Karen's Spanish learning journey

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klvik
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:13 pm

I was keeping to my plan this week until I read the posts by @MmeFleiss and @James29 (thanks!) describing free online audiobooks in Spanish for the Harry Potter series. I couldn’t resist checking them out and, now, I am listening to Harry Potter y la piedra filosifal and having a good time doing so. I find it interesting that I am enjoying this because listening to an audio version of a book in English immediately after reading the print version would bore me to tears. The cognitive challenge of reading and listening in Spanish is keeping things interesting. Listening to the books after reading them will slow down my progress on the Super Challenge, but I think it will help my learning.

I was able to exceed my goals for conversation practice this week due to a long conversation with one of my regular practice partners and her mother. I felt pretty good about my ability to understand Spanish spoken with a very strong Catalan accent – my practice partner had to help me out once in a while but sometimes that was due to her mother forgetting to speak in Castellano instead of Catalan. I did notice that my stamina for speaking in Spanish is still low. I think that the quality of my spoken Spanish starts to decrease a lot after 40-45 minutes. Usually my partners and I alternate languages every 30 minutes so I don’t have a problem, but I found that 1 hour of uninterrupted conversation in Spanish to be draining. Hopefully, I will see an improvement in my stamina over the next year.

I am up to episode 11 for the Argentine telenovela Lalola but have been throwing in episodes of shows from other countries to provide some variety. Los misterios de Laura, a non-geoblocked show from RTVE, is entertaining as is Vecinos from Mexico. I have also watched a few documentary/news magazine type shows from WIPR in Puerto Rico. I find the Peninsular and Rioplatense Spanish accents easy to understand but I find some of the Puerto Rican speakers very difficult to understand. The greater the number of consonants that get dropped, the more difficult it is for me to understand. I guess that means a lot more Puerto Rican television watching in my future.

My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:
    1. Continue to study Gramática de uso del español B1-B2.
    2. Attempt to study my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times. I should do more, but Anki is the first thing to go when I run out of time.
    3. Write an entry to post on Italki for correction.
    4. Listen intensively to at least two new podcasts.
    5. Watch at least 4 episodes of television in Spanish.
    6. Finish listening to the Harry Potter I audiobook and start on the one for Harry Potter 2.
    7. Read an average of 15 pages a day. If I finish Harry Potter 2, continue with Harry Potter 3.
    8. I hope to do at least 1 hour of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners.
4 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 Aug 10, 2016 6:18 pm

Two Harry Potter books (and 540 pages) done, five books (and 3144 pages) to go! :D

I averaged 30 pages/day for the first book but slowed down to 20 pages/day for the second. If I keep up the slower pace I will finish the series in about 5 months. Ugggh. I like the Harry Potter books but 6 months to read the series is a long time. I hope that my reading speed will increase enough that I can shorten that time substantially.

I've noticed that both books, Harry Potter y la piedra filosifal and Harry Potter y la cámera secreta, frequently use the subjunctive. In these two books I am getting a lot more exposure to the subjunctive mode in context than I get by reading the news in Spanish and I should try to pay more attention to how it is being used.
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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 Aug 12, 2016 4:54 pm

It has been a reasonably productive week for Spanish learning. I met my targets for everything except writing output. I was not motivated to correct notebook entries on Italki this week and I will only post an entry once I have corrected a number of English entries equal to the number of corrections that I had received on my previous Spanish entry. I think it may be time to take a short vacation from Italki until I recharge my enthusiasm for correcting entries written in English. I know that my entries in Spanish would still get corrected even if I stopped helping English learners, but I wouldn't feel as though I was pulling my own weight.

I am almost 1/3 of the way through Gramática de uso del español B1-B2 and I think it may be the best Spanish grammar book that I have used to date. It is much nicer to work through a Spanish grammar book when you already know almost all of the vocabulary. The first Spanish grammar book that I had used was Fundamental Spanish, by Barbara Bregstein and I remember spending as much (or more) time learning the vocabulary as I did learning the grammar. It was laborious and overwhelming at times. With Gramática de uso I can concentrate on the grammar only and I am discovering something new or a different way to think about a grammatical structure in many of the units. I also find myself noticing the grammatical structures that I have reviewed while I am reading Harry Potter. Going forward, I am going to try to be more deliberate in looking for examples of that day's grammar in the material that I read.

In addition to finishing the Harry Potter 2 book this week, I also finished listening to an audiobook of Harry Potter 1. Listening to HP1 after reading it was useful. It helped me remember the words that I had looked up and put a good Spanish accent on the dialog. I've loaded Harry Potter 2 onto my Ipod and I will start listening to it soon. Ragweed season is starting and on the days when my eyes are itchy despite the antihistamines, it will be nice to close them and listen to a story instead of reading.

My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:

    1. Continue to study Gramática de uso del español B1-B2, one unit per day.
    2. Identify examples of the day's grammar topic in the book that I am reading.
    3. Study my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times.
    4. Listen intensively to at least two new podcasts.
    5. Watch at least 4 episodes of television in Spanish.
    6. Read an average of 15 pages a day. If I finish Harry Potter 3, continue with Harry Potter 4.
    7. I hope to do at least 1 hour of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners.
4 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 Aug 19, 2016 7:30 pm

I'm reading Harry Potter 3 at a much faster pace than either HP1 or HP2 which has been increasing my enjoyment of the book. I should be able to finish it this weekend (20% to go) and then it is on to HP4 and its 640 pages! My reading pace in Spanish is still slow, but I have seen a significant increase in speed since I began the Super Challenge. It's gratifying to see improvement so quickly in my reading ability. I think reading easy books that are entertaining, such as the Harry Potter series, is perfect for my current learning stage. Between the simple language and my knowledge of the story, I can understand what I am reading without much effort. Every once in a while, I need to read a sentence several times in order to glean the meaning and there has only been 1 or 2 sentences, so far, that I couldn't fathom. The ease with which I can read these books frees my mind to notice how the language is being used. Maybe I am making up excuses for not leaving my comfort zone but I think that the relative simplicity of these novels makes it easier for me to integrate my reading with other aspects of my study. As I am reading, I pause every once in a while to analyze the grammatical structure of a sentence. I am highlighting words as I am reading so that I can easily flip through the book and review those words in context. I am highlighting all of the words that I look up, of course, and I also highlight some of the words that I recognize while reading but do not yet use when writing or speaking. Once I finish the book I will add some of the highlighted words into my Anki deck so that I can review them prior to listening to the audiobook.

I had a great week with Anki. I now have an 8 day streak and no backlog of words awaiting review! :D Reviewing flashcards is not fun, but I find it effective. As I review each card, I have been trying to visualize the objects or actions represented by the words, while not looking at the written words. This is a new approach for me. I never found it necessary to use visualization techniques when I was a student so I never developed the habit. When I first started to speak in Spanish and was searching for a word, the Spanish word would often appear in my mind typed in Times New Roman font. I'm not exaggerating. It sounds odd but I would see a very clear mental image of the typed word. It was one of my strongest indications that I was relying too heavily on visual, written cues while learning. I have since added sound files to all of my Anki vocabulary cards and I think trying to link the word with a mental image of the object or action, rather than the English word, may help my spoken Spanish.

I found out this week that audiobooks count towards Super Challenge minutes. Adding 9 hours worth of listening caused a nice increase in the size of my progress bar.

My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:
    1. Continue to study Gramática de uso del español B1-B2, one unit per day.
    2. Identify examples of the day's grammar topic in the book that I am reading.
    3. Study my Anki vocabulary deck at least 3 times, but hopefully every day.
    4. Listen intensively to at least two new podcasts.
    5. Finish Harry Potter 3 and start Harry Potter 4.
    6. Add the Harry Potter 2 vocabulary to Anki so that I can review the words as I listen to the audiobook of Harry Potter y la cámara secreta.
    7. Listen/ watch to at least 4 hours of the Harry Potter audiobook or Spanish television.
    8. I hope to do at least 1 hour of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners.
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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klvik
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:23 pm

A short vacation spent coping with ragweed allergies and a lack of internet access slowed down some aspects of my Spanish learning over the past week and a half, but my reading and Anki work continued at a good pace. I had loaded Anki onto my Kindle Fire just before I left for vacation and I think I like using Anki on the Kindle more than using it on my laptop. I have managed to extend my Anki streak to 20 days, although I don't think that my retention of the vocabulary studied while on vacation will be very good. I prefer to study vocabulary when I can speak the words out loud. It lets me work on pronunciation and helps me to remember the words. A crowded beach house was not conducive to speaking out loud as I studied, but at least I had plenty of time to read and listen to audiobooks in Spanish. I have read 30% of Harry Potter 4 and have started listening to an audiobook of Harry Potter 2. I going to try to take my time with the audiobook and listen to each chapter twice - once while reading and once without reading. I think it will be useful, but I don't know if I will be able to keep it up for the entire audiobook.

My speaking practice is not progressing as well as everything else. For a while, I was consistently speaking with Skype practice partners 2 or 3 times a week. However, 2 of my 3 practice partners will start graduate school in September and they already are too busy to practice with me consistently. However, I hesitate to start looking for new practice partners until I know how often I will continue speaking with the current partners. My professional expertise is helpful to them, so I expect that they will want to continue practicing with me, at least on a limited basis. In the interim, I may sign up for an English/Spanish tandem MOOC that begins October 17th (http://mooc.speakapps.org/). This course will have structured tasks that you complete with a succession of randomly chosen partners. I like the idea of having a structured series of tasks to complete in Spanish. It might be an easy way to get myself to practice simple, every day conversations, rather than the weighty conversations about politics and culture that I enjoy with my practice partners (even if my level of Spanish is not quite up to the task). It is also free, so if it does not prove to be useful I could just quit. If I am able to sign up using a screen name (so that I can maintain online privacy), I will probably do so.

My learning goals for the upcoming week are the following:
    1. Continue to study Gramática de uso del español B1-B2, one unit per day.
    2. Study my Anki vocabulary deck every day.
    3. Listen intensively to at least two new podcasts.
    4. Continue reading Harry Potter 4.
    5. Continue listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter y la cámara secreta.
    6. Watch an episode or two of Spanish television, unless I listen to a lot of Harry Potter.
    7. I hope to do an 1 hour of Spanish conversation over the next week with my language exchange partners.
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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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby James29 » Wed Aug 31, 2016 1:14 am

klvik wrote:
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.



Three times a week is plenty! You are really lucky. You make me feel like a terrible skype partner. I go months at a time without getting on skype. I'm lucky that I built a few really good relationships that are going to be lifelong friends so I don't really feel bad about it now. It sounds like you are really lucky with the people you found. The best thing is if you have something in common other than languages. Something where you just really enjoy talking with each other. Some of my best partners were simply people who wanted to pick my brain about things.

Good luck. It is really nice to see you making so much progress.
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klvik
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:47 pm

James29 wrote:
klvik wrote:
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.



Three times a week is plenty! You are really lucky. You make me feel like a terrible skype partner. I go months at a time without getting on skype. I'm lucky that I built a few really good relationships that are going to be lifelong friends so I don't really feel bad about it now. It sounds like you are really lucky with the people you found. The best thing is if you have something in common other than languages. Something where you just really enjoy talking with each other. Some of my best partners were simply people who wanted to pick my brain about things.

Good luck. It is really nice to see you making so much progress.



A good Skype practice partner is a treasure. It helps if you have similar interests, but, I think it is more important if both parties feel that they benefit from the arrangement. For the most part, I have tried to find partners that are preparing for the IELTS or TOEFL exams so that they can apply to graduate school. I believe that it increases the odds that the potential practice partner will be intelligent, hard working and motivated and helps me avoid the creeps. I have the expertise to help them with their graduate school applications so that they have been happy to put up with my low level spoken Spanish. We usually only talk for an hour (50/50 Spanish/English) because speaking Spanish for more than 30 minutes is tiring for me and we all have other things that we need to do. This approach has been working for me so far. If I wanted to improve my spoken Spanish in a technical area, I think I would look for Spanish speakers looking to improve their English in the same area.
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2x Super Challenge pages: 6459 / 10000
2x Super Challenge minutes: 11745 / 18000
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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 » Mon Sep 05, 2016 8:49 pm

Several days ago, as I was reading James29's thread What is your "most for your money" resource, my interest was piqued by the use of Subs2SRS/Anki by several forum members. So, I looked to see if I could find some shared Subs2SRS decks on Ankiweb, discovered two and decided to take a look. The first deck was generated from one episode of the telenovela, El Internado. Unfortunately, the audio quality was low with the background noise often obscuring the dialog. So, that deck was deleted. The second deck was generated from the Spanish movie, Celda 211. This movie is currently available on Youtube, the DVD can be purchased from Amazon so that I can get a legal copy, albeit after the fact, and the movie has excellent reviews. I've been studying this deck for the past three days and I love it! I haven't watched the entire movie yet which means I am discovering the story line by line and I'm finding it difficult to resist the temptation to study an absurdly large number of new cards just so that I can continue with the story. The Spanish subtitles are pretty accurate and the dialog contains a lot of colloquialisms. Most importantly for me, the spoken Spanish has all the features of difficult to understand native speech - dropped consonants, some barely audible syllables and rapid speed. However, if I can't hear all the words right away, I can hit replay over and over again until I do. I've already had one card in which I suddenly could hear a missing word after repeatedly listening to one line of dialog. It was like magic. This is ear training that is also very entertaining. I did a test this morning and watched the first 10 minutes of the movie on Youtube and was able to hear virtually all of the words from the dialog that I had studied.

Before buying a bunch of DVDs to make more Subs2SRS content, I wanted to make sure that I could generate the content myself without too much trouble. I am a pretty savvy computer user but I do not do code and I avoid using programs that require understanding coding. So, this weekend I installed Subs2SRS, Subtitle Edit and Handbrake and did some tests. At first I tried to use a DVD of the Incredibles as a test case, since it had both an English and Spanish soundtrack. After a little Google sleuthing, I realized that DVDs from the Disney studio are probably not the best choice for a rookie. However, I was able to extract information from an old movie from the 80s, and add subtitles from opensubtitles.org using Handbrake. To test drive Subtitle Edit and Subs2SRS, I found Spanish and English subtitles for the first episode of El Ministerio del Tiempo. I figured out how to synchronize them using Subtitle edit and then used Subs2SRS to generate an Anki deck. Since this deck would not have an associated sound file, I used Excel to add a column of line numbers (first column) so that Anki would use all of the lines of information (800 lines of dialog resulting in 800 Anki cards). Of course, that meant saving the spreadsheet as a tab delimited file, and then opening the file in Notepad so that I could change the encoding from ANSI to UTF-8.

What's next? I will continue studying the Celda 211 deck for the purpose of ear training. I will probably add a few choice colloquialisms to my vocabulary list while doing so (new tag - profanity). As soon as I am able to watch the movie without subtitles and with high comprehension, I will stop studying the deck. I think I will buy DVDs for Matando Cabos and Pan's Labryrinth when I order the Celda 211 DVD. Big thanks to everyone who recommend these movies in various posts! I watched Pan's Labryrinth with English subtitles a number of years ago and would happily watch it again. Matando Cabos also has great reviews. I would love to do some Subs2SRS decks (with audio) for several episodes of El Ministerio del Tiempo. Unfortunately, the only DVDs available are in PAL2 format. Maybe I will do a short experiment to see if studying the dialog without audio helps with listening comprehension. We'll see.
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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

garyb
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby garyb » Tue Sep 06, 2016 8:08 am

Nice choice of films :) Celda 211 was definitely one of the most challenging Spanish films I've seen in terms of listening comprehension. If you learn to understand that well then most conversations should feel quite easy! Matando Cabos is fun and it was also a challenge for me since I'm not very familiar with Mexican colloquialisms and it is full of them. Subs2srs has never appealed to me, but I've not ruled it out entirely: it might come in useful for things like this if I want to intensively study a film from a certain region.
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klvik
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Re: Karen's Spanish learning journey

Postby klvik » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:30 pm

garyb wrote:Nice choice of films :) Celda 211 was definitely one of the most challenging Spanish films I've seen in terms of listening comprehension. If you learn to understand that well then most conversations should feel quite easy! Matando Cabos is fun and it was also a challenge for me since I'm not very familiar with Mexican colloquialisms and it is full of them. Subs2srs has never appealed to me, but I've not ruled it out entirely: it might come in useful for things like this if I want to intensively study a film from a certain region.


Thank you, but I can't take credit for the choice of movies - all credit belongs to the forum members who mentioned them in various posts and the anonymous person who created the Celda 211 deck. :D Celda 211 is very challenging, which is exactly what I want for an intensive listening project, although a slightly easier movie may have been a wiser choice for a first attempt. A new character (the warden?) who is extremely difficult to understand showed up in the cards I did this morning. It will be interesting to see if this character becomes more comprehensible in a few weeks.
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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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