The inevitable (?) plateau

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Chris
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The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Chris » Sat Mar 04, 2017 4:27 pm

Just a way of saying hi again and ramble a bit really, but also to seek tips given my schedule.

I've been studying Spanish for 22 months now and go through a range of reactions to my progress, ranging from (when I stop thinking about things - rare...) 'wow I actually typed all that without looking it up' to 'hmmm - not really progressing.'

I study every day, mainly using Duolingo because I can squeeze that into coffee breaks at work plus the fact when I get home, I'm knackered and can't face my Linguaphone package. (It's an excellent CD + books course. Old school, but I like it.)

Self-assessments put me between A2/B1and I really want to get into another gear. I guess the only real way is to summon up the energy and speak online a few times a week.

I'd also appreciate thoughts on portable study tools for my level that I could squeeze into work breaks that would take me higher than Duolingo. Perhaps grammar, which I'm far from fond of.

Thanks for wading through this!

Chris
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby DaveBee » Sat Mar 04, 2017 4:36 pm

Chris wrote:Self-assessments put me between A2/B1and I really want to get into another gear. I guess the only real way is to summon up the energy and speak online a few times a week.

I'd also appreciate thoughts on portable study tools for my level that I could squeeze into work breaks that would take me higher than Duolingo. Perhaps grammar, which I'm far from fond of.
You could start reading articles/books online, wikipedia/wikisource would be good resources there. A browser plugin dictionary extension might be useful. Perhaps try listening to spanish audio books during your commute.

EDIT
If you know anyone who has an Amazon Kindle, borrow that, add a bingual dictionary, and try using that for reading spanish books. (NB the kindle will be tied to an account, so don't go downloading 100s of eBooks @£5.99 each!)
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iguanamon
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby iguanamon » Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:01 pm

Chris wrote:...I've been studying Spanish for 22 months now and go through a range of reactions to my progress, ranging from (when I stop thinking about things - rare...) 'wow I actually typed all that without looking it up' to 'hmmm - not really progressing.'.. I'd also appreciate thoughts on portable study tools for my level that I could squeeze into work breaks that would take me higher than Duolingo. Perhaps grammar, which I'm far from fond of. ...

Congratulations on your progress so far, Chris, and welcome back. Your approach up to now appears to have been heavily course-focused. Have a look at my long guest post about the multi-track approach. It will take a few minutes to read 'but I think it will be worth your while to consider. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to get from intermediate to advanced or from low intermediate to high intermediate. Courses can only take you so far. If all you want is Spanish for travel, then you are probably ok now. If you want a higher level, it means going beyond courses.

VeinteMundos is a learning magazine at your level or slightly above. The articles are about varied topics across the Spanish-speaking world. They are downloadable in pdf and accompanying mp3 audio. The articles are monolingual Spanish with some more difficult/unfamiliar words and concepts highlighted with mouse over explanations.

Courses beyond apps and duolinguo include Assimil and FSI for drills. There's also "Practice Makes Perfect" workbooks and the "Gramática de uso del español" series which run from A to C1 levels. Since you like your linguaphone course, stick with it and add either FSI Spanish Basic or one of the other two grammar series. The Centro Virtual Cervantes Aveteca has a free grammar/lesson activity site ranging from A1 to C1. It's interface is clunky and it means having to spend time in front of a computer. DLI Gloss(Defense Language Institute Global Online Support System) lessons stem from real-world examples for both reading and listening plus grammar and vocabulary. It's free. Reading is also a good way to learn vocabulary and grammar in context.

VeinteMundos' articles are about 10 minutes long, but will require more time to work through as you are learning and encountering new vocabulary, grammar, idioms and constructions. Squeezing this into breaks will be difficult. If you can find, or make, time to devote an hour to study, it will do more to help you to advance Good luck!
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Jbean » Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:20 pm

Duolingo only goes so far. My spouse wants to live in Spain and learn Spanish, but he's having trouble leaving the comfort of Duolingo.

You do need to learn grammar, but not necessarily from a teacher. There are plenty of self guided study courses available. I like the Practice Makes Perfect series. They are inexpensive and clearly written and include many exercises. The todo-claro.com website offers lots of free exercises and spanish.about.com has good, clearly written, free articles about grammar.

Vocabulary acquisition requires memorization. I find that I remember new words most easily when I read or hear them in context, but for starting out, you'll probably find that approach frustrating. Memrise, Anki, Tiny Cards or some other free flash card app will help a lot and can be used in short time periods like Duolingo. Reading electronically is great too because you can tap or click on a word to get a translation. The Kindle and Overdrive apps are very helpful for that. Veintemundos.com is free and has many articles about the various Spanish speaking countries. Each article has a simplified A2 version, audio, vocabulary flash cards, and grammar exercises. The Kindle app lets you build a limited flashcard deck too, as you read. Old fashioned dual language readers and simplified books are still available too, if you like to read from paper sources.

If you want to make the fastest progress though, a human teacher is the best approach. You can't say you speak a language until you can express yourself spontaneously rather than just repeating canned phrases. Using a service like italki.com eliminates travel time to and from lessons, if you are comfortable with talking to someone over Skype. I had to experiment a little before I found a teacher that "clicked" for me.

What doesn't work for me; listening to music, watching movies or TV with English subtitles, watching TV without subtitles when I can't understand much spoken language, reviewing easy stuff when I should be struggling with something new.

Favorite trick for verbal comprehension; read transcription first, then listen without reading -- over and over until you can hear each word.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby coldrainwater » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:18 am

Chris,

You rare likely somewhat above my current level (self-diagnosed A2 here). I am likely to follow the meat of the advice that has already been given in this thread to move upwards as I have certainly not found better. At the moment, I happen to be using newsinslowspanish to gain a gentle introduction to listening in Spanish. I believe mindfully creating sufficient dedicated time to practice may be a critical personal/behavioral next step to implement. It will make the window you need to incrementally improve. Getting there may require new habit and method development.

A number of my coworkers study at lunch. The team I work with actually converted our lunch hour to physical workouts (which lend themselves well to podcasts and even some video watching via smartphone). Also, our group often uses two distinct workout timeframes. Morning people train early and at lunch, while night owls train at lunch and after work. In both cases this has the impact of providing a mental barrier (the same can be had with a nice long siesta) between your work life and ´round 2´ of studying later on. Food + nap + workout tends to cure a lot of being ´knackered´. You may also be able to establish a pattern of studying one hour in the morning if you are too tired at night.

I like the approach of staying hungry like a wolf. I am only 9 months in (for the record I believe I spent 1-2 months on Duolingo at first also). I make sure that I have enough resources at my disposal that if one does not seem interesting, another almost certainly will. You can always choose other life goals and pursue them fully in Spanish (I am integrating some of my computer work at work with my Spanish also). Hope some of this helps.

-Erizo
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby datsunking1 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:05 am

Hi Chris,

Are you in an area where you can actively use the language? I used to go to markets and stores just to practice, and I'd flat out say that I was only in the store to practice. People's faces would light up :).

I would suggest looking into topics you enjoy; cars, music, cooking, dancing, movies (Spanish is rich with books and movies etc) and it's a way to spark your interest again.

I started attending different cars shows, I'd learn all these different terms relating to cars that you couldn't find in a dictionary. I'm not saying my Spanish is perfect yet, but I'll get there.

Others have mentioned "Practice makes perfect" series, it's a fantastic series that can really clear up some little mistakes and questions. Check your local bookstore for used copies, I got mine for cheap. In addition, Benny talks about prepositions and 'connecting words' that will make you seem more fluent. These can be a great help as well.

Best of luck (Buena suerte! :D)

-Jordan
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby ed_phelan » Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:34 pm

Congratulations on your excellent progress so far! Would it not be possible for you to attend a local meetup where you can speak Spanish with others? For such a widely spoken language, I would presume that there is some kind of event like this nearby.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby the1whoknocks » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:38 am

Some pretty solid suggestions above.

I’d just add that the range of reactions you have regarding your progress in Spanish are pretty common. Many days, I tether on the edge of being convinced that I’m a language learning genius and wondering if I’ll ever progress. Your stubborn resolve to move forward seems to be serving you well.

When you asked about things one might use on ‘the go’, a few things came to mind:

1. Courses (kinda)

- Linguaphone - I haven’t use this course but assuming it’s similar to Living Language or Assimil, you could always just use the audio while out.
- The Language Transfer Spanish - A Michael Thomas style grammar course on YouTube. My Spanish was around your level when I started going through the whole course. Many times, I found myself listening to this while at work or travelling.
- Spanishpod101 - I really enjoyed listening to their podcasts on ‘the-go’. At the time, their podcasts could be downloaded along with accompanying PDF’s. When I used it, their dialogs featured speakers who were primarily from Latin America but I remember one level which focused more on Spanish from Spain. Other than your personal tolerance, I’d say it doesn’t really matter either way.


2. Any podcast that has a transcript that you’re able to read when convenient ...

… or one on a subject that you're particularly interested in. Of course, there are many more than the ones listed below but I lost track of them a while back. They should be a good start though:

- Notes in Spanish - http://www.notesinspanish.com/
- Spanish Podcast - http://www.spanishpodcast.org/
- Lightspeed Spanish (heavier grammar focus than the others) - [url]http://www.lightspeedspanish.co.uk/spanish-lesson-table-contents/
[/url]

3. ReadLang

I’m hesitant to suggest this only because you may be better served by graded material but it might work nicely if you were to happen upon find something you’re really interested in reading online but can’t.

You mentioned being ‘knackered’ at the end of the day but even 15-30 minutes a day of focused study time might be helpful. There are many ways to use the resources above (or others like them) but I found it most useful to spend a short amount of time studying and then using my time away from the desk to review/ consolidate/ enjoy everything by listening to it. Sometimes, many times over.

Best of luck!
Last edited by the1whoknocks on Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby Xmmm » Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:25 am

Chris wrote:I'd also appreciate thoughts on portable study tools for my level that I could squeeze into work breaks that would take me higher than Duolingo.


Lots of people are giving you good advice, but no one is giving you what you asked for.

If you sign up for http://www.lingq.com for $10 a month, you can use their phone app to read and listen to articles/stories/material in Spanish at your convenience. I do this all the time for Russian. It would be very difficult to use ReadLang or LWT on my phone, but with LingQ it's easy and convenient.

In addition to the free phone app, LingQ has an extensive library of material. Some of it's bad, some of it's great. Pick what you want, ignore the rest.

I read about 3,000 words a day in Russian, all of it on LingQ.

On this forum people typically say you need to read 10,000 pages, or roughly 2.5 to 3 million words to know a language like Spanish. LingQ will keep track of the word count for you.

People will soon reply here to warn you that LingQ was invented by the devil. All I can say is "try to use ReadLang on your phone and see how it goes." LingQ's phone app (only listening reading phone in the world at the moment as far as I know) works quite well.
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Re: The inevitable (?) plateau

Postby rdearman » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:03 pm

Chris wrote:I'd also appreciate thoughts on portable study tools for my level that I could squeeze into work breaks that would take me higher than Duolingo. Perhaps grammar, which I'm far from fond of.

Paperback book in target language and a dictionary. :D
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