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Un repaso de español

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 11:32 am
by Andy E
I've been meaning to start a log for about six months or so. The problem has been site access. Downtime at work is when I catch up on stuff like Reddit and other forums. This site has been considered "dangerous" by the proxy filter at work since I joined it. There's nothing you can do about it but wait until inexplicably sites become "safe" even though there was nothing wrong with them in the first place - that happened this week - finally.

My languages have largely atrophied over the years - work has been busy but family commitments have played the major part over the last decade. Since the autumn of last year, there's been a change and that together with some embryonic plans to move to Spain in the next couple of years have provided the opportunity and motive to refocus on Spanish - in particular, Peninsular Spanish.

So this first post is more of a recap than anything.

The biggest initial problem seemed to me to be resources. I have a large number of Spanish learning materials collected over the years all of which I surveyed with little enthusiasm - been there - done that - and of course there would be nothing new available anyway would there? That proved to a wrong assumption!

First thing I came across that piqued my interest and that I hadn't seen before was Glossika. I read a lot of the reviews and after a bit of an online struggle, I managed to find a list of the recommended schedules some of which were targetted at people doing a language "re-activation". My timing seemed pretty bad as Glossika was about to ditch its old product base in favour of a shiny new one. I tried the new one; it has a number of drawbacks the major one being it was too expensive. So I purchased the "old" Peninsular Spanish at a discount. I've always worked on the basis of one primary resource with everything else fitting round that so as the re-activation schedules don't allow for much else it was Glossika, Glossika Glossika with a bit of other stuff as well.

Glossika, as delivered, proved a bit of a frustration. I loved the premise - language patterns delivered in an easy to assimilate format and spaced repetition built-in. What I didn't like were the errors... and there seemed to be lots... and this I gather was Peninsular Spanish second time around with all material re-recorded. So I stopped using it as delivered before Christmas and ended up putting the entirety of the "fixed" sentences into Anki using Awesome TTS to generated audio male-based audio (changing endings where needed in the sentences as well of course). The early sentences I suspended as I'd already done them so I worked through the rest and finished in January.

My overall impression is that I would have purchased additional old-style courses from them if they were still available to re-activate my other languages even though I think they do tend to overdo some patterns. I lost the will to live with the number of "preferir = to rather do something" sentences.

Other resources tinkered with over the same period:

Speechling: Very like the new Glossika, probably better, has an app and can be used for free. I haven't persisted with it as there is no Peninsular Spanish option.

Linqvist: Tried it for a bit until the "everything for free" option ran out at the end of the year (IIRC). Didn't bother paying for it after that.

Clozemaster: I tried very hard to like this and a number of people rave about it but I didn't get on with it. For one thing, I didn't feel like I was learning anything, for another, the TTS Peninsular Spanish voice is beyond annoying: ... is_really/

As I could see light at the end of the Glossika tunnel over Christmas, I decided to begin taking a look at my Listening Comprehension. A holiday to Mexico last summer had highlighted that while face-to-face interactions in Spanish were ok, general listening to Mexican TV and conversations around me were not. I've used Yabla a lot in the past so I re-subscribed to that. The problem was I struggled to find anything I wanted to listen to. I enjoyed "Los Años Maravillosos" - the Colombian version of "The Wonder Years" but that was a grand total of about 30 minutes divided into a few short clips. Other than that, I barely watched anything on it.

So I decided to take another look at Spanish language TV - I could access some Mexican telenovelas via VPN but the performance was poor. However, RTVE proved a goldmine. The last time I watched anything on there was Season 1 of Águila Roja - if you don't know it, it's a somewhat cheesy Zorro-style drama. This time there was lots of stuff to choose from. Also about this time, I began noticing posts on Reddit give recommendations for programs on Netflix.

I used to subscribe to Netflix but as we were also Amazon Prime customers when Amazon's Prime Video service was launched we got it initially for nothing so I cancelled. Amazon Prime Video is cr*p for foreign language TV so I hadn't considered Netflix. My old account had long since been deleted so I signed up for the free period to see if some of the stuff was also available on Netflix UK - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Result: Tons of stuff to watch. The base price was not much more than Yabla (which I wasn't using anyway) so I cancelled that and decided to continue with Netflix.

What else?

I saw Kwiziq mentioned here and decided to take a look. I explored the site, liked what I saw, did the placement test and got placed C1 and signed up. Initially, it wasn't clear to me what to do next as there didn't appear to be any C1 material. I emailed them and was told to follow the Kwizbot recommended B2 material which I proceeded to do.

However, very shortly after I suffered an attack of OCD as I kept seeing the 0% values against the other levels in my Kwiziq Dashboard as well as a very empty brain map. In the end, I ended up doing every single topic on the site including the not so obvious C1 stuff (of which there isn't a great deal). It cost me a total of 1 months' subscription but I feel it was valuable as a grammar refresher. I may well re-subscribe once they get enough new C1 content to make it worth my while.

I wonder how their business model will play out. They can't add content forever and I think they will need to add other activities to keep their subscribers on board. One thing it lacks is any SRS aspect once you've got to 100% on a topic. Your test history on that topic shows the degree of difficulty you had in getting to 100% and appropriately spaced retests is maybe something they should be looking at.

Next up: what I'm currently doing.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 11:34 am
by Andy E
What am I currently watching?
A fair amount. I have an unfortunate tendency to binge watch stuff and then get fed up with it and then stop. This is the same for me with any TV series (nothing to do with Spanish), so I've attempted to expand the number of series I'm watching at any one time. So, in no particular order:

El Ministerio del Tiempo
Sé quién eres
La casa de papel
Mar de plástico
Estoy vivo
El Gran Hotel
Club de Cuervos
Tiempos de guerra
Victor Ros

These are in various stages of completion and there's a load more on my list. I like to watch an episode in one sitting something which is difficult during the week with everything else I'm doing. I'm also watching Euronews items every day as these are bite-size and well as the daily RTVE news catchup when I can.

What am I reading?
My interest in current affairs leads to a large part of my non-fiction reading habits. BBC Mundo and El País each day. I can't do without my daily news fix. Also in an effort to enlarge my vocabulary as I can generally read articles on both those sites only looking the occasional word up, I have begun using the Wikipedia Portal to randomly pick articles to read that catch my eye: ... los_buenos ... destacados

As for fiction, I've not been reading a great deal. In the past, I've read a lot of translated fiction (i.e. from English to Spanish) as they've been authors I'm familiar with and like. It's clear I need to broaden my horizons and try and find works I enjoy originally written in Spanish. Unfortunately, I'm a complete heathen as far as fiction goes as I don't read the classics - I don't read them in English so there's little chance I'll read them in another language. Luckily there was a recent recommendation for something on Reddit:

Cuatro días de enero

This is the first in a series about a Police Inspector in Barcelona towards the end of the Spanish Civil War. As Franco's forces approach the city, Inspector Mascarell investigates the disappearance of a young woman. I like crime fiction and thrillers so I'm enjoying it so far. I'm trying to ensure I read at least a chapter a day.

What else?
Doing Kwiziq prompted me to want to take a further look at Grammar practice. Over Christmas I bought this allegedly advanced grammar book:

USO de la Gramatica Espanola: Nivel Avanzado

When I should have bought these:

Gramatica de uso del Espanol - Teoria y practica B1-B2
Gramatica de uso del Espanol - Teoria y practica C1-C2

Having now remedied that oversight, I can say that these are excellent - they are self-contained and most importantly graded. A unit is over two pages with the explanations on the left-hand side and the exercises on the right; vocab and answers are at the back. They are the best grammar workbooks I've come across. A point to note is that everything is written entirely in Spanish and I do wonder how A1-A2 students handle that in the equivalent book although it is all in very clear and concise language. I'm doing a unit a day, writing the answer sentences up in a Word document which is good practice. I won't do all the units - a number of the later ones appear to deal with verb conjugation and I'll be skipping those.

I'm also working on translation practice. Many moons ago I went through Platiquemos. If you don't know it, it is/was a course based on FSI Basic Spanish authored by Don Casteel, an occasional visitor to the old forums, and a very nice gentleman who was always open to questions (sadly he's longer with us).

As part of Platiquemos, there are a number of reading exercises for vocabulary enrichment in the later units. Instead of using them for reading Spanish, I've been translating the English version back into Spanish, using the Platiquemos Spanish text and the DeepL, Google and Bing machine translation services for verification. This is an "as and when" exercise.

Next up: Other stuff

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 11:00 am
by Andy E
One of my major failings I noticed when coming back to Spanish after a long break was verb conjugations. The most common irregular verbs in the most common tenses were ok but things like stem-changing verbs I appeared to have forgotten quite a bit.

I played around with various apps and websites until I came across this via a recommendation on Reddit:

It allows you to choose a level, ignore vosotros, choose an input mode, drill particular tenses and most importantly do spaced repetition of all tenses. It is a website rather than an app so there is no offline mode but the web UI is so minimal (no ads, no extraneous baggage) that it is fine for phone use. I paused using it while I was on my Kwiziq binge but I'm now back to using it every day.

An additional everyday task has become vocabulary learning. I've played around with a number of resources - different Anki decks mainly and finally started using a phone app - there is an accompanying website I think can also be used: ...

The company's website (focus seems to be primarily language courses):

I believe its utility will most likely be expanding my passive vocabulary as there are some issues. The annotated parts of speech are occasionally mixed up between L1 and L2 and images attached with a word can be out. For example being the translation of la pena as penalty. Nothing wrong with that except that the image related to a different type of penalty:

El jugador lanzó el penalti y marcó un gol.

An extra resource I've also been using is the VideoEle website:

VideoEle es un portal de internet que ofrece VIDEOs para aprender Español como Lengua Extranjera y actividades relacionadas con estos vídeos.

These videos are grouped and graded from A1 to B2. There is nothing available at the C level. As they themselves put it:

Los alumnos que han superado el nivel B2 ya disponen de una competencia comunicativa y un conjunto de estrategias de aprendizaje suficientes para utilizar vídeos dirigidos a nativos y aprender directamente de ellos.

Each video has captions, a PDF transcription and learning exercises. I can't comment on the latter because I haven't looked at any of them as I've been using it to do Listening Comprehension exercises.

The idea is to download the transcription (but not look at it) and then begin watching the video with captions off. Each video is relatively short and each sentence similarly brief. Pause after each sentence and repeat the audio. The goal is to try and get it completely correct first time with no hesitation. If you think you got it the first time, check. If you nailed it, move on; if you didn't nail it the first time, rewind and repeat.

It would be nice to be able to do one of these every day but it's finding the time that's the problem.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Fri May 04, 2018 12:57 pm
by Andy E
I wanted to mention this earlier but since it is another dangerous website as far as work is concerned, I can only access it from my phone or home. So having returned home (to make sure I get the link right):

Its main theme is as a "Revista Digital" and you need to set up a user account to access the full features of the site - it's well worth the time to do so. One of the most interesting recent articles was on Cristina Cifuentes la presidenta de Madrid and the falsification of her degree. Somehow this story had originally passed me by. It was then all over the Spanish news (TV and print) as a video then emerged of her apparently being caught shop-lifting makeup. She has now resigned.

However, what I love best is the Advanced Grammar section:

There are some really interesting articles to read through covering nuances of usage.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Sun May 06, 2018 3:09 pm
by James29
Are you the same Andy E that was active on the original HTLAL website 10+ years ago? If so, welcome back. You were an inspiration to many new Spanish learners.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Mon May 07, 2018 9:06 am
by Andy E
James29 wrote:Are you the same Andy E that was active on the original HTLAL website 10+ years ago? If so, welcome back. You were an inspiration to many new Spanish learners.

Well, thank you muchly. Yes, that's me. ;)

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Wed May 09, 2018 11:08 am
by Andy E
One of the most useful ways for me to read Kindle books is the Kindle Cloud Reader:

It's useful because I can access it from work at lunchtime without needing either my Kindle Paperwhite or having to install the Kindle PC App. Its least useful feature, however, is dictionary integration - i.e. the lack thereof. There are the supplied dictionaries including "El Diccionario de la Lengua Española" but no seemingly no built-in L2-L1 support or any way to add it. A google search revealed an excellent alternative using a Google Bookmarklet:

The author of the article uses "" and Google Translate as his go-to options but provides information on how to customise the Javascript for your own purposes. For me my favourite on-line dictionary is Linguee:

Code: Select all

var r2 = r.toString().trim().replace(/\b[-.,()&$#!\[\]{}"']+\B|\B[-.,()&$#!\[\]{}"']+\b/g, "").split(' ').join('+');
var newW ='' + r2, 'Linguee',

The first line strips some of the punctuation that highlighting seems to always add when selecting words and also provides support for multi-word searches.

I also wanted to retain L1 lookups - preferably via the DRAE - rather than Google Translate. Searching the DRAE via an HTTP call used to be much simpler - now it's a pain. In looking for a solution I came across Goodrae:

In their own words:

¿Qué es Goodrae?

Goodrae es un juego de palabras, de todas las palabras. Con Goodrae puedes sumergirte en el Diccionario de la Real Academía Española de la Lengua y navegar por ellas porque Goodrae convierte el diccionario de la RAE en hipertexto: todas las palabras enlazan a su entrada en el diccionario (si existe, si no te hace una sugerencia) y porque permite buscar en el contenido de los artículos (definiciones).

So I replaced Google Translate in the Bookmarklet with something more appropriate to my needs:

Code: Select all

var r2 = r.toString().trim().replace(/\b[-.,()&$#!\[\]{}"']+\B|\B[-.,()&$#!\[\]{}"']+\b/g, "").split(' ').join('+');
var newW ='' + r2, 'GoodRAE',

Changing the lema parameter to "no" will result in an attempt to do an exact search, so it's generally better to leave it as "yes".

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Thu May 17, 2018 11:00 am
by Andy E
Progress has been a little slow over the last week and a bit due to work. I've haven't covered as much as I originally intended but I did manage to get round to...

Club de Cuervos: Finished Episode 3. I love this series - it makes me laugh out loud.
Tiempos de Guerra: Finished Episode 2 and there I will leave it for now as I cannot get into this at all.
Mar de plástico: Finally started Season 2 and watched the first two episodes. I wish they'd made more of this.
Anacleto: Agente Secreto: Change of pace as I watched this comedy film based on the comic book series of the same name. Mildly amusing.
Daredevil: I watched S01E01 with my son in English and having discovered there was Spanish audio, I've now watched the next three episodes.

RNE: I've started using Podcast Addict to stream Spanish Radio into my car while driving. I have a very short commute and trying to listen to a Podcast hasn't been very productive.
Radio Ambulante: Listened to "Firme aquí" an interesting look at the activities of a firm called "Libre by Nexus" and how they make their money from immigrants.
Nómadas: I've just started to get back into this as travel is one my passions. Listened to an episode on Jerusalem from November of last year.

Cuatro días de enero: I'm up to Chapter 25 - only 60% of the way through. I'm not finding as much time as I'd like to read this which is annoying. I had promised myself I would do a Chapter a day - something I've failed to do for the last two days.
Anticipating that I might actually finish this at some point, I've sourced a few more Kindle books. I solved the problem of potentially throwing away money on books I won't enjoy by getting a number for free. I put "Spanish Edition" into the Kindle Store on Amazon and sorted by Price Low to High.

Other stuff
Gramatica de uso del Espanol - Teoria y practica B1-B2: I've now completed 33 Units out of 116. At least with this, I have managed to do one every day.
Hugo's Advanced Spanish: I found this in the loft last weekend looking for something else. Dated 2004, I realised I never bothered doing more than Lesson 1. I can't remember exactly why but I think it was because of frustration that the material classed as "reading" is just that and isn't on the accompanying CDs and at the time I wanted listening comprehension input. The readings are not particularly advanced but they are quite interesting as each lesson examines somewhere in the Spanish-speaking world - although the main emphasis is on Spain itself.
I've binned the vocab app I'd been using. I had tried to download and install additional vocab courses. These would download and then continually fail to fully install with no option to remove them other than a total uninstall and re-install. Rinse and Repeat. Not worth the pain. Back to Anki.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:20 pm
by kulaputra
Hey, you mentioned in another thread you're interested in history so I thought I'd mention that the are some great Spanish language podcasts regarding history. I particularly enjoy SER Historia.

Re: Un repaso de español

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:26 am
by Andy E
kulaputra wrote:Hey, you mentioned in another thread you're interested in history so I thought I'd mention that the are some great Spanish language podcasts regarding history. I particularly enjoy SER Historia.

Thanks for the recommendation. I finally got round to listening to a couple of these.