6 Months Of Full Time Study. What Would Your Routine Look Like?

If you had the luxury of spending around 6 hours/day on learning a language what would your routine be? How far would you expect to get with it?

Due to a medical issue, I’ve been granted 6 months leave from work. Since I can’t do much physically, I’ve been thinking about devoting as much time as I can to improving my level in Spanish. I’m currently at around a mid-strong B1 in my listening and reading, and probably around A2 in my speaking (I don’t speak much).

I’ll just say that taking lessons doesn’t really seem to do very much for me, I’ve tried several teachers, and some are clearly good at teaching, but for whatever reason I don’t really concentrate, and I never have anything to say. I don’t even say much in my native language unless I know the person really, really well.

I can speak best when I’m translating, which tells me that I’m somewhat competent (for someone at the intermediate stage), but for some reason I have all kinds of trouble coming up with my own sentences unless I have LOT of time to think about how to say what I want to say, which isn’t really afforded during a real time conversation.

I spend probably 99% of my time listening and sometimes reading, I find YouTube videos of native speakers I can understand best, I listen to podcasts (mostly aimed at intermediate learners, but sometimes more advanced stuff), and I’ve started to watch T.V shows/films on Netfix using subtitles. I’m not yet at the stage where I can understand say 60% + of full speed conversations, but I feel like it’s a matter of dealing with the speed more than anything. I can get the gist sometimes, but if it’s two or more speakers who talk rapidly I’m usually lost.

What would you guys be doing during this time? At the stage I’m at, how much time would you devote to “producing” the language vs input.

Cheers.

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Regardless of how much time I had per day, I would always do pretty much the same thing at your level:

-Read: to build up a strong base of vocabulary, and to help accustom the brain to new grammatical structures.
-Listen: to improve listening comprehension. It’s important (especially at OP’s level) to have a transcript for most everything that you listen to (and the other way around, too, to have the audio for most everything you read). It’s okay to spend some time with materials for which you only have a text or only an audio, but for the most part, at your level, I would want to focus on materials that you can read AND listen to.
-Write: writing would help me begin to “put out” or “produce” the language. In my opinion, it’s important to spend a while writing before I make any serious attempts to speak.

In terms of what percentage of my time I would spend on each of the above items, it would depend on my strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps if I had a strong vocabulary, but struggle to make out what native speakers are saying, I would spend more time listening. Maybe if I lacked a solid vocabulary, I would spend more time reading and writing.

In general, at your level, I would recommend spending most of your time on listening and reading. As I mentioned, writing is important, but with your word count in Spanish, you’re only going to be able to write so much.

Additionally, I would evaluate my progress frequently, and make small changes in my routine based on progress. As your known work count gets higher (which it should, if you are reading enough), you will be able to spend more time on writing, and more time on materials such as movies that you don’t have a transcript for.

Congratulations on your desire to learn and good luck!

I believe Steve has a video about something similar. I think it is part of the “Learn Mandarin in 6 months” though except for the characters part, I think it’s applicable to all types.

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Thank you for your reply. I hadn’t really thought about writing as a kind of replacement for speaking but I guess it’s the closest thing. It’s also one of the most taxing, second only to talking I guess, I’ll have to fight my laziness, haha.

FWIW, my word count doesn’t reflect how many words I “know.” I haven’t used lingq as extensively as I probably should, and I never mark as ‘known’ different conjugations, only the infintives, neither do I mark the nouns for verbs, plurals, words that are very similar to English (that we get for free) etc. I only mark the roots of words as known. If I used lingq more and was less pedantic about it I’d probably be over 10k “known” words. Having said that, I’m not sure what criteria other people have when marking known words.

Thanks again.

Ok, understood.

With that in mind, I would advise you to spend more time writing. Maybe even think about speaking with a tutor, if you want.

Still, the most important is reading and listening a lot.

Good luck to you

Steve has also put together an article that touches on this subject. This is what he wrote you could potentially do if you had 10 hours a day available:

Here is a sample day.

8–12: Alternate listening, reading and vocabulary review using LingQ, Anki or some other system.

12–2: Rest, exercise, lunch, while listening to the language.

2–3: Grammar review

3–4: Write

4–5: Talk via skype or with locals if in the country

5–7: Rest

7–10: Relaxation in the language, movies, songs, or going out with friends in the language. depending on availability.

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I’m just coming out of a language class with Swedish, and nothing sounds more dreadful to me than having to spend 8am - 10pm of studying time. I would say do 8am - 4pm study time with a 1 hour break for lunch, plus two 15 - 30 minute coffee/tea breaks around 9am and 2pm. During your breaks, after “quitting time” at 4pm and on weekends, do something else entirely that makes you happy. Otherwise you’ll have burnout pretty quickly. At the end of the week, you’ll be able to honestly say you’ve studied about six hours of language per day. And you won’t want to kill yourself.

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Agreed

You never really defined an exact goal, but I assume your goal was wanting to be able to produce the language more easily. As you described “I never have anything to say. I don’t even say much in my native language unless I know the person really, really well.”. and this is me basically. A tip I used to overcome this was to just say whatever came to mind, or anything I remembered, no matter how irrelevant it was. For me it was mainly a dumb joke, or something that sounded childish, but it helped me be able to more easily come up with sentences. Majority of the time it was something dumb I read in an Assimil book as they tend to have really lame jokes, jokes that are lame enough to make people laugh. -Now on to what my routine would be:

6 hours:
3-4 hours at least of reading/listening on LingQ
1-2 hours of watching movies or videos
1-2 hour of something you like to do in your native (for me I liked playing videogames, so I found Spanish people to play with, and tried my best to communicate, even if to no avail, using google translate when I absolutely needed it)

I don’t give a specific time of day, since they are all interchangeable

At your current stage, you still need massive input in my opinion. It is only after that high b1-low b2 stage where I feel you don’t need as much input to learn from just listening and speaking. So as for me, I would focus the majority of my time on LingQ, and when I got bored I would listen to music or play a game in the target language.

I’ve done a somewhat similar schedule in the 3 languages I speak the best and it seems to have worked for me.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

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what games do you play in your target language?

The question isn’t addressed to me but…

I’ve been playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. I find it greatly enjoyable even though it has a lot of Irish English in it so since I’m not that familiar with the dialect and its vocabulary I get confused multiple times. :[ (but when it comes to “standard” English I understand almost everything)

that is cool, I was thinking if there are any games I could play in Spanish with a lot of dialogue

Most games you can set the language to Spanish, however it’s more about a community you find in which the people speak Spanish. I’ve found that any game I enjoy I can find people who speak my language. But as for games, I’ve played Military Simulation in ARMA 3 in Spanish which was definitely a unique type of immersion, I’ve played World of Warcraft with French Canadians, Garry’s Mod with Dutch, German, French, Russian, and Catalonians. Most games which involve a voice chat program and are popular you will find people who speak your language. I play Street Fighter the most currently, and a lot of people i my local community who I attend tournaments with are Latino, so I get that practice a lot. The main restraint I’ve had has been time zone differences. Hope this gives you some ideas.

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That is very interesting never thought about doing that!

Thanks.This sounds very similar to what I’m currently doing. I didn’t want to exceed 6 hours to help avoid burnout. Unfortunately I don’t play video games, so maybe I should get myself onto some redes sociales or something. I’ve used the ‘HelloTalk’ app a few times but only for communicating via text.

I’m currently working through Harry Potter. I started the first book a while ago but didn’t go any further than the 3rd chapter. I quite like it though. The first book is at a comfortable enough level for me to enjoy it, but I am still reading it intensively, I like to know exactly what’s going on and I tend to spend a lot of time going through it. I’m also listening to the audio book, I listen first, 2-3 pages worth, then read it to pick out the parts I didn’t quite get, then I listen again, only this time I’m pausing it and skipping back, re-listening etc. I can spend a few hours on a single chapter.

So far, I’m not making any real effort to learn vocabulary. I’m definitely picking up words as I move along though. I don’t know if I’ll eventually have to force myself to deliberately study certain words and aspects of the grammar, but so far it hasn’t stretched me to the point where I’m not following the story and understanding 90% +. i guess the series will get harder for each new book. I’ve been thinking about reading and listening to the whole series of books, I believe there’s over 1 million words to be read in the English version so I figure if I can get through it all in Spanish I’ll have read a LOT of words by the end. I’m still doing things like watching youtube videos, the odd show on Netflix and listening to some learners podcasts etc.

Does anyone think I’m hindering my progress by not deliberately studying (memorising, I guess) words as I go along? I figure if I can read the whole series, listen to it all too, a lot of new words and tricky grammar constructions will eventually just stick?

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As long as you are reading in LingQ and tapping the lingqed words to get the definition, then I would say you don’t need to deliberately memorize. The only time I deliberately memorize vocabulary is after speaking, especially it situations that I might find myself in again. For example, if I’m a policeman and I am always talking to Spanish people (extremely common in coastal US), I might want to know the words for license, had anything to drink, etc.)

Grammarwise, I find it helpful (if you’ve never done it) to read through a grammar book at whatever pace, 15 mins a day, chapter a day, etc. and then, going forward, to look specific grammar lessons as I start to “notice” more and/or want to wonder what is going on there.

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I do a few things. In the past 8 months I’ve gone from A1+ (lots of vocab), to C1 with academic writing, and the only thing keeping me from C2 is that I’ve literally not heard so much.

What I would do from your level is Practice Makes Verb Tenses for grammar (youtube videos exist to teach each grammar skill, if you want it heard auditorally too.) Video, workbook, video workbook.

Netflix has been my number 1 tool in learning Spanish. Don’t feel ashamed to use English subtitles (I had a few people try to language-shame me, they can go living in a world where they speak 1 language but do so through “purist” means.) I watched an 80 episode show, the first season I was A1/2 and was matching the Spanish sounds with English words. Season 2 I watched in Spanish subtitles (reading practice) but there was no way I was reading to a foreign language and listening to it. So I “read” TV in Spanish. After the reading improved, I switched back to English to practice my listening. Then I hid the English subtitles, and now I turn off subs and use them as an Answer Key when necessary (or when my brain is tired, I’ll revert.) The point is, 150 hours of glorious tv watching later, I can watch an hour long episode without subs and I understand it!

That’s listening / reading practice.

For talking, I would do one of two things, or both. I would use HelloTalk or email penpal sites or language exchanges to gain natives to speak to. You say you’re B1, make sure you have a decent command of preterite, imperfect, present, conditional, and “voy a…” That’s all you really need to speak your mind in a conversation. At that level, just talk and talk and talk with anyone who will let you. I like Italki, and the Latin American teachers are very affordable (there’s little difference, since you are British and likely learning Spain Spanish just let them know, and they’ll make sure to respect the seseo sound.)

I’ve studied almost exclusively with L.A. folks, but even just Velvet and Chicas de Cable was enough to be able to make that Spaniard accent sound, know the difference in key phrases, understand the vosotros, etc.

I have a language exchange with some Spaniards. I’ve found them to be elitist about their Spanish vs. LA Spanish, but they talk to me just fine, don’t hate on my accent, then I will say something small like “papas” or “computadora” and they flip out. So, the point being, LA Spanish teachers are good enough, the divide so small, and a more serious study of Castillian Spanish will cover the gap. (I’m just trying to bridge between South American and Mexican Spanish, and the Argentinian podcasts I listen to aren’t helping the matter - my accent has gone bonkers since I fell in love with the word “esha” (ella).

Netflix, Practice Makes Perfect Verb Tenses (and Irregular Verbs). Regular Skype meetups with native speakers. Possible tutoring like iTalki.

After all that, just start living your life in Spanish. I talk to myself in Spanish. I have to convert back when talking to others (poor spouse!) My phone is in Spanish. Duolingo became my toy game on it. All my music is Spanish-speaking. I have financial podcasts in Spanish, Game of Thrones podcast in Spanish (Argentinian, be warned), etc.

Try to put in two hours of day of conversation. Write all the words you’ve learned down, you’ll go through a process of not knowing it, still not knowing it but having heard it once, not knowing it but able to pick it out of a line-up, using it terribly four or five times, then using it like a pro.

Websites that are amazing.
Linguee has extra contexts of words used. If you want to see a word in use 8 times (to bump it from never seen it to “seen it 8 times”), go there for native examples.
SpanishDict has audio pronunciations.
I’ve mentioned iTalki, you can use it to find shared partners even if you’re trying to learn for free.
Lengalia has been like a fancier, more highly priced version of the Verb Tenses book. I would not recommend it for cost to ratio’s sake, but yes it is something that teaches me, and I’m someone who wants variety in my studying.
Youtube has been amazing. There’s so much free content, both educational (grammar), and native content - songs with the lyrics posted, documentaries, interviews.
Late Motiv is the name of the late night show in Spain. If you want to hear conversational Spanish, you could watch all those from Youtube.

You can start reading too. I liked “reading” (deciphering) native websites. BBC Mundo is good for beginners. El País is good for B2+, and feels like the daily crossword [as in, there’s always a fancy word or two I need to look up.] There’s so many opinion pieces and newspapers online; start reading your news in Spanish (or at least a few articles in your spare time.)
There’s an app on the iPhone for Ecuadorian radio stations. Only the Voz de Tomebomba works for me consistently as a Spanish-speaking station. But yes, find some Spanish radio, both talk radio or music radio, and learn to love the advertisements. Car sales! Flu season! Football team commentary.

I like to track my progress. I have a hours of TV watched tracker (otherwise I feel I “wasted” my time, even though Netflix is the most useful thing second to Spanish conversation with natives.) I have an hours-talked tracker. I have a workbook tracker. A writing prompts tracker. (Oh there’s a thing called “365 puntos para escribir” if you want creative writing prompts in Spanish)

Some days I’ll feel like I got nothing done in Spanish, but that’s because I swapped successfully through so many things that it felt easy and effortless. When your Siri is in Spanish, you know you’ve made some progress. When you watch a tv show entirely in Spanish, and you talk for four hours with natives, you’ve made progress. And yet, you’ll feel like it was none, because it gets insanely easier once you start hitting B2+ and C1. Now, I’m living my life like a Spanish native 14 year old. Don’t know all the hardest vocab words and I read slow, but I can submit an essay about advanced topics and outexplain the natives on topics outside their wheel house.

Over time, you lose sight of the journey (like a ship off the coast, close to the final destination, but adrift in the Atlantic not knowing when land will come.) For this, I recommend tracking by hours studied. I agree with the estimates, I feel like 1,000 hours is good progress. Maybe 700 of “official hours only”, but Netflix and music and podcasts about Game of Thrones are also studying.

So integrate your life into all Spanish, all the time. Find new Spanish hobbies - like football matches in Spanish commentary, new Spanish tv shows, etc. Find Spanish “friends” aka the people you’ll talk to more than your In Real Life friends.

Oh, other oddly helpful website, Google Docs. Can type on my phone (change all your keyboard functionalities ASAP on phone and computer. I just press a button, and I got all my áñéíú characters on my phone. With Google Docs, I can type up a writing prompt, and then share it with whichever native “friend” is willing to look at it. We can correct the grammar in different colors.

Find people from different countries, or different cities at least. Also, find a lot of speaking partners because you’ll not find one that’s perfect for all topics. I have irreverent ones (they’ll tell off-color jokes, giving me flexibility to learn curse words or hear real life stories), I have devoutly religious ones (and what is Latin America without Catholicism), I have ones I can giggle and chat with, I have ones who will correct my every grammar mistake (needed at times), I have ones in my profession so we can talk “shop talk” about day to day life. It’s just nice to have the voices of 7 or 8 people forming your speaking abilities, it’s like being a kid and learning to talk from mom, dad, grandma, teacher, tv, school friends.

Find Spanish comedy, too. Like I said, Late Motiv is an option for Spain. Latin America has comedy specials on Netflix, and the scripted comedy Club De Cuevos, which is super funny (and dirty.)

Learning Spanish is living real life, so structure it so that it’s fun, and ubiquitous. I even “study” Spanish when I do the dishes and on my commute. And by “Study”, I mean podcasts of interesting topics playing, So, I’m learning Spanish, and it sure doesn’t feel like “studying” in the old, boring way.

Keep track of daily progress. Motivates you, and helps you see your progress, because this goes by so quick. Maybe record your speaking voice and write a short prompt now, so you have something to look back on when you’re C1+, feeling tired, and realize, aww how cute, you used to write and speak like a 1st grader. (Except 1st graders speak better…) Makes reading 80 pages over 8 hours feel like a miracle and a celebration, in month 5.

¡Buena Suerte!

I am currently doing the same with Netflix to improve my listening comprehension, I am watching series with Spanish dubbings with Spanish subtitles and do my feel listening slowly improving I only have about 84 hourish of listening hopefully I will see a massive improvement when I have doubled this.

Thanks, that sounds good to me. I do get curious about certain grammatical patterns and take a brief look at them from time to time, sounds like I’m on the right track.

Pretty much, yes.