What I learned after 20 days of immersion in a foreign country

I just got back from a trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

LingQ helped me enormously. I spent my time trying to function like an Ecuadorian. I went to malls, shopped at tiendas, took the bus around the city, went to the movies, and watched TV. I tried to interact with locals, but I’m unable to have any real conversation at the moment. Still, by the end of the trip I could confidently order food at restaurants and other little touristy things. That was a nice improvement.

So what I learned-

  1. I need A LOT more listening practice. My comprehension is slow, I can’t process words quickly enough so I lose a lot of meaning.
  2. I need more conversational spanish. Listening to what interests me has been good so far, but I listen to stuff about politics, news, health and science. Conversation is a totally different context, so a lot more words in imperative-- which I have little exposure.
  3. I need to listen to non-professional speakers. In other words, real people who speak in unpredictable ways. Some speakers I could understand their pronunciation really clearly, even if I couldn’t grasp the meaning. Many others I just heard mumbly LaLAlaLaLAlaLaLAla when they spoke.
  4. I need to keep watching TV and movies in Spanish. I watched a popular Ecuadorian sitcom called “3 Familias” on the local TV when I was there.
  5. My spanish rhythm and intonation need more work
  6. People will say things to me in Spanish. I will understand the main idea. Then I respond in English. Then I laugh and try to say it in spanish. Why do I do this??!??

Anyway, my trip left me inspired, and I learned a ton. My LingQ apple went from silver to green… but I’m really motivated to keep up my language learning with LingQ and continue watching telenovelas on Netflix


Listening practice is the most important thing in my opinion. Speaking is fairly easy once you’ve had input. It might be wrong, it might be unnatural, but you will be able to speak to get things you need. No point if you can’t understand the simple stuff coming back at you.

also talk out loud while listening to audio or reading it helps to exercise the muscles in the face and tonque it helps with inotation and rhythm and pronouncing unknown letters especially the rolling r in spanish believe me it works

How long’ve you been learning Spanish?

About 250-400 hours, I guess. I really don’t track it well. I just try to do something in spanish every day. I started my daily practice in December 2015. I am able to practice 10 minutes to 2 hours each day, depending on my schedule. Looking back, I probably spent much more time reading than listening, because reading is my natural impulse. Going forward, my intent is to listen much more. I noticed in Ecuador that I would often unconsciously “tune out” when two people were conversing and I wasn’t involved in the conversation (i probably do this all the time in English too!). I want to be more mindful of this so I can take advantage of free/easy input opportunities

No language plan survives the first encounter with the natives in their own habitat :slight_smile: I’ve had these kinds of experiences before, and as you point out, it’s really just a matter or listening and reading a lot until you’re exposed to the various nuances and colloquialisms and develop a quick understanding and response habit.

Keep in mind also, that there is nothing wrong with being thrown by the various “street speech” styles and regional accents that are present in every language. Even as a native English speaker, you might have had the experience of turning on the subtitles when watching certain British films – a practice famously parodied by an SNL sketch a few years back. So, in an odd, counter intuitive way, how well you can communicate “in country” can be a very skewed assessment of your language skills.


Thank you for sharing and good luck!

Wow! Excellent point! You know, I remember how I was thrown off by real - as you say " “street speech” styles" in London when I lived there in 1993-4. I had grown up listening to BBC World Service, Monty Python, and Benny Hill. I thought British English was so naturally easy to understand. But, on my first day in London, now I remember how I needed to ask the woman working at Victoria Station’s info desk to repeat herself four times so I could understand her instructions on how to get to my hotel via the Underground. I just wasn’t prepared for the Cockney accent. In fact, I remember it took me almost a month to get used to it. Then I went to the Highlands of Scotland. Same situation-- a month of exposure until I could really understand the accent.

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“Anyway, my trip left me inspired, and I learned a ton. My LingQ apple went from silver to green… but I’m really motivated to keep up my language learning with LingQ and continue watching telenovelas on Netflix”

It’s great that you’re so positive about it. I’m convinced that it would be extremely hard to be motivated if we never have the chance to visit the countries where they speak the languages that we’re learning. I can see how it could potentially be discouraging for a lot of people but it truly is nice to see that this experience motivated you.

" People will say things to me in Spanish. I will understand the main idea. Then I respond in English. Then I laugh and try to say it in spanish. Why do I do this??!??"


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After 3 months of studying Portuguese, using various starter books, my first visit to Portugal was a flop. Couldn’t talk to anyone even though I knew Spanish. Second time I went after considerable listening and reading at LingQ. Did much better. Comprehension is the key skill in my view.
Now I am listening to our mini-stories in Greek. Have read them and listened countless times. The narrator goes fast, very fast, or so it seems. But I think that is good. Better to listen over and over trying to get it. Plus the text is there and there is a lot of repetition in the stories. And the subject matter is mostly every day life. Going fast helps my comprehension. When we get them in Spanish try them out, even if the vocabulary is easy. If the narrator is too slow, we will have them done again fast, or at least offer a fast version.
I remember when I started Chinese we had to listen to these rapid fire dialogues. Seemed fast but in fact was only normal speed. Prepared me for normal speed listening.


I definitely will try them out in Spanish!

You’ve really learned a lot in that trip about what’s good for you to learn Spanish. It’s fantastic! To me, listening a lot to authentic material and practicing with natives are essential. You can understand written language, speak it correctly enough to be understood, even understand conversations when people speak slowly but real conversation is essential.

When I first went to Portugal I could already speak it quite well and understand written portuguese but even if I knew the pronunciation, I couldn’t catch a word when I was watching TV or when natives spoke to me at a normal pace. Suddenly, one day, after several weeks listening to real Portuguese all day long, I realized I could undestrand! I hadn’t made any effort, just watching a lot f TV!

You may also know there are very big differences in Spanish depending on the country or area. If you are used to listenning to a specific accent, it can be hard to understand another one at the beginning.

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that is true i usually speak and listen to brazilian portuguese and i have trouble understanding the one in portugal and spanish has even bigger range of dialects with different pronounciations like the caribbean spanish dialects the s dissapears in speech ,in puerto rico the r sounds like a L ex pol favor instead of por favor

I love Spanish variety! Caribbean Spanish is wonderful. Although I speak Castellano from center Spain it’s not hard for me to understand most of Spanish from America once I’m aware of the principal differences in pronunciation and vocabulary. Eccept for Spanish from Chile: they don’t pronounce half of the letters!
I think Portuguese from Portugal can be harder to understand than Portuguese from Brazil because in Portugal people don’t open the vowels when they speak, at the beginning you only hear conconants!

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