Couch to 5K

Other Languages

Jogging your way to fluency  

It’s highly unlikely that you’ve lived through more than a year of lockdown and managed to avoid the infamous couch to 5k, and more power to you if you’ve conquered it, and maybe even accidently picked up an unexpected running habit along the way. It’s a great motivator for those daunted by the idea of running a long distance or any distance, for that matter. The idea is to start off with something achievable like brisk walking, add in a bit of running and gradually build from there. The underlying concept is simple: you can’t expect to run 5k if don’t run. 

So, what does this have to do with learning a language?

Well, the same principles apply.  During the seemingly endless lockdowns, how many times have you vowed to finally finish what your mandatory French GCSE started? You’ve had the time – so what’s holding you back? 

Just like running, a surprising amount of learning a foreign language is about beginning.

It sounds simple but you would not believe the number of people who expect complete fluency in Italian without ever making contact with the language. It is like signing up to marathon but refusing to train with any shorter distances. Goals without practice, focus and commitment are pipedreams. And, and this might be hard to hear, just like becoming a better runner, learning a language is easier the younger you are. 

So why are children, who will eat grass if you let them out of your sight, better and faster language learners? It actually makes a lot of sense – after all, they’ve already picked up their first language, not from noting down tenses and verb formations in their colouring books, but from listening to their environment and simply repeating until fluency arrives. 

This is good news, because it shows we are all capable of learning in this way – we’ve all got a native language. But it is difficult to replicate the learning conditions a toddler benefits from when one is an adult. 

The best we can do here is commit.

Just like coach to 5k, it won’t happen just because you want it to.

Houses aren’t built without laying foundations and fluency won’t come until you learn your basics. You have to do something about it. For adults, this usually means signing up for a class, which is an excellent first step and will help provide some structure and direction to your learning, as well as some all-important accountability from your teacher and classmates. The other key ingredient is practice - as with running, repitition is key.

Toddlers have the ultimate weapon in language learning, total indifference to the idea of making a mistake. Which they will, thousands of them, but mistakes are the foundations that the house of fluency is built on.  

Fear of making mistakes is often the biggest hurdle for English-speaking adults, averse to trying out a new language until/unless they are sure they are correct, perhaps because we don’t enjoy the bilingualism that most other nationalities have at their fingertips. And so, most people quit running even a few steps because a marathon is beyond them - but if you shift your focus from the long-term goal and start concentrating on the short-term, manageable wins, you'll find yourself progressing further than you thought possible.

The question is, do you really want to learn a language?

If the answer is still yes, we’re here to help you off the couch.



Browse Foreign Language courses at IH Bristol

For the new summer term we are offering the following courses online or in Bristol:

  • 10-week Beginner Courses: The first step in your language learning journey! 
  • Holiday Ready Courses: A crash course in useful language for travel for beginners, covering topics such as asking for directions, ordering food and if you fall ill abroad.
  • News & Opinion: Each week you will read and discuss an article or text chosen by your teacher.  Practise your speaking and develop your fluency through discussion of real-life materials and topics.  
  • Book Clubs Over the 5 week course we will read and discuss a book chosen by your teacher. This course is designed for mixed level groups but best suited to elementary/low intermediate.  
  • Revision & Conversation Ideal for those who: 
    • recently studied with us and want to consolidate and build on what was learnt last term 
    • have previously studied the language (perhaps a long time ago) and would like to refresh their knowledge – hopefully before joining us in Autumn! 
    • Available in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Welsh, Mandarin
  • Conversation Club A chance for you to practise speaking in a relaxed, informal session with students of a similar level - very popular as an 'add on' to another language course. Boost your confidence and expand your vocabulary. 

Following this, we hope you'll join us for our 15-week Autumn Term courses. We are invested in your language progress so all returning students receive 10% off future courses.

Questions? If you can't find what you're looking for on the relevant course pages we're happy to help - contact or call +44 7403 379575