating, and over-thinking..."Well that didn't go so well so I'll give myself a break and then I might book another one or I might wait until I've studied a bit more..." Yeah, don't go there. Just book the session!
It's also ok to be picky. I've tried out several different tutors, and while I'd say only one was really not great, some just didn't suit me. I tried to make my messages to the tutors as specific as possible, but I think some tutors just like to do things certain ways! There are a couple that will be great for later on when I'm a bit further along in Russian. I also had to try out some tutors a couple of times, as I just couldn't tell from the trial session.
Of course if there's only a few people offering the language you're learning it makes it harder. As well as Italki, there is also My Language Exchange and probably a lot more. I also found that by joining specific groups on facebook (e.g. Learners of Russian, Learn Dutch now, Easy German, etc) I could contact tutors who advertised there (if that group allows it). However, some of these groups are nothing but spam, so you have to spend sometime checking them out.
Accountability has also been a huge motivator. Having a set amount of time to study each day, and recording it for all to see on the fb group really makes you focus on what you're actually doing. So, although I may think I'm studying Russian, if I take a closer look at what I've spent my time doing it may look like this - memrise (15 mins), check facebook (10 mins), watch russian youtube video (10 mins), check emails (10 mins), check twitter (5 mins), read blog posts on language learning (10 mins), etc... The I turn off the computer, feeling exhausted and thinking I've been studying Russian for an hour, but actually I've either been procrastinating or distracted! Definitely something I needed to realise to keep my learning in check!
Onwards and Upwards
I still have a long way to go in the challenge, and plenty more to figure out and discover. I still have days when I question why I'm doing this, when I feel as if I'm not making any progress and I can't remember the simplest things. But I also have days when I finally understand something that I've struggled with, or I say a whole sentence in Russian to my family without thinking about it, or I have a really motivating skype session. I recommend the Add1Challenge to anyone learning a language. It's been a great journey so far...