Accountability!!!! My Triumphs and Struggles

I have something embarrassing to admit. 

This month is nearly over (I wrote this at the end of March), and I forgot to do a post for the Language Learning Reading Challenge. I'll make sure to make up for it with two of my posts being posts for the challenge next month. 

In general I have got to hold myself more accountable as a blogger and I want YOU as my audience to hold me more accountable as well. I blog rather haphazardly although I am seeking to commit to a schedule of two to three posts a month at the moment, one per week. I know I need to proofread more. I need to condense my points and be more concise as a blogger. Et cetera. 

So what does this have to do with language learning? 

I have to emphasize that just like with blogging, with language learning comes dedication and keeping yourself accountable.

We all have our triumphs and our struggles in keeping our own accountability, but that's completely fine as long as we keep holding ourselves accountable and having a community that keeps us accountable. 

It wasn't easy for me to hold myself accountable as a person before language learning changed my life, and even then I was not great at language learning when I started with Latin. The classroom structure gave me an accountability system to work on my homework and follow the structure textbooks guided me through to figure out how the language works. However the first times I attempted to learn German and Mandarin, I did not become fluent through classroom methods had a good experience in language classrooms, though I am currently working on my German in an intensive self-study to become a fluent speaker in the high intermediate level by December. When I began self-studying languages with Spanish, even though I tried several out-of-classroom attempts before with Japanese, Arabic, French, and Italian, I did not succeed because I had no plan of action and no strategy and thus I didn't get very far in any of them. In the case of Spanish I was super motivated to learn it because I had a lot of native Spanish speakers surrounding me so it was very easy to just get out there and practice, even though at first I had no idea how to learn a language on my own.

 I succeeded with Spanish because:

1. I figured out why I wanted to learn the language

2. I set a plan of action to learn it

3. I got a support group (Spanish conversation group) to help me

4. I wrote my learning process in a journal

Ever since that first Spanish learning experience, I became increasingly confident in my abilities in learning languages and applied what I learned to several other languages like Portuguese, German, Russian, French, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese. I keep applying this set of four steps to every language I learn. Here are several accountability questions I want you to ask yourself for your language learning and to make this process easier for you.

1. Why am I learning X language? What do I see myself doing with this language? What excites me the most about the language I'm learning?

2. What's my learning strategy for my language? Do I have a clearly defined strategy to learn this language?

3. How much time do I spend with this language? If I'm studying it in a class, how much time do I dedicate to it inside and outside of the classroom? Do I read and write in this language regularly? Do I speak this language with people or myself regularly? Do I listen to this language regularly?

4. Do I have language tutors, teachers, or conversation partners I regularly work with to help me learn this language? 

5. Do I have an accountability partner or language coach to help ground me in my progress? 

6. How do I deal with ups and downs in motivation and passion for the language I'm learning? Do I feel this language is too hard? Do I procrastinate in learning this language? Do I get frustrated and if I do how often? What can I do to reduce or eliminate this frustration?

7. Am I learning this language at a pace that I feel is comfortable for me? Am I going too fast or too slow? 

What practices do you take to make yourselves more accountable in language learning and in life? Are you involved in any kind of accountability groups? If you're not accountable with yourself, let me know why and Make sure to let me know! 

As always, 

Enhance Your Voyage, Learn A Language!


Russian Step By Step Review - Books 1-3

Hello everyone! Alex Gentry here! Once again I’ll be reviewing for the Language Learning Reading Challenge with Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste, Lindsay Dow from Lindsay Does Languages, Chiara Grandola from Runaway Daydreamer, Mairin Millward from Language Learning Journey, and myself from The Language Voyager! This is my second post for the challenge!


So I’ve been learning Russian since June 2014 and when I started learning this language I had been looking for effective ways to learn this language. I had a major hurdle: the dreaded Russian grammar (the most formidable looking grammar I faced since my high school Latin classes) seemed like doing a sprint and jumping over hurdles while trying not to trip over them and fall back when I did track in high school. I didn’t know how in the hell I was going to speak this language without strain (AAAHHHH!!!!!!) and that’s why I had put off Russian for several years.


However with the events of the Olympics in Sochi combined with when I got lots of tutoring requests and sessions from Russians wanting to learn English, I knew that I finally had to take the plunge because with most of the Russians I had a huge language barrier preventing me from being able to help them much. Anyway before I go off on a tangent on when I tutored Russian students back in 2014, back to what I was here to write!


Most Russian learning materials attempt to give you whole grammar tables of noun and adjective declensions (SIX CASES AND YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THEM ALL YAY!!!! You’re totally not going to mess up a lot and get confused looks and then corrections from native Russian speakers in the early stages!), verb conjugations, verb aspect (I still have some difficulties with when to use the perfective or imperfective aspects in making my own sentences. Really confusing to try and explain to English speakers.), and verbs of motion (which I still haven’t really gotten to cover yet but oh well!) and then try to throw it at you all at once and cram it into your brain as it becomes a jumbled mess of grammatical blob as you struggle to make coherent sentences in the early stages that would scare off most Russian learners from continuing further. At least that was my experience my first 6 months of learning Russian, now a year and a half into it.  


However Russian Step By Step author Natasha Alexandrova makes this language quite accessible to learn and approaches it from her twenty years of classroom experience in a much more intuitive way.


When Natasha says “Step By Step”, she certainly means it!


The Russian Step By Step series was assembled and developed by a team of native Russian and English speakers and consists of three main textbooks and a series of supplemental workbooks. As I don’t currently have the workbooks but will eventually purchase them, this review will just be on the three main textbooks: Russian Step By Step Beginner Level 1, Russian Step By Step Low Intermediate Level 2, and Russian Step By Step Intermediate Level 3.

I have currently worked through and am reviewing Beginner Level 1 and Low Intermediate Level 2 and have not yet gotten to High Intermediate Level 3 so my assessment of the series will primarily be on the first two books.


There is additional content available to you when you register on including an audio download and a printout of all vocabulary in the book arranged by chapter.


My Experience Using Russian Step By Step


I first heard about RSBS from an interview that Kris Broholm of Actual Fluency did with the RSBS authors and hearing how they taught the Russian language using comprehensive listening and reading content I knew I had to check it out and immediately got the first textbook and later last year I got books 2 and 3. For the actual experience itself, after the grammar heavy Penguin Russian Coursebook which threw grammar tables at you I felt quite refreshed. RSBS barely uses any English in the books and uses only Russian in the audio.


What I Liked About It


-       Clear, Evenly Paced, Russian-Only Audio, Diverse Male and Female Speakers – Firstly the audio is extremely clear, the four native speakers (two male and two female including the author herself) speak slowly and spell out all the sounds very clearly for learners to easily follow along. They even go through a detailed pronunciation guide in the beginning. They also have lots of question and answer drills that force you to think in Russian. Not to mention there are about 9 to 10 hours of audio for these three books combined.

-       Clear, Detailed Strategy on How to Use the Books – The RSBS team very clearly understands how effective language learning works. They guide you through a series of steps to set up a motivation, plan your studying, be consistent, start slowly, no skipping any of the material, using the Internet, and applying the language to your surroundings. The RSBS series actually begins with the Reading Russian Step By Step book which teaches the Russian alphabet and how to write Russian words. Each book has four to eight sections: the Pre-Course (Russian alphabet and pronunciation in Book 1 only), Main Course (21 lessons in Book 1, 13 lessons in Book 2, and 9 lessons in Book 3), Grammar Section, Grammar Tables, Audio Script, Answer Keys, Dictionaries, and an Index.

-       Grammar Is Introduced In Chunks – The great thing about grammar in RSBS is that the author doesn’t throw all the grammar at you at once and overwhelm you (Thank goodness!!!!). Though the grammar is quite comprehensive, Alexandrova introduces the grammar one small piece at a time in digestible chunks for the learner’s brain to be able to process. There are also detailed grammar tables in the grammar section and grammar tables. It also shows you how the grammatical parts of speech fit together such as pronoun and verb conjugation agreement, noun, adjective, pronoun, and number case system agreement with prepositions and how the subjects interact with the objects, verb tense and adverb agreement, the difference between tense and aspect, how verbs of motion work, etc. It is all placed within the context of the dialogues so that you can see the context in which the grammar is used so it will make more sense.

-       Progression is Natural – Each lesson in the RSBS series builds on the previous one, so the progress in language learning is slow and steady and linguistic and grammatical contexts are straightforward and relevant to the topic of each chapter.


What It Could Improve On


-Using Cyrillic only from the beginning may overwhelm some people – For those already familiar and practiced with the Cyrillic alphabet like I was when I started RSBS, you should find the books easy to read. For those who are absolute beginners I would not recommend starting with RSBS Book 1 because many people not familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet would be scared away by the look of the Russian letters, but with its prequel the Reading Russian Step By Step book which teaches the alphabet, pronunciation, and how to spell words. For absolute beginners, the latter book would be a better choice to start with.


-Including the Answer Keys in of the Back of the Book – As a Russian learner I constantly found it frustrating that when I listened to the audio exercises for each chapter that I had to constantly flip the pages to the back of the book in order to read and listen to the text at the same time. They should have put the answer keys in each chapter.


-Including the Grammar Section at the Back of the Book – I had similar problems to the grammar section being in the back of the books as I did with the answer keys. They should have been included in each chapter.


-Too much text!!!! – From my personal point of view, having language sentence drills can be both good and bad. One: it really reinforces your grammatical knowledge and your ability to form sentences. Two: having too many drills can be both boring and overwhelming. Fortunately with these drills, they are not boring from my observation and are kept relevant to the theme of each chapter. However the drills are always placed together into huge text blocks instead of spaced sentences in a column. It can be overwhelming for some people but it is something manageable. I personally didn’t do all of the exercises in each chapter yet, just taking them a few at a time.




Russian Step By Step is in my view a wonderful resource, in fact I consider it one of the go-to language learning resources for Russian. It works especially well for an intuitive, immersive kind of learning method and it is honestly one of the more challenging resources I’ve used. Since the books hardly use any English and stick mostly to the target language, it really forces you to actively use Russian (including through lots of translation exercises). It works excellently both as a classroom text and a self-study text and since it is comprehensive and introduces the grammar literally “step by step” along with conversational language, it does what almost no other Russian textbooks out there do. I really recommend this book series and I’m looking forward to getting and reviewing the Reading Russian workbook, the Propisi (Russian Cursive Handwriting) workbooks, and Verbs of Motion workbooks! I have nothing to say except this series is fantastic!!!!



As always,


Enhance Your Voyage, Learn A Language!




What are your favourite coursebooks for learning Russian? What was your experience with them? Please share with me in the comments below!

100 Things I Will Accomplish in 2016 and 2017

This post is a short departure from language-related topics.


However, The Language Voyager was not just meant to be another language blog giving advice on how to learn languages. The Language Voyager is more than just a language learning blog.


The Language Voyager is ultimately meant to inspire people to live boldly, not just in language learning, but in all aspects of life. To be successful in language learning or anything else is never to settle for the mediocre.


I will forever remember a certain quote from Batman Begins that I think should be part of the credo of everyone who strives for greatness: “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they cannot stop you, then you become something else entirely: A legend.” The point of this quote is: don’t settle for an ordinary life just because someone said you should, create a vision that you strive towards, and be completely hell-bent on creating the life you want. Stop at nothing to create your IDEAL life.


I was inspired to write this post by Lithuanian entrepreneur Tomas Laurinaricius’ post “100 Exciting Things I Want to Do Before I Die” and my friend German life coach and entrepreneur Ramona Fellermeier’s post “100 Things I Will Do in 2016” on her blog Always Happy Travels. Make sure to check out both of their posts and their websites if you’re interested!


So anyway this is a list of the 100 things I want to do in 2016 and 2017 starting in February! Here we go!!!




1. Get a haircut every 3 months


2. Running and exercise


3. Eating healthy, delicious food


4. Loving people, myself, and life


5. Reading


6. Meeting new people


7. Listening to music





Love and Connect


8. Spend time with my family


9. Spend time with my friends


10. Turn more of my Facebook friends into real-life ones


11. Turn many of my LinkedIn connections into real-life ones


12. Meet up and talk with my World Domination Summit and Live Your Legend connections online and offline


13. Skype with my growth friends every month


14. Skype with Sophia (my German sister) every month


15. Skype with my cousins Jenna and Kylie every month





16. Offer my language tutoring and coaching services to my friends and to language students


17. Start, organize, and lead a Live Your Legend meetup in Ashland, Oregon every month (check out what Live Your Legend is here)


18.  Volunteer as a Toastmasters officer


19. Practice kindness


20. Help people in my life change their lives


21. Start teaching online again, begin creating a course


22. Start coaching online and offline


23. Work remotely for a coach by December 31st


24. Connect somehow with Chris Guillebeau, Stephanie Zito, and Sean Ogle


25. Create a short video personally addressed for each of my connections every month to tell them that I appreciate their work and what they’re doing and ask how I can help them






26. Travel to the World Domination Summit this August 11-15 in Portland! (Bought my ticket!!!)


27. Travel to see my relatives in the Salem and Portland areas


28. Save up for a cousins trip in Europe I eventually plan to do with my cousins Jenna and Kylie


29. Travel to Portland several times to look at neighborhoods, housing, and jobs




30. Practice mindfulness with the Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo every day this year


31. Read two pages of The Heart of a Leader by Ken Blanchard every week this year


32. Practice my speaking and presentation skills in front of Toastmasters every week


33.  Build and keep in contact with group of people offline and online that I regularly talk to that won’t let me fail.


34. Redo the Marie Forleo B-School




35. Learn Russian to a B2 level (high intermediate proficiency in the CEFR – look it up here) by July or December


36. Learn German to a B2 level by July and a C1 level (advanced proficiency in the CEFR) by December


37. Begin learning Korean this year to an A2 level (elementary proficiency in the CEFR)


38. Learn Hindi and French to a B2 level by December


39. Do a Chinese reading and writing challenge to complete by the end of 2017


40.  Learn how to become a master networker to build the personal and professional relationships I want - HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE


41. Learn about myself


42. Begin learning about finances


43. Work on the free E-Myth courses


Make a Habit


44. Write 2 blog posts per month (1 every two weeks) and focus on writing quality!


45. Publish three videos a week (1 to 2 minutes long)


46. Go for a daily run 6 days a week


47. Create a Daily Meditation Routine  -10 minutes every day


48. Laugh every day a lot


49. Be thankful every day


50. Exercise every day


51. Connect with two inspiring people every month (on average)


52. Take life less seriously


53. Create a Daily Affirmation Routine – 10 minutes every day


54. Create a Daily Visualization Routine – 10 minutes every day


55. Organize my room every week


56. Eat well and gradually move towards a 50% vegetable, fruit, and grain diet




57. Go running 6 days a week 1.8 kilometers/3 miles per day


58. Increase my core strength


59. Increase my leg and arm strength


60. Try yoga for the first time (in small steps)


61.  Try tai chi for the first time (the first 12 moves)


62. Go for a daily walk




63. Stay healthy


64. Listen to my body


65. Develop my intuition and gut feeling


66. Don’t apologize for being who I am


67. Always keep an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mentality – THINK AND GROW RICH


68. Smile!




69. Get a part time or full time job in Ashland, Oregon to save up the money I need to move to Portland, Oregon by December 31st


70. Get an online, location-independent, and part time job that I love


71. Work remotely for a coach by December 31st


72. Host a language coaching workshop


73. Lead Live Your Legend meetups in Ashland every month


74. Research universities in Germany


75. Research neighborhoods and areas of Portland




76. $8,000 to move to Portland, Oregon by December 31st


77. $5,000 for initial business and operation expenses to finally get my website really going by December 31st (this isn’t the amount I need to earn, I just chose this amount so that my business (especially my website) will begin to comfortably operate and continue running). If I don’t need as much money as that amount please let me know.


78. $600 to purchase the School of Greatness course


79. $700 to pay off the remaining price of the Lewis Howes 7 Figure Webinars course (which I had to stop using until I can pay the rest of the $1200, $500 already paid off, $700 to go so that I can keep using the course)


80. $42 every six months for the biannual Toastmasters fee

Some money to help keep The Language Voyager going for the long term




81. The School of Greatness course by Lewis Howes for $600


82. The Live Off Your Passion Course by Scott Dinsmore and the Live Your Legend team for $197


83. The How to Make Your First $1,000 from Your Passions and Talents by Scott Dinsmore and the Live Your Legend Team for $147




84. The World Domination Summit 2016


85. Attend a concert


86. Attend a festival


87. Throw a party


88. Sing karaoke in a bar


89. Do something that tests my limits


90. Being present


91. Try to go on a date with someone




92. Write and edit my first book about my life story (beginning in February)


93. Write and edit my first book about language learning (beginning in March)


94. Finish my free ebook for The Language Voyager website signup and opt-in forms


95. Color in my adult coloring books


96. Write every day in a foreign language and write my honest authentic feelings


97. Develop a fun business idea with a friend (and maybe bring it to life)


98.  Start meetup groups for language learning and Live Your Legend and other communities of like-minded people


99. Create an environment of inner peace and joy for myself


100.  Send out handmade, handwritten cards to clients and friends


What does your list look like? How does it feel to you? Please put a link to your post below and write out what you want to achieve this year!



As always, Enhance Your Voyage and Learn a Language!



The Language Learning Reading Challenge Post 1: Intro to the Challenge, The Four Agreements in Spanish Book Review, and The Four Agreements of Language Learning

Hey everyone! I’m excited to announce that I’m going to partake in the Language Learning Reading Challenge along with Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste, Lindsay Dow from Lindsay Does Languages, Chiara Grandola from The Runaway Daydreamer, and Mairin Millward from Language Learning Journey.


So first what is the Language Learning Reading Challenge?


The challenge is reading one book per month, dealing with topics such as culture, language learning, general learning techniques, history, and we’ll be reading both in our native languages and target languages. We can pick any or as many languages as we want to and we can read in the languages at any proficiency level, including graded readers, children’s books, academic books, or any other genre.


From Shannon’s blog:


The Books that make up the Language Reading Challenge


1. Book about the culture of the area you’re studying.
2. Book in your target language (translation of a book from your native language)
3. Travel book or travelogue related to region that uses the language you’re studying (could be worded better, certainly)
4. A book about language (not a language textbook)
5. A coursebook/lesson book (chance to finish up one you’ve been working one or work through one)
6. A book written by a language blogger
7. History of the region
8. History of the language
9. Book in your target language (originally written in your target language)
10. A book on learning strategies (any learning strategy, not just language related, but it can be if you like)
11. A book set in the country of your target language (can be fiction or nonfiction)
12. A comic book in your target language


The Four Agreements and Language Learning


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been one of the most influential books I have read recently. Having already read it in English, I wanted to read the book in Spanish because Don Miguel Ruiz originally comes from Mexico and was raised by his mother who was a curadera (healer) and his grandfather who was a nagual (a shaman in the Toltec tradition) and with their help trained to become a nagual himself. It's a more spiritual kind of book but it's also got quite a lot of practical advice to apply to anything in life. Reading what these four agreements were I could easily see how they could be fitted into language learning.


Don Miguel Ruiz explains that the Four Agreements are a code of conduct that reveals our limiting beliefs keeping us from living the life we want and can help us overcome those beliefs to replace them with a feeling of abundance, happiness, freedom, and love.


What Are the Four Agreements? (Quoted from Don Miguel Ruiz)


1. Be Impeccable with Your Word – “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or others. Use the power of your word in the direction of love. “


2. Don’t Take Anything Personally – “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”


3. Don’t Make Assumptions – “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”


4. Always Do Your Best – “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are happy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”


Don Miguel Ruiz states that as humans, we dream (in other words create visions in our heads) all the time, and that collectively as humanity we created the dream of the planet. This collective dream (you can think of it more as a vision) includes all of society’s rules, beliefs, religions, cultures, and ways of being, along with its governments, schools, social events, and holidays.


So how does this apply to language learning?


We grow up as children at first with the capacity to learn all the sounds and languages in the world. We then become linguistically “domesticated” by our parents and society as to what language(s) we are brought up to speak, and through language we are instructed the rules of our culture and society.


We played around with language all the time, made silly mistakes in our speech and we and our parents laughed about it. The parents were simply happy that we kept making progress in building our linguistic capacity in our first language. We didn’t learn any grammar rules and never poured our heads into textbooks when we learned our first language, and we had FUN with it and explored our creative capacity in our native language.


When we learn a foreign language in school, whether it be elementary, middle, or high school, we are taught in language classrooms how to learn a language, which is with a teacher and textbook and vocabulary lists and grammar rules in the classroom. For most language learners, who start out eager to learn a foreign language, the joy for learning a foreign language is sucked out of them when they have to pour their heads in these textbooks, learning and repeating vocabulary and grammar rules, then stringing them together into sentences and being tested on that.


 How boring!!!!


They always have to think about knowing the right grammar and the right vocabulary and they worry so much about making mistakes in their foreign language that they don’t even try to do it.


How stressful!!!!


While the grammar-textbook-translation method is suited to more analytical learners, not all language learners think in that way. I am not saying that we don’t need textbooks or grammar at all; they’re necessary for REFERENCE. I feel that most people prefer to learn languages in a more intuitive way, whether it be auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or reading/writing.


I am an auditory and visual learner (mostly auditory). Dr. Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input, Benny Lewis’ Speak from Day 1 method, A.J. Hoge’s Effortless English method, and Steve Kaufmann’s intensive listening and reading method, among others, all point to a more intuitive way of language learning. They all say:














The Four Agreements of Language Learning


1. Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity about your language learning. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against your own learning process or that of others. Use the power of your word in the direction of dedication to and passion for the language.


2. Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing the language challenges you with is because of you. What other speakers and learners say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own learning process. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won’t feel like you’re failing at language learning.


3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions about how to say things in your language and how to understand the culture of your language. Find the courage to express what you really want to say in your language. Communicate with others as clearly as you can about your language-learning journey to avoid overwhelm, perfectionism, and anxiety. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your language learning.


4. Always Do Your Best – Your best in language learning is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you make leaps and bounds of progress some days as opposed to hitting plateaus and making no progress other days. Language learning takes time. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, enjoy the process, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-criticism, and regret.

I certainly hope that you all enjoyed my post for this time! Please feel free to leave a comment in the comment box below! Let me know what your experiences with language learning are, if you've read The Four Agreements, and how you think you can apply them in your language learning! 


As always,

Enhance Your Voyage, Learn A Language!