How I was learning Spanish an hour a day with no “free” time.

It was my first time in Los Angeles and California. I went to college in Massachusetts at the time and visited LA for a student leadership conference. I took a bus from the airport to the hotel, which was quite an ordeal (this is LA with quite shabby public transit!). Inevitably I needed to ask directions and I asked a gentleman in his forties with few gray hair and a fairly big leather handbag whether the bus I was in was going where I was expecting it to go. I asked him in English and he responded in Spanish while gesticulating widely. I re-asked again in English and he still responded in Spanish. Luckily I was prepared and I had a printed map so pointing fingers and saying “si” or “no” did work out and I got where I needed to go.

However, that day I decided that if I ever move to California I will learn Spanish.

About a month ago the time had come. I have been living in San Francisco, California for four years now. Last month I got back from a trip to Mexico, a third Spanish speaking country I visited in the last six months. The other two were Spain and Panama, where I got lost because of my lack of Spanish.

So I decided to enter a mission of learning Spanish for 30 days. Since I have studied languages before I knew what rules to set. The main rule was very simple: study every single day even if it is just for couple of minutes. Since after work, dancing and social life I don’t have any free time to sit down at a desk and study Spanish it had to happen on the go – on the commute, while waiting, while walking or while at the gym.

I had 3 goals for my month long mission. 1) Learn how to order tacos and fish 2) have a five minute long conversation and 3) if I were to go to Spanish speaking country again, not get lost.

And I did it!

I missed only one day of practice while I was backpacking at Yosemite with no cell reception. I was successfully able to order tacos at a taqueria in Mission in San Francisco. Though most importantly, I went to a language meetup and had a 15 minute long conversation in Spanish. Also, I have learned vocabulary that I’m pretty sure would allow me to get where I want in a Spanish speaking city. I also kept an almost daily language learning log at FluentIn3Months forum.

One thing that I learned (besides all the vocabulary and directly Spanish related stuff 🙂 ) was that beginning Spanish is actually easy! It is easier than any of the other languages I have learned in the past, including English and French. Why I didn’t do it sooner? I could have done a month of Spanish before Mexico and I would have had even better time in Mexico.

What I was most surprised about was how much the time of studying Spanish added up. With having no “free” time I amassed on average an hour a day for 30 days! To be more precise 28 hours 35 minutes over 30 days or on average 57 minutes (57h:10s) per day. The range was between 4 minutes and 156 minutes and with median of 52 minutes.

So how I did it?

I studied on the go. I always had my smartphone with me and headphones. In the morning, while getting ready I would listen to podcasts (mostly Coffee Break Spanish). Whenever waiting for a bus or anything else for that matter I would put on headphones and learn using apps. If I didn’t bother anybody by talking out loud I would do Duolingo as it has a speech recognition component, otherwise Memrise to learn vocabulary. I would listen to podcasts while walking, running errands, or at the gym. In those moments which before I would have spent browsing the web or Facebook, now I spent studying Spanish. 4 minutes here, 5 minutes there, it all adds up!

I loved this mission! So I will do another one. Stay tuned!

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