My Spanish progress and possible future endeavors

Hi all. I’m first going to give some language back ground to put things into context. My name is Jesse and I’m from Finland. In the school I had English from 4th grade ( 10 years old), Swedish from 7th grade ( 13 years old) and some courses of German around 17-18 years. It’s now close to 20 years since I finished school. I can’t say I was a very good student and neither were the language studies really inspiring. I did like languages even then. A big part of English that I learned at that time came from the online community for one game that I played a lot at the time. Swedish and German I just barely passed and haven’t used since. I can still understand some in both and must have enough familiarity with their grammar that it would be easy to get started if I were to learn them.

After school I had one year of military service before I went to an English language school in New Zealand. At that time my English was probably low B2, but it went up really fast. At that time my teacher called me a vocabulary sponge because I picked vocabulary really fast. I don’t know if it was anything special, but it did give me confidence that I was better at learning languages than school performance would suggest. Besides being immersed in the language through everyday life, I also started reading novels in a way that is very similar to lingq. I would check all (or most) of the words didn’t know and also write them down with their English synonyms. I didn’t study those notes that much, but just writing them down helped. At the start I would have at most 10-20 words per page, but often less. After some time, more often than not words that I didn’t know weren’t in a dictionary so I stopped that. I eventually stayed abroad for 5 years, in New Zealand, England and Australia. I continued reading that whole time and at one point remember reading a 300 page novel on one rainy day. After returning home I haven’t been able to use spoken English that much, but otherwise I use it probably more than my native Finnish by watching movies, series or youtube and lately also writing. Haven’t done that much reading since, partially because I can understand spoken language so much better that it’s easy to choose movie over a book.

Spanish I tried to learn for a short period around 15 years ago when I was abroad and felt confident about my ability to learn languages. I did think about going to Spanish speaking country, but I wasn’t as brave without even basic knowledge of the language and my attempt on my own wasn’t really successful. I did meet up with a native speaker a few times for language exchange, but never really got going. At that time I was already planning on going back to New Zealand and I lost my motivation to learn Spanish as there wasn’t any tangible progress.

And so we get to the present time. Around the same time as my latest attempt to learn Spanish I had a realization that I understand English directly and automatically just like Finnish. This might have been the case for +10 years, but realizing it was still powerful. What if I could understand more languages like that? Language, accents, word etymology, polyglots have interested me to this day and so youtube suggests videos on the topic. One of them was Olly Richards video about accents. That got me to his channel and it didn’t take me much convincing to be sold on the idea of learning through input. That was right about a month ago. So I started learning Spanish without any coherent plan. I watched some basic vocabulary videos and at the same time more of Ollys content. There I found an interview with Steve and lingq. I first tried the program and then took it for a month to see if I could keep the interest. That was quite easy when I could see the progress and at the end of first moth I’m upgrading to yearly.

I started the study quite intensively. I don’t have any level X target in X months. I just wanted to see how fast I can make progress, both for future reference and also to get as fast as possible to a level where I can consume more interesting material. Now in a month I have got 6000 known words so maybe the vocabulary sponge has been activated. I know it’s not an accurate measurement, but it gives some sort of heading of where I’m going. Those aren’t words that I know intimately, but more of recognize with high probability. Don’t see a point having them lingqed if I mostly know them. Reading them in context does help in recognizing them and makes the connection stronger. At the moment I have done several hours of reading and listening a day. Early on I did maybe a bit harder content than my level was, but with time content has become easier. Right now I try to choose a bit more appropriate content for my level that doesn’t have as many unknown words and read more instead of struggling through. It has led me to choose some intermediate 1 content over beginner 2 because those seemed easier. On top of lingq I have started to watch Dreaming Spanish and story learning Spanish outside of lingq as an extensive practice. There is a limit to what I can read from a computer screen, but watching youtube doesn’t have that problem. I also bought a grammar book that has been a little helpful at times, but it has been a lot less showing the grammar and more telling by using grammar terms which isn’t helpful.

The target is to continue more or less this way as long as I can. Winter it’s easier to find time to study, but from spring to summer there are more things to do. By then I would hope that my level would be high enough to do more extensive practice. At some time I would also be interested to get back to Swedish and German, but not before Spanish feels like it has enough momentum that it doesn’t need as much effort. The ultimate goal for any language is to get to the same level as English and that takes years.

I thought first I would try to write something short in Spanish, and I could, but don’t feel like writing a few sentences would do much. Vocabulary still has so many gaps and most known words don’t come to mind immediately so I’ll give that some more time. I can tell that sentences do start to come to mind and last few weeks I have had lots of dreams with Spanish words in them. If one month has got me this far I wonder where another or 5 will get me?

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You can definitely achieve a lot in 6 months, particularly if you’re immersing intensively. 3 hours/day will get you over 500 hours, so you should be a pretty solid intermediate by then. You’re right, though, getting your Spanish to the same level of your English is gonna takes years. There’s a huge difference between a solid B1 and a solid C1, it’s probably the gap that takes the most time to bridge. A strong B1, or even a weak B2, can be done in 6-9 months (depending on the language), but C1 is years.

I wouldn’t worry about forcing writing, TBH, it’ll come with time and it doesn’t need to be all that effortful. Like with your English, I actually find speaking Spanish easier than writing it. I thought that was because I do way more listening than reading, but it sounds like you did quite a lot of English reading too. I think I just overthink it when I’m writing.

Anyway, I wish you luck with Spanish, it’s a beautiful language. The language lends itself so well to audiobooks and dubbed shows/movies. I now only watch Spanish dubs of English language shows/movies, I genuinely prefer it. That’s something I never thought would happen. In fact, I’ve never read Harry Potter or LOTR in English, only in Spanish, same with watching the movies. The voices/translations are so good that I don’t think I’d even want to.

BTW, check out the ‘Español Con Juan’ podcast, it’s a really great podcast for like A2-B1 learners. He also has a YouTube channel but I personally prefer his podcasts because he often tells stories about his youth in Spain, and of the lives of various famous personalities, as well as different periods of political unrest during the Franco years. They’re an absolute joy, and quite an easy listen if you’re around a B1. His YouTube vidoes are more aimed at A2 as he repeats words and phrases over and over, but he does that a little in the podcasts too. :+1:

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I didn’t mean I would need to force writing, but I thought it would be nice to let something out. I did construct some sentences in my head, but like I said, it would be hard to make a coherent story of more than a few sentences.

I’m the same with writing. The more time there is the more you start to think of the options. I do like to check and make sure my grammar is correct. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see even if I know something is wrong or even if I have left out a word. So I have recently used grammarly to get some feedback on what to improve on and find clear blunders.

I have just started with Español Con Juan since it seemed to be the most appropriate based on new vocabulary count and so far what I read has been quite smooth to read. Not a big fan of the audio having stops. Preferred Unlimited Spanish more in that regard, but there isn’t one that is perfect. Some of the children’s stories had really good quality audio though. The faster I can get my level up the faster I can diverge my input.

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I’m pleased that you’ve already found him. I’m not sure what ‘stops’ you’re referring to, I guess you mean during his YouTube videos? I haven’t seen that many of those so maybe they’re not as continuous as his podcasts are. Or maybe you’re talking about his slower/more deliberate speech? Honestly, I think that’s perfect for an A2 type level.

If you want something with more natural speech, which isn’t aimed at learners, and you like travel channels, there are 3 that I’d recommend that aren’t too hard to understand (for like a strong B1 level):

Jabiertzo (lives in and travels around China with his Chinese wife)
Ramilla de Aventura (travels to lesser known places in the world)
Gaston Marotta (travels throughout Europe and South America)

I personally think travel videos are great for language learning because they’re on location and they talk about what you’re looking at in the video, so there’s lots of visual clues. The people of those 3 channels speak quite clearly and deliberately, so they’re pretty good for comprehensible input too. Their videos are also informative, particularly those of the first two channels.

If you can tolerate their content, Disney+ has plenty of content with Spanish audio. I think I’ve now pretty much watched every Disney/Pixar movie available. I’ve seen many of them 3 or 4 times. Admittedly, It helped that I’m a big kid at heart and like those kinds of movies.

I’m sure you already know this, but you can find many free audiobooks on YouTube too. I’m not sure that many of them are there legally, but they’re there nonetheless, and the PDFs are easily found. Not that I’m encouraging that, haha.

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What’s in lingq so podcast. Stops are maybe a little oversimplified. It has a tempo that goes from very slow and deliberate to a little faster (but not too fast even for me). It’s not bad by any means, I just would like a little more even flow of the language. I have only listened couple of those so I can’t say if it’s his style and it doesn’t stop me from listening to it. The texts seemed a lot easier to digest than some of the others which helps to get some quantity and repetition.

I will check out those channels when my level is appropriate. Travel would be a topic that could keep it engaging. Reading is maybe just B1, but listening just without reading the transcript first is more like A2. There are easy parts and then sometimes I lose track of what’s going on. Reading the transcript and following it with the audio is still better. I have watched Dreaming Spanish on youtube and beginner is fine, but intermediate is at times a little hard. With this speed a few more weeks and it might be more appropriate.

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Now it’s about 2 months since I started my Spanish journey so I thought I would try to write a little bit. I’m not going to translate that directly to English, but it seems google translate gets to more or less what I was trying to say. It took time to remember even the basic words and construct full sentences, but in the end I’m quite happy that grammar checker didn’t find too many mistakes. Many of those it found were missing tildes which at this point isn’t a concern. I did find some more after I used google translate to English and there might be still more. Style might look like a translation from English because that’s what it is in most parts, but you got to start from somewhere. Now I’ll analize the mistakes and try to learn from them. Few that I looked at (apart from missed tildes) were fairly easy conjugation mistakes that were apparent once I looked at them.

In lingq I have got to 14000 known words. Certainly many I’m only able to recognize when I read or listen, but more and more words are also becoming ones that I can understand without paying much attention. There is now a wider variety of content that isn’t inaccessible because of vocabulary. Certainly there is still a lot to learn, but it feels like I’m familiar with most of the most common vocabulary. Structure does often give me a hard time when I don’t know fast how words interact with other words, but that seems to affect me less and less. Sometimes I might even know with high accuracy what’s being said, but trying to decipher why it means that is harder. When reading I usually can make sense of it when I chop the sentence into manageable pieces and read many times. With listening I just take what I can understand in the moment and try to move forward.

This month in lingq I have mostly read and listened unlimited spanish and some the short stories for children. US I found many episodes that were (in my opinion) mislabeled as intermediate 2. I have found a total of some 190 episodes most of which I have watched. Since the audio is quite slow, some time ago I went first to 1.25x and then 1.5x to to make it a little challenging and also to be able to go through faster. Also language is maybe starting to get a little too easy after doing so many with similar structure. The plan is to go through rest of them and move on. Next I’m looking at doing lingq podcasts if I find them interesting enough. It seems like they have a fairly good proportion of unknown words for my current level.

Lately I have watched some BBC mundo, both what was in lingq and importing material. It’s right there at the high end of what’s comfortable. Sometimes it’s fairly easy despite the more native speed and sometimes a little bit of a struggle, but they are just the right length to be able to concentrate fully. Also found DW documental as a possible source of documents in the near future, but they are a little bit longer so I’m waiting a bit with them.

In youtube I have found several language youtubers that are generally understandable. I have really liked the style and topics of linguirosa, but it’s been so far maybe slightly fast for binging. I also came across a suggestion in dreaming spanish to divide youtube account to have one account fully in Spanish and so have more suggestions in Spanish content. I think I’ll do that when I get myself to do it.

This month I have done about as much work as the first. At least few hours of something each day, whether it’s in lingq or youtube, but many days also done almost full days. There is something enchanting in reading and listening to a language that you very recently didn’t understand at all. The plan for next month is to put in just as many hours as I have so far and, as I alluded to in my short Spanish piece, maybe also write a bit more.

Went ahead and corrected mistakes what grammar checker had found and I think were wrong.

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Now it’s been the magic 3 months since I started learning Spanish and so I thought it would be good to write about my progress in Spanish in its own topic here: Mi camino para aprender español . This topic will be more of an all-encompassing topic in my language journey as I expect to start more languages sooner or later.

It felt it would be better to write in the Spanish forum so that it would feel a little like that was the only way to communicate. It would be also more natural to write there about things that are not related to language learning as a practice. In English, I can write in more detail on a more narrow subject, but with Spanish, I’m still restricted by what I can express. And that’s fine. Based on corrections that I got on my first long writing in Spanish it seems the time is ripe to try my wings in written Spanish. The amount of mistakes is acceptable and many times easy to see why it’s wrong. Speaking Spanish I’m still not comfortable to try. First I try with writing to build those patterns in my head.

In a way at this point, it feels like progress is slower, but only because it is harder to notice if you don’t pay attention. What I have noticed is that some content that I consumed a month ago feels like speech is slower even when it hasn’t changed. Content for native speakers on youtube feels quite manageable in terms of speed. Even some super fast speech I can follow enough for it to be useful, but it speed with lack of some words does compound so much that I need to limit my consumption if I know some tend to be a little too fast. There are still lots of content to fall back on. This month I have watched:

Linguriosa: One of those channels I would watch even if I didn’t need to improve my Spanish. I like etymology and historical aspects of languages, and often there is some information added that is helpful when learning Spanish. I haven’t used lingq for this channel as mostly there aren’t too many unknown words and many are linguistic terms or words in Latin and Greek. The biggest challenge with this was speed, but a couple of weeks ago I binged through all +200 episodes.

BBC Mundo I have watched mostly through lingq, but starting to get to a point where there aren’t that many new words that it doesn’t make as much sense to use lingq. The same is true with other news. At times they are hard because one interviewed speaks fast or is in some other way hard to understand, but there only listening helps.

Un mundo inmenso. Channel about curiosities in the world, which hits quite close to what I like. Maybe not something I would watch all episodes if I wasn’t learning, but still interesting enough to make learning more pleasurable.

Mi jardin en el desierto and Wini Walbaum & co. A couple of channels about gardening in the southern hemisphere that in the middle of the winter bring summer a bit closer.

Lingq I was planning on taking lingq podcast next, but what I realized is that they are starting to get too easy in vocabulary to fit my normal study style which is to read first without audio and then again with audio. That’s why some of the other podcasts I have just “speed run” just reading with the audio or at times listening while doing something else. Could watch lingq podcast this way, but there are quite a few podcasts to choose from so might just choose what I feel like. At this point it feels like the biggest use for lingq is to read books/stories that usually have more complex linguistic expression. Already read Steve’s book and in the coming months will try if some of the other stories are on my level. Right now I have 22000 known words in lingq, and although the number itself is quite irrelevant, it does feel like vocabulary in many cases is starting to be less and less of a problem. Still try to learn as many new words as fast as it’s possible, but it seems there is an increasing need to learn how those words are used and phrases. At the moment plan is still to carry on with words first, but I expect that once I get closer to lingq advanced 2 level in words either new words will naturally decrease or I will stop actively looking for them. We will see.

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