I Feel I Am Struggling To Make Progress on My Learn Spanish Journey

So here I am at a country house hotel up in beautiful Cumbria and it is 0720 in the morning.  I am not far from some of the most stunning scenery in the UK.  I am here at the start of a busy running a seminar for a client.

One of the challenges I know I am going to have to overcome is how to fit in meaningful learning time.

I am a busy person with lots of time in the car (there’s an opportunity to listen to audio programmes).

The work I do is also mentally challenging and draining because with the nature of the sessions I run.  I have to think on my feet every day which means by 5.00pm each day I am drained.

This makes it difficult to either have the motivation to learn some Spanish.  But even if I do, it is a struggle to concentrate.

This of course doesn’t help my aspiration to learn to understand and communicate in Spanish.

A couple of weeks ago I set the aspiration to learn Spanish for my road trip into Spain later in the summer.

I have a strong reason to learn even just a few words.  My deadline is the end of July which is when I embark on my solo tour of Spain on my Motorbike.  Even now, some 4 1/2 months away, it still seems pretty close.

And to be quite frank I am a little disappointed though not surprised with my lack of progress so far.

It is not that I am expecting to have lots of vocabulary and verb conjugations under my belt.   I am just very disappointed that I have not really got started in any meaningful way.

There is activity, but I don’t think I have made any progress at all.  I am covering information, but I don’t really think it is going in.

I seem to be going through the motions.

Here is what I have done so far.

Listening To Spanish Talk Radio

I have started listening to Spanish radio podcasts in the mornings whilst I am getting ready for my day.

I did a google for the Spanish equivalent of the BBC and discovered the national station RTVE.

The Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española, S.A. is the state-owned public corporation that manages and controls the Spanish public radio and television.

At this stage of course, it sounds completely foreign to me.

In fact sometimes I hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the rapid fire Spanish coming out of the speakers and I think to myself “How the F*$% am I going to be able to understand that lot?”

But I know it is a good idea to help tune your brain into the music of the language.

The biggest challenge I have with this exercise, as valuable as it is, is to let go of the need to understand what I am hearing… at this stage anyway.

At some point in the future I am going to be faced with a real live Spanish person.  They might insist on talking to me at the rate of a verbal machine gun.  So I might as well start getting used to hearing Spanish spoken like that.

The aim of the exercise at this point is brain tuning.  It is not about understanding.  Although I do hear one or two familiar words in amongst the rat-a-tat-tat.

I have started listening to podcasts from RTVE.  You can find these by clicking on the RTVE Radio link at the top of the page.

It doesn’t matter which podcast I choose – I don’t understand any of them.  But as I mentioned earlier, that’s not the point at this stage.

Listening to Michel Thomas in the Car

I mentioned in a previous post that I had started to listen to an old Michel Thomas Spanish CD.  Well as I have had a lot of time in the car getting up to Cumbria (it’s a 6 hour journey in normal traffic), listening to him terrorise his two students has seemed an obvious thing to do.

You can find more about him and his method at the Michel Thomas website. He does come highly regarded and is worth a listen.  To get the complete package (beginner to advanced) will set you back £170 for 21 hours of audio, so it doesn’t come cheap.

I have found it gives me something to work with.  I can start to get my head round some Spanish during what is essentially downtime for me.

Using The Duolingo Language App

I first heard about the Duolingo App on an edition of the Tim Ferris Podcast where he interviewed the founder. I will share more about Tim Ferris and his language learning expertise later.  His success in becoming multi-lingual is one of the inspirations for me to try and become accomplished if not fluent in just one.

The thing I love about Duolingo is that it is free and you can get it here for your iOS, Google or Windows devices.  You can learn any of its languages and can swap between them.  It is highly rated (Apple voted it as iPhone App of the year) and there are nearly 85 million people using it to learn Spanish.

It is very simple and straightforward to use.

You can choose how long each day you want to study for.  Once you have decided (I opted for 20 minutes a day) you then start working through a series of multi-choice questions, translation exercises (with drag and drop word selection and pronunciation exercises.  You speak into your phone and the app will tell you how well (or not) you pronounced the word or phrase.

Successful answers give you a rewarding tinkle bell type sound. At the end of each module there is a rather tinny, but triumphant sounding fanfare – again quite satisfying even though very cheesy.

It has a number of different ways to keep you motivated.  These include telling you about the winning streak you are on and sending you congratulatory summary e mails and daily reminders.

Using Duolingo is fun and it is extremely easy to use.

How To Learn Languages Fast Book

I have been thumbing through a Learn Languages Fast book by an ex Green Beret.  It is actually called “The Quick and Dirty Guide To Learning Languages Fast” by A.G Hawke.

I first came across this book a few years ago as part of my interest in accelerated learning when I first thought I was getting serious about learning a language.

A.G Hawke is a former Green Beret who often found himself in foreign countries at short notice.  Being able to grasp a rudimentary but relatively thorough working knowledge of the local language very quickly was a skill he developed.

It is a very practical and no nonsense plan over 30 days that guides you on what you should learn in your chosen language.

Of course you have to go and find the information, but he gives you an exact list of the English equivalent of words and phrases you should know.

There are quite a few shortcuts in this book that I am sure I will find extremely useful.

Despite This Activity, I Don’t Feel I’m Progressing

Now all of this activity might seem like I have got my act sorted and that I am well on my way.

However it doesn’t feel like that.

Sure I am putting the effort in, but I don;t feel I am making progress.  I feel like I am just going through the motions.

Duolingo feels a bit basic at this stage when I compare it to some of the other language programmes I have looked at (though I have no real reference point on its effectiveness).

Michel Thomas says in his programme that the responsibility is on him to make sure I remember what he is teaching.  Well I think that is a huge promise for him to make because I don’t feel I am remembering everything he is teaching at this stage.

I don’t have any way of knowing how effective what I am doing is which is why I feel like it is a struggle.

With all of the effort I am putting in, I feel I ought to be feeling a little more confident about my language abilities.

Whilst the lessons have given me Spanish I can do, I am not convinced they have given me Spanish I can do something with.

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