The Struggle Is Real: Conversation Practice on iTalki for the First Time

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“Struggle is the father of all things.” – Heraclitus

Oh là là… A few things! First, I wanted to give you all a look at what the first week of the language learning challenge looked like for me:

Lundi: 30 Minutes of exercises from the Complete French Grammar Workbook followed by 30 minutes of Living Language Audio and Text.
Mardi: 1 Hour reading Le Petit Monde de Charlotte.
Mercredi: 30 Minutes of Duolingo followed by 30 minutes of flashcard input and review on Anki.
Jeudi: Day Off! Briefly reviewed flashcards on Anki.
Vendredi: 30 Minute Composition on iTalki followed by 30 Minutes of Complete French Grammar Workbook.
Samedi: Day Off! Again, quick Anki flashcard review.
Dimanche: 30 Minute Review/Preparation for 30 Minute Informal Tutoring Session on iTalki.

A ton of materials to check out, and many that I will come back to in another post to review and evaluate. For now, I just want to talk about my first tutoring session on iTalki! First, it was super easy to set up. I really like that you can watch introduction videos for every tutor on the website. I chose by price, but also because my tutor’s profile expressed a focus in conversation as a teaching method. Something I am in dire need of! It was WONDERFUL that the website shows you a tutor’s availability in your own time zone. When it came time for my scheduled lesson, I kind of sat around waiting on Skype for a minute before realizing I should add, and call her. And sure enough! My tutor was there smiling, ready to go, and had me start by introducing myself.

Now, mind you, I had prepped for this. Last night I made a list of topics I could expect to talk about in our first lesson (where I live, what I do for work, what my family is like, places I have traveled to, why I want to study French) and this morning I spent a good 30 minutes reviewing how I’d talk about these topics. Still, when it came time to actually open my mouth and spew out all the lovely and coherent phrases I’d prepared, I totally blanked. “Euhhh… Bonjour, je m’appelle Zena. J’ai…. euhhhh… vingt-cinq ans. J’habite à Portland?”

It was like being in my 8th grade French class all over again.

Vraiment pathétique.

It got a little better as we talked more in our half hour session, but honestly, not by much. I realized that while I may have covered other tenses long ago, that understanding how to form them in my review books now, does not mean I have any grasp of them in conversation. I was lucky to use even the passé composé and imparfait correctly. So, so humbling. 

Still, the most surprising part of today’s session is how I felt afterwards. I had been so nervous to speak and knew that I was going to make a mess of it and have to face exactly how far I have to go, but even after butchering the language for 30 minutes, I felt very happy and proud to have taken the first step in becoming a better French language speaker and was not ashamed or embarrassed, but rather, incredibly motivated and excited to improve.

I went for a 4 mile run later in the day and thought about how difficult it used to be to run even one mile. A good reminder that being bad at something doesn’t mean you’ll always be bad at it. Dedication and consistency go a long, long way.

When I got home I got in the bath and put on The French Minister (on Netflix) and thought this quote from the movie was the perfect expression of this week’s experience. And if I were Heraclitus, I’d probably add that struggle is the father of all things worth doing.

Struggle on, people!

À bientôt,



  1. Sis L. · March 30, 2015

    Salut, Zena!
    I think the hardest thing about challenges is staying energized to the last day. For me, half of what makes challenges fun is managing my time and schedule well enough so that finishing the challenge is actually possible but not exhausting. (The other fun half comes at the end, when you notice how much you’ve progressed). The struggle is real, but like you said, it’s definitely what enables us to enjoy the end results. Things are not worth doing just because they are: WE make them worth doing through hard work and dedication.

    Moi aussi je suis une étudiante de français (même si une débutante), donc je suivrai ton progrès avec intérêt. 🙂


    • casserlenoyau · April 1, 2015

      Very well put! I definitely wanted to adhere to a challenge that was manageable for me and my level and I think that’s important for anyone embarking on a new task. I’ll be following your blog as well! French is just the first language I want to master but I have others in my queue. Do you have any posts advising on studying multiple languages at once? I haven’t decided if it’s something I want to take on just yet but interested in thoughts on it from accomplished polyglots such as yourself! Thanks for reading 🙂


      • Sis L. · April 2, 2015

        I don’t think I’ve blogged about simultaneous language learning (or, as I like to call it, “juggling” :P) before, but it’s never too far from my mind, so I’ll get writing about it as soon as I can. Thanks for the idea, I’m definitely crediting you with it. 😉


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