Wrap Up – Spanish Project

Okay guys, so I’m wrapping up two projects today:

  • My audio-only challenge
  • My Spanish project

I’ve cut both a little short. Let me just say that I’m not done with Spanish forever. In fact, I hope it’s a language that I have and use for the rest of my life. I’ve come to love Spanish and now that I have such a strong base, I sincerely hope I get to use it regularly someday, ideally in Spanish-speaking countries.

Spanish is just something that I’m going to put to the side for now, unexpectedly, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

thehe Image Source

A picture of Barcelona, the city that first inspired me to start learning Spanish (even though many of its residents speak Catalan). Spain is still one of my favorite places on Earth, and I hope to go back there again someday speaking my new language.
Image Source

Results: The Audio Only Challenge

Here’s the bottom line up front about the audio-only challenge:

I definitely improved my Spanish. I want to say that I didn’t see any huge benefit from only listening, but it’s possible that I’m not even realizing what a difference that it made.

As I mentioned in my previous update, I cheated a little bit by studying grammar. But I still devoured Spanish-language shows, movies, music, and radio program. And even though I’ve fallen out of touch with my super cool Colombian language exchange partner, I also got several hours of speaking practice in.

My listening did improve. My goal was to reach C1 level listening. I can’t honestly say if I did or didn’t without taking a test, but I’m pretty sure that I’m at the very least a strong B2. My overall language improved as well, as I’m now more comfortable with speaking and expressing complex ideas.

Here is a totally non-scientific way I know that I’ve progressed. About four months ago, I watched UFC Latino–basically, UFC fights with Spanish speaking broadcasters–and the Mexican sitcom Vecinos.

I could understand both programs, but it was like I was picking out the words to build a main idea. It was more than just bits and pieces, and I knew the gist of what was going on, but I would still miss big chunks of dialogue.

This week I watched those shows again. Now I could understand most–90-95%–of the words. And even better, often when I didn’t understand something, it was a single word that I wanted to remember to look up later. One turned out to be a town in Mexico, for example. In terms of my listening comprehension ability, the difference between then and now is night and day.

Anyway, even though my language improved, I don’t think that I saw any real benefit from dropping reading altogether. Then again, maybe I’m just not realizing what a difference that made. After all, I did make a noticeable improvement.

What I can say with confidence is that I was able to improve significantly with a listening-focused approach.

Results: The Spanish Project

When I started out 14 months ago, I didn’t speak any Spanish whatsoever. Now I know the language.

I don’t remember every word, I make mistakes, and I get a little mixed up with the grammar, especially during speaking. But if I were to go to a Spanish-speaking country tomorrow, I could absolutely get by–and not just get by, but get by fairly well. Would I struggle? Sure. But I would be able to jump in the mix and use Spanish to live my life.

My reading is very strong, my listening is strong, and my speaking and writing are decent (but my weakest skills). As far as a proficiency level, I’m comfortable saying I’m B2 all around, and I’m a little higher in reading.

I know I’m not the best Spanish student in the world, but I’m absolutely proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and I did it without a class, without living in the country, in a little over a year, and on the strength of my own motivation. On this site, I try to downplay what I do because I don’t want to come off as bragging or dishonest, but if I don’t celebrate some wins, you guys won’t know what’s possible with your own learning.

Why I’m taking a break

I just got wind of a possible professional opportunity using German. When I stopped studying German 14 months ago, I knew I wanted to come back to it someday, and this possible opportunity is my signal that now is the time.

I learn languages for fun, but they’re also a way for me to make a living. For me, writing and translating beat digging ditches or crunching numbers. So economics definitely dictate what I’m doing, and when.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll be back studying Spanish again another year from now, and if so, that would be awesome.

In the meantime, I understand my Latino neighbors better; I’ve been exposed to new forms of art, entertainment, and music; I got to really experience radio stations I used to skip by; I’ve built a great base for future Spanish study; and of course I get to enjoy the fact that I speak a whole new language.

That was an awesome way to spend 14 months, and I couldn’t be happier about how it went.

  • http://www.neeslanguageblog.com/ Teddy Nee

    Hi Ron, how do you manage your language exchange?

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hey Teddy! We kept it pretty simple. He’d speak in English for 20-30 minutes, and I’d speak in Spanish for 20-30 minutes. We talked about whatever was on our minds. It became pretty much like a “chat.”

  • Lesther Lazaro

    What an amazing feat Ron! B+ I will stand by your routine and hopefully I will get the same results. I am just missing the language exchange partner part. Best of luck with your German learning/career move. To be honest I am trying to learn Spanish for Economic purposes as well, the culture and fun in learning is a bonus. Thanks for all your input Ron. I’ll drop by every now and then :)

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hey Lesther, stop by more than “every now and then.” !!! hahaha…did you try iTalki? Not able to find anyone willing to do a language exchange?

      How is the routine going so far? Are you seeing results? I’m going to do pretty much the same thing for German. The only difference is I’m going to jump into grammar drills earlier (for my “studying” portion).

      • Lesther Lazaro

        Hi Ron,

        It took me 30 days to complete the 21 day challenge. Learn quite a lot of phrases. However I am having a hard time mix and matching things up to actually test my verbal skills. The great thing though is I surprisingly could read and comprehend intro News at CNN Espanol. I alternate podcast/music translation/transcription thing. Overall it was information overload with lots of memorizing but its worth it as I can see the results in reading newsfeed from CNN on facebook.

        I am a bit worried about speaking though, Do you think the Pimsleur course would help me with it? (not to worry Im not paying for it- I found a Legal-ish source. I also have an audio of Michel Thomas and Synergy Spanish.

        What do you think? will the Pimsleur audio help my speaking?(Have you tried the latter audio courses I mention above as well?)

        Final note. I am aborting enrolling in a class for now- Thanks to you. With all the online free resources you mentioned and the courses i found it seems like I wont have that much free time for class. Id rather spend it self studying all this materials and see how it goes. Ciao Ron.Gracias!

        Tengo que estudiar mas, para hablar con usted en Español pronto.

        • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

          Hey man, let me put something into perspective. People go through a 4-year university degree to learn a new language. In 30 days (!!), you got to the point where you can understand news. I’m actually a little surprised and VERY impressed at your progress. Congrats so far!

          It’s natural for speaking to lag behind. Pimsleur will help, definitely. If you have a free-ish (hah) copy, do it up and give it a try. As you get more exposure to the language in its natural contexts, you’ll start “acquiring” more language and your speaking will naturally improve with time. But at some point (soon) you’re going to want to practice speaking. Look for language exchange partners on italki. Free practice!

          • Lesther Lazaro

            hah! not so fast. What I mean by understanding news is getting around 50-60% of the first paragraph after the headlines. Well basically I think that’s all I need for now. Google translate is supplementing the needed vocabulary for such difficult words or phrases. It seems like my first language (native dialect not the filipino-tagalog) is closer to Spanish as I just realize. Words like camino, puerta are everyday words I hear from my lolo and lola (grandparents) But yes I am fairly happy with my progress. But as you have said, you just got to continue and change routine as it gets boring when you are doing the same drill over and over again. I was halfway the 21 days when I felt like almost giving up as I cant even recall what I memorize the day before lol. Then I realize, I do not have to memorize it word by word right now, repetition will do that work for me once I encounter the particular phrase (in my language journal )in articles, news etc I could easily recall its meaning. I still dont have the courage for language exchange, but I’ll summon it soon, Hopefully somebody out there is willing to learn Filipino haha, I dont think I could trade my English for Spanish right now?

          • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

            You’re right about the vocab. It’s totally normal to forget words. (Your “struggles” are how I know you’re really doing the work, because everything you’re saying is completely normal.) One way to help retain the vocab is to just study an old page–just one page–every day. Just pick one page at random and then drill all the words on it until you get it perfect. (Making yourself produce the Spanish works best, imo.) You’ll forget a lot of words again, but the more you do this, the more they’ll stick. AND you’ll be ready once you see them in context.

            50-60% is not bad. After 30 days?? Think of where you’ll be in six months. Just keep things fresh, like you said. Hey, if you get a chance, write me a private message on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/languagsurfer. Or if you don’t use Facebook, try info (at) languagesurfer.com. I have a good idea of what your progress is, so I’ll give you a personalized routine to follow. I have some ideas to help you with your speaking, without needing a partner.

            Your English is great, at least your written English. (We haven’t talked so I don’t know about your speaking, but I have a feeling it’s fine.) I’m sure you could language exchange with someone wanting to learn English.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Also, thanks for the compliment! I know you’ll get to where you want/need to be.

  • http://blog.fluenthistorian.com/ Natalie

    Congrats! It sounds like your Spanish learning project was rather successful. I hope you don’t forget everything you’ve learned now that you’re going to study German. 😉 Good luck with the German—from what I know, German grammar is so complicated compared to Spanish grammar.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Natalie, thank you! I absolutely will forget some. LOL. I know me, and it’s inevitable. What I’m hoping is that a good chunk of it stays at least dormant, and when I pick it up again in the future, it’ll all be there waiting to be woken up…awakened…you know.

      I learned a little German back in Germany, but I realize now that I’m back at it, my skills aren’t nearly good enough and not even quite what I thought they were. It’s like I had to see what was possible with Spanish to know just how far behind I am in German.

      • http://blog.fluenthistorian.com/ Natalie

        Yeah, I think everyone forgets at least some bits of a language they aren’t actively using. My dad sometimes forgets his native language (which isn’t English) because he’s lived in the US for so long and speaks English all day. One reason I’m afraid to attempt to learn another language is I don’t want to forget Russian. But if German opens up job opportunities for you, learning it is probably a good idea :)