James29's Spanish and French Log

Continue or start your personal language log here, including logs for challenge participants
User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Oct 04, 2015 1:28 pm

This was an interesting week in my Spanish journey. I went to a conference for work and was extraordinarily busy. I did not get a chance to do any Spanish on either Thursday or Friday. I did speak a tad bit of Spanish on those days, but certainly not enough to "count." I believe this marks the first time in six years that I went two consecutive days without any Spanish. This does not bother me because the trip was so incredibly valuable from both a personal and business perspective that I'd do it all over again. In fact, on those days I actually got quite motivated about incorporating my Spanish into my business.

I met a nice guy from another state with a business almost identical to mine. He "speaks Spanish" like me and has been pursuing Spanish speaking customers with a ton of success. He does not have any Spanish speaking employees either and I doubt his Spanish is any better than mine. I had some nice long talks with him and got great advice on how to really start pursuing this type of growth for my business. It was extremely encouraging and it gave me the confidence and perspective I really need if I am going to go this route. It also validated many of my "crazy" ideas and strategies. This guy has basically been doing exactly what I have been thinking of doing and it is really working for him.

So, this trip really motivated me to make a consistent push with my Spanish. I'd really like to advance my communicative skills a little bit more so I can feel more confident. I think the only things that are really still holding me up are my receptive skills - I need to broaden my vocabulary and my understanding of spoken Spanish.

Earlier in the week I got a call from a Mexican immigrant and had a nice talk with him entirely in Spanish. I am really gaining confidence in my conversations with customers. There were some things I did not understand in the conversation (I would have had a hard time with the concepts in English) and I was very easily able to identify with the caller the issues we needed to further discuss and we were able to get right down to the issue quite well. With these work calls in Spanish I have identified a great routine... at first I just listen to the person and try to understand as much as possible. I miss some things as they are explaining things, but I just let them go on and on. I try to get as much of an understanding as possible and then at a good natural pause in the conversation I simply "loop back" and go over what I understood and ask if I understood things correctly. For the most part I understand things even when I think I am really missing something. We also identify the few key concepts the person needs to better understand. Often times the areas that I am not understanding well were simply poorly explained by the customer for one reason or another (e.g. they make an assumption that I know something or they use some super slangy word). Anyway, I am getting much more confident with these calls and that encourages me.

I really need to get better with this sort of Spanish... receiving a call from an unknown person and being able to listen to them on the phone and understand them. That is what I need. I think it is the hardest thing to do in Spanish because I am always speaking to someone who I have never heard before and I also miss the visual clues of talking in person. Additionally, my customers are often uneducated and/or quite emotional so they do not speak Spanish perfectly and they often speak very fast and/or slangy.

In terms of what I'm actually doing in Spanish right now, I am reading John Grisham's Sycamore Row. It is quite interesting so far. I am now 35% through it according to my Kindle. There were several chapters I read without even looking up a single word. That does not necessarily mean I knew every single word, it just means I knew what the words all meant from context. The translation was obviously done by a Spaniard which is not really a problem, but it is quite noticeable. I do prefer listening to Latino Spanish, but content is more important to me and, when reading, it really does not make much of a difference.

I also listened to the VOA news three days this week. Nothing new there. I would not mind using my morning commute time to do something that would help more with listening comprehension, but I simply cannot think of anything so I'm going to stick with the news. I can justify it because it falls into the listening to "easy" things category.

I have made no progress on my telenovela. I'll get back to it, but with all the stuff going on with family and work that is what is suffering.

I really wish I had more to report on my Spanish endeavors, but I don't. I'll get back on track this week.
6 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:06 pm

I just realized that this week marks the completion of six years studying Spanish. Holy cow. I cannot believe I have been at it for so long.
5 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 12:39 pm

OK, so, I just keep on doing the same thing and I like it. I think I am in a good "sweet spot." I've been reading John Grisham's Sycamore Row in Spanish and it is a good enough book to keep me interested and keep me going. My kindle tells me I am 61% done now. This week I read about 30-40 minutes each morning.

I have now probably read more fiction novels in Spanish than I have in English. I never really liked reading novels. I have read many non-fiction books and do a ton of reading for work, but never really got into fiction stories. I have to be careful with what I read. I find one crucial factor in reading for Spanish is whether or not I want to read in the afternoons on the weekends or other free time I have. I can always manage to read 30+ minutes in the morning in my Spanish time, but what I like is when I have a good book going where I really have the desire to continue with the story. That is hard for me to find. I seem to be able to find that with very few books and Grisham stories are some of them. I also felt like this with The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I'd love to find another series/author where I get this feeling because it really helps my Spanish.

Anyway, I, of course, have been listening to the news every morning. I am thinking of trying out episodes of La Tremenda Corte for my morning commute. I tried it a while back, but it was too hard. I think if I spent a couple mornings "studying" some of the episodes with the transcript and the glossary of Cuban Spanish I could enjoyably listen to the episodes in the morning on the way to work. The episodes are an absolute perfect length... about 16 minutes which is exactly how long I am in the car every morning. Also, the episodes, of course, are Cuban Spanish and Caribbean Spanish is my preferred Spanish.

I bought a couple books for 2016. I bought the C1/C2 Gramatica de uso del Espanol. I am almost certain that it will be on my goals list for 2016. I just don't think I'll ever feel complete if I don't go through it at least once.

I also bought Boricua. This is a book on Puerto Rican Spanish. I have been wanting to spend some time with Dominican and/or Puerto Rican Spanish and this book has been on my mind for a long time. I think this will be my "beach book" for 2016.

I have made absolutely no progress on my telenovela, Los Miserables. Eventually I will get back into it. Right now my internet connection is screwed up to the point where video freezes quite often and it makes watching episodes quite annoying. I could watch it at work, but I prefer to do other things.

I did a few skype talks this week, but they focused mostly on English. I have a wonderful partner who gives me free business consulting advice in exchange for speaking in English. For me it is a great deal so I have been taking advantage of the situation. I don't really think of it as Spanish time anymore so I probably won't list it here.

I spent some time over the last two weeks on French. French is a love/hate thing for me. I worked through the first eight hours of the Paul Noble course. The course is extremely good for a beginner and I highly recommend it. This is probably the fourth or fifth time I have started French and I feel like I will quit again. I also bought a French book on www.interlinearbooks.com and it looks great. My idea was to do Paul Noble and then work through the interlinear book both with text and audio and then just learn how to read French. We'll see. Every time I start French I feel guilty because Spanish is so much more important to me.
0 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Oct 18, 2015 2:11 pm

I finished the John Grisham book this morning. Good book. It was quite a long book, but I did not have any problems staying interested in the plot and story. It must be close to twice as long as most of his regular books. Some of Grisham's books are a bit annoying, but some of them are like this and quite interesting/suspenseful the entire way through. I've sometimes felt like there are actually two different people who write his books.

I can say that my reading in Spanish is at a level where I'd probably be fine if I never improved. I can enjoyably read books like this and that is really all I'll ever need/want to do in Spanish with reading. It would be nice to be able to read a bit faster, but I'm not too worried about it. I will definitely continue to read quite a bit because I think it will help with what I need/want to improve.

I really did not do too many other exciting things this week in Spanish. As always, I listen to the news on the way to work and I went to a meetup. This upcoming week I'll be traveling for work and there is a meetup the evening in the city where I will be going. That should be fun. I'm not really too sure how useful meetups are for Spanish, but I like them anyway.

I'm really not sure what I'll do tomorrow. I'm not sure I want to start a new book right now and I don't have any other major Spanish projects I'd like to start on.
0 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Oct 25, 2015 2:24 pm

Well, I learned a few things about my Spanish journey this week. I have been thinking quite a bit about how to maximize my Spanish time too.

This week I started reading Michael Connelly's El Poeta. I am listening to the audio and following along with the text. I have not done this type of "reading" for quite a long time. I realized quite quickly that this is an extremely different skill than just reading along without audio. I could very easily read this book without audio. It seems roughly equivalent to a John Grisham book. I also read one of Connelly's books a few months ago and did not have any problem. However, when I started this book with the audio I was hopelessly lost. The narrator seemed to be speaking way too fast for me to keep up. I just could not follow what was happening. I was missing some major points. The book is about a newspaper reporter. His brother was a homicide investigator and supposedly committed suicide. The first chapter is about the reporter learning of his brother's death. They talk about the death of the brother, but also about the murder case he was investigating. At the end of the chapter I knew I did not understand what was going on. I had understood that there were these two brothers and one was a reporter and the other was a police officer, but I completely misunderstood what was going on and thought everyone was talking about the death of the woman who was the victim in the police officer's last case.

Here is the interesting part about my Spanish... I went back and re-listened to the seventeen minutes of the first chapter and understood it perfectly. I then continued listening to the book and seem to be having a perfectly good understanding of the Spanish. I am now about a third of the way through.

At first I felt like I was trying to drink water out of a fire hose from this narrator. He has an extremely nice and neutral accent, but he speaks very fast. After I "warmed up" and adjusted myself to him (even though he speaks perfectly) I did not have any problems whatsoever. This is what annoys me... when I meet someone new or start watching a new TV show or get a call at work from a new Spanish speaking customer I have an initial block where I have a difficult time understanding. Then, after I "warm up" with whoever is speaking I don't seem to have any problems. My comprehension of this audio book I am working through is fine once I get warmed up, but what I want to fix is the initial block in understanding I have at the beginning.

Anyway, following text with audio is very different than just reading along. When I am just reading I look up words on my kindle and actually learn vocabulary in the process. I read much slower than the audio (or at least this audio I am listening to). I feel like just reading really helps me improve my vocabulary and my Spanish. Throwing the audio in there is a whole different skill. I am reinforcing the vocabulary I already have, but I am not really "learning" anything new. For example, in the book there is a part where the reporter is investigating police officer suicides and is reading suicide notes. He is suspicious of one note because the officer used a verb that police officers would never use. I did not know the word. It does not really seem important to the story at this point, but it was highlighted in the story as an interesting word. I would have looked it up if I was just reading along, but with the audio I just passed on and kept going.

The audio is great for having the sounds/words in my mind. I am sure it is going to help with my comprehension of spoken Spanish. I get to see the words too. I think it is likely better than watching TV simply because there are many more words per minute that are getting pounded into my head.

I like going through books both ways so I think I will alternate for a while between just reading and reading and listening.

I have my own undeveloped theory of advancing a language at the high intermediate level. I really think it is necessary to hit a language from many angles... at least to some degree. In many ways I think of it as improving and growing a business. The learner has a finite amount of resources and often the most important one in the equation is time. Thinking about myself, for example, I have about a limit of six hours a week of "active" hard studying time I can put in. I simply cannot do more than that without burning out and feeling like quitting or needing to take a break. I can do half an hour a day of "active" hard studying every weekday morning and not have a problem. I can also do another 6-12 hours a week of more passive/relaxing use of Spanish.

I think the active/hard study time is very important. It really creates the framework of the language for the learner. It presses the limits of the learner's skills. It advances actively the learner's grammar and/or vocabulary. It pushes the learner to the next level through brute force. There are many situations I can think of where this active studying has really made a gigantic difference for me. I saw it with the B1/B2 grammar book and exercises I worked through. If I had spent that 50-60 hours just reading or watching TV I would definitely be at a lower overall level of Spanish now.

Studying the language actively makes the subsequent passive use of the language more efficient. This is a critical point. Learning during the subsequent passive time allows the learner to "see" and reinforce the grammar points and/or vocabulary when they are then using the language passively. It is much more efficient this way. One example that comes to mind for me (and forgive me for not using proper grammatical terms) is the fact that if you using a verb in the past and you are talking about another action then the second verb also must be in the past. For example, "ella me dijo que iba a caminar" and not "ella me dijo que va a caminar." Initially the second sentence is what I would say when I spoke. It just seemed more "natural" to me for some reason. It probably would have taken innumerable inactive times to actually get into my head that I was saying this type of phrase wrong. However, when my grammar book taught that to me and drilled me on it a bit it made obvious sense. By studying grammar briefly it was extremely simple for me to "fix" that problem. It probably took about five minutes of "active" studying to fix that simple misunderstanding where I would have needed hours after hours of seeing it passively to understand that I had that wrong.

There are limitations to how much active time someone can put into a language. Six hours a week is my limit for a sustained amount of time. Some other people may be able to do more. After this "limit" it will no longer be productive to continue with pounding things into one's mind actively. It just won't be efficient. I think doing as much "active" work as possible is really important to progressing fast especially at the early stages of language learning.

Then, if someone reaches their limit of active study there is still more that can be done and be quite productive. For example, every weekday I listen to the news in Spanish as I drive to work. This is simple for me at this level. I get an easy 20 minutes of Spanish listening in every workday and it is just as easy as listening to the news in English at this point. This will NOT help me as much as if I spent another 20 minutes actively working on the language, but it is better than not doing anything. And the point is that if I was already at my limit of active study I would, by definition, not be able to do more active work so this would be a great, next best use, of my time.

I have a limit to how much passive time I can spend with Spanish. This depends to some degree on what I am doing. With the news on the radio, I simply cannot listen to Spanish on the way home. My mind just cannot handle it. I am typically stressed out from work and my mind is racing in English. There is also more traffic on the road on the way home. I can listen to the news in the morning, but in the evening my brain objects to news (and it would certainly object to active study of grammar too).

The same is true with books to some degree. I usually read books in the morning when I have my coffee. Or, if I am in a phase where I am actively studying I will read a book after I do my half hour of active studying. It is nice and relaxing and really does not feel like work at all. In some situations I can take a good Spanish book to the beach and read for three hours without reaching my limit. But, here too, there is a limit. I cannot usually read in the evenings. I am just too wiped out to read. There is one important exception. This is when I am reading a book that I am just craving. When I can find a book that I "want" to pick up in the evening before I go to bed I have hit a goldmine because I will be able to increase my limit of Spanish time. When I was reading Harry Potter it felt like a struggle. I was always flipping forward to see how many pages were left before I could top for the day. When I read a good book I just cannot wait to pick it up. This is so helpful because it increases the limit.

This "craving" also works for expanding the "active" limit. I still remember when I started Assimil (after doing Pimsleur) and just craving a lesson every morning. I just could not wait to get started. Then, when I was done with the morning's lesson I would put the book down and say to myself that I could not wait for the next day's lesson. This "craving" factor does not make the use of this time more effective or efficient, it simply increases the limit the person can handle.

There is also the interplay between factors. To demonstrate this I'm going to limit the factors for this discussion to just reading comprehension and listening comprehension. They definitely play off each other. Every person is going to have their optimal combination of the two. The secret is finding that optimal level. We can actually prove this to some degree. Let's take a hypothetical intermediate/advanced learner who has 1000 hours to advance his total Spanish as an example. This person has options as to how to allocate their time. We'll create a few possible options for this person:

Option A: 1000 hours reading books on a kindle.
Option B: 1000 hours watching telenovelas.
Option C: 900 hours reading books on a kindle and 100 hours watching telenovelas.
Option D: 900 hours watching telenovelas and 100 hours reading books on a kindle.

The key is that the FIRST several hours of doing something are MORE VALUABLE than the LAST several hours of doing the same thing! This is the key. So, very few people will feel that the person who does option A is going to be better off in overall Spanish than the person who does option C. This is just logical because the first 100 hours of watching telenovelas are going to be a more valuable use of this persons' time than simply spending another 100 hours reading on a kindle. The actual activity does not matter at all except to the extent that it is compared to the alternative. This is obvious because very few people will feel that the person who does option B is going to be better off in overall Spanish than the person who does option D. In this comparison, it is the 100 hours of reading on the kindle that are more valuable than an additional 100 hours of watching telenovelas.

We can deduce pretty easily from the above examples that option C is better than option A and that option D is better than option B. However, there is a point where we cannot answer this question confidently. For example, would option C be better than 800 hours reading books on a kindle and 200 hours watching telenovelas? We don't know. It will probably be different for different people and experimentation is important.

Obviously, we can increase the number of variables and the concept gets much more interesting.

Initially, I was extremely jealous of the forum members who had native speaking spouses. It seemed that if I were able to able to use Spanish 100% of the time in the house that I would surely be on the way to a native level in no time. I was perplexed why these forum members saw limitations and did not see their situation as that big of a help in getting to an advanced level. It is obvious to me now that there is simply a limitation to how useful that amount of time is. These members are going to be better off using some of their time doing other activities. I see this myself now as my hour or two of meetup Spanish is nice, but I have really milked nearly all potential benefits out of that level of conversation.

I have come to the conclusion that, for me, it is very important to think about advancing my Spanish in this way. I have some obvious limitations. The first is that I am peculiarly cheap. I won't pay $10/hour for a tutor (but, I will pay for another trip to Latin America :). I also have my limitation of "active" study before I burn out. I can also spend much more time using Spanish if I am doing things I like to do and find interesting (like reading a John Grisham book instead of reading Harry Potter). I am in the process of determining my "goals" for 2016 and these concepts are very much in my mind. Here is what I think would be the optimal mix for me at this level:

Active Grammar Study: 50 hours
Audio Only Listening: 50 hours
TV/Telenovela: 100 hours
Reading and LR: 200 hours

This gives me about 400 hours of time on Spanish for 2016. That is about right. It keeps me below my burn out limits and works the skills in the right ratio. I note that this does not include the time I use Spanish for what I consider social uses. Skype and meetup conversations are really now just for fun and I don't count them anymore.

Well, I guess I really babbled on there quite a bit, but I have had these thoughts bouncing around in my mind. Maybe some day when I have more time on my hands I will actually try to formulate these thoughts into a more coherent theory.
7 x

Montmorency
Blue Belt
Posts: 935
Joined: Tue Oct 06, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Oxfordshire, UK
Languages: English (Native)
Maintaining: German (active skills lapsed somewhat).
Studying: Welsh (advanced beginner/intermediate);
Re-started: Norwegian ("false" beginner (?))
Back-burner: Spanish (intermediate) Danish (beginner).

Have studied: Latin, French, Italian, Dutch; OT Hebrew (briefly) NT Greek (briefly); Norwegian (superficially).
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1429
x 910

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby Montmorency » Sun Oct 25, 2015 5:07 pm

Pretty interesting post James. Quite a few things there I need to re-read and absorb, but I just wanted to comment on your repeated listening comment in the early part of the post.

I had actually been thinking of starting a thread on the theme of repeated listening, to ask for people's experiences.
In the end, I didn't, but I did find some interesting research results via google. As with most linguistic research, most studies have their limitations and flaws. However, there did seem to be at least some evidence that repeated listening was, of itself, helpful in learner comprehension. Marginal in some cases; more pronounced in others.

I listen to a fair number of podcasts, and I've been trying repeated listening to see if it helps. I think it does, but with that kind of thing, I don't usually feel too much incentive to repeat. I'd much sooner move on to another one (and there is no shortage).

However, if I were reading an audiobook, where understanding often depends on understanding what has gone before, I'd be much more tempted to go back and repeat, at least at the chapter level, or even just for a few pages. (I'm not reading audiobooks at the moment, but I have done and plan to again, in due course).
2 x

dbag
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:26 pm
x 5

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby dbag » Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:39 pm

Hi James! Great to see you have continued your log here. I have some catch up reading to do! I've decided to continue my log here too, and I'm hoping to go back to weekly posting, probably on Sundays. Hope your well?
1 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:58 pm

Hi dbag. It is great to see you are back and still working on your Spanish. I'll certainly be following your log.

I'm just chugging along doing the same things as usual. I'm reading Michael Connelly's El Poeta every morning while listening to the audio. I've been doing fine with it. Today, however, I think I missed some parts. There is a plot twist taking place and if it is unpredictable I have a harder time following what is going on. Generally, I like it and I like listening and reading at the same time.

I'm still doing the other usual things... going to my weekly meetup, listening to the news in Spanish in the morning and that's about it for this week. I did have a short skype talk in Spanish. I also got a phone call from a Spanish speaking customer. I had zero problems speaking with this guy. He was simple to understand.

I have not watched my telenovela for quite a while. I'm half way though it now and hope to get going in it again soon. I just don't like sitting in front of a screen. I do think it is helpful and I really should do some more TV watching.

I don't really have much more to report this week.
0 x

User avatar
emk
Brown Belt
Posts: 1394
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:07 pm
Location: Vermont, USA
Languages: English (N), French (B2+)
Badly neglected "just for fun" languages: Middle Egyptian, Spanish.
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=723
x 4700
Contact:

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby emk » Sun Nov 01, 2015 3:16 pm

James29 wrote:Earlier in the week I got a call from a Mexican immigrant and had a nice talk with him entirely in Spanish. I am really gaining confidence in my conversations with customers. There were some things I did not understand in the conversation (I would have had a hard time with the concepts in English) and I was very easily able to identify with the caller the issues we needed to further discuss and we were able to get right down to the issue quite well. With these work calls in Spanish I have identified a great routine... at first I just listen to the person and try to understand as much as possible. I miss some things as they are explaining things, but I just let them go on and on. I try to get as much of an understanding as possible and then at a good natural pause in the conversation I simply "loop back" and go over what I understood and ask if I understood things correctly. For the most part I understand things even when I think I am really missing something. We also identify the few key concepts the person needs to better understand. Often times the areas that I am not understanding well were simply poorly explained by the customer for one reason or another (e.g. they make an assumption that I know something or they use some super slangy word). Anyway, I am getting much more confident with these calls and that encourages me.

I just wanted to say that this is a great piece of language learning advice (and business advice, too). Thank you. :-) Even with English-speaking customers, I've always had good results by listening first, and trying to clarify any misunderstandings.

James29 wrote:I think the active/hard study time is very important. It really creates the framework of the language for the learner. It presses the limits of the learner's skills. It advances actively the learner's grammar and/or vocabulary. It pushes the learner to the next level through brute force. There are many situations I can think of where this active studying has really made a gigantic difference for me. I saw it with the B1/B2 grammar book and exercises I worked through. If I had spent that 50-60 hours just reading or watching TV I would definitely be at a lower overall level of Spanish now.

Studying the language actively makes the subsequent passive use of the language more efficient. This is a critical point. Learning during the subsequent passive time allows the learner to "see" and reinforce the grammar points and/or vocabulary when they are then using the language passively. It is much more efficient this way.

I know that I'm one of the forum members who always says, "Read more! Watch more!" But I absolutely agree with you: If I first study an interesting bit of grammar, and then I go out and read, then I'll see the new thing I learned everywhere and I'll be able to reinforce it. But I also find that this works the other way around: If I read and watch a lot, and then I flip through a grammar book, it will be super-easy to understand the grammar. After all, I've already seen hundreds of examples, so how could it possibly be counter-intuitive or unfamiliar? So the optimal strategy is probably to go back and forth as needed. (I'm also a huge fan of lang-8, etc. Getting good corrections made it much easier to find my weak spots.)

Also, I'm a very active reader, which may make a difference. Maybe 3 to 5 times per page, I'll briefly notice something interesting: a nice turn of phrase, an interesting bit of grammar, an unexpected gender agreement, or maybe just, "Huh, that's not how I would have said that." I suspect that extensive reading probably works best for people who train themselves to occasionally pay attention to the small details of language.

James29 wrote:Initially, I was extremely jealous of the forum members who had native speaking spouses. It seemed that if I were able to able to use Spanish 100% of the time in the house that I would surely be on the way to a native level in no time. I was perplexed why these forum members saw limitations and did not see their situation as that big of a help in getting to an advanced level. It is obvious to me now that there is simply a limitation to how useful that amount of time is. These members are going to be better off using some of their time doing other activities. I see this myself now as my hour or two of meetup Spanish is nice, but I have really milked nearly all potential benefits out of that level of conversation.

Being married to a native speaker helps in some ways, but not as much as you might think. At best, it's sort of like being an adult version of a heritage learner. The world is full of bilingual kids who learned one language at home, and another when they started school, and their home language is often the weaker of the two: they may speak "kitchen" French, they may only be familiar with a few voices, and they may communicate mostly with a small number of people who know them very well. They may not understand unfamiliar speakers or be able to read. My family knew an unusually fluent heritage German speaker who decided to attend university in Germany, and she said it was a shock: "I realized that I had the language skills of a 5-year-old." There's a theory that says kids mostly learn language on the playground, from other kids, and that they will ultimately become much more fluent in their playground language than in their home language.

Now, there are of course some advantages. I've been able to absorb certain types of conversational language right down to the bone. I remember my B2 tutor observing, "You know, for somebody at your level, you're really good at dealing with disagreement effectively," and there's a bunch of other stuff that I can do automatically, while totally distracted, at 3am, with zero thought. And of course, I have a secret weapon: If I want to spend my evening watching cool TV in French, I don't get in trouble for hogging the television!

But none of this gives me any automatic advantage for talking to unfamiliar people about unfamiliar subjects, or for speaking about books or politics or any other "intellectual" topic. If I want to do those things, I need to deliberately seek out more opportunities, and I need to talk to people who don't know me well enough to guess what I'm about to say.

So beyond a certain point (somewhere in the C levels), I suspect the only way to keep advancing is to speak regularly with unfamiliar people about diverse topics. And not just the usual small-talk from beginner meetups: "Oh, hello, who are you and where are you from?" Narrow focus is helpful in the B levels (because it allows you to establish a beachhead much earlier and then expand from there), but once you've exhausted that, progress seems to require more variety. There's one monthly meetup which I value hugely, because it's a small group of mostly advanced students (professional French teachers, people who lived for years in Paris, people from Quebec), and because over the course of 2 hour dinner, we can start talking about books, or politics, or ideas in education, or whatever.
7 x

User avatar
James29
Blue Belt
Posts: 752
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am
Languages: English (Native)
Spanish (C1-ish)
French (Beginner)
Portuguese (Thinking about it)
x 1669

Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:05 am

"Speaking regularly with unfamiliar people"... that's a great concept. That's exactly what I need.

The grammar v. input thing is kind of like making the perfect cup of coffee. As long as you have the right amount of cream and sugar mixed in it does not really matter what got in the mug first. Everyone has their perfect mix. Initially when you start you need the cream and sugar in higher proportions to make it palatable... then as you become more grizzled/experienced you can have your coffee black.
2 x


Return to “Language logs”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest