A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

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Tomás
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby Tomás » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:59 pm

the1whoknocks wrote:By the way, are there any other news programs or talk shows you like to watch in Spanish?


Not really. Al Punto is by far the best I've found so far. "Despierta con Carlos Loret" is a good morning news show with very little of the silly fluff that characterizes most Mexican tv. Carlos talks really fast though.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:55 pm

Tomás wrote:
the1whoknocks wrote:By the way, are there any other news programs or talk shows you like to watch in Spanish?


Not really. Al Punto is by far the best I've found so far. "Despierta con Carlos Loret" is a good morning news show with very little of the silly fluff that characterizes most Mexican tv. Carlos talks really fast though.


I'll have to check that out. I've been 'DVR'ing' Aqui y ahora and Noticiero Univision (the one at noon).
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:15 pm

Lamentations of an Intermediate Spanish Speaker

I’m not sure where I’m going with this entry. I’ll start by saying that I’m frustrated not only with how my Spanish has been going lately, but with some general observations while lounging here at the intermediate level.

1. Where’s the progress?!

"Good things take time."

I don’t know who originally said that, but it seems true enough. However, knowing something and being able to accept the reality of it are two different things. In many regards, I have to admit to being impatient; with almost anything I do, I want to see progress immediately. Not in an un-realistic, ‘head in the clouds’ way … more in a ‘why take one minute to do something that can be done in 30 seconds’ way. It’s how I’ve always been.

With learning Spanish, that just hasn’t flown. I can decide what to do, but I can’t immediately determine the results. I can determine what grammar I’ll review, which words I’ll study, books I’ll read or series I’ll watch. Still, the timing of when I will assimilate this material is not of my choosing. I just have to wait. At times, this fact frustrates me.

2. I’m doing much more work for what seems to be relatively less return.

I vividly remember a conversation I had with a friend who speaks three foreign languages. He speaks Spanish natively, English at an advanced level, has a B2 French certificate and knows a little Italian. During a casual conversation he mentioned that he was struggling with continuing French because of the gap between B2 and C1. I didn’t really understand how learning a language could be harder once reaching the intermediate level. Particularly because at that stage, one has so many more tools at their disposal.

It’s been over a year since we had that conversation but it turns out that he was right. I read much more, listen more intently and have even increased how frequently much I write. Sure, I could do more, but the fact that I’m doing much more than I did in the past has to count for something. Doesn’t seem so. The fact that I am finding it harder to point to tangible results, with what I perceive to be much more work, just doesn’t sit right with me sometimes.

3. What exactly should I be doing?

If I’m being honest with myself, this question has plagued me since I set out on this journey to learn Spanish. Yet, I think it’s a bit different at the intermediate level.

At first, when in doubt I could just pick up a grammar book/ course and study the next chapter or prepare to handle a real situation I had pending. It was much easier to perceive progress and the way forward was, in many ways, clearer. Sure, everything wasn’t entirely clear but almost anything I did resulted in noticeable improvement. Now, not so much.

Now the questions is, am I really reading, speaking, listening and writing enough to improve. What should I be focusing on while doing all these activities? My new thing has been reading … ‘it’s what you need’, I’m told. I’m doing it but I’m not seeing the boost I’m was hoping for. Intellectually, I know that I need time and I’m willing to give it just that. At the same time, I thought I’d be seeing a bit more fruit from my labor by now.

With almost everything I’ve done in life (I say that like I’ve done much) I’ve had a task, a clear way forward and milestones to check my progress.

- Academically, I always knew where to find the next chapter I should study or course I needed to take

- Professionally, although things are not black and white, the options and their outcomes are usually pretty clear. Those that aren’t are either above my paygrade or can be debated to arrive at a solution where there seemingly was none.

- Personally, I always like to have a clear plan but when in doubt, I can always just do ‘the next best thing’ … ‘define a fine a goal and just take the first step’.


I don’t read to only improve my Spanish, but I do expect my Spanish to improve as a result. Honestly, one year or more to maybe see results for something that I’m spending so much time on?! That’s rough. It’s this faith thing that keeps getting me.

4. I thought this intermediate thing would feel better

More times than I care to admit, I still babble, struggle to understand a scene, or catch important nuances. People can note my progress all day long but what’s the sense if I don’t feel it?

I'm grateful for what's been achieved but I really thought that able to watch random videos, communicate in more social settings and enjoy music in the language would feel better.

Final rant before getting back to work:

Getting my thoughts out on paper has made one thing apparent to me; more than my level of Spanish, I take issue with the time and effort it seems to be taking to see progress. That is what it is, it seems. It's also clear that I need to change things up. Except for reading, I’ve been doing the same activities, more or less, for two years. What’s more, I’m starting to loathe many of these activities; I hate am tired of Anki, don’t desire to transcribe another movie and am tired of writing my opinion.

I don’t think I need a break. I’ve tried that. Plus, when I come back I’ll still need to make that constant, sustained effort to improve. What I need is to reconnect with my reason for learning Spanish. Maybe do something that will push me a bit (or a lot). Some sleep might help too. It’s been a crazy couple of months professionally. I also need to remember that this fog I’m walking through is normal and the important thing is that I continue.

Relax, you’ll be fine. Remember when you wondered if you’d ever make it to the intermediate level? You made it. One day, when you’re learning your L3 you’ll look back at this post and laugh.

Alright, I’ll end here. For now.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:30 pm

This was a pretty productive week for Spanish.

Reading:

I covered 108 pages this week.
- New Penguin Parallel Text Short Stories in Spanish (100/100)
This book is a collection of short stories by contemporary writers from around the Spanish speaking world. The accompanying translations on each page greatly aided understanding.
- Noticia de un secuestro (8 more pages)

Somehow, I misplaced my copy of Confesiones de un gangster económico. It'll turn up soon.

Listening:
12 more episodes of 'el patron del mal' finished and 2 episodes of Metastasis, Diario de confianza, the news, Al Punto and random YouTube videos were all regular parts of the lineup this week. I also listened to the audiobook for Confesiones de un gangster económico.

Pablo Escobar seems to be a sore subject for many Colombians, for many reasons. After watching 'el patron del mal' finished , I think I understand why just a bit more. Personal feelings about Escobar and ‘el narcotráfico’ aside, I thought the series was well made. What I liked most was that it seemed to tell a real story. Each episode even starts with someone saying, “quien no conoce su historia está condenado a repetirla (those that don't know history are doomed to repeat it).”

I don’t consider myself an emotional person, but some parts, along with the music, were real tear jerkers. I never cried, but knowing that real people lived through those events ... that, that stuff really happened … certainly served as food for thought. I really appreciated the effort Andrés Parra, the guy who plays Escobar, put into accurately capturing his mannerisms and way of talking. Also, the fact that some scenes were made made with footage from the actual events, really added an air of authenticity to the whole thing.

Rumor has it that Parra will soon portray Hugo Chavez in an upcoming series. If this happens, I won’t miss it.

Grammar:
Worked through 5 more units of GdUdE which places me at unit 15

Focused Speaking Practice:
I only spoke for an hour this week. The other planned sessions didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.

Writing:
I wrote about 300 words this week; 100 words below my weekly goal but this can easily be made up.

Random Thoughts:

What was supposed to be a routine night out with time amongst friends morphed into an evening of dancing, singing and, at times, uncontrollable laughter. It was a pretty chill scene at this Cuban restaurant and bar we decided to visit but one merengue song was enough to change that. Suddenly, patrons who seemed to not even notice the live band that was playing, erupted into spontaneous dancing. The atmosphere changed completely. I’ve really never seen anything like it. It was so random. It was almost like it was the law to stop what one was doing to dance to this one song. Things only got better from there; flamenco, bachata, reggaeton, salsa, rock and unique style of dance to accompany each genre. To top things off, the food was great. It's crazy that I didn’t know of this place before. I think the song that started it all was by Juan Luis Guerra.

I remember some adopting some of the speech patterns of some of the characters in 'el patron del mal' finished after watching it for a few weeks straight last year. Interestingly, things like word choice and intonation have made their way back into my Spanish. As an added bonus, I definitely understand the characters better.

Despite some good times, my motivation seems to have been waning for a few weeks now and I think it’s beyond the usual, ‘I want a break’. This week, I’ll do a few things:

- Rather than take a full break, I’ll just read and listen more than usual. No studying.
- What changes might be necessary to bring my Spanish to an advanced level
- Reconnect with my, ‘why’ for learning Spanish.
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Sayonaroo
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby Sayonaroo » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:07 am

I think either you have to get a reason to learn Spanish in other words what you ACTUALLY enjoy doing in Spanish that you can't do in English or change your goal . The main reasons you do something in Spanish should be x is funny or interesting etc and the last reason should be because x is in Spanish. If it's the other way around you're trying to force yourself to like or enjoy something or pretending you do for whatever reason. I'm learning Spanish right now at a leisurely pace and I set realistic goals and expectations for myself and most importantly I refuse to waste my time doing stuff in Spanish that is not worth my time ... like I will never watch a telenovela and I will not force myself to listen to a song in Spanish if I don't like the singers voice etc.'

Ultimately if you're aiming for a high level or fluency you have a spend a lot of time with the language so you have to do stuff that's actually fun and enjoyable. Otherwise you'll never make it or it'll be tortoruous. Reaching Fluency is about the journey not the destination. When i was at your level in Japanese I had no shortage of crap I loved and wanted to understand and I felt happy because if I were to do these fun things in English it'd be considered slacking etc while in Japanese I get to have fun and get good at the language (I look up words while doing whatever I enjoyed doing in Japanese ) so I felt productive. I personally have no interest in the news so I do not force myself to listen or read the news in Japanese unless it's something I want to know about which is usually entertainment news.

Also regarding anki... you don't have to be a slave to it. I make anki my bitch lol. Certainly you don't have to feel obligated to use anki if that doesn't fit your learning style. But if you are interested in continuing to use anki there's plugins for adding Spanish audio, different formats like cloze deletion or even putting the answer and question and the front of the card may prove to be more useful to you at this stage. I personally got a lot of motivation for ajatt (blog) and Steve Kaufman (YouTuber and blogger). I recommend checking them out to set more realistic expectations. If you had realistic expectations then you wouldn't be so negative.

Considering your level in Spanish you should be able to find stuff that really readonates with you or at least be able to make a quick decision that x is shit I'm not wasting any more time listening/reading/watching this
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:56 pm

Sayonaroo wrote:I think either you have to get a reason to learn Spanish in other words what you ACTUALLY enjoy doing in Spanish ...


Hey Sayonaroo - You said a lot of things that really rang true and if I had to summarize your post in a few words, I’d say you’re saying, “give it time and have fun.” Luckily, there’s a wealth of interesting videos, series, books and such, available in Spanish that are also readily accessible. That’s great since, to a large extent, immersion isn’t dependent on travel. In many cases, I could happily spend all day with material like this. The thing is, to drive L2 improvement, I’m doubtful that pure enjoyment of the language is sufficient. My assumption could be wrong, I admit, but I’ve always continued under the premise that along with the fun stuff, ‘real work’ is necessary ... along with a healthy helping of time.

… but, how much and what does it look like? In the beginning, this ‘real work’ seemed to reap immediate benefits so it was clearer whether the right activities were being done. Nearly, 2.5 years later, not so much. Sure, time is always an important factor to keep in mind but because ‘rapid’ progress is no longer an indicator to be relied on, methods and such have to be reevaluated to ensure that, long term, I’ll end up where I’m hoping. The fact that things don't seem to be working, in a way, make them boring for me; hence part about motivation being challenged. Here, it still seems like a walk of faith.

But tell me something ... You mentioned briefly your general approach to improving your Japanese when it was at my level of Spanish; you surrounded yourself with material/activities you enjoyed. Was study time important for you during this time? Also, you looked up words but did you study them or were you more content with just looking them up, understanding them, then waiting until the next time you saw them? Would you say you agree with use the language and sprinkle with grammar/vocab study approach?

I’m going to try the cloze deletion thing again - Couldn’t get it to work right a couple years ago but it seems like a great idea. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from Kauffman or AJATT but I’ll revisit them. The time that has passed might help me get more from their perspective. Although, I remember appreciating much of what they had to say, even as a beginner.

Thanks a lot for your time and candor. Parece que no tienes pelos en la lengua :lol:

Good luck with Spanish!
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Sayonaroo
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby Sayonaroo » Thu Mar 23, 2017 5:27 pm

I use anki so I added whatever I looked up that I thought was worth adding. I know what you mean with the paranoia that if you don't use anki you may not rmemeber much or not as much as you could and you're just gonna look up stuff over and over again. I use anki because I want to read fluency in Japanese or maybe I'm already there and just want to maintain it ( there's no set definition for fluency). The guy from ajatt wrote an entry about why he still uses anki which just resonates with me . Eventually I figured out that cloze deletion is way more effective and effortless. I read books in jaoaneee (I read more than 122 books and of course I feel a difference from my first or second book to now. Of course there's still words that I encounter that I could look up. It's impossible to read a book and know all the words even in English and you don't have to know all the words to understand the story etc etc ) and watched tv shows etc ( I was not passive and complacent with my 80 or 95% conprehension because the shows were so interesting so I would rewatch certain parts to try to catch what the person is saying or ask Japanese people what this person is saying or look up the text on the screen or google with quotes to find a blogger who transcribed lines from a Japanese drama etc etc )and the good part of Japanese tv is that they have huge text everywhere so sometimes I took the screenshot to make my card. I didn't study grammar or vocabulary in the traditional sense of textbooks. I never ever bought or used a grammar or vocab book. I only used the free and concise guide by tae kim to get me started. As I said before when I was at that level in Japanese I learned the new or unfamiliar grammar or vocab when I encountered them and looked them up and read the explanation in Japanese usually especially for the grammar or I'd ask natives on chiebukuro or Lang-8 for explanations for whatever I wanted to know. I added whatever stuff that's worth adding to anki

Be careful to not go down the anki rabbit hole. If you're in doubt spend more time with native material than anki and try to be picky when you add stuff to anki.

Anyways you gotta keep learning words if you want to improve even if it doesn't seem like you're improving.
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby Cavesa » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:09 am

the1whoknocks wrote:Lamentations of an Intermediate Spanish Speaker
...
1. Where’s the progress?!
"Good things take time."
...two different things. In many regards, I have to admit to being impatient; with almost anything I do, I want to see progress immediately....

With learning Spanish, that just hasn’t flown. I can decide what to do, but I can’t immediately determine the results. ... Still, the timing of when I will assimilate this material is not of my choosing. I just have to wait. At times, this fact frustrates me.

Very true. At the intermediate level, stuff takes a lot of time. Improvement at C2 takes even more. It is hard to be patient. But we don't have much of a choice.

The timing is not of your choosing. But there will a point, at which some stuff will click, some hoarded time with Spanish learning activities will finally overweight the brain's resistance, and there will be a huge leap forward. And it will be very sweet. Look forward to that.

2. I’m doing much more work for what seems to be relatively less return.
...I didn’t really understand how learning a language could be harder once reaching the intermediate level. Particularly because at that stage, one has so many more tools at their disposal.
...The fact that I am finding it harder to point to tangible results, with what I perceive to be much more work, just doesn’t sit right with me sometimes.

Yes, again your experience matches mine. There are no longer the resources that give you a tiny nice feeling of accomplishment after every unit or exercise. Or very few of them. There are many other resources, which are objectively more fun. But the feeling of accomplishment, the one "yeah, I am just one tiny step closer to my goals" is not that obvious anymore. Super Challenge, Course Completion Challenge, and surely others are very helpful in this area. They give us the opportunity to accomplish something. They are quantifyable. They give us back that nice feeling participating a lot on our will to go on.

3. What exactly should I be doing?
At first, when in doubt I could just pick up a grammar book/ course and study the next chapter or prepare to handle a real situation I had pending.

There are intermediate and advanced courses and grammars. Of course they are not sufficient, we won't reach the desired level just with them, but we won't reach the goals with any kind of resource without using the others too. A well made intermediate or advanced course can be very valuable. And it helps exactly against the feelings "I don't know what useful to do right now, I feel so overwhelmed with the choices, so I'll watch flies on the wall instead".

Now the questions is, am I really reading, speaking, listening and writing enough to improve. ...With almost everything I’ve done in life (I say that like I’ve done much) I’ve had a task, a clear way forward and milestones to check my progress.

Join the challenges. 10000 pages are bound to make you improve. There is no guarantee that the chosen amount of material you sign up for will get you to C2 or perfection, or whatever crazy goals we tend to have. But it is sure to make you progress noticeably. Milestones in the right direction. The same can be done in any area. You can decide to write two hundred pages during the next two months (or any other thing and number like this).

I’ve been doing the same activities, more or less, for two years. What’s more, I’m starting to loathe many of these activities; I hate am tired of Anki, don’t desire to transcribe another movie and am tired of writing my opinion.

I had been doing the same activities for five years and felt little progress most times, I was taking breaks, and was doing much less rigorous stuff than you. But still, suddenly, my French was two levels higher, surprise. Two years are still not weirdly long. The only problem is, that doing activities you hate might make you give up completely. That is the problem, I believe. The way you spend the time, not the time itself.

Maybe do something that will push me a bit (or a lot).

Yes. But please, choose something you can enjoy.

Some sleep might help too.
Sleep is great.
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the1whoknocks
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:41 pm

Sayonaroo wrote:I use anki so I added whatever I looked up that I thought was worth adding. I know what you mean with the paranoia that if you don't use anki you may not rmemeber much or not as much as you could and you're just gonna look up stuff over and over again [...] The guy from ajatt wrote an entry about why he still uses anki which just resonates with me . Eventually I figured out that cloze deletion is way more effective and effortless.


Yeah, actually remembering the words and being able to use them spontaneously is a concern of mine.

I spent a few moments browsing AJATT and, I liked a lot of what he’s posted about SRS, in general and MCD’s in particular. I like that MCD’s the are fairly quick to make, always present words in context and that it’s an interesting way to work with fairly longer text if i’d like. Most importantly, the new format might make things a bit more interesting. I’m feeling good about giving it a shot.

Cavesa wrote:Very true. At the intermediate level, stuff takes a lot of time. Improvement at C2 takes even more. It is hard to be patient. But we don't have much of a choice.


You’re right. It’s encouraging to read that many experienced language learners, such as yourself, share the same experience. Intellectually, the ‘it takes time thing’ has been easy to grasp, the funny part comes the moment one has to give that time.

Cavesa wrote:There are no longer the resources that give you a tiny nice feeling of accomplishment after every unit or exercise. Or very few of them. There are many other resources, which are objectively more fun. But the feeling of accomplishment, the one "yeah, I am just one tiny step closer to my goals" is not that obvious anymore. Super Challenge, Course Completion Challenge, and surely others are very helpful in this area. They give us the opportunity to accomplish something. They are quantifyable. They give us back that nice feeling participating a lot on our will to go on. [...]

Join the challenges. 10000 pages are bound to make you improve. There is no guarantee that the chosen amount of material you sign up for will get you to C2 or perfection, or whatever crazy goals we tend to have. But it is sure to make you progress noticeably. Milestones in the right direction. The same can be done in any area. You can decide to write two hundred pages during the next two months (or any other thing and number like this).


I’ve seen the challenges and always thought they were ‘interesting’. Still, before your comments, I don’t think I stopped to fully consider some of what they can represent:

- Useful for creating or reinforcing healthy ‘study’ habits -With a challenge, I’m more like to consider, “What needs to be done and how much time per day/week needs to be dedicated to each task?”
- They act as a sort of measuring stick - As you noted, while no-one is guaranteed to exactly replicate another's language learning experience, something like the Super Challenge can be used as a reference point. One can say, “after two Super Challenges I was able to do so and so.”
- They suggest what a reasonable amount of work might be at a given level.
- Great for accountability - The work is either being done, or it isn’t. There’s no way around it.
- Useful for focusing effort - It often seems like there’s an infinite amount of things to be learnt but entering a challenge can be a great way to focus and drive improvement in one or two areas.
- Community - One can see what others are doing and learn from others who have more experience, as they share their own. Seeing what works for them reminds you that you’re at least heading in the right direction, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

I’m already ‘kinda-sorta’ participating in the Super Challenge but the Course Completion Challenge seems interesting too. The Output Challenge might be better tackled next year since it would be pretty hard to keep up starting this late in the year.

Cavesa wrote:I had been doing the same activities for five years and felt little progress most times, I was taking breaks, and was doing much less rigorous stuff than you. But still, suddenly, my French was two levels higher, surprise. Two years are still not weirdly long. The only problem is, that doing activities you hate might make you give up completely. That is the problem, I believe. The way you spend the time, not the time itself.


Right again. Slowly, over the past few months, I think that I've subconsciously started prioritizing 'work' over 'fun'. As in, even if I genuinely liked what I was reading, watching or listening to, I was secretly trying to learn everything as opposed to just enjoying the material. While it's good to be always be attentive (pay attention) to the language, it's probably necessary that I better distinguish between study and leisure time. I was studying all the time and so the actual study time started feeling a bit torturous - I think I'll return to Sprints

Anyway, thanks for the great comments. They were very helpful and provided 'a lot' of food for thought.
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Re: A(nother) Spanish Log - Transition from Intermediate to Advanced

Postby the1whoknocks » Tue Apr 04, 2017 2:10 am

Alright, time for an update!

Last week was a pretty relaxed one for language learning. I watched and listened as much as usual but, except for 20 minutes per day of The Spanish Subjunctive Up Close, no studying was done. Even then, I only studied the first 15 pages. I added a few new podcasts to my subscription list and got rid of anything that I had not listened to in over a month. My Netflix queue is also looking pretty healthy.

I have 74 in Spanish on my shelf that I am yet to read. Knowing this I did the rational thing and picked up 3 more; Vivir para contarla by Gabriel García Márquez, El poder de escuchar by Ismael Cala and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The first is an autobiography, the second seems to be an autobiography and collection of interesting insights/experiences of a popular CNN en Español journalist and the last is a biography. Sometimes I’m a sucker for real stories.

Season 1 of Netflix’s Ingobernable has been started and finished. I doubt I could have predicted what this series would be like. I think I may have been expecting something like a hybrid between a Mexican remake of House of Cards and The West Wing; a close look at the gritty, high pressure affair that politics is often known to be. In a way, Ingobernable was exactly this. Due to how the series was made, it’s hard to talk specifics without ruining parts it. Still, after the first episode, it was clear that this would be unlike anything I was expecting. It had a lot more action, than I was expecting but, for me, this was a good thing. It’s not the greatest series of all time but it was very entertaining to watch and kept me guessing as to what would happen next. I’m looking forward to season 2. I might even consider looking for other series with Kate Del Castillo.
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