James29's Spanish and French Log

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James29
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:34 pm

Stelle wrote:
James29 wrote:My trip to Costa Rica is only a couple weeks away and I have not done hardly ANY planning. I don't even have a hotel for half of the nights. I need to figure out if I am going to rent a car. I am inclined to rent one, but nervous. It is hard to know without having been there. I felt fine renting a car in Cabo San Lucas and Valencia but it would have been horrible in the Dominican, Ecuador and DF.

Where in Costa Rica are you going? We rented a car for a month in Costa Rica, and were really happy to have done so. We never felt unsafe (well, except when trying to find a place to park the car for a few days on the border with Nicaragua - in hindsight, it was fine, but at the time it felt a bit sketchy). We were able to do a lot of hiking and exploring that would have been much more difficult without a car. For lodging, we used AirBNB quite a lot.

Enjoy your trip!


I am going to fly in to Liberia. I have two free days and then to a work conference for three days at a resort in Guanacaste. Then I have one day after before flying back out of Liberia. I am quite an explorer, but I'm also quite conservative with doing anything remotely dangerous or stupid. I was doing some internet surfing yesterday and think renting a car would serve me well... even if it is just for going from hotel to hotel. I'm not crazy about learning the public transport system just for a few days. I'll be on the beach for the conference so I'm hoping to do a nice hike on one of the other days.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:38 pm

Snow wrote:Thanks to your log, I started watching La Casa de Papel today and I'm loving it! I rarely finish Spanish series because I don't like the random nudity in most of them. This one, though, I'm willing to tolerate such scenes because I am enjoying the main plot - heist.

How do you watch series? I'm watching it with English sub because when I try with Spanish sub, I'm more focused on reading. With English, I only sometimes look at the sub. I'm more focused on listening and copying what the characters say. If I don't understand something, then a quick glance usually fixes the problem.


I watch everything with Spanish audio and no subtitles at all. I find subtitles quite distracting. If there is audio description (like in La Casa de Papel) I always use it. I LOVE that feature. I cannot get enough of it. I know what you mean about random things that turn you off from a show. The nudity does not bother me too much, but I hate it when shows put in gross bathroom/gutter type humor. I'm watching Club de Cuervos and it is good, but they almost ruin it with some pretty disgusting bathroom/sex scenes. I'm going to watch episode three of La Casa de Papel tomorrow. I was doing some researching on the show and it looks like there will be a second season (already out on TV in Spain). I'm glad you are liking it. I love it.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:30 pm

Spanish keeps chugging along and I love it. I actually did a bit of French this week too.

I'm almost done with both Club de Cuervos and Casa de Papel. I'll finish one of them this week depending in which I decide to watch. They are both a good change from the typical telenovela plot. Both are very well produced too. I'll do more thorough reviews when I'm done with them. I got a ton of time in on the treadmill this past week so I knocked out probably about 15 or so episodes in total.

I'm almost done with the last chapter in the second part of Atlas Shrugged. I'll finish the second part this weekend or next weekend. I still like the book even though I think this is my fifth time reading it. It reminds me of the first time I read it (which was in English) because I am picking up on many of the subtle details.

I still do the weekly meetup and also chat with my co-workers in Spanish.

I spent some time thumbing through the C level grammar book I have. Some of the lessons were pretty easy, but I generally got the feeling that I would really benefit from working through it. I have not studied grammar for a long time. I really need to make an effort to work through that book. The B level book was very well worth it and if I am serious about bumping up my Spanish to a higher level doing some grammar drills at a high level is important.

I am looking for a good book on my Kindle for my upcoming trip. I'd like to find a mystery/suspense written originally in Spanish. I found some good recommendations on this board and will do some more looking soon. I might just opt for one of my "go-to" authors like Michael Connolly, Lee Child or John Grisham. I almost always like their books. I'd just like to find something a bit shorter/faster to read.

French! Wow, I had a burst of French motivation. Over Christmas I found that I could read directions on plastic various things that needed assembly and it made me feel great. I realized I really could read French at a basic level and I had not lost too much of that skill. I had much of the day free yesterday and watched an episode of Marseille. I like that show. I've seen it before with English audio so it was not to hard to follow. For French it is perfect because it also has audio description in French and ver batim closed captioning.

I'd like to find something a bit easier to understand in French... something like Methode de Francais on youtube. Those videos are very easy for me to understand and follow. I could see myself using some of my treadmill time to watch those shows. I cannot find a place where there are multiple videos like that.

I also worked through another lesson of Assimil in French. I stopped at lesson 100. I think I'll keep the book kicking around and work through a lesson every now and then. I had never seen lesson 101 and I was fairly easily to work out the meaning of nearly all the text. I had to think things through and take my time but I can definitely read French.

Well, that's it for now. Tomorrow will start a new year. No goals for me this year in my language life... I'm focusing my mental effort on other aspects of my life for now. I'll still keep up with languages as it is really a big part of my life and an hour a day or so is really necessary to keep my mind healthy.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby westminstress » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:57 pm

It's probably been a decade but I rented a car and drove around Costa Rica. At least at that time (and I think it probably has not changed) it was a very safe country, roads were in good condition, not too much traffic, and people were good, predictable drivers. Costa Rica is beautiful, I'm sure you will love it!
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:17 am

I love these weeks when I finish a whole bunch of things. I've found that this log is most useful as a little reminder to myself that I'm going to have to put my progress down in writing on Sunday. That seems to give me that final little push to finish things when I'm close.

This week I finished Club de Cuervos, Casa de Papel and the second part of Atlas Shrugged.

Club de Cuervos was good. I'll do a thorough review at some point when I have more time. It was very different than anything I'd seen in Spanish. The acting and writing was good. I did not at all like the "shock value" sexual things they threw in there. About every other episode there was a short scene that was pretty repulsive they would put in there apparently only for shock value. It was a comedy show and it definitely made me laugh at points (which is hard for me). It took the approach of being a bit ridiculous, but they pulled it off.

Casa de Papel was probably the best series/show I've seen in Spanish. It was really good and exactly what I like. The only complaint I have is how they ended the last show. I really did not like that. I understand why they did it now... there is going to be another season and they had to end it in a way where there could be more shows. This was really a great show and highly recommend it to anyone looking for something good to watch for advancing Spanish skills. I'll do a more thorough review later.

I also watched a number of episodes of Daredevil dubbed into Spanish on Netflix. This is my "filler" show that I watch when I want to watch something in Spanish but don't want to start a new series. I like the show enough to keep watching it. Again, it is different and interesting. There are a ton of fight scenes where there is no speaking.

I finished the second part of Atlas Shrugged this morning. This book is over 1250 pages of small print so finishing two thirds of it is like finishing four regular length books. I really don't have to concentrate at all as I'm reading through it. I ignore some of the words if I don't know them. I'll set the book aside for a while and read something else.

I'm heading to Costa Rica tomorrow. I've rented a car so hopefully that goes well. In a way I guess it is good that I am really not nervous at all. The thought of going to a Spanish speaking country by myself and managing to get around is not even on my mind. I'm more worried about getting everything at work and at home ready before I leave. I have not done any planning at all for my free days down there. I have two free days prior to my work conference. I reserved a hotel in a small beach town. I'll probably just show up and wander around and see what happens. The idea of sitting on a beach this time of year is SO appealing. I cannot wait for that. I'll probably just chill out and read a book on the beach for the two free days I have. I'm so exhausted from the last several months that a couple days with nothing to do sounds pretty good. The conference is going to be in English but hopefully I'll have an opportunity to practice for those days. I'll be pretty busy with the conference schedule so it will be somewhat like working. Plus, I need to keep in touch with the business back home which will occupy much of my time so I probably won't get much relaxing in during the four days I'm at the conference.

I still have not bought a Kindle book for my trip. I'll do that later this morning. I miss reading Spanish in my Kindle. When I think back to all the things that got me from the B1-ish range to a solid C range I must say that reading books on my Kindle with a pop-up dictionary was definitely the thing that helped most. Currently my conversations skills have been skyrocketing with all the TV watching but I can feel my vocabulary base (both active and passive) has actually diminished since I stopped reading books.

Well, that's it for now.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:15 pm

Well, I've spent the past week sitting on Costa Rican beaches sipping water out of coconut shells, drinking Imperial and speaking with everyone in Spanish! I also spent several hours a day working. Now, I'm just passing time at the airport waiting to head home.

This was much more of a work trip than my past trips. I had a four day conference and three of those days were pretty busy with work related things. On the plane ride down I read 1/3 of a new Jack Reacher book. This was great. The book was good and I just kept reading and reading. I can read basically the same speed in Spanish now as I can in English. I always try to read on my Kindle so I can easily look up unknown words. Whether or not I look something up really depends on my mood more than anything else. The unknown words do not often impact my understanding so I only look them up if I am curious.

For the first time my Spanish was clearly the primary language of communication on my trips. There was never a time where a service person or local person would use English with me. It was likely clear from the start that my Spanish was good and likely the better language to communicate in. I did literally everything in Spanish without any problems. Except... the stupid car rental. I HATE renting cars in Latin America. The Spanish was not the problem, but the system. They basically rip you off. They make you buy all sorts of extra insurance that is "mandatory" and then they give you these subtle threats that if you don't tip them well they will say you damaged the car. The exact same thing happened to me in Cabo San Lucas. That was the ONLY thing I did not like about my trip to Costa Rica.

I came down a couple days prior to the conference and went to Cocoa Beach first. It was nice. I would not recommend it for a Spanish immersion, but it was a perfectly good/safe place to go to the beach and sit by a pool and drink Imperial. If someone wanted to do a Spanish trip with someone who either wanted to use English or really wanted safety this would be a pretty good place. It is a small beach town that seems to be invaded by Americans, Canadians and Europeans this time of year. There were TONS of foreigners everywhere in the part of the town near the beach. There were still a number of things that were noticeable about Cocoa Beach. There were screwed up sidewalks all over the place if at all. There were piles of rubble on the side of the roads in places. There were stray dogs wandering around. There were these hole in the wall places selling trinkets and beer. There were tiny cars and motorcycles.

After two days in Cocoa Beach I went to a fancy resort for my conference. Again, I did everything there in Spanish. The employees spoke English fine but were all comfortable using Spanish with me for everything. I note that I got some comments about my Spanish... mostly that it was very good. Many of the employees wanted to know what I did so they could do things to improve their English. One guy working at the bar laughed a bit at some of my word choices. He apparently thought it sounded really funny when I used the word "ojear" when asking for a menu.

So, fancy resorts are not really my cup of tea when traveling so I rented a car and took a few people into Liberia for an afternoon. That was really cool. Liberia is a really nice small city. It would definitely be a nice place to visit and do an immersion or exchange. We ate at a restaurant and had locally cooked meals.

The Spanish in Costa Rica was extremely easy to understand. The accent must be really neutral or something. I felt very confident and do not recall encountering anyone who I could not understand.

One thing I've noticed recently with my Spanish is that the "fun" and "excitement" has really worn off. My Spanish is so good now that doing something like doing this trip is just not as satisfying as it used to be. I really feel much more "ho-hum" about doing all this stuff in Spanish.

Well, that's it for now. I'm heading back to the States and I'll have to find a new Netflix show to start tomorrow.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:57 pm

Well, Costa Rican beaches are now a distant memory and I'm back in my regular routine.

When I was waiting for my airplane in Costa Rica I searched through Netflix for a long time to find new shows to watch. I found some great telenovelas. It did not occur to me that when I got back to the states I would not be able to watch them. When I got home the shows I added to my list (and was really excited to watch) just vanished from Netflix. So, I had to pick something pretty quickly. I started watching El Marginal. It has been in my list for a while but I've never gotten around to watching it. It is a perfectly decent show. It is hard to follow many of the characters because they are so slangy. I am using subtitles for the first time. I don't "need" the subtitles but it does make it easier because it is simple to spot the slang words and also it is easier to pick up new words that way. I am also watching Daredevil in Spanish. I think I'll try to finally finish that.

I'm also reading the Jack Reacher book I bought for my trip. I'm somewhere around 80% done now. I don't have time to read during the week, but I can usually read for about an hour right when I get up on Saturdays and Sundays. So, it will take me a bit to finish, but that's ok. I like the book and it feels good to be reading again. I think my Spanish has improved considerably since I last read a book on my Kindle. I am reading very fast and it is not tiring at all. I am now at the point where I can read a book like this simply to relax.

I continue to have small talk at work on a regular basis with my co-workers and I speak with customers in Spanish every so often. I'd say I have to use Spanish weekly with customers now. That's cool and I'd like to do more of that. I also regularly go to the local meetup. That's just a fun night out now.

My Spanish will consist of watching more telenovelas and series for the next few months. I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time on the treadmill with Netflix through about April. I'll then re-assess my running and Spanish and figure out what I want to do for the summer.

All things considered I am extremely happy with my Spanish. I feel very comfortable using the language professionally and when I travel now I feel more comfortable using Spanish than English. I feel that if I speak Spanish with the airline, hotel, rental car people that there will be less chance for confusion. I definitely could improve my grammar and "little" things that are wrong with my Spanish, but I don't feel any pressing need and those things continue to improve as I use and hear the language more often. I don't write hardly at all in Spanish and that is, by far, my weak point. It has not caused any major problems yet so I don't really care.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:26 pm

I'm still chugging along with my Spanish. Things are going well. I'm mostly just watching TV on Netflix while I run on the treadmill. I'm watching El Marginal and Daredevil. El Marginal is another violent jail show. I'm really sick of the jail and drug shows. It is a pretty decent show, however. I think I have three episodes left. I've been picking at Daredevil every now and then when I don't have another show I'm watching. I have three episodes left in that too. There are a ton of fight scenes so there is not as much Spanish as I'd like. In many ways I like watching dubbed shows as the Spanish is super easy to follow. It is more mindless which is good sometimes.

I'm not sure what I'll start next. I've been going through Netflix quite a bit but nothing really catches my eye.

I'm also slowly finishing off the Jack Reacher book I started during my Costa Rica trip. It is a good book and pretty easy for me to read. I like books that don't get too confusing and simply follow one character the whole way through the book... especially in Spanish. It makes it so much easier to follow.

I've been going to the local meetup and also speaking in Spanish a decent amount at work. Nothing new there.

However, this week I had a French speaking customer come in to hire me. This was a totally new experience. Part of me felt terrible because my French is obviously terrible and I needed to get a translator. The other part of me felt pretty good because I could understand the translator pretty well when he was saying the things I had just said in English. If I knew what they were talking about I could understand the words in French. Oh well, I guess this will just serve as some motivation to maybe someday get back into French.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:27 pm

Things are still going well with my Spanish. I finished El Marginal this week. It was ok, but I am determined not to do any more jail or drug telenovelas for a while. I am just totally sick of them.

I also started El Mar de Plastico. It is from Spain and I am loving it. It is my type of show... a gritty cop goes to a small town in Spain and investigates a murder. I have the subtitles on and they don't bother me anymore. For the last several years subtitles annoyed me and distracted me. Now, however, I don't really mind them. I'm not sure it is good for my Spanish as I am reading more than I used to. It certainly helps me pick up unknown words. I'm definitely going to continue with this show. There are 26 episodes available on Netflix. They are an awkward length (usually between 65 and 75 minutes) so I have to somehow adjust my running schedule.

I'm slowly finishing off my Jack Reacher book. I only seem to be able to find half an hour a week or so to read. Maybe today I'll try to find some quiet time and finish it off. I only have a couple hours to go and it is really annoying me that I am so close to finishing off the book.

Not much else new in the world of Spanish. I do the local meetup and speak Spanish at work a decent amount.

I wonder if there is a way to really press my advancement at my level. Nearly all my Spanish time is spent on the treadmill watching Netflix. This is great, but I'm not putting in much "effort." I'd like to advance more, but I don't really know how to at this point. I think more reading would be helpful and obviously spending some time doing advanced grammar or advanced drills would be good. This summer I'll have some additional time I can devote to Spanish (or French). I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet. We'll see.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:54 am

I've been in a great groove with Spanish lately. This morning I finished the Jack Reacher book. That was nice to read a book again. Reading on the Kindle is one of the best things for developing vocabulary and getting the language to feel so natural. I should read more books, but it is just simpler right now in my life to watch Netflix in Spanish while I run on the treadmill.

I'm moving my way through the Spanish series El Mar de Plastico. It is GREAT. I usually have two series/telenovelas going at the same time and I alternate between the two of them. With this series, however, I want to continue every day and have not even bothered to look for another series. It is about a former Spanish army officer who becomes a cop. He goes to a small imaginary town in the south of Spain to head up the guardia civil. There is a murder of a young girl and a convoluted plot of mystery and intrigue develops. The lead character is great. Sometimes he is a bit too good. He happens to show up just in the nick of time to save the day and beat up the bad guys before they kill someone else. He also has all the women after him, but, of course, he blows them all off. I only wish there were more than 26 episodes available on Netflix. They are about 70-75 minute episodes and I'm watching about seven per week.

I'm not doing too much else. My Spanish is just on auto pilot and I won't put too much effort or worry into it for a while.
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