Ryan Drake spoke 231.5 hours on italki in one month

1 language = 231.5 hours.

How could that be humanely possible?

He started from zero and within two to three months of normal rate classes at italki he said to be A2 speaking and B1 comprehension. A few months ago he took on italki challenge of doing 20 hours a month… yet he did 231.5 hours.

I am speechless.

Where do you guys think his level at now?

amazing . If we take something seriously and take actions to it when we learn Engilsh, we will get progress fainally. And I learn arabic nowadays and I try to translate arabic website.

Impressive. But, let us be honest: how much money did he spend on that? If it is a cheap 10$/lesson, this would be 2315$/month (!)

10$ is a cheap lesson? I thought a cheap lesson is 5$

I spent 8 hours a day daily listening to German language for the next 2 months. It was like getting married with a person and celebrating a honeymoon period on a deserted island. Never underestimate your mind. It has the capacity to do wonders if it is put to test to its maximum limit. Just harden your mindset, everything is possible.

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Depends on the language/country of the teacher, but I would say $10 for an hour lesson is pretty cheap and VERY cheap for a language like French (I think that is what he was studying?).

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I’m curious about this. How much of this was actually active listening and not just turning on the radio in the background? What did you listen to? Did you repeat materials or listen to new things all the time?

I’m trying to get more listening in, but I don’t find passive listening helps me much and even when active listening, I repeat things multiple times trying to get as much meaning out of them as possible. I don’t know how I could possibly get 8 quality hours a day haha.

It’s possible. I’m likely around B1/B2 myself with 4 months under my belt, 2 of which were spent on lingq exclusively (and that’s the way it’ll stay, I like the platform a lot).

If you’re really focused and put in the time every day, get good rest, etc. You can cover a lot of ground.

It was active listening at 95-100% concentration level. Watching Television series (1 season has 24 episodes). I have seen so many seasons of television series and listening to radio plays… I got strong willpower in my DNA from my father. So once I convince my mind to do something and make it believe that it is either sink or swim situation, then my mind has the ability to swim. So do yours. It is all about stop making excuses and getting down to the business. Since I am living in Germany. I am understanding their conversations at a native level right now, I am getting surprise looks from Germans. It goes to prove that this kind of immersion thing works. All of a sudden, a heavy fog has lifted and now all of a sudden empty noise has converted into meaningful sentences. Consistency and Intensity work wonders.

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Hm, sounds like an “output first” approach to language learning / acquisition à la Benny Lewis & Co, doesn’t it?
I still don’t know (after a lot of SLA research and self-experimentation) if the “immersion / input first, speak later”- or “the speak from day 1”-approach is better. From my language learning and teaching experience I lean towards immersion heavy approaches à la AJATT (“All Japanese all the time”) or the Mass Immersion Approach (see “MattvsJapan”).
But, of course, if you want to speak an L2, you have to “speak” it (rather sooner than latter)!
Anyway, here are a few comments on Drake’s approach:

  1. This strategy doesn’t seem to be very cost-effective. For that amount of money (+ 2000 dollars / euros?) spent on Italki alone, he could have traveled to the country and learned the language in full immersion mode 24/7 and 7 days a week.

  2. The self-evaluation part is always very “tricky”. Without extensive testing, it’s almost impossible to know how good your language level in listening / speaking / reading / writing objectively is. Most of us succumb to the Dunning-Kruger bias.Therefore, we tend to think that our skill level is much higher than it actually is.
    For example, a lot of people think that they are on a B1/2 level after only a few hundred hours of language acquisition / learning. But, artificial classroom / Italki, etc. settings aren’t realistic because language teachers / coaches usually speak veeeeeeerrrrry slowly. In real life on the other hand, native speakers talk to each other very fast. And they tend to “play” with their mother tongue in all kinds of ways (juggling with thousands of collocations and idioms, using a kind of natural rhetoric to influence each other, switching seamlessly between different language registers in seconds, using irony / sarcasm, etc.).
    A simple test in this context is: If you can watch / listen to comedy series such as “Friends”, “Aquí No Hay Quien Viva”, etc. without any external help (subtitles, etc.) and while doing your chores, you are on a (higher) intermediate level. But, if you have trouble understanding what the actors say, you are not on a B2 or higher level.

  3. There are some problems related to the output-first approach to SLA:
    a) Pronunciation: Many learners don’t care much about pronunciation issues. As a result, their intonation / pronunciation is often “off”. That’s even a problem with some polyglots who claim to be (conversationally) fluent in language XY after only a few months of language learning (a positive counter example in the polyglot community is Luca Lampariello, whose pronunciation of English, German, Spanish, etc. is breathtakingly good).
    b) Collocations: Native speakers learn / know tens of thousands (!) of groups of words (collocations, phrases, slogans, idioms, metaphors, etc.)… As a result, their speech and writing is often highly formulaic. But, at the same time, this mass of formulaic expressions allows them to play with all the nuances of their mother tongue - sometimes in highly creative ways!
    An output first approach isn’t very helpful in this regard. But, an immersion heavy approach combined with the explicit learning of frequent collocations is.
    c) Too much focus on the “speaking” part of a conversation: That someone is able to “speak” in an L2 doesn’t mean he or she is conversationally fluent. You are conversationally fluent if you can “understand” what native speakers say at a normal pace in a more or less complicated everyday dialog situation and you are able to react appropriately.
    So, being able to present yourself or talk about simple things in an highly artificial environment (Italki and Co) without many native speakers present doesn’t mean much when it comes to your fluency level. Yes, you may be able to build more or less simple sentences while talking slowly to your language coach, but that’s “not” everyday fluency in an L2. It’'s just that: Speaking more or less slowly in an L2 :slight_smile:

  4. Perhaps a more effective and efficient SLA strategy is to combine different SLA approaches (focus on pronunciation right from the start / listening first, speaking early and always being immersion heavy).
    This could mean, for example:

  • Pimsleur (the subscription model via the Pimsleur app, not their other overpriced course material!) and / or Assimil for the pronunciation and listening part.
  • After finishing Pimsleur / Assimil, the Mass Immersion Approach from MattVsJapan combined with Italki lessons for several hours a weeik.

I suppose that with such a combination you could achieve a similar level of language proficiency in about 90 days as Ryan Drake seems to have achieved with his output-first approach. The advantage: This combination of different SLA approaches is probably “much” more cost-effective. That is, it costs only just a few hundred bucks.

I don’t know, but for me, once your effort crosses a certain OCD threshold, I no longer regard it as impressive. Putting in an hour a day for an entire year is impressive, because that requires dedication and focus from most people. Putting in 8 hrs a day and reading 4 books a week, etc, that crosses into much higher territories on the OCD spectrum. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Do your thing. But it’s just not something I regard as inspirational. Especially when it comes to insane time commitments.

231 hrs a month – even if I had that much free time, I would not spend it all on languages.
I don’t live to learn languages, I learn languages to live.


“a certain OCD threshold”
Well, I might have passed such a threshold some time ago, too. But I’m working on a Machine Learning-based language learning startup. So, in my case, that*s an unavoidable “déformation professionelle” :slight_smile:

“But it’s just not something I regard as inspirational.”
I see your point. For most people that’s just an insane amount of time invested in learning an L2.
But, it sounds to me like an “ultralearning” project à la Scott Young (https://www.amazon.com/Ultralearning-Master-Outsmart-Competition-Accelerate/dp/006285268X).
And sometimes such projects make absolute sense, especially when you are on a tight schedule (when you are building a startup while having to deal with impatient VCs / investors, when you are looking for new career paths, etc.).
From my own experience in math, computer science, language learning, etc., ultralearning projects are highly stressful. In other words, you can easily burnout!

In any case, the output-first approach is interesting. The polyglot Jeff Brown has a similar approach (“How to Acquire any language NOT learn it!”, How to acquire any language NOT learn it! - YouTube). And he seems to be highly successful in acquiring new L2s with his “interaction-early” strategy… .
But, I tend to believe that a “hybrid” approach (listening first, speaking early, mass immersion and the explicit learning of specific patterns, esp. collocations) is even more promising, i.e. more (cost-)effective and efficient. And all that without burning out (this seems to be a recurrent problem, for example, with total immersion approaches à la “AJATT” = “All Japanese All The Time”).

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Wow, I think you hit the nail on the head! I completely agree. Language learning does not govern my life either. Therefore putting in that crazy amount of time into it is just unhealthy.


haha that’s a good point! italki can be expensive.