Learning Spanish: Summary of Month 3

Ok, so the third month of my Spanish learning mission was completed a long long time ago (it lasted from October 17th to November 17th). Unfortunately posting about it has been delayed, but hey, as they say better later than never!

Overall, I managed to study every single day. It doesn’t matter that the shortest day was 4 minutes long (it was a vocabulary review session on Memrise). But it kept the momentum going. The longest day was 76 minutes in which I listened to 4 podcast episodes.

On average I spent 32 minutes a day studying Spanish. This is not a small feat considering that my schedule is super busy. (The total time was 999 minutes over 31 days). For comparison, in second month I spent 1h:13min per day, and in the first month 57 minutes per day on average)

This month I didn’t experiment with any new learning methods. I just did what worked best from the previous two missions. I studied using Memrise on most days (on average comes out to 17 minutes a day). In the beginning I did Duolingo, but then dropped it. I kept listening to podcasts. I completed the remaining 10 episodes of Show Time Spanish (Coffee Break Spanish Season 3) and first 20 episodes of Notes in Spanish Intermediate podcast.

I wanted to get a tutoring session once a week. But I ended up doing it only once right in the beginning of month three. I was surprised how well it went. I was able to chat in Spanish the whole time.

I think overall my Spanish learning mission was a success. I was ready to go to Costa Rica for vacation and test it out.

Learning Spanish: Kicking Off Part 3

I’m ready to roll and start part three of my learning Spanish mission. It will be a month of focus on studying Spanish every single day. I started with a mission to learn Spanish in 3 months, but it turned into 3 separate focused effort months spread out over a longer period of time with review/keep-up time in between. Part 1 lasted from June 10 to July 10 and part 2 lasted from July 17th to August 17th. And there is nothing wrong with that 🙂 As they say in Latvia “the slower you will go, the further you will get.”

The main reason why I started studying Spanish was so that I learn basics and I don’t get lost and don’t get on the wrong bus the next time I’m in a Spanish speaking country (which happened the last time I was in Panama. I got on the wrong bus and ended up in a city 3 hours away from where I initially wanted to be.) Now I’m just having so much fun that I want to continue 🙂

The goals for the part 3 of my Spanish mission:
* study every single day, at least couple of minutes, but strive for an hour on average
* get a tutoring session once a week
* use Memrise regularly and finish Spanish vocab by frequency (words 1 to 675) course http://www.memrise.com/course/169109/spanish-vocab-by-frequency-1-675/

I’m starting on Friday, October 17th.

When motivation wanes

After I finished the part two of my Spanish mission I did not end up starting the part three right away. I went on a vacation, had a completely different rhythm and was very busy (one of those vacations where you need a vacation after vacation). So I was not studying Spanish as much at all. After I got back 10 days later, I thought I would get right back into it with the intensity I had before, but work got busy, lots of things to catch up after the vacation.

However, because of my habits I developed in the previous two months of always carrying headphones and downloaded Spanish learning podcasts with me on my my smartphone, I still kept listening to podcasts in any free moments – while walking or waiting for something. It wasn’t as much as before (73 minutes on average in the second month, or 57 minutes on average in the first month), but it was still a little bit every day, most days. I ended up skipping on average a day a week (usually a weekend day because it has a different routine).

The main takeaway is that I did not officially start the third month of the mission and did not set any new goals, as a result I did not pressured myself to study much at all. Therefore I did not feel bad about skipping a day during this time as Spanish was not even my main focus. It is much easier to pick yourself up after a “failure” if you don’t feel bad about yourself. So the missed day never evolved into two missed days. I felt good about doing any studying at all because I did not even HAVE to do any studying, but I did it anyways because of good habits on autopilot.

Why is it important to feel good? Because you will keep doing things that make you feel good. I did not quit learning Spanish completely! As a result, now I can pick it up right back where I started which much less motivation than what I needed to start learning Spanish for the first time.

So if you lose motivation part way through your 3 month language learning mission, don’t despair. Take a break from focusing on the mission. But don’t quit cold turkey. Still keep reviewing just for a little bit most days (even just few minutes) to keep the level you had achieved, so that it is easier to get right back into it when time/motivation reappears.

It has been a month and half since the end of part II (month 2) of my Spanish mission. In that time I listened to about one or two podcast episodes a day, which came out to a half an hour a day on average. That’s 2-3 times less than when I was actively focusing on Spanish, but it has added up! For one I think my level has stayed the same as opposed to dropping which is so easy when learning foreign languages. I also have finished 30 of the 40 Show Time Spanish episodes and all 30 episodes of Notes in Spanish Beginner series and few other episodes.

To sum it up: when motivation wanes – rely on good habits. How to create those habits, that’s another post 🙂

Learning Spanish: Summary of Month 2

This post is long overdue, but hey, better later than never!

So how did I do in the second part of my Spanish mission (it lasted from July 15th to Aug 16th)? I think, pretty well. I’m very pleased. 🙂 Here is why.

As mentioned in the previous post, on the last day of the month, I had a natural conversation in Spanish with a Spanish native for 10 minutes! It was a much more natural setting than a language learning meetup as we discussed topics that I would have discussed in English (like dancing and living in San Francisco) instead of language learning topics. So that’s a win!

Also, an online test (http://www.spanish-test.net/) says I have passed A1 level! At the end of previous month I was at 63% percent and you need 70% to pass. Now I’m at 83% of A1 and 57% at the next level up – A2 (also need 70% to pass). It seemed that the difference between A1 and A2 is that in A1 mostly grammar is tested, whereas in A2 in addition a more complicated vocabulary is tested.

In total I spent 37 hours 53 minutes studying Spanish in month 2. On average 73 minutes each day (ranging from 55 minutes per day in one week to 90 minutes per day in another week). I’m very pleased with this. Remember all this time is on the go, while waiting for something, on the commute. It’s not like I sit down at the desk and study Spanish.

On average I spent 44 minutes per day of listening to podcasts and 19 minutes learning via Memrise. Not enough speaking (10 minutes in total) or writing (13 minutes in total).

Below is the table with all the stats 🙂

Minutes of studying time per week
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
+3 days
TOTAL mins per month
Average mins per day
Total minutes
Total hours
Average mins/day each week

Let’s see how I did against my own goals for the second part of the Spanish mission. Here they are (from http://www.diana.is/2014/07/announcing-my-next-spanish-learning.html) plus my comments of the end of month status:

* study every single day, aim for at least half an hour a day, but less is ok too => overachieved spectacularly with 73 minutes on average per day and I didn’t skip a single day.

* keep Duolingo streak with at least one lesson a day => done!

* at the end of it be able to have a half an hour long conversation => I had 10 minute long conversation with a native. Not quite half an hour, but I think its close enough. I think I get bonus points for a conversation with a native in a normal situation instead of a language meetup partner. 🙂

That’s all for now. But don’t fret, there will be part 3 of my Spanish mission! 🙂

So which Spanish podcast to listen to? (Day 31 of month 2)

This is a very belated post about my Day 31 of month 2 of studying Spanish (which was August 16th). I was on vacation in Europe and had no time to write, though I did continue studying Spanish, mostly listening to Podcasts.

From the podcasts I tried out recently, it is clear that I’m not ready yet for straight up advanced podcasts in Spanish by native Spanish speakers. They speak too fast and I can only pick up few sentences and thoughts.

So then we are left with intermediate Spanish learning podcasts.. Show Time Spanish is definitely my favorite. I will continue with that one. Then I will also do Notes in Spanish, including their beginners course as well, since it is not truly beginner the same way Coffee Break Spanish is. I will also do the Spanish Obsessed to add some variety. And since it doesn’t have many episodes in Spanish From Scratch and Beginners sections, I will finish those as well.

Very fittingly, on the last day of the second month of learning Spanish I got lucky and the Lyft (taxi) driver was from El Salvador and we had a 10 minute long conversation in Spanish. It seemed more natural than the one I had before at a language learner’s meetup. We chatted about dancing, living in San Francisco, her moving to south bay. Totally a conversation I would have had in English.

Hopefully the final day’s 152 minutes will bring up the average 🙂 Here is the breakdown:
10 speaking Spanish
28 Memrise
3 Duolingo
13 writing Spanish
98 ShowTime Spanish episodes 4-7

First impressions of Las Cosas Curiosas podcast (Day 30 of month 2)

Ok, this is the last podcast I’m trying out for now. Las cosas curiosas also turned out to be too advanced for me right now. I listened to just the first episode which is 1 hour long. The intro music was so, so. Also the sound quality sometimes lacked, but they probably improved it over time. Because I didn’t understand much, the music effects were sometimes distracting. Also if the Cabreamos podcast seemed a bit monotone, there was too much going on in this one. Lots of voices, I did not quite get the transitions, lots of ads for other podcasts. The second part of the podcast was the host asking random people on the street to tell something interesting.

This day was a good day for studying. Got in 96 minutes. Here is the breakdown:
5 watching video
7 Duolingo
15 Memrise
69 Las Cosas Curiosas podcast episode 1

First impressions of Cabreados podcast (Day 29 of month 2)

Today I tried out Cabreados podcast and listened to it’s first two episodes. The podcast starts with episode 0, which is not a surprise given that the host is an engineer. 🙂

This is an advanced podcast as well. He didn’t speak as fast as the host from Desde El Bano, but I still didn’t get most of it. Though I did understand the first minute of each of the zeroth and first episode. I gathered that he is an engineer. He explained what a podcast is, said something about unix and AdSense. He just kept talking and talking for a half an hour. Didn’t seem that there is any kind of structure, which makes it even harder to get the gist of it. Now I understand the importance of intro, body and a conclusion 🙂 In the second episode he was talking to another guy, who I think was another podcaster. There was a nice music track at the end of each episode.

Given that I’m an engineer, I think I would find this podcast interesting if I understood it. So I definitely plan on returning to it when my Spanish is better.

I got in 90 minutes of studying! Here is the breakdown:
11 Duolingo
11 Memrise
68 Cabreados podcast

Till tomorrow!

First impressions of Desde El Baño podcast (Day 28 of month 2)

I’m trying out another podcast from the list I posted a while ago. This time the podcast is Desde el baño.

I listened to the first three episodes, and I have to say – it really is an advanced podcast. It is not a Spanish language learning podcast. It is a regular podcast in real Spanish by an Argentinian girl. She speaks very fast, though her diction is quite ok.

The first episode was about how to say hello. One interesting thing that she said was that you pretty much always reply with “todo bien” – everything is good. You don’t ever say sad news unless you are speaking with a really close friend. That’s very similar to American way of responding to “how are you?”. Whereas in Eastern Europe where I’m from you more or less tell how it is. Though it is also true that in Eastern Europe its not that common to actually ask “how are you?”, not the same way it is a social ritual and a greeting equivalent to “Hello” in United States.

So yes, apparently I did get a gist out of the first episode, especially after listening to it twice. However it did not go so well with the second and third episode. Second episode was about all the different meanings of the word “che”. I think the third one was about words used in other Spanish speaking countries that should not be used in Argentinian Spanish. I got totally lost while listening to the third episode.

At this point, this podcast is too hard for me. But I will come back to it after I’m done with the intermediate podcasts, so far sounds like Desde el baño covers interesting topics.

This day was a great day for studying, I did quite a bit of walking to get where I need to go, so managed to listen to quite a few podcast episodes. Total time was 130 minutes and here is the breakdown:

4 Duolingo
5 Memrise
61 ShowTime Spanish episodes 1-3
60 Desde el baño episodes 1-3

Till tomorrow!

First impressions of Show Time Spanish podcast

Show Time Spanish podcast is the intermediate Spanish podcast following Coffee Break Spanish. Now ShowTime Spanish is rebranded as season 3 of Coffee Break Spanish.

I listened to the first 3 episodes and I love this podcast! There is new vocabulary, but at the same time I don’t feel lost. The format is different than Coffee Break Spanish, but it still makes sense. First a conversation between the hosts and then they summarize it in slower Spanish and explain any new vocabulary. In the middle there is few more fun new phrases and a tongue twister. Then another conversation or grammar topic in the second act.

Some of the phrases I learned:

“Estoy estupendamente, no podria estar mejor.” – I’m doing great! Can’t get any better!

“Eres un plasta!” – You are such a pain!

“Estoy molido.” / “Estoy hecho polvo.” – I’m shattered.

One of the tongue twisters they introduced:

Pablito clavó clavito,
un clavito clavó Pablito.
Qué clavito clavó Pablito?

Till tomorrow!

First impressions of Spanish Obsessed – Spanish From Scratch podcast (Day 27 of month 2)

I have tried Spanish from Scratch podcast before, but didn’t stick to it. Now I listened to episodes 8 to 10 and I got reminded again why I’m not likely to stick to it now too.


Too much grammar.

Episode 8 consisted of pretty much only grammar and it covered gerund. In contrast, Coffee Break Spanish got away without introducing gerund tense only after 70th episode. Episodes 9 and 10 were quite ok, hosts introduced new vocabulary by saying this word in English is this in Spanish and so on. However I like Coffee Break Spanish approach better where there is a conversation first and then hosts explain what happened in that conversation.

I definitely wouldn’t start with Spanish from Scratch podcast. Now after Coffee Break Spanish it would be more useful, but probably won’t be my main focus.

Here are the numbers – total of 80 minutes:
16 Duolingo
23 Memrise
41 Spanish from Scratch episodes 8-10

Till tomorrow!