French in 20 hours?


So it’s the end of January, how did my head first dive into French go?  Is 20 hours of practicing enough to learn anything?

The answer is about as ambiguous as the question: yes and no.

Here’s where 20 hours of studying French got me:

  • I know over 400 words in French and the first 250 most commonly spoken French words
  • I can conjugate basic verbs in the present tense and a select few (or a well selected few) in the past and future.
  • I can read books for very young children
  • I can order coffee and usually a full meal 🙂
  • I can understand basic directions and ask basic questions.

Am I fluent?  Of course not, not even close.   Am I happy with my progress?  Yes.  Well…when I look back at how long I have been avoiding French, I feel pretty happy with my progress.  In the heat of studying or talking, I tend to feel more frustrated than proud.

So can you really learn anything in 20 hours like Josh Kaufman claims?  Well to be more accurate he claims you can learn* anything in 20 hours.

*where the definition of “learn” is to get over the first hump of being absolutely horrible.

However getting over that first hump of being really, really bad at something is really important.  Really. It’s that first hump, that first climb up the roller coaster, that stops most people from continuing on.   Beginning a new language or any new project is so exciting for me, I do great learning in the beginning and I am super eager for more.  Numbers, colors, animals… bring it on.  It’s always around the second week for me that the first hurdle appears.  I say hurdle, but in reality it seems like the great wall of china.  I start to get overwhlemed by the sheer amount of things to learn in a new language and single words aren’t as exciting anymore.  I want to make sentences, I want to talk to people.  It’s this hurdle that I wanted to break through in one month, because it is this hurdle that has made me quit in the past.

No one likes to be bad a something.  And being bad at a language is so painfully obvious in the first stages of learning because the sole point of languages is to communicate… and it’s constantly clear that you can not.  Adding to the discomfort is that to improve it’s best to keep trying to communicate with native speakers…it feels like walking into an orchestra’s rehearsal a couple weeks into learning the violin and trying to join in.  Language learning is just something that is difficult to improve completely on your own.

Now if you watch the video or read his book ( I did both), I like everything he says and it makes a lot of sense to me, but I think the title is quite an exaggeration.  But I guess no one would buy a book called:

20 hours till you stop sucking


Learn to be average in 20 hours

It also would really depend on what you choose to learn in those 20 hours.  Learning French is going to take way more time than learning to juggle three balls or to play one song on the guitar.  Additionally, the concept of “learning French” is such a vague goal I don’t know if I could ever accomplish it.  To go further I would probably make a much more concrete goal.  Which is always a better choice in goal making 🙂

One undeniable fact is that focusing on one thing in an absorbed way for 20 hours is definitely going to get you further than doing nothing or doing nothing consistently which is almost the same thing. nightingale

If you are interested in Josh Kaufman’s book, but need a little more info check out this visual book report from Sacha Chua’s website, “Living an Awesome Life.”



Au revoir janvier!





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