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Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:02 pm
by Lisa
I'm posting this mostly for my own records... I am surprised with my progress in Spanish and I kind of want to keep track of when I started and what I've been doing while I still remember. I am planning to switch focus on German too at some point soon and will see how well they integrate with each other.

On average I had similar levels of Spanish and German education and abilities, but the practical breakdown was very dissimilar, as I knew (at one point, having forgotten almost all of it) more Spanish but could (at one time and still to some degree) fluently speak very bad German.

Current work:
I read about Anki and downloaded it around May 12. I started with the deck "1001 most useful spanish words and sentences". It's slow and tedious to get all the bits of the sentences correct, but having the audio, and seeing grammar in context has made a difference. Also speaking the answers aloud exposed some things (my tongue needed practice to even produce arreglarlo and reloj). The load got overwhelming by and by and I had to reduce the new cards per day; it felt like I wasn't making progress.

I started my own deck, and now add words to that when I come across them in reading or decide I need to know some particular word. Seem to be managing to keep up with 35 new words a day. has been very helpful in giving example sentences using a particular word, and pronunciations. I do my deck almost every day, but the 1001 deck only maybe half the time now (set to 10 new cards per day). Grammar is a problem. Anki did not work at all for verb conjugations for me. A little progress using I have some self-study books that I've looked at. Still, very weak and not sure of the best approach.

Reading children's books wasn't working: they are boring. I started Señor de los Anillos around June 18. While rather over my reading level, since I know the books in English so well, I can skip over bits that are too hard or when I'm tired, and can't get lost; and it's enjoyable to read. The vocabulary does skew a bit from common usage.

I have been avoiding German more or less for the last year. Still, German words or expressions come first into my head when I want to produce Spanish. When I get back to German who knows what will happen to the spanish.

Current status:
- reading: B2 per dialangweb
- I am not able to follow normal spoken spanish, though I can sometimes follow audio learning materials.
- Speaking is slow and effortful.
- haven't had to write anything.
- reading: A2 per dialangweb
- I can speak and understand general chat in German.
- Writing (e.g. a Christmas card note) is very hard.

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:17 pm
by Lisa
I wish I had a word frequency list that I trusted. After browsing around in this forum, I don't think that such a thing is even possible, never mind something I can get. I was looking at the lists on memrize but... it lists a word I didn't know with a frequency under 2000, but Collin's says is not in the top 10000. Another list consists mainly of verb conjugates. And even if I had the list: there are so many cognates in Spanish so even the idea of "knowing" a particular word gets a bit fuzzy. Using words from readings means I'm learning some rare ones which kind of annoys me but I suppose I'd have to get to them by and by if I'm going to be able to read. While you can understand 90% when you know 2000 words or lemmas, or whatever the formula is... still, that last 10% is probably the part that contains 90% of the meaning.

Up to page 545 in LOTR, and down to needing to lookup maybe 2 words per page. But was flummoxed by article in El Mundo on illegal immigration from morocco, and on a middle eastern royalty divorce; these use words not in LOTR like search and rescue, lawsuit, etc.

My favorite words: ensimismarse, to be lost in thought. Apparently very unused, but it's appeared in LOTR twice and I like both the meaning and the rhythm.

The other one: tejón, badger. This is the least likely word I'll ever use since badgers are a very vague concept to me, but it looks like a common word and I had to look it up twice (it's used in expressions like busy as badgers).

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:34 pm
by Cavesa
Great log, Lisa! It is a pleasure to read about your learning path.

About the vocab lists: Of course no frequency list will ever cover exactly your needs, that is normal. The frequency lists vary, the most important factor being what they are based on. A list based on newspapers is logically different from one based on movies, one based on collection of native speech, and so on. The corpus matters. And I think the tiny ones are pretty useless. Especially at your level.

The best one I've seen so far was using in decks.memrise courses +Spanish by Eunoia. It is a series of several courses, which all together have like 30000 words. These courses are awesome, but they are not based on example sentences (but if you read a lot, I don't think a standard word-translation approach is any problem at all).

For use in sentences, I recommend Clozemaster, or Speakly.

If you are open to other options, such as workbooks and eventually combining them with your own anki deck, then workbooks like Vocabulario published by Anaya, or Viva el Vocabulario are very good. Or the wordlists in normal coursebooks with a cefr label. Those are not necessarily frequency based, but can be extremely useful. Frequency lists tend to have huge blind spots over areas the native speakers may not talk about that often, but they totally know the words and so should you. The huge cervantes curriculum available for free online includes word lists too

For reading based wordlists, you can do some reading in Readlang, if you've got some epubs. It is easy to just click on words and have them saved with their dictionary meanings (and the sentence you've seen them in) for review in that platform or in Anki.

But in general, I'd recommend not getting too attached to the idea of frequency lists. Yes, they are helpful. But as you've already noticed, a lot of the rarer words will be very useful to you. If you want to be really good at Spanish, you will need a large vocabulary. And it will include words that many learners don't need but you do (such as the words mostly found in books you like).

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:45 am
by overscore
You can use the frequency word list to help you decide what to add to the Anki deck.
Anything under rank 500 is probably not too useful, as you will have it memorized and reinforced by the sheer fact of using the language.
This threshold will go up as you get better.

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:42 am
by Lisa
Cavesa wrote: Frequency lists tend to have huge blind spots over areas the native speakers may not talk about that often, but they totally know the words and so should you.

This I have seen - I tried to practice by naming objects in my environment, and looking up "stapler" it's apparently considered a rare word. But this is not a rare object.

The list of resources is a bit overwhelming. Though I will say readlang looks handy. Though it may make it too easy to add words to anki. I don't know how many new words per day is considered normal; my rate feels frustratingly slow but I don't want to risk overdoing it.

overscore - I wanted to base the decision on the frequency list but deciding if I "know" the word in the first place is harder than I would have thought, and then, I just can't bring myself to trust any of the particular frequency lists that I've found.

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:53 am
by Lisa
I have started listening to spanish audio. My time to do this is driving (three hours once a week) and at the gym, and I'm not very tolerant about what I listen to, but I found two audiobooks at the library (a sherlock homes and a narnia). Rather surprised to find that I am mostly able to follow, although I have to concentrate and it's not quite enough to really be entirely enjoyable. The sherlock homes speaker has got a bit of castillian lisp sound and while I can deduce hather and pathienthia, it slows me down just that bit which I can't afford.

My guess is that it's the downloaded anki deck with the audio that's really made the difference (besides just having so much more vocabulary - I think I caught abovegado (arched or vaulted) in the holmes book, which was a word I learned against my better judgement). I had thought I could pronounce spanish OK but I say each of the the words out loud when I do the anki deck, which exposes words that I fumble, but surely helping my ears recognize the sounds. I had to practice to be able to say reloj, arreglarlo, and proprietaro, my tongue just did not want to make those particular movements, it was some work to get them smooth. I actually think it was helpful to memorize the entire sentences... but it was getting to be too much tedious work. Even plain single-words anki seemed a little too much today; I raised the cap on reviews but I think I need to put it back down.

After three hours of spanish audio in the car (stuck in traffic, too) the other day, I was going to take an evening off reading in spanish, but the english language book I picked up didn't hold my interest and I went back to tolkien in spanish. I finished vol1 and started vol2. I suspect my familiarity with the material is not only helping me but giving me a false sense of mastery. For example, I know mentir (to lie) and mentira (a lie), but I would not have recognized the conjugated form mienten (they lie).. except that I knew that particular sentence.

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:37 pm
by Lisa
I've been seeing posts on Language Challenges - books, films, etc. and really cool progress bars in the signatures. It's entirely unclear how to get some for myself - it seems like it might mean registering for a challenge and posting to twitter, and I do have a twitter account (well, two actually), but rarely use it. But the challenge thread and the twitter hashtag all seem very out of date and they are the specific challenges I want and in general it doesn't seem worth the amount of asking around and figuring out that would be needed.

However, I can make graphics and do my own thing.

My goal would be 5000 pages read and 5000 words in the Anki desk seen and reviewed at least once, with an target of the end of October. Currently I've got a bit more than ~3500 anki cards (less than 1750 words at two cards per word plus a few conjugated forms and phrases), and I'm just shy of 1000 pages in Spanish. I ought to have a listening challenge part, but I don't feel confident in having enough listening material that will keep my interest. These seem like smallish, soonish goals... but I feel like German is lurking and needs to get started but I want to wait til after the September busy season.

My rough measurement is that I'm reading at maybe 15 pages per hour in Spanish, but I've got through about 120 pages over the last week and I'm pretty sure I'm reading more than an hour a day so that 15pph may be high (the amount of time spent in a dictionary is highly variable). That means 30 some weeks to reach the goal. Hopefully I'm getting faster since 33 weeks is a long ways off.

My average in Anki appears to be 35 words a day but that's artificial since recently I've been flipping through 100+ super-easy words a day from the ones I already knew from a downloaded deck, just to make sure I don't have gaps. The new words get harder, by definition, if you learn the easy ones first... I started not adding words to my main anki deck so I can be sure I really know the ones I'm learning, so this deck is just reviewing now. It was frustrating to run across a word that I recognized and knew I'd added to the deck... but didn't yet actually know.

The best part about learning a new word is when you meet it later and it's like meeting a friend somewhere unexpected.

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:53 pm
by Morgana

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:06 pm
by Lisa
perfect, thanks! I did several searches and never found that...

Re: Lisa's Language Log

Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:40 am
by MamaPata
If you mean the super challenge, it is definitely still going - I think at this point people mostly update in their logs rather than on the thread. It will finish in December and the next one will presumably start in May. You don’t have to use the twitter bot, it’s just nice for the graphics on the website. But as you say, you can certainly do that on your own!

Look forward to seeing how you progress!