My language learning in 2020

We’re a couple of months into 2021 and Tết has recently passed – Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

In this post I’ll be reflecting on my language learning in 2020, updating you on what study habits I’ve kept up with and what I’ve changed about my language learning routine.


Practised in January 2020, but otherwise barely maintaining

I actually spent 9 days in Vietnam last January, just weekend before world plunged into Covid-chaos.

I felt like Vietnamese came back to me quite quickly. Apparently in the airport I spoke a mixture of Vietnamese and Russian, but as I continued speaking it felt more and more comfortable to speak Vietnamese. I was a bit rusty and had to search for alternatives to words I’d forgotten but that improved throughout the trip.

I used my language skills to hitchhike, negotiate bike rental, buy bus tickets over the phone, and catch up with a friend. Although my level was lower than it was when I left Vietnam in 2016, it was nice to have my language ability come in handy!

Other than that period in Vietnam, I occasionally read a little Vietnamese on Instagram and occasionally think to myself in Vietnamese. I’m glad I had a chance to visit Vietnam in 2020 and refresh my skills a bit.


This was again the sole focus of my language learning. It’s been another year in the low intermediate levels, where it’s hard to feel or notice progress although others have commented that I have made progress.

What’s the same?

  • For input, I used dialogues for learners to learn new vocabulary.
  • As usual I’ve had variable periods of taking italki lessons regularly and having breaks. I took about 36 lessons on italki in 2020.
  • I had face-to-face group lessons until March (for obvious reasons).
  • To help all this sink in, I still love Anki.
  • I used duolingo for a bit, but uninstalled it a few months ago when I needed to free up space on my phone.
  • Over the summer I started doing face-to-face language exchanges again, but less often in the autumn.

What’s different?

  • This year I haven’t been as active on instagram (what with much of the year being spent indoors), although I still posted 29 times.
  • Started using authentic listening materials (ie. select TV shows). I hope to write more about this topic in then near future.
  • Tried various online ‘Russian Speaking Clubs’ that involved not very much speaking (only when nominated by the teacher, and no discussion between learners.)

Reading & Writing

These skills are just not a priority. Of course I use written Russian a bit: to book appointments via Whatsapp, message friends, read notices put up in our block of flats or at work. I also sometimes read short articles for discussion in my italki lessons, and I flipped through a copy of Cosmopolitan an old flatmate left behind. But overall my main reason to learn Russian is to communicate while living in Russia – hence the focus being on vocabulary, listening and speaking.

Other languages

  • Spanish (2017) – nothing this year. I’d like to pick this up again in 2021 or more likely 2022, once my Russian is a solid intermediate level (B1+).

2020 was again focused on one language – Russian. I’ve continued to make slow but steady progress. I don’t feel like there’s much to report compared with the end of 2019 and I feel like 2021 will be much the same – continuing to learn bit by bit, slowly edging towards B1+. Maybe I need to do something to push myself, like I did with Vietnamese?

Over to you: How was your language learning in 2020? What are you language learning plans for 2021?

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