My Learning Spanish Activities – Update

I set a goal to learn some Spanish nearly 3 months ago, back in the middle of March.

It hardly seems possible that it’s only been about 12 weeks since I started this quest.

Time certainly flies when you are having fun.

So I thought I would take this opportunity to give an update on what I have done so far and what my focus is right now.

Here Is What I Have Done So Far

I have certainly been busy and here is a quick summary of the activities I have applied myself to:

  • Spent a bit of money on Spanish books ranging from simple phrase books, grammar and vocabulary compendiums and self-contained courses.
  • Faffed around for a while listening to Michel Thomas and Pimsleur tapes (nothing wrong with them per se, just perhaps not the right place to start for me).
  • Briefly flirted with Duolingo again.
  • Started listening to Spanish Radio and surfing Spanish News sites.
  • Branched out and explored what a renowned polyglot (Tim Ferris) does to learn languages and discovered Gabe Wyner (Fluent Forever) and Benny Lewis (Fluent in 3 Months).
  • Purchased and then started working through Gabe Wyner’s excellent pronunciation trainer.  This meant setting up Anki on all my devices to begin creating my Spaced Repetition System.
  • Invested in Gabe Wyner’s 625 Word List for European Spanish and started creating Anki Flash Cards for them.  I then went on to memorise all 625 words over the space of about a month using Anki and a bit of mnemonic magic.
  • I began dipping into grammar to start finding ways to piece together the vocabulary I had developed.
  • Finally bit the bullet and started working 1 on 1 with an excellent online Spanish tutor from italki inspired by these posts on Gabe Wyner’s website: Hacking Fluent Forever and .A Complete Guide To Learning A Language With A Tutor on iTalki.
  • AND…. I started dancing Salsa which has helped me learn Spanish more than I could have imagined!
  • Throughout all of this activity, the one consistent thing I have done EVERY day has been to find time to review my flashcards.  It is this that has been the fuel to keep my passion burning for learning this fabulous language.
  • I still realise I have a long way to go in being able to understand the machine gun Spanish I hear on the radio.  But I know I need to start setting my sights on intermediate steps that are way easier.
  • Fortunately I have been able to get clear on the value of listening to Spanish Radio even at this early stage in my language development.

Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing…

As I look back on what I have done, there are a few things I would probably change.

It seemed to take a few weeks to get into the flow of doing something meaningful and effective

But there is probably more that I am really happy with.

I think the biggest thing for me that has made the most difference has been getting 625 words under my belt.

That alone has given me tremendous satisfaction, a huge a mount of confidence.  It has also allowed me to be less intimidated by new Spanish because invariably there are words I recognise and understand.

Combine that with the daily review of my Anki flash cards, and you have a potent learning machine.

It has been so effective, I keep kicking myself that I didn’t discover this earlier in my life.

I am starting to understand more and more of the Spanish Radio I am listening to in the morning.

Also, I feel I have a greater range of options

I’ve Got To Start Talking More In Spanish

Benny Lewis recommends that you should start speaking Spanish on the first day you begin learning it.

Whilst I sit here now with enough vocabulary to hold at least 30 minutes worth of monosyllabic conversation, I can see why he says that.

I can also see how it would have really helped (see my “Like a Sponge” post – it’s what Madonna should have sung for her early hit!).

But I don’t think I was mentally prepared for that at that time, even though I might have had some vocabulary to use.

What has emerged over these 12 weeks is an ever expanding GROWTH mindset.  I’ll admit that I think I was blighted by a very firm FIXED mindset when I started.

That appears to have melted away.

It was there in the beginning, when attempting to speak Spanish with a real live native might have put me off completely.

But now, I am eager to start chatting to people and experimenting with my new found language.

As I hinted earlier, learning to dance salsa has helped this growth mindset emerge.

So Here Is What I Am Doing Now

With a focus on becoming even better prepared to start speaking to people in Spanish, I invested in another of Benny Lewis’s books.

It is called “Language Hacking – A Conversation Course For Beginners Spanish

Language Hacking Spanish by Benny Lewis

I’m going to be doing a better review of this in another post sometime in the near future.

So for now here’s the shortened review:

It’s FANTASTIC – Buy it Now.

What I an doing is working through the book for about an hour a day to gather some conversational phrases.

In doing so I am adding cards to my Anki system for phrases:

And for new vocabulary:

I am now starting to adds words and phrases that I know I will need to use.

For example I have added cards for memory, leadership and time management which are my three specialist areas.

I have also added words for writer, publisher, coach and speaker which are nouns that can be used to describe my activities.

This focus on “me-words” is either further bringing the language to life.  I now feel I have even more things to be able to say to people.

Which is excellent because I can now be socially inept in two languages!

This is my main learning activity and here is what else I am doing:

  • There is still the daily need to review cards in the Anki App – that is how a Spaced Repetition System works.  Though I have started to stretch myself by trying to use the words I am reviewing in short sentences to put them into context.
  • I am still putting Spanish Radio on in the background first thing in the morning.
  • Occasionally I am still perusing the RTVE news pages
  • When I am in the car I am playing either Michel Thomas or my Pimsluer recordings.  This is more of a top up rather than a key learning activity to take advantage of “down time”
  • I have at least 1 lesson a week with my online tutor where we go through the word list and create sentences.

So I am still doing quite a lot.

But This Activity Needs To Go Somewhere

And here is the main point.

All of this needs to go somewhere – there has to be a purpose.

In about 8 weeks time I shall be getting on my motorbike and heading down to Spain.  This ultimately is the reason why I am doing all of this.

So I can function in a Spanish speaking country without resorting the British Way of communicating when abroad – speaking LOUDER and s-l-o-w-er in an attempt to be understood.

But I need to start speaking sooner than that.

My next big leap forward then, will be to start having some real conversations.

I was going to type “gulp” in a weak attempt at humour.

But it isn’t a “gulp” feeling I have got.

It is a “BRING IT ON!” sensation rippling through my body (well as much as anything can ripple through my body!)

Next step then – find some willing native Spanish speakers to converse with.

Any ideas?

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