The best plans go amiss

The best plans go amiss
This year I had big plans to study Spanish in Latin America, travelling through the Caribbean, Central America, and all the way down to Argentina. That would end up being ~10 months of learning Spanish (March - Dec).

After just one week of classes in the Dominican Republic, I had to return home unexpectedly due to coronavirus. I’d given up my house, so it took some time to get settled and to come up with a plan to continue learning. Studying on my own is much less intuitive than being immersed in the language & culture while travelling, so I’m hoping that by posting my progress here, it will help keep me accountable. Maybe you’ll read this and have suggestions for ways I can improve or be more efficient. If this motivates other language learners, all the better.

Starting Point
Apart from my week of classes in DR, I’ve never formally studied Spanish but I learned Italian to C1 about 10 years ago. I’m rusty but that should help.

I’d like to pass a mock written B2 proficiency exam by July 1 (80 days from now).
Ultimately, I’d like to feel confident speaking with a good degree of fluency by December. If possible, I’ll travel to Argentina then as a reward. We’ll see.


Paul Noble
Since returning home, I’ve completed Paul Noble’s introductory course. I’m working on his “next steps” course now. I’ve been doing 1 session of 30-45 minutes per day but I think I should do 2 sessions to accelerate my progress.

Online Exchange/Tutor
I’ve yet to start chatting with natives online. I don’t like chatting online generally, so I have some resistance, but I know I need to start.


I listen to podcasts everyday, usually while doing something active. “Español con Juan” is my favourite so far. At first I struggled to understand him but now, nearly a month later, I comprehend 80%+. I’m branching out into other podcasts from Latin American speakers. I don’t yet understand podcasts por nativos, para nativos.


I’ve begun working through the beginner lessons here but find the unintuitive interface challenging. Yet, it’s such an efficient approach to reading, so I’ll push ahead. I need to set a specific goal for LingQ.

Spanish Short Stories (via audible)
I’m working through this collection of beginner-level stories, listening & reading at the same time, listening to the english version, then doing the spanish version again for a second time. I’m aiming to do one story per day.

As a reward, I listen to a few songs while reading lyrics. I’m not sure how well that translates into learning but it’s enjoyable.

I think LingQ might be the best approach to writing and getting corrections. I’m aiming to write a paragraph every few days.


I like this context-based approach to learning vocab. My goal is to do 1000 phrases by the end of April then continue to add another 1000/month (if that’s realistic).

I’ve finished the first 2 levels. I’m now working on:

  • body part names
  • 100 most common verbs
  • 100 most common adjectives
  • 350 idiomatic expressions
    After these go into “maintenance mode” mode, I’ll start working on the top 5000 words by frequency. I probably already know a few hundred.

Routledge Colloquial
My goal is to finish one chapter of this textbook every 2 days. I’m not sure how well textbook learning translates into speaking but I find it helps with reading comprehension and generally understanding the logic of the language.

Future Plans
Speaking is my weak point. Top priority is online chat/tutor. Once I’ve finished Paul Noble, I’ll add Glossika, Rose Lee Hayden, and/or Pimsleur. I’m always looking for more resources but also trying to spend my time focused on learning spanish, rather than looking for more resources.


My progress for the last week has been mixed.


Paul Noble - completed. In a few days I’ll also review the written booklet that comes with the course.

Tutor/Chat - I haven’t yet done any actual speaking. This is a pretty obvious way I can increase my pace of learning.


Podcasts - 12 hours of listening last week. This is my strong point and I’ve seen good progress in my listening comprehension.

Youtube - I’ve watched a year’s worth of videos (about 70 in total) by Juan Fernández. These are helping both with my listening comprehension and with grammar.


Spanish Short Stories - 13 of 28 completed. I read/listen to each story twice, sometimes three times.

LingQ - I haven’t made as much time as I’d like for LingQ.

I haven’t done any writing in the last week. I feel that writing is low priority, at this point, relative to speaking, reading, and listening.


Memrise - completed three decks: body part names, top 100 adjective, top 100 verbs.
I’m now working on top 5000 words and 350 idiomatic expressions.

Clozemaster - 744 sentences played. I’m aiming for 1000 by the end of the month.


Routledge Colloquial - 14 of 20 chapters completed. I started to feel that this text book was taking too much time relative to what I was learning, so I’ve started to work through it more quickly, rather than doing all the exercises.

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Good Work! Keep it up!

Here’s my update for April:


italki - I did 9.5 hours, all of that over the last week. It took me about a month of self-study to feel comfortable starting conversational practice. I feel like I would have benefited from it earlier, probably not on day-1 but maybe 2 weeks in. I’ve done the tutor sessions as a series of round-robin interviews. I’ve talked with 15 tutors so far, the last one being my favourite. A few were just terrible - imagine the sound quality from a tin shack with dogs barking and cars honking on an bumpy Ecuadorian road. I’ve narrowed it down to 7 who I like. I’ll do a second then a third round over the next 2 weeks. I don’t plan to settle on a single tutor but instead to have at least one from Spain and one from a few different Latin American countries to expose myself to different accents, vocabulary, and culture.

Rose Lee Hayden - I made it through 3 of the 5 units of this audio course then found that I didn’t have enough of a foundation to continue. So, I’m now working through the Michel Thomas series (Rose builds on Michel), starting about half-way through. I’d hoped that doing Paul Noble would save me from needing to do Michel Thomas (as Paul’s program better matches my style) but he just doesn’t go far enough. This means it will be a few more weeks before I begin Glossika or something similar.


Podcasts - I listened to 37 hours of Spanish podcasts in April. Most of that is while doing something else, like exercise, cooking, walking, etc. So, it’s not “active listening” but I do pay close attention. It’s not just in the background. I feel that my listening comprehension has increased significantly. I’ve begun using @herbm’s subvocal shadowing method and believe that it works. I need to solidify that into an automatic habit.

Youtube - I’ve continued working my way through Juan Fernández’s excellent channel. I have a year & a half to catch up on still. I’m pretty sure I’ll get through those by the end of May.


Spanish Short Stories - I’ve read 21 of the 28 stories, so the end is now in sight. Some of them have rather obscure vocabulary, so it’s hard to know if my comprehension is really increasing that much.

LingQ - After a lull, I’ve come back to LingQ and started making good progress again. After I finish the short stories, LingQ will be my main reading resource. I just wish it didn’t have so many irritating bugs.


Memrise - I’ve caught up on Memrise’s own decks that I haven’t touched for some time and I’m working my way through 5000-word deck. I have 3615 words to go. I’m not sure if Memrise is the right way to do this or if Anki would be better.

Dropped Activities

Clozemaster - this was a fun game and I did feel like I was learning but, realistically, my time is better spent elsewhere.

Textbook - 15 of 20 chapters done. I feel conflicted here. I like that the textbook is comprehensive but it just feels like a poor use of time and that textbook work doesn’t translate into functional language. I might go back to it at some point for review but I don’t think a textbook is a good way to learn language.

I’m not sure if my original goal of passing a B2 exam by July 1 is realistic. Currently, I think I would pass A2 but not B1, so I have a long ways to go over only 2 months. I’ll continue to work hard toward that goal.

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