A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

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James29
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby James29 » Sat Apr 08, 2017 12:22 am

Ingobernable looks great. I hope to get to it soon. If you like thrillers/suspense/mystery I'd recommend Estocolmo. It is a Argentinian series produced for Netflix. High quality, good acting and beautiful countryside scenes.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Tue Apr 11, 2017 7:57 pm

Officially added it to my queue, it sounds good to me for all the reasons you mentioned. I've been meaning to watch The Revenant since I've heard it shows some great scenery. Thanks for the recommendation.

I think Ingobernable will hold your interest pretty well. Part of me wished they delved a bit more into the social issues they touched on, but maybe it's good they didn't.
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:12 pm

------------------------------
”Weekly” Update
------------------------------

Overall, this has been a good week for Spanish. I’m enjoying Netflix’s, La niña but some of the accents are really sending me for a loop. I’ve watched the first 8 episodes and it’s becoming a bit easier to understand accents but I think the word choices of the characters may have something to do with my difficulty with understanding. It's OK as long as I'm not multitasking. In any event, it’s an interesting series and I like that it’s not directly about el narcotráfico. Also, the nature of the dialog is very helpful and better resembles the kinds of conversations I’m likely to hear or engage in myself. I liked El patrón del mal, for example, but I tend not to speak like a thug.

I slacked a bit on reading last week, but I’m OK with that given the other things I’ve started doing. Regarding Spanish, I’ve concluded that the one thing I’m not doing, is the one thing I should be doing. Writing, it is!

Inspired in part by this post by emk, since the 6th, I’ve endeavored to write at least 100 words a day. Writing has to be my weakest skill and working to improve it should translate well to my speaking and listening abilities. At first, I thought I would just write about whatever came to mind, as emk did.

However, I discovered a few things:

- My thoughts were a bit too ‘random’ and I was wasting 15 minutes just deciding what to write about. Not a huge amount of time, but it was adding up.
- I was running out of thing’s I’d like to be able to write about that I could also fit into 100 words.
- I’d like to systematically improve my writing. I felt I would benefit from seeing good writing and working, without plagiarizing, to appreciate the style and imitate it. Along the lines of, good artists borrow but great artists steal (← Steve Jobs originally said that). I figured the efficient thing to do would be to seek guidance, albeit from a book.
- Ok, so what do I write about?

I headed to a local used bookstore and, after an hour of browsing, decided on two books; ‘a comprehensive advanced Spanish language text’ named Espanol avanzado, ¡toda vela! by Herra Lamontagne and Enfoques student activity manual, a workbook designed for an intermediate university Spanish course. I can’t claim that these are best best options out there but I wanted something that would give me examples of what good writing looked like, or, that would at least lead me in, what seemed like, a progressive way towards improving my writing by perhaps focusing on one aspect of writing, at a time.

Both books are written completely in Spanish which I saw as a plus. ¡A toda vela! seemed like it would do a good job at integrating advanced vocabulary into my writing, through well designed reading and writing assignments.

I wish I had the main book for Enfoques, it seems like it would be useful to have. It’s prompts are interesting, but resemble something I’d use to prepare to write a formal exam. Sometimes, it will ask that I listen to X interview with famous person Y and write my opinion, or that I write a letter of complaint, or analyze a historical event. Since I don’t have the accompanying CD’s, in these cases, I search YouTube for videos about the person/ historical event, social issue, etc. and start writing.

---------------------
The breakdown:
---------------------

-1. Open the book and do the reading. Each reading usually has highlighted words and while I’m not unfamiliar with all the words, there are many words I don’t know. I asked a friend and it seemed that most of these words are actually worth learning.
-2. I skip the vocabulary exercises but do try to at least familiarize myself with the words and make a list of ones I’d like to use in my writing.
-3. Take 30 minutes and write as much as I can on the topic while trying to incorporate the words from the previous step.
-4. Activities within the same chapter all reinforce the same vocabulary/grammar point so I just continue, one chapter at a time, trying to pay special attention to improving the ‘one’ important aspect.
-5. Review what I wrote the next morning, making corrections as I’m able to identify them.
-6. Post to Lang-8.
-7. On the weekend, print what I wrote, correct it again by comparing it with suggestions I received on Lang-8.
-8. Correct it on the computer, and add parts of interest to Anki by creating cloze-deletion cards.

--------------------------------------------

I’ve been taking about 1.5 hours to prepare for, and actually complete, the assignment. Although I originally planned to commit 30 minutes to writing, I actually enjoy reading/ watching something before I write and will plan on continuing this in way for a while. With everything else I do, it’s a fairly big time commitment but for 4 weeks, it shouldn't be a problem. The thing is, the topics are interesting and once I get going, It’s super easy to write more than 100 words. In fact, 250 words has been my average.

Last week was a trial run but the plan is to continue like this for 5 days a week (no weekends), for the next 4 weeks. After doing about 3 days of doing this, I found myself thinking in Spanish for more extended periods. It’s a good feeling. Afterwards, I’ll probably focus on another skill.

An advanced writing book was not strictly necessary. I could have very well decided to choose articles and videos of interest, and write about them, or, do as emk did and just write about whatever comes to mind. Still, I’m enjoying the structure the books offer and I can simply skip a chapter if it’s about a topic that doesn’t interest me.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:36 pm

------------------------------
”Weekly” Update
------------------------------

Another productive week for Spanish. This is my first full week following the writing plan and I think it’s working well. I’ve met some really good proofreaders on Lang-8 who often go as far as to explain grammar. Even when they don’t, just seeing certain elements of my writing corrected has helped me to notice areas I need to pay attention to. I’m still averaging about 250 words per day and it’s becoming easier to start writing. I like the Enfoques workbook but it is part of an intermediate Spanish course and tries to do many things well. It’s good for that purpose, but I really want a book designed just to teach Spanish composition. I’ll keep looking.

Spending about 20 minutes per day on The Spanish Subjunctive Up Close for the past couple of weeks has brought me through about ⅓ of the book. One thing that I like about this book is that the author first tries to explain elements of the subjunctive from a Spanish speaker's perspective. Only then, does he contrast it with English. I had a decent understanding of the subjunctive before I started TSUC, and knew how to conjugate all its forms. In my opinion, conjugating the different tenses is not something this book teaches well, and I think the student would be best served starting with that knowledge in hand. It’s too soon to draw a conclusion about this book, but it is clearing up many doubts I had regarding the Subjunctive.

Weeks ago, I took a look at Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and dismissed it as a kids show and not worthy of my Spanish time. Well, people have been talking about this series ... A lot. I was able to ignore the buzz surrounding the series from my friends, and at work, but I reached the last straw when both language partners asked me about it this week. I started watching last Wednesday and I’m on episode 6. Surprisingly, it is holding my attention pretty well despite it being dubbed (nothing against dubs, I just prefer to hear ‘original Spanish’). More than anything I find myself wondering, “where exactly is this going?” It’s a tragedy/mystery/educational piece all-in-one. I watched a few episodes of La niña, but should be back to watching it 'full-time', this week.

Finished with two Skype sessions this week. The 1.5 hours spent on writing has been cutting into my book reading time … need to get back on track with that. Although, it is good that I’m reading/ watching something in Spanish each day before writing.
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby Bebetter » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:26 am

the1whoknocks wrote:------------------------------

---------------------
The breakdown:
---------------------

-1. Open the book and do the reading. Each reading usually has highlighted words and while I’m not unfamiliar with all the words, there are many words I don’t know. I asked a friend and it seemed that most of these words are actually worth learning.
-2. I skip the vocabulary exercises but do try to at least familiarize myself with the words and make a list of ones I’d like to use in my writing.
-3. Take 30 minutes and write as much as I can on the topic while trying to incorporate the words from the previous step.
-4. Activities within the same chapter all reinforce the same vocabulary/grammar point so I just continue, one chapter at a time, trying to pay special attention to improving the ‘one’ important aspect.
-5. Review what I wrote the next morning, making corrections as I’m able to identify them.
-6. Post to Lang-8.
-7. On the weekend, print what I wrote, correct it again by comparing it with suggestions I received on Lang-8.
-8. Correct it on the computer, and add parts of interest to Anki by creating cloze-deletion cards.


Hello, I really enjoy reading your blog. I am wondering which book you are using during your breakdown or is it a combo of both books.
Thank you very much!
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:32 am

Bebetter wrote:I am wondering which book you are using during your breakdown or is it a combo of both books.
Thank you very much!


During the week you referenced, I was switching between both books. I’ve since been sticking to ¡A toda vela!
Both books have plenty of interesting writing prompts and have very well designed exercises focused on developing one writing aspect at a time but, ¡A toda vela! does a better job at exposing me to useful advanced vocabulary. To be fair, Enfoques, is marketed as an intermediate book and it’s vocabulary reflects that (it still has words I don’t know, or use regularly enough).

It was hard to articulate, at first, but I think I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what I think these books lack; they are great for focus on form, but not as helpful as I’d like them to be for developing style. To remedy this, I’ve been looking for a book solely designed to teach advanced composition skills. Composición: Proceso y síntesis and Taller de Escritores: Grammar and Composition for Advanced Spanish are two books I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at and perhaps source from an affordable vendor.

Anyway, to get back to original question, I’ll probably be sticking with ¡A toda vela! for the remainder of this writing stint because of the very useful advanced vocabulary it incorporates and to eliminate time wasted procrastinating on decision making.

Cool name, btw.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:37 pm

------------------------------
”Weekly” Update
------------------------------

This was an interesting week for Spanish. For the second time this year, I fell ill to the point where I barely left the house. I can count on one hand the amount of times I needed to take a rest day so, for me, it meant things were pretty bad. Still, it was actually a great week for Spanish! For three days this week, I can say that I listened to more Spanish than English. I dreamt more times in Spanish, last week, than I have in a long time.

I’ve followed the writing plan, five days a week, for the second week in a row. This is not something I expected to happen, but I am already making less of the more obvious mistakes and formulating my thoughts is feeling a bit more natural. A few of my observations:

-1. Dequeismo/ leisimo - I really should just look these up in a grammar book
-2. The use of the imperfect subjunctive in the future - on more than one occasion I used the imperfect subjunctive while referring to the future and was advised to use the future indicative.
-3. It’s definitely helped reassure me of orthographic differences between English and Spanish; without even going back to the grammar book, many of my doubts in that arena have been addressed.
-4. According to the corrections I’ve gotten, I don’t have too many unnatural sounding sentences but I need to work on being more specific. Although many of my sentences were grammatically correct, sometimes, it was unclear what exactly I was talking about. I suppose this happens with English too :)
-5. Finally, I am still taking longer than I’d like to write these entries, I’ll need to work on that in the next round.

“Tenemos que mejorar, cómo nos tratamos unos a otros y, cómo nos cuidamos, tenemos que mejorar de algún modo.”
“It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”


The above, embodies the message that, I believe, the creators of Netflix’s 13 Reasons wanted to convey. It’s controversial, to say the least, and I think the creators settled on being OK with that. Above all, it is a very poignant look at the reasons (there are 13 of them) that one character decided to commit suicide. The words quoted above were uttered by a close friend of the main character.

At first, it was intriguing. Very intriguing. The plot just kept pulling me along, although, to be honest, the acting was nothing great. As time went on, more characters seemed to be apart of this secret club or plot, and they did a good job keeping me guessing what that was about. The plot gets sent into overdrive during the last four episodes. After finishing the final episode, the exact word I said to myself, please excuse my wording, was, “damn”. It was like coming to a screeching halt after being on a roller coaster that had, until then, been barreling ahead at full speed. Afterwards, in a very pensive mood, I sat in silence for a few minutes. From a language perspective, it was very easy to understand and I actually learnt a couple words; casco, for example.

I’m a bit ambivalent about this one; I’m not sure I’d re-watch the series but I am glad I watched it once. 13 Reasons Why has a message that is very much worth sharing, but I’m not even sure I can recommend it because of the way they decided to share that message. Many healthcare professionals have expressed their disapproval with how it ended and, after watching it, I definitely respect their concerns. One thing is certain, I received that message ‘loud and clear’.

I’m back to watching La niña. I’m not having the same issues with the accents that I was having initially. Maybe it was just the initial shock. It’s strange because I’ve watched other Colombian series without that problem. Got in two hours of Skype time this week and things are progressing nicely with The Spanish Subjunctive, Up Close. Since 13 Reasons Why was so easy to understand, I found myself naturally trying to identify uses of the imperfect subjunctive and things that have been brought to my attention through corrections I received to my writing.
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