Feeling Overwhelmed with How to Use Resources

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well.
I’ve been learning Spanish independently since around April of this year and I started off drilling grammar tables, etc but have recently switched to a stronger focus on reading and listening to content in Spanish for the past two months or so.
I predominantly use LingQ with my reading of articles and stories and I listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos in Spanish. I would say my level is intermediate A2-ish.
I might be over thinking things but when it comes to actually choosing content to read or listen to, I find myself spending more time trying to find just the right content than actually spending time reading or listening lately.
For example, I’ll pick a podcast and then while listening it might be only 20% comprehensible which leads me to stop and search for a different podcast that I can understand more. It’s the same with books. I started reading Los Juegos Del Hambre and was worried about the difficulty being too high for me to actually make progress, so instead of actually reading I’m scouring for different books that will not only will I enjoy, but also be at an appropriate level for me to understand to get the most out of my language progression.
Then I came across the thought of perhaps I should only be reading things if they come with an audio version too or vice versa, only listening to things that have a transcript that I can read.
I’m wondering if any others have experienced something like this and if you have any advice?
Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:
TLDR; I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of options and combinations there are to immerse in my TL, always worried about if I’m not doing it in the most optimal way rather than just doing it (reading/listening).

TL;DR focus on whatever is the most fun for you and do it consistently rather than trying to search for content at the right level.

Hi Raquel,

I would say don’t worry too much about trying to optimize the content you are using. If you enjoy reading The Hunger Games (I’m assuming you’ve already read it in English?), then that’s great! Keep going! Same with videos, podcasts, movies, etc.

I’ve found that for me, it’s more important that I am engaged enough with the content I am using to come back to it the next day than that the content is at the right level, especially for stories that I am already familiar with. For instance, I have read at least one Harry Potter book in 3 languages other than English (my native language), despite it being above my reading level in all 3 at the time. This is what LingQ is great for! You will learn the most frequent words in the book without that much effort because you can just glance at the definition every time they come up and eventually you will just know them. (Also, reading level is kind of a catch-22. You need to read to improve your reading level, because reading is a much more efficient way of learning words than just memorizing them.)

Encountering a large volume of words I don’t know doesn’t bother me if I already know what’s happening in the book and I am having a good time reading it. On the flip side, I usually don’t have the patience to read or listen to something that I can understand easily but is boring. I would recommend using this approach for tv/movies as well. If there is a show or movie that you really like that you can find dubbed in Spanish, you can “hack” the level as well because you already know what is going on, so you just have to listen.

To answer your question about text and audio together, reading and listening at the same time can be really helpful, but if you are specifically trying to look for things you can read and listen to simultaneously and that is keeping you from reading something or listening to something that you really want to, it’s not worth it.

It seems like you are doing a really good job so far! You don’t need to do all of the things at once. Just keep working on it a little bit at a time and your Spanish will improve. :slight_smile:

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Wow, thanks so much for the detailed answer, I really appreciate it!

What you’re saying makes perfect sense and I think you’re right. I’ve actually not read the Hunger Games in English, my boyfriend just happened to have the book in his collection in Spanish and I picked it up. However, I have come across the Twilight books in Spanish which I have read in my native language so maybe that’s a good choice for me since I already know what happens, etc like you said.

And yes, the stuff that is very comprehensible (most of the time it’s children stories) isn’t interesting for me so even though I can understand it, I’m not as engaged and enjoying it. I totally agree with you on that.

thanks again for your input! :slight_smile: it was wonderful and encouraging to read.

“Encountering a large volume of words I don’t know doesn’t bother me if I already know what’s happening in the book and I am having a good time reading it”.
I’d say, it depends on the “distance” of your target language from your native language or the L2s you’ve mastered.

Example: I love “Lord of the Rings” since my teenage years and know the story inside and out. I’ve read it / listend to it in my native language (German) and in several L2s (English, French, and Spanish).
Being on the same level as Raquel in Brazilian Portuguese (between A2 and B1), I started reading / listening to “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” in Portuguese a few days ago.
But, I’m only able to do this because of my extensive experience with Latin and several Romance languages.
So, the reason that this can work isn’t “fascination”, but “comprehensibility”. In other words, reading more advanced texts is possible in this case because it’s really easy for me to understand Portuguese (the real challenge here is the pronuncation).
If I tried to do that with Japanese (being on an A2 level), it would be “so” overwhelming that the fascination I have for Tolkien’s stories wouldn’t save me.
So, there’s a reason why Stephen Krashen emphasizes “comprehensible” input. Because a very high degree of “incomprehensibility” will make most L2 learners give up - and fascination alone often doesn’t prevent this.

Or to give you a real-world analogy (from basketball):
You see a pro performing a tomahawk dunk in a YT video (let’s say Vince Carter in his prime).
And you say to yourself: “Hey, that’s soooooooo cool!”. Then you run to the basketball court and try to do it yourself, but you can hardly reach the ring.
So, what do you?
Do you really try to fail at a tomahawk dunk over and over and over again … because it fascinates you?
From my playing experience (and as a teenager I wanted to become a pro myself), those who tried the most advanced things from the beginning were the first to give up. In contrast, the successful players first focused on the “basics” (dribbling, passing, lay-ups, etc.). And a few years later they moved on to the more advanced stuff like dunking, three-point shots, no-look passes, complicated tactical systems, etc.

In sum:
If the target language is already easy for you, you can try to read / listen to language material that “fascinates” you. But, if you aren’t familiar with the target language, “fascination” alone probably won’t save you from giving up while trying to absorb completely “incomprehensible” stuff.
Besides, the “learning effect” of using overwhelmingly incomprehensible input is usually almost non-existing.
Therefore, it’s often a wise strategy to slowly build up your skills and stick to shorter, comprehensible language material at first…


Against the background of my somewhat lengthy answer to @aena, here’s just a short tip:

If you stick to the LingQ stuff at an A2-B1 level (esp. the LingQ library with Spanishpodcast by the wonderful Mercedes Leon, EasySpanish, Español Automático , etc.) and the 100+ videos of “DreamingSpanish” - (Dreaming Spanish - YouTube) for intermediate learners, for example, you’ve probably all you need right now - without feeling overwhelmed by too much complexity (that is, too many apps, podcasts, videos, texts, etc.).

As soon as you’ve reached a B2 level in your listening and reading comprehension, you can start absorbing whatever your heart desires. And this is the moment when it gets really “interesting” and “fun”…

Good luck!


Thanks so much for your in depth reply as well, that angle also makes a lot of sense. I think I will take a browse in the LingQ library as you suggested and start there. Thanks again for the great response. :slight_smile:

Hi raquelh, I think you are overthinking it a bit too much, but I think many do that. Everybody has to find their own way and what works best for them, so that can take a little bit of time. Also learning how to best use LingQ in a way that fits your style.

I think in general you do want to find a level that feels comfortable to you…whether that is generally around 10-15% new words or higher or lower you’ll need to feel that out. I don’t think though that you should exclusively live in that range so to speak. Read more difficult material at times and also easier.

For content I think you should stick to things that you mostly enjoy, but maybe go into more “exercise” type of material as well. i.e. have you read the mini-stories from lingQ yet? Or just in LingQ filter down the content to A2-B1 or and choose from there.

Touching on the mini-stories again…this content isn’t terribly fascinating, but it is interesting enough and touches on a lot of things…so it’s good practice and learning. You could do some of that kind of reading/listening, but then also incorporate some content that you find much more interesting…regardless of the level. Easy news (there’s some for Spanish) are great for hitting on a lot of different topics so your vocabulary will branch into various things. They are also interesting and new things every day. Or you can read a book as you were talking about in LingQ is excellent. Even if the content is at high level, don’t worry about it. Reading it in sentence is very helpful. LingQ all the words and then check what the translation for the sentence is. Don’t worry too much about feeling a bit lost. With sentence mode, you’ll be getting the gist of the story, and you’ll come across words again and again that the author likes to use. So you’ll gradually get better at reading the book.

I do think it’s beneficial to have audio for the content as well, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on it. For shorter stuff, if you can’t find the audio, there’s a website I’ve used…to provide audio: https://ttsmp3.com/

The quality is very good for one of the German voices that I’ve used. I can’t remember if I’ve tried the Spanish voices. It’s limited to a certain number of words, but you can pay for unlimited for a day or a year or something like that. Or if you import the content you can use LingQ’s text to speech as well. There’s lots of content though that I import that doesn’t have audio. Reading on its own is still tremendously helpful…and still the best in acquiring vocabulary.


In that case, read Twilight instead!

Thank you for your advice. I believe that it’d be the suitable approach to me. If I try complex materials too quickly, I often end up being confused and worried over tons of new words each day. But when I start with short, easy ones 1st then it can make me feel like I can understand quite much and want to learn more. Kinda more motiviating.

More advanced materials are more interesting, yes; however I should be patient when my language level is not too high.

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I think this sums it up perfectly.

@PeterBormann Thank you for lecturing me on my personal experience. :slight_smile: I didn’t intend to write a whole essay, but here is my response.

I’m not sure you actually read my comment, because my point is that comprehensibility is precisely what allowed me to jump into a higher (and in some cases, more interesting) level of content than I might have been able to otherwise. I agree that the distance between languages you already know well and your target language can provide a boost in comprehensibility. Reading a book from my childhood that I know almost by heart and have a copy of in English to refer to if necessary also increases comprehensibility. For instance, I started French by reading and listening to Harry Potter, and found it highly comprehensible because I knew the story well and I already speak English and Spanish. I didn’t start reading novels in Korean (about as distant from English as possible) until I was at about B1, but still was able to use this method successfully. However, I’m not sure if distance from a known language is relevant here because Raquel is an English speaker learning Spanish, which are relatively similar languages. I offered my experience using this strategy because she mentioned that she had this book and I (incorrectly) assumed that she had already read it.

Also, I think most would agree with me that Lord of the Rings is much more difficult to read in any language than The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, so I’m sure you’re right that reading Tolkien at A2 in Japanese would prove a significant hurdle and be a poor decision.

Choice of reading material aside, I don’t know where you are getting the idea of “fascination” from. I didn’t mention fascination in my comment, and I’m not sure it is relevant here, either. What I did mention was enjoyment, which for me is also tied in with comprehensibility. If there is a book I want to read because I am interested in it, but I discover that it is too difficult, then trying to read it will not be enjoyable, so I will put it down and read something else instead. I think that most others would do the same. Perhaps for you, enjoyment is paired more closely with comprehensibility than it is for me, and I think that is just a matter of individual variation.

I see where you are going with the basketball analogy, but I don’t think it is equivalent to what I am suggesting. Competency in a language is not a discrete skill, like a tomahawk dunk, but an organic process your brain is designed to do subconsciously. As you receive more and more comprehensible input, your competency will improve. I don’t think it matters how you get comprehensible input. It could be from basics like the Mini Stories, which use simple language but are original stories that the reader has likely not yet encountered. Alternatively, comprehensible input could come from stories that are very familiar to the reader but use more complex language. I think many children’s stories (even for very young children, not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings) fit into this second category. Generally, we do not talk about things like magic, dragons, dinosaurs, etc. in our everyday lives as adults, but these otherworldly themes are common in children’s stories across many cultures. I think that an interesting story can be a very powerful language acquisition tool. You don’t have to understand every word as long as you can follow along.

My key point is that as a beginner, consistency is the most important thing. If spending time trying to optimize content to a specific level is discouraging, consistently reading content that is sub-optimal but still moderately comprehensible will be much more effective in the long run than spending most or all of the time you have available for language learning looking for content (or even giving up entirely). This might not be the most efficient approach, but it will work, and I have found that for me, it boosts morale to engage with a story I like, even if I can’t understand every word.

For the record, I have read Krashen’s books and I think the evidence he presents supports my approach. I would point to two of his assertions in particular. First, your ability to process comprehensible input is subject to an affective filter, meaning that it is more difficult to understand and retain input in the face of affective barriers like low motivation or high anxiety. In this case, reading a highly comprehensible story that is also boring increases the cognitive difficulty of reading. Engaging with a different cognitive challenge, like reading a less comprehensible but more interesting story, allows you to keep from burning out on one task, and I think is an appropriate challenge for someone at A2. The second of Krashen’s points is that the best input is so interesting that you focus only on the message, and not the words or structures, such that you forget that the message is in your L2. I have found that I can achieve this experience by enjoying a familiar story in a (yet) unfamiliar language, and that this is an effective bridge to being able to read new or more difficult material.

It seems like you have found a good approach for you that has helped you learn several languages, and I applaud your dedication. However, that does not mean that my approach is “incorrect.” It’s just what works for me.

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“Thank you for lecturing me on my personal experience”
This is a misunderstanding. I wasn’t trying to " lecture" you.
I was just trying to weigh the pros and cons of your position.
In general, I’m only interested in what works more or less well in learning, especially with regard to languages, mathematics, programming / software engineering, start-ups / organizations and entrepreneurship. At least that’s my main focus.

When it comes to language learning, I follow a kind of “MMA approach”: Depending on the context and tasks, I change my mix of methods and strategies.
It’s a bit like Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do philosophy:
“Lee did not believe in styles and felt that every person and situation is different and not everyone fits into a mold; one must remain flexible in order to obtain new knowledge and victory in both life and combat. It is believed that one must never become stagnant in the mind or method, always evolving and moving towards improving oneself.”

But having a strong background in the social sciences, I don’t find the perspective of highly “personal(ized)” or “individual(ized)” positions convincing, because most of what we know, think and say/write are only conventional and socially shared positions.
Even Master Lee’s principles refer to ancient Chinese traditions. See, for example:


In the same spirit, I’ve treated your comment as a socially shared learning strategy rather than a “personal” experience. The same applies to “my” MMA learning approach: There’s nothing personal about it. It’s just an adoption of some old Chinese and modern MMA principles (see the books mentioned above).

You’ve raised a lot of points here. Unfortunately, I can’t discuss them now, because I’ve got to take care of other (business) things first. But I’ll comment on some of them in a few days when I’m less hard pressed for time.

Have a nice weekend

I would second the dreaming spanish channel… I don’t know of better quality input in any language that I’ve seen. I wish I had something similar when I started Korean :stuck_out_tongue: If you get the chance to sit down and watch them, there are some really fun topics and he makes it very comprehensible. The only downside is that it’s 95% just him, but at a beginner level that should be the least of your worries. Once you get to a higher level and understand more you’ll be immersing yourself in all sorts of other speakers and Spanish accents.

I’ve only been doing about 30 mins-1 hour of dreaming spanish a day for about 1-2 months, and the progress is good. If I had more time to spare, I’d probably be watching that as much as possible.

If you’re looking to get into reading, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything like harry potter/twilight/hunger games yet. That’s quite a high level. To put it in perspective, checkout table two in McQuillan’s paper here: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1098660.pdf These are based on word families and I believe it’s excluding proper nouns in those totals. These are based on extensive reading research numbers by Paul Nation. Just keep in mind that the numbers are specifically for English so there could be some slight variation for other languages. List includes all three series that have been mentioned though. Hope that might help a bit :smiley:


Peter, I imagine that you will have plenty of interesting information to share and I am looking forward to reading it.

I do find it interesting that you highlighted one sentence in particular (“Encountering a large volume of words I don’t know doesn’t bother me …”) that is clearly an opinion and then responded to something entirely different that I didn’t say (you can read any book that you are fascinated in regardless of the level). I also didn’t think that it was necessary to mention that of course you can’t just use one method, so I’m not entirely sure what you mean by an MMA approach, but I think it is probably similar to my approach as well. Reading familiar stories is just one tool in my toolbox, so to speak.

Again, I am genuinely interested in what you have to say, as I am always willing to discuss language learning and Krashen’s work in particular.

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Just a very short reply right now.
Good point. Maybe I’m not as focused as I should be.
The reason is that I’m currently working on three books (on digital language learning, approaches to socio-emergent communication and the relationship between avoiding discomfort and learning).
It seems that when I communicate online/offline I tend to drift to problems that haunt me in my book projects :slight_smile:

Have a great weekend

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If you pay for the Dreaming Spanish patron you get access to far more daily content and a good amount of it features 3 or 4 other speakers, so its not just him. I enjoy the patron content more than the free public releases on the main Youtube channel.

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Hi, aena!

“[…] MMA approach, but I think it is probably similar to my approach as well”
I’ve just read your comments again and I agree with you: We have more in common than we differ in our approach.

MMA approach only means that I never follow a single method (Pimsleur,
Michel Thomas, Assimil, pronunciation training, comparative reading, bidirectional translation, systems of spatial repetition, etc.), but I combine several methods depending on my language level and the problems I face
at each level.

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Ad Krashen “comprehensible input”

I agree with Krashen on the basic idea: As language learners (native speakers or L2 learners) we need a lot of exposure to the language we want to learn.
But, coming from a different research tradition (i.e. communication and social complexity research, see: Entrar - LingQ) I would abandon both the sender-receiver model of communication and Noam Chomky’s nativist
position (https://www.brighthubeducation.com/language-learning-tips/71728-noam-chomsky-language-acquisition-theories/).

  1. The sender-receiver model of communication is still important for explaining technical communication, i.e. the transfer of signals / data. But, it’s insufficient for explaining human communication.

To put it differently, one of the fundamental puzzles in sociology / the social sciences is the following question: How do humans coordinate their behavior if they aren’t able to couple their perceptions, thoughts, emotions, etc.?

The answer of socio-emergent approaches is: Whenever humans have to deal with each other, a basic coordination mechanism pops up (emerges) that we can call “communi- cation”, “discourse”, “social system”, “complex adaptive (social) system”, etc. See, for example: (PDF) Systemic Theories of Communication | Dirk Baecker - Academia.edu

Consequently, there is no transfer of thoughts, no transfer of content and no inter-dimension (e.g. “intersubjectvity”, “interpersonal dimension”, “collective consciousness”, “group consciousness”, “social mind”, etc.) in socio-emergent communication processes, but rather a kind of parallel co-construction of meaning by human minds using non-verbal, oral, written, printed or electronic media forms.
The concrete interplay of consciousness and communication as complex, dynamic and meaning-processing systems is actually much more complicated, but I will leave it at that in this context.

When we participate in a conversation, read a text, etc., we therefore try to attribute a (presumed) meaning to the language material offered to us. If this active construction of meaning is successful, communication works. Otherwise it can lead to disruptions or, in the worst case, to complete communication breakdowns.

  1. Instead of Chomky’s nativism, I would resort to usage-baseed theories of language acquisition (see: language acquistion usage-based theories at DuckDuckGo), etc…
    But, recent neuroscientific research (see: https://www.amazon.com/How-We-Learn-Brains-Machine/dp/0525559884/ref=pd_sbs_14_3/138-9852658-0406432?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0525559884&pd_rd_r=49262905-3336-437d-bca0-fb7306077895&pd_rd_w=mpKKt&pd_rd_wg=8Qqtn&pf_rd_p=ed1e2146-ecfe-435e-b3b5-d79fa072fd58&pf_rd_r=8QG2984B4502JY8SW966&psc=1&refRID=8QG2984B4502JY8SW966) shows that some basic distinctions like “movable/non-movable” seem to be hard-wired from birth. Thus, human babies do not start from scratch when they construct their language, while they are involved in socio-emergent communication processes.

In sum:
From a socio-emergent perspective, “comprehensible input” refers to language material in which the active process of constructing meaning works. If it fails, for example in a conversation, the language medium turns into a sound medium, i.e. a medium with differentiable sounds, but without meaning in terms of content.

To be continued (in another comment) :slight_smile: