How I Spent 500 Hours Learning Spanish and Chinese

I am always encouraged when people post their story and progress learning a language, so I thought I would do the same with my language project.

Last December, I decided to travel and learn two different languages. I wanted to do a challenge similar to Scott Young’s Year Without English Project (The Year Without English - Scott H Young). Instead of 4 languages in a year, I decided to do 2 languages in 6 months, traveling to Colombia and China.

I spent January through June preparing for my trip. For the first 3 months, I practiced Spanish whenever I had the opportunity. I mostly followed the Speak From Day One principle. My roommate is from Colombia, so we made it a rule to only speak Spanish whenever we went to the gym, and I had online classes on iTalki several times a week. The language lessons and partial no-English rule helped me overcome my fear of speaking and making mistakes. I used Duolingo extensively, and I created my own Anki deck to study from words I encountered or got from a frequency list. Most importantly, I always tried to keep it fun by listening to music and watching telenovelas.

I did something similar with Chinese, but I mainly focused on learning the characters with Skritter. I think Chinese characters are beautiful, and, as that was one of my motivations for learning, I wanted to focus on learning to read. By the time I left for my trip, I had about 150 hours of Spanish practice and 50 hours of Chinese practice.

When I arrived in Colombia, I mostly abandon formal study and got most of my practice through immersion. For the first two months of my Colombia trip, I spoke almost no English. During the last month, I found that I wasn’t making much progress by just speaking so I started to use LingQ to read Harry Potter. Right now, I have studied Spanish for about 320 hours, (not including immersion) and I am about to surpass 20,000 words on LingQ.

When I arrived in China, I focused on learning to read. I spent about 6 hours a day practicing for 3 weeks until I got sick. Since then, my Chinese studying has tapered off, but I managed to learn around 400 characters, and I even was able to read two graded readers.

Continuing forward, I think I am going to keep working to improve my Spanish and put Chinese on the back burner. I really enjoy reading in Spanish, and I feel like I still have so much to learn and improve.

Here are some plots that show how I spent my time studying: Language Learning Plots - Album on Imgur

I kept track of the time I spent with an Android app called Tasker, which is used for general phone automation. Whenever I open up a particular app, Tasker writes a timestamp to a csv file, and it does the same when the app is closed. This way, almost every second I spent studying could be recorded without any additional effort. I only kept track of my formal study time. I spent a lot of extra time in conversation in Colombia that I didn’t record. The csv file automatically syncs to my Dropbox with an app called Dropsync, and I plot the data on my computer with a python script I wrote. The code is very rough around the edges, so any feedback is appreciated. Below is the github of the python script:


Congrats mate, well done!!

Hope to do the same with french!

Congratulations! Maybe we should figure out how to track time spent on the LingQ app in addition to the other metrics we track.

¡Enhorabuena! Gracias por compartir tu experiencia. Es una información muy valiosa para todos nosotros.
Has hecho un gran esfuerzo y seguro que estarás orgulloso del resultado
Te deseo éxito en tu futuro aprendizaje

Good work! Thanks for sharing your plots and story - very interesting!

Thank you for the story

Que bueno! Todo una experiencia!! el trabajo duro siempre da sus frutos!