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.
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.