The Spanish Language Unfolds Before Me Because Of Trial And Error

This morning I was reviewing my notes from yesterday’s lesson with my online Spanish tutor from iTalki.

I like to let the lesson rest a while in my subconscious before I start to review it.  This is why I leave it a day before I go in and start generating the flash cards that will help me process the lesson.

As with the first lesson, we worked through creating sentences using the word list that was created by Gabe Wyner.

My tutor creates the sentence and then we talk about it.

  • I will ask what certain words mean if I don’t understand them.
  • We will look at the conjugations of any verbs in the sentence.
  • She explains any word order issues that might arise from the sentence she has created.

In short, we dissect each sentence so I can understand exactly what is going on.

It takes about 10 minutes to work through each sentence at the moment.

I am sure that will get quicker as my knowledge and understanding expands but for now it is just the right pace for me.

Another reason why it takes 10 minutes or so to cover each sentence is that often other questions arise that are related.

So over a lesson we might only cover 5-6 sentences.

Of course in the moment of the explanation, it is clear to me and I understand.

Others might stop at this point and get seduced by the Fallacy of Familiarity.

But this is where the power of using flash cards comes in to embed my learning into my long term memory.

That’s what I started doing this morning…creating flash cards.

I started working on stuff that came out of the conversation we had at the very beginning of the lesson.

We only spoke Spanish for the first 5 minutes.   Then we had a chat about it in English when the timer was up.

Learning The Word For “Same” Using Trial And Error

During our Spanish only chat, I wanted to know how to say “the same” as in “the same teacher”.  I tried various hand gesticulations at the time and racked my brain to find words to use.

But I couldn’t convey what I meant.

So afterwards, I had to ask.

We discussed this and I learnt that the word is “mismo” (or “misma” for feminine nouns).

So I created two flash cards.  One foe mismo and the other for misma.

I could have used one for mismo and added a note on it about misma.   But I am finding that the smaller chunks are easier to learn and remember with the flash cards.

Here’s what the answer card for the misma one looks like:


During the Spanish conversation we had I had tried something out.  It didn’t work.  So I sought out what I actually needed.

This trial and error process makes the learning far more meaningful and effective.

It does feel a little uncomfortable when I struggle to find the word during the “trial” bit.

But that is more than made up as I bathe in the glorious feeling of the “Ahhh” moment when I find what I should have said.

More Lessons From The Trial And Error Approach

Another thing I had tried during our Spanish only conversation was to say “on Friday”.

My best guess was that I should go with “en viernes”.

The rationale was that previously I had learnt that if I was going to say “on planet earth” then it would translate as “en el planeta tierra”.

So I naturally assumed I could use it here too.

…but I was wrong.

In our debrief afterwards, I discovered that if I want to say “on [DAY/DATE]” then I just need to use “el”.

“On Friday” would then translate as “el viernes”, “on Monday” as el lunes etc.

Ahhhh…. some more learning takes place.

But I didn’t let it stop there.

I thought that it would be really useful to be able to say phrases like this:

  • On Sunday 30th July
  • On Thursday night
  • On Tuesday morning
  • On Sunday afternoon
  • Notice I mixed up different days of the week with different parts of the day.  This was so I could reinforce the use of those words rather than just make it all about Friday.
  • So I added more flashcards for each of these.
  • Here is an example:
  • en martes en la mañana
  • Why Not Try Trial And Error For Yourself?

  • All that learning came from having a go at saying something in Spanish and seeing whether I was right or not.
  • That’s another one of the benefits of using a real live online tutor – real time feedback.
  • If you haven’t tried iTalki yet, then I strongly recommend you check it out here.

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