Karen's Spanish learning journey

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klvik
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Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:18 am

I apologize in advance for this very long post.

I have been learning Spanish for approximately 3 years and I think that I have reached the B1 level (low B1 for speaking, mid to upper B1 for everything else). I primarily have studied on my own with the exception of a 6 month period in which I had weekly conversation lessons with a Spanish tutor. Learning Spanish is a hobby for me and I love the intellectual challenge of evaluating my progress and implementing changes to my methodology so that I continue to progress. I joined the Super Challenge yesterday to give myself a concrete goal to work towards and today I begin this learning log. I welcome all comments and suggestions and I hope that my ramblings about my learning process will be helpful to others.

Where I stand now:

Speaking – As might be expected for an autodidact, my ability to speak in Spanish is my weak spot. My pronunciation is pretty good as long as I don’t speak too quickly, but the words that I want to use appear too slowly for fluid speech. I have 3 Spanish practice partners (from Mexico, Colombia and Spain) with whom I usually speak via Skype on a weekly basis. Our conversations in Spanish typically are free-wheeling discussions about current events or cultural differences between our respective countries. They don’t correct many of my mistakes so I try to spend a few minutes every day in solo speaking practice. I record my solo speaking practice so that I can try to identify my grammatical mistakes and correct them.

Listening – I spend time listening to podcasts for Spanish language learners, Radio Ambulante and watching Spanish language television programs and movies. I listen to podcasts for Spanish learners in order to improve my vocabulary, improve the accuracy of my listening and to hear/read examples of grammatical constructs. For these reasons, right now, I only listen to podcasts that provide transcripts. The language learner podcasts that I am currently using are: A mi aire (http://www.podclub.ch/sendungen/a-mi-aire-sp, interesting topics, good production values and good examples of various types of grammar); Spanishpodcast.org (http://www.spanishpodcast.org/podcasts/, nice descriptions of word usage and grammar usage); Spanishpodcast.net (https://www.spanishpodcast.net, simpler language but great descriptions of idioms); Veinte Mundos (http://www.veintemundos.com/en/ , interesting cultural topics and great for vocabulary). I will write about the Spanish television programs that I am watching in another post.

Reading – Most of my reading has been of podcast transcripts and editorials in El País. I need to up my game in this area which is why I joined the Super Challenge. My eventual goal is to read the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Spanish but I don’t want to attempt this until I can better appreciate the beauty of his prose. I think I will start by reading easy language readers out loud (hey, it kills two birds with one stone), progress to classic short stories and sprinkle in a few light, pulp fiction type novels.
Writing – I usually post a short piece of writing on Italki once or twice a week. I try to write with minimal use of the dictionary and use the corrections that I receive to show me what grammatical topics I need to review.

Other – Grammar, vocabulary and drills to improve automaticity. I am a stronger believer that grammar is our friend and that grammar exercises and drilling vocabulary are fantastic tools for improving our target languages. They also can be very tedious. I have just started studying Gramática de Uso del Español B1-B2 and I went through the FSI Basic Course through unit 42 before I stopped. If Gramática de Uso becomes too tedious I will go back to the FSI course for a while. I also have an Anki vocabulary deck that I have been neglecting but started up again a few days ago.
5 x
May 27, 2017
2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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klvik
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Fri Jul 15, 2016 7:34 pm

Intensive and extensive listening. I played a musical instrument when I was younger and spent hours upon hours practicing scales so that when I played a piece of music my fingers would play the notes effortlessly. I consider listening to podcasts for Spanish learners to be my language learning version of playing scales. I will listen to a podcast several times, read the transcript and look up any unknown words or grammatical structures. My goal is to understand everything perfectly and with ease. On the other hand, when I watch Spanish TV or movies I go for volume input. I don’t worry about understanding everything and I use Spanish subtitles to help me understand more of the dialog. The shows that I am currently watching are Águila Roja (extremely violent, but entertaining) and Los misterios de Laura, both from RVTE. I think that my approach is working; my listening comprehension has improved dramatically over the past year. But, I will keep my eyes open on this forum for discussions on other approaches.

My learning goals for the next week are the following:

    1. Go through 1 unit of Gramática de uso del español each day. The units are very short and I have covered this material before so this goal should be easy. If I am motivated or have extra time, I’ll do a second unit.
      2. Attempt to work on my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times.
        3. Write an entry to post on Italki as soon as I decide on a topic. I found a list of writing prompts published for high school students by the New York Times, so if nothing else comes to mind I will pick one of those.
          4. Listen intensively to at least three new podcasts.
            5. Watch approximately an hour of Spanish television per day.
              6. Read 10-20 pages a day in “A first Spanish Reader” by Remy and Roessler. This book is old, in the public domain, very simplistic and consists of short chapters with a variety of outdated cultural content. I am reading some pages out loud and others silently. It is my hope that by spending time reading a book that is suitable for learners at the A2 level I will reinforce the fundamentals and increase my reading speed in Spanish. The downside of this experiment is that the book’s content is not very engaging. We will see how it goes.
                7. Continue Skype sessions with my language exchange partners. Unless we run into scheduling conflicts, I should have 1 ½ -2 hrs of Spanish conversation over the next week. On the days that I don’t have a Skype session, answer some of the questions posed on Spanishlistening.org and record my answers.
                  8. Figure out the privacy settings for Twitter so that I can finalize my registration for the Super Challenge. This may be the biggest challenge for the week. :oops:
                  7 x
                  May 27, 2017
                  2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                  2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                  Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                  FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                  Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                  James29
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby James29 » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:45 pm

                  You've made great progress! Congratulations. You are doing all the right (and fun) things. You sound like you enjoy doing the same things I do. I loved that grammar book. I found one lesson each weekday was about perfect.
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                  Brun Ugle
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby Brun Ugle » Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:06 pm

                  You really seem to have your act together. I'm impressed. It sounds like you're doing everything right.

                  You might find you can read more than you expect if you give it a try. I just finished Isabel Allende's La Casa de los Espíritus. When I started, I thought it would be too hard, but I kept going and once I got into the book, I found I could follow it much more easily than I'd anticipated.
                  2 x
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                  klvik
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby klvik » Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:53 pm

                  @James29
                  A few days ago I read a post on this forum that mentioned “Gramática de uso del español”. It may have been one of yours, but unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the author. I found a copy posted on a slide share site and started using it right away. Let’s assume that I read about this grammar book in one of your posts so that I have someone to thank. THANK YOU, James29!

                  @ Brun Ungle
                  Thank you for the compliment, and you are right, I can read at a higher level in Spanish. However, I can’t yet read well at higher level. By reading well I mean reading with ease, without the need to look up many words and with an appreciation of a beautifully written sentence. I am using books such as “La casa de los esperítus”, which I loved reading in English, as a carrot to motivate me to do my reading calisthenics with simpler texts. Right now, I find the “carrot” of a good piece of literature very motivating, but who knows, I may change my mind after a few weeks of reading uninspiring books.
                  0 x
                  May 27, 2017
                  2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                  2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                  Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                  FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                  Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                  klvik
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby klvik » Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:32 pm

                  Woo hoo! I am chugging along towards reaching my goals for the week. I have decided to read two books at the same time: “A first Spanish reader” by Remy and Roessler and “Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal”. The complexity of the writing in “A first Spanish reader” increased a lot after ~page 40 and I find that I have to read much more slowly than with “Harry Potter”. My current plan is to read “A first Spanish reader” slowly and careful but to just enjoy “Harry Potter”. I find that I am spending most of my time reading these books on my laptop rather than my kindle. The highlight function on my Kindle Fire that allows me to look up words in the dictionary has been flaky since the last Kindle update but it works like a charm in the Kindle for PC application. Geeze, technology.

                  Thanks to a post by @AlexTG in “A Language Learner’s Forum Film Club 2015”, I have started watching the Argentine telenovela “Lalola”. Two episodes down and I am enjoying it immensely. The lead actress is a fantastic physical comedienne whose style reminds me more of Lucile Ball than any of the current crop of talented comedic actresses. My television watching in Spanish has been heavily biased towards programs from Spain, mainly due to the availability of subtitles in Spanish at RTVE so it is great to find a South American show that I enjoy watching. The subtitles at viki.com are not consistently available, but this hasn’t been a big problem so far.
                  0 x
                  May 27, 2017
                  2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                  2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                  Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                  FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                  Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                  klvik
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby klvik » Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:47 pm

                  I have finished my first book, “A first Spanish reader” by Remy and Roessler, for the Super Challenge! It turns out that it only has 128 pages of reading material because approximately half of its pages are taken up by a vocabulary list. I’m glad that it is finished so that I can concentrate on “Harry Potter y la piedra filosifal”, which I am enjoying and is less likely to contain antiquated language.

                  Last week I tried reading out loud for several pages a day but I have since decided that this was not going to help me improve the rhythm of my spoken Spanish. Instead, I will try spending some time, in the short term, repeating things while listening to one of my podcasts. I am not trying to shadow rather I am repeating a phrase after the native speaker has finished. Using a sound editor, such as Audacity, it is easy to add a few seconds after each phrase so that I have time to repeat them. After trying this with the first 15 minutes of input recording I have already noticed that I tend to lengthen the last syllable of many words in Spanish. I don’t think this will become a technique that I will use for a long time since I don’t think I will gain much from it other than improved prosody, but it may prove to be useful for a few weeks.
                  0 x
                  May 27, 2017
                  2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                  2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                  Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                  FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                  Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                  klvik
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                  Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                  Postby klvik » Fri Jul 22, 2016 4:21 pm

                  It has been a good week for reaching my learning goals. I surpassed my goals for grammar study and reading and reached my goals for writing, Anki and talking. I almost reached my goal for watching Spanish television; I managed to watch something every day but I had started to watch a series with 45 minute episodes which lowered my total minutes. I listened to 3 new podcasts but only managed to do intensive work on two of them. All in all, I am happy with my start to the Super Challenge and for my learning log. I will continue with the same general plan for now, albeit a little less ambitious and I will reassess the balance in a few weeks.

                  One of the television shows that I was watching this week (Lalola) did not have complete subtitles in Spanish. Although I am sure that I missed all of the best jokes, I could follow the story without subtitles but it required a lot of concentration. I found that I was better able to maintain my concentration if I watched in 15-20 minute chunks, alternating watching the show and reading Harry Potter. My stamina for listening or speaking in Spanish is not very impressive. I see this during my Skype conversation also; I always am ready to switch to English after 30 minutes. Hopefully, the Super Challenge will help with my listening stamina.

                  My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:
                    1. Go through 1 unit of Gramática de uso del español each day.
                      2. Attempt to study my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times.
                        3. Write an entry to post on Italki.
                          4. Listen intensively to at least three new podcasts.
                            5. Watch at least 6 episodes of television in Spanish.
                              6. Read at least 20 pages a day. Once I finish Harry Potter 1, continue with Harry Potter 2.
                                7. 1-1 ½ hrs of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners. On the days that I don’t have a Skype session, try to practice solo speaking for 15 minutes.
                                2 x
                                May 27, 2017
                                2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                                2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                                Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                                FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                                Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                                klvik
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                                Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3149
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                                Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                                Postby klvik » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:49 pm

                                I finished my first novel in Spanish, Harry Potter y la piedra filosifal, on Sunday night and have already made significant progress on Harry Potter y la cámara secreta. @PickleLanguage was correct; the final ~60 pages of the book were very easy to read. I think that I will try to read most of the series and for this reason I am looking up more unknown words than required for comprehension. My reasoning is that I am likely to see many of these words again during the series and investing the time in them now might pay off in the long run. I also like to collect new words. :lol:
                                0 x
                                May 27, 2017
                                2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                                2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                                Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                                FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                                Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116

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                                klvik
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                                Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3149
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                                Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

                                Postby klvik » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:12 pm

                                During the past week, I accomplished most, but not all, of my learning goals. I fell short on the speaking practice and Anki but met my goals for everything else. I’ve been trying to schedule my Anki practice late at night, right before I go to bed, but I find that I keep reading Harry Potter until I am too tired to do Anki. I feel like a kid reading a fun novel instead of doing her homework. :oops:

                                How to get enough speaking practice? I feel that verbal communication is my weakest skill in Spanish. I know that I should be practicing with native speakers as often as possible, but I find that 3 times a week is the most that I have been able to handle. Unfortunately, family obligations and changing schedules got in the way of all of my regular practice sessions this week. I have been fortunate to find Skype practice partners that I really like and who are consistent, reliable and interesting conversationalists. However, two of them will be starting graduate school in September and they are starting to get too busy to practice as they begin preparing for their moves to Europe. One of these young men will continue to practice with me, at least on a semi-regular basis, once he settles into his new routine; access to my expertise in his area of graduate study is a great incentive to help me with Spanish. However, I expect the second soon-to-be graduate student will not have time to practice. So, I have to decide if I start looking for some new practice partners now, and risk ending up with more partners than I can handle, or if I should just wait and see. It’s a dilemma.

                                My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:

                                  1. Go through 1 unit of Gramática de uso del español each day.
                                  2. Attempt to study my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times.
                                  3. Write an entry to post on Italki.
                                  4. Listen intensively to at least three new podcasts.
                                  5. Watch at least 6 episodes of television in Spanish.
                                  6. Read at least 20 pages a day. Once I finish Harry Potter 2, continue with Harry Potter 3.
                                  7. I hope to do at least 1 hour of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners. I will also practice solo speaking for 15 minutes on most days.
                                3 x
                                May 27, 2017
                                2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
                                2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
                                Half Writing Output Challenge: 4567 / 25000
                                FSI Spanish Basic Course: 50 / 55
                                Gramática de Uso B1-B2: 79 / 116


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