Well I’ve done it. Over two and a half years I have totted up 1,000 hours of Spanish listening on LingQ. 1,000 was always in my head as a milestone I wanted to reach, so I’m just reflecting on what it means to finally get there.
First the caveat: It almost certainly isn’t 1,000 hours. It is probably more. It is a huge guestimate based on adding up podcasts, films, TV and conversations. It also doesn’t include the less intense listening I did prior to joining LingQ in 2012. I am happy with it being a guestimate because listening hours is very difficult to measure anyway. Attention, interest, speed and sound quality all vary greatly, and any two hours are difficult to compare.
Second, the bad news: After all this hard work I still have moments of incomprehension. I struggle a lot when I am tired, stressed or nervous, or when I am talking to someone with a thick accent, or who uses lots of slang, or talks too fast. Every additional person in a conversation exponentially affects my ability to follow what is going on. And when - as happens a lot these days - people start mixing Spanish with the indigenous language Kichwa, I am SO LOST.
But I tell myself, nearly all of this is true in English too. Especially being tired or talking to someone with a strong accent. I wouldn’t judge my level of English based on trying to talk to a Glaswegian whilst drunk or tired, so it would be silly to do the same in Spanish.
Finally, the good news: 90% of the time I understand and I’m understood and maybe 60% of the time I don’t have to think about it much. If I am trying to concentrate I find nearby Spanish conversations distracting because my ears start listening (something that didn’t happen a year ago because it was just ‘noise’). I dream in Spanish and I have a whole bunch of words that I can’t translate back into English because I learnt them in a Spanish context (trámite, anyone?).
1,000 hours is quite arbitrary but I do feel the effect of massive listening input has been huge. It has been the most time consuming of activities but also very enjoyable and rewarding. My weakest areas now are where I need to activate a lot of passive knowledge and get better at speaking under pressure. But I’m sure these things will come with time.
Since I’m in Ecuador until the end of the year it makes sense to keep pushing on. But part of me is now itching to start a new language? Not sure which yet, but something to look forward to in 2016.