Looking for some language learning inspiration? 

Hannah might be just the person you need. Not only has she taken part in the Lingoda Marathon, but she’s done two… at the same time!

Now that must really take some organisational skills. We spoke to Hannah about her language learning tips, career, and the difficulties she’s faced and overcome over the years.

Hi Hannah, tell us a little about you. Where are you from and what do you do?

I’m Australian and I’ve worked and lived in the UK, Canada, Ireland, France and Germany. I’ve worked for both large organisations and tech start-ups. In all cases, I’ve arranged for the visas through reciprocal working holiday agreements available for Australians (and other nationalities) under 30.

Since 2014, I have worked remotely in the tech industry. You can read more on my blog at hannahsuarez.me or follow me on Twitter.

You seem to have travelled to and lived in a lot of interesting places. Have you learned a new language for each of these places?

Yes, I lived in Paris and I learned French. I am living in Berlin now (this is actually my second time living here) and currently learning German.

I thought about living in the Netherlands and/or Norway in the near future, in which case I would have definitely made the effort to learn the languages. Initially I was planning to live in the Netherlands this year, and I was learning a bit of Dutch.

Hannah on her travels!

You’ve taken both the French and German Lingoda Marathons, how did you organise this around your working schedule?

I did the full Marathons for French and German at the same time. The timing was perfect because I was living in Paris and making arrangements to move back to Germany. For both languages, I started at A1.1 level.

I work remotely so I have a flexible schedule when it came to choosing class times. I spend about 3-5 hours per day during the marathon period dedicated to French and German language learning.

A lot of the organisation happens before the class. This is how I did it:

Booking classes:

I book all/most German units first. I then saved the calendar link (this is the file that Lingoda generates) so that I can see my schedule on my native Calendar app. Based on the availability of German units, I would then book my French units.

For the Calendar link, I can specify a refresh rate (this is frequency of how many times the calendar subscription checks back to Lingoda) with my Calendar app and is useful whenever I changed my units.

If your phone allows, you can send the calendar file link to yourself via email and open it from your phone. This should open the link and it will also save your entire class schedule. My Calendar app on my phone does not refresh though!

(Note: One thing to note about the current calendar link is to never share it to anyone. I found out that once I have the full subscription link, I could actually access my own Lingoda profile even in incognito mode)

Whenever I start a new level, I would actually prefer to start with the Reading units first.

Although lately (after the Marathon), I’ve been focusing largely on Grammar units.

It is also useful to do as much units as possible in the same chapter. That way you have more exposure to the same concepts and themes and build upon it.

Making Notes:

For each class, I would start a new document. Each document has a ‘boiler template’. This is a bunch of notes (about 2 pages long by now) with some common rules of the language around cases, declinations, how to tell which gender a word is, etc. These are copied/pasted over each new document that I make.

I copy and paste most of the course content PDF into each of my own documents. I tried to use an app to this automatically but it didn’t render the text properly and I still had to do a lot of manual editing.

The reason why I do this is that it make things a lot more organised for me. All of my lesson notes, my own notes and exercise answers are all in one place and available to me. I would add the additional examples that the teachers and other students use.

And when I need to revisit my notes (I do this quiet often) these are all available to me in a format that is easily searchable.

I would also run through the class notes with this translation app that would do an automated voiceover of the text. While not perfect, it would give me a good idea of how the words are pronounced. And then I would make a note of how to pronounce those words in my own documents.

Preparing for each class

In addition to the notes, I would usually answer as many exercises as I can before the class. And then during it, I may end up either having to correct my answers (i.e. for example the teacher clarified the exercises) or I create new answers to the exercises on the spot.

I like to start classes with some idea of the theme, concepts, notes, exercises, etc. This is especially important when you start a new level.

I would also do a lot of notes in advance just so that I can have some days not worrying too much about the class preparations. This was especially the case when I had to travel or move countries.

Since I prepare a lot for each class, I don’t tend to do the units in any order.

Even though I spend a lot of time preparing before each class, I usually come out with something new that I’ve learnt. Or for me, I end up revising the concepts again. Both instances work well.

What did you like most about the Lingoda Marathon?

It is not just learning the language but also learning the habit and techniques to learn the language.

Is there anything you found difficult?

Keeping in line with daily requirement of classes. There were two cases when meeting the daily requirement was difficult:

  • When I was away for travel for 4 days, I had to do early morning classes (5-6am, 7-8am).
  • On the final month, I moved from France to Germany because of the opportunities that came up. I was making a lot of visa preparations – job applications and interviews (as I had to get at least one German company to hire me in addition to my current one), looking for apartments, packing, moving out of Paris, finding health insurance, etc. My visa paperwork had to be ready since my appointment was two weeks after the Marathon. I had to prepare a lot of my own class notes in advance.

Things worked out well in the end. I got a full refund with Lingoda despite some of the difficulties. As of writing this, my residence permit for Germany has also been approved 🙂

What tips do you have for anyone thinking about learning a new language?

We have different learning styles and I think it is best to find your own methods and to stick with it.

Even now, I’m still looking for other ways of learning. For example, I tried to look into a language school and I ended up placing at an additional level above. After just one class I realised that I preferred my own method and pace.

Find resources and ways to widen your vocabulary.

I think this was from my French Lingoda teacher but she focused a lot on pronunciation. I actually agree with this, especially when you talk to locals, that you have to be more mindful of being understood! So I’ve actually recorded myself speaking some passages, uploaded online, and posted the audio link online to get feedback from native speakers of what my pronunciation is like.

Do you have any advice for someone who might be thinking about living or studying abroad?

Specific to language learning, it is definitely worth learning the language before arriving. I lived in Berlin for a year previously and my regret was not spending more time and effort learning German. This experience made me more driven to learn the language on my return back to living in Germany.

I also have various posts on my own blog (https://www.hannahsuarez.me/blog) which is more about generic stuff living abroad. These were written 2-3 years ago and might need an update but could be useful if you’re thinking of taking the step to move abroad:

hannah-lingoda-studentHannah exploring Europe.

Finally, what are your goals for language learning and how do you hope to achieve these?

Work on German language proficiency. My goal is to speak at a conference or other professional gathering in German. I recently attended a conference which had a presentation in German and started reading through lecture notes and other briefings in German.

If you want to follow in Hannah’s footsteps, and make your language learning dreams come true, visit the Lingoda website and start your journey today!