Start Speaking Any Language in 7 Days: A Review of Conversation Countdown
Spoiler alert: Conversation Countdown got me up and running with a new language (German) pretty darn fast—within one week, as promised—and I’m actually excited to share the results.
My inner cynic is slightly disappointed that I have so little to complain about.
I’ve followed and enjoyed the Fluent in 3 Months blog for a while, but I’ll admit that I was still quite skeptical when I started hearing about Conversation Countdown. The basic idea is to go from zero to conversant in a mere week.
Like, really, conversant in seven days? This instantly had me thinking, “too good to be true.”
Don’t you need lots of formal study to build foundations? After my week with Conversation Countdown, I can decisively say: no, close your textbook and start talking right now.
- What Is the Value of Conversation Countdown?
- Is Conversation Countdown Right for You?
- The Principles of Conversation Countdown
- What to Expect, Based On My Experience with Conversation Countdown
What Is the Value of Conversation Countdown?
This is the main question folks have about the program—what can it possibly do for me?—and the answer can’t be simpler. The purpose of Conversation Countdown is to have you carrying a legit conversation with a native speaker in your target language within one week.
It does go a little deeper than that, as Benny points out two other solid objectives.
Get over the speaking hump
It’s kind of like that Mark Twain quote about eating a live frog first thing in the morning—you get over that challenging, intimidating idea of speaking your native language out loud in front of other people, and everything else is downhill from there.
Start learning on the right foot
This program is meant to build good habits right from the start, and it is meant to give you momentum to continue learning long-term.
Is Conversation Countdown Right for You?
Alright, so I’ve already dropped a mini-spoiler above—this seven-day plan freaking works. However, it’s designed for a very particular audience, and it has a very specific set of goals in mind.
Not for intermediate or advanced speakers
First off, it’s not built for intermediate and advanced speakers. If you’re in the intermediate to advanced stages of learning, have a wide vocabulary at your disposal and have already had conversations in your target language, then you should probably waltz over to the FI3M Premium program instead. FI3M Premium is the recommended follow-up to Conversation Countdown, and is loaded with an insane amount of language learning resources, including exclusive interviews with famous polyglots, massive resource guides and more wisdom from the man, Benny Lewis himself.
For boosting speaking skills
You could try the Conversation Countdown program, but you’ll fly through at a rapid pace—and you won’t gain much language knowledge, you’ll primarily get a boost forwards with your speaking practice. If you’re an intermediate learner who has always shied away from speaking with natives, this program will help get you up and running with a fruitful language exchange.
All right, so if you’re still with me at this point and haven’t gone to check out FI3M Premium, then it’s probably safe to say you’re a complete newbie or early-stage beginner. Maybe you’ve never even attempted to learn a language thus far, or maybe you’ve tried and “failed.” Perfect! Keep reading, please.
Does one of these situations apply to you?
If the following sounds like you, then you’ll want to give this program a try:
- You think you’re “bad at languages” and nothing works for you. This program starts out by busting tons of language learning myths. It smashes false, negative thoughts that prevent you from learning right from the get-go.
Then you’ll learn that it’s okay to suck. You might need to take long pauses and deep breaths. You might need to throw out words here and there without forming any sentences. You’ll need to laugh at yourself and lose your perfectionist streak. This doesn’t mean you’re “bad” at anything—this is all part of the learning process!
- You’re traveling abroad soon and you don’t speak the language at all. If your flight is leaving sometime next week and you’ve procrastinated looking at a phrasebook, this program can save your butt.
You’ll get the direction you need to pick up the absolute most useful phrases in the language. You’ll learn how to talk about yourself and cobble together a conversation. You’ll also have a coach (none other than Benny Lewis) pushing you towards meeting, greeting and chatting with a native speaker faster than you’d think is possible.
- You’ve just begun learning a language solo. When you’re learning solo, you lack the interactive elements and the feedback that students in classrooms receive from their teachers and peers. This isn’t just a program, this is an introduction to a helpful, positive, upbeat community of language learners.
- You’re a beginner who hasn’t gotten much speaking practice yet. Let’s say you’ve already started learning and have some phrases under your belt. While this program is mainly designed to have you start at zero, and you’ll probably be more prepared than the other learners here on day one, Conversation Countdown will definitely get you started speaking—with confidence!
- You’re terrified to speak in your target language, or you think you’re not “ready” to speak yet. Oh man, you definitely need to try this. Sign up, and prepare to enter the “no excuse” zone. You’ll see just how much you can accomplish with awkwardness and “Tarzan speak”—where you throw out words and don’t worry about full sentences or perfect grammar.
- You’ve never spoken with a native speaker. I’m willing to bet there’s a reason why you haven’t spoken with a native yet. Perhaps you’re intimidated by those language exchange sites filled with talented polyglots. Perhaps you’re embarrassed or worried you’ll sound silly. These anxious thoughts will be set aside once and for all.
The Principles of Conversation Countdown
As with any top-notch learning program, there are some strong foundations that you’ll keep coming back to. This program is built on some really interesting principles, ones that you might not expect.
The first step is to break things down into discrete, manageable goals. This program will get you in the habit of setting clear, achievable goals for yourself every day.
So, rather than being totally overwhelmed by the huge, long-term goal of “I want to be fluent in Arabic,” you’ll learn how to wake up each morning and make a goal you can handle, like “I will learn to give a 1-minute introduction of myself in Arabic today” or “I will have a 30-minute conversation in Arabic.” Every time you achieve a goal, you’ll be able to measure your progress, see tangible success and feel proud of yourself.
When you think of the word “countdown,” where does your mind go? You probably hear a booming voice ominously counting “3, 2, 1…” before something big happens. You might imagine some kind of powerful space shuttle engine revving up, or the tension of a sprinter about to bolt at lightning speed down a track. That tension, that pressure, that excitement is exactly what feeds this program.
You don’t give yourself time to rest and recover between sessions—you’re supposed to keep at the studying for one hour per day, in these first 7 days—and you certainly don’t shy away from any task that Benny lays out in front of you.
Far too many solo-learners take the “solo” thing too seriously. In Conversation Countdown, Benny will give you the tools, guidance, community support and pep talks you need to start receiving feedback and encouragement from fellow learners and native speakers alike.
What to Expect, Based On My Experience with Conversation Countdown
Days 1-3: Recording and sharing videos with Fi3M community
On day one, my first email has arrived. I open it up and am promised a life-changing week—okay, I’m psyched for anything with the potential to kick-start learning.
The program mashes Benny’s explanations, anecdotes and pep talks with resources from other top language learning websites. He gives you an assignment and leaves it up to you.
Relying on phrasebook with audio clips
In these first days, you’ll find yourself relying a lot on Benny’s recommended phrasebook with audio clips from Omniglot. The phrasebook-audio combo is challenging for languages with very different alphabets and sounds, I will say. The audio runs fast—at native pace!—but I suppose the whole point here is to get acquainted to the actual, authentic language that natives speak.
Depending on the language you choose, you may find a variety of expressions presented in various dialects and degrees of formality, which can be tricky to choose from (Should I say the informal version of the phrase, and which informal version is more natural-sounding? Are they both okay?) But Benny’s mantra is to make mistakes fearlessly and embrace your errors as learning opportunities.
So, now that you know what tool you’ll be using, what are Benny’s assignments like?
Days 1, 2 and 3 get you speaking straightaway. Well, I certainly did that! In these first three days, you’ll end up recording and uploading two videos to share with fellow learners on Fluent in 3 Months.
Despite being a card-carrying resident of the internet, I’ve actually never uploaded a video anywhere before (excluding video messages to friends and family) so this was a leap for me. The punch of anxiety I got helped me to practice my phrases numerous times and feel more prepared when recording. It worked! Without that extremely short deadline, I never would have accomplished that goal of saying my first introductions out loud in German.
Along the way, the comments you’ll get on Fluent in 3 Months will give you a happy little boost of confidence.
Right off the bat, I felt like the program was drilling some excellent language learning habits into me, including:
- Learning independently
- Identifying high-quality resources like dictionaries, phrasebooks and translation tools
- Setting and keeping daily goals
- Staying positive and confident
Days 4-7: Gain momentum, and having language exchanges with natives
Days 4 through 7 is where things start to get real. Benny starts to wean you off of the circle of learners on the Fluent in 3 Months community, and starts pushing you towards actual, honest-to-goodness language exchanges.
You’ll need to sign up on a language exchange site, locate possible language exchange partners and write them messages to introduce yourself and describe your interest in conversation—all in your target language.
Oh yeah, and it’s all going to culminate in your first conversation with a native.
Don’t worry though, each day will have you learning and practicing more vocabulary. Each day requires you to build your language knowledge in order to prepare for great conversation. You’ll be chatting with fellow language learners to exchange fun study ideas.
Beyond Day 7: Realize you’re addicted
Luckily, the fun doesn’t grind to a halt at Day 7. I was pleasantly surprised to spot Day 8 and Day 9 emails to follow up on my progress, give me suggestions for the future and pep talk me a little bit more.
At this point, don’t be surprised if you don’t even need a pep talk anymore. I’m willing to bet you’ll be very satisfied with the progress you’ve made so far and you’ll have tons of momentum to keep going forward.
Well, hopefully you’ve already gifted yourself access to the whole Black Friday Language Learner’s Collection. I’d recommend starting with Conversation Countdown, then jumping over to the FI3M Premium program and learning e-books to prepare you to reach the intermediate and advanced levels of learning.
As for me, I’m going for a drive around town with those old German audio-lesson CDs I’ve had laying around but never really listened to.