More than 200 days of language learning - My journey

Learnings from my >200 days journey of learning Spanish
21 Oct 2021
cover Photo by Mahesh H P

It's been more than 200 days now (229 as of posting this!) since I started learning Spanish again (yeah I was learning it briefly when in was in college long time ago) and its safe to say that I can now understand and speak some basic sentences to get around!

Though the goal was very straightforward - learn Spanish - I learnt a lot of other things as well during the journey and the impact has only been positive so far.

Also, this was not my first shot at learning a foreign language as I had French in my final year of engineering, but this has definitely been the longest practice streak I have had and I love every part of it.

I will be jotting down some of the key learnings and few areas I struggled with in this process and would love to hear your language learning stories!

The Learnings

Consistency is 🔥

Can't stress enough about this aspect! Daily practice helps to:

  • constantly learn new words and expressions
  • not forget lot of the vocabulary (trust me, starting to learn again after 3 years literally felt like starting with a blank slate 😅)
  • develop a habit for it so that you don't easily stop doing it!

Forming a habit is very essential as it's very easy to get distracted these days and slack off - with social media and things that don't need any effort - especially when we are learning it for fun and with no specific goal of using it for daily activities or for work.

We need some way to be held accountable 😬

Though we all make resolutions and say we will stick to it no matter what, unless there is an exam or someone is holding us accountable for achieving it, we might not get the required push always to keep chugging along!

I love the concept of having an "accountability coach" to help stick to our resolutions and in my case, Duolingo was able to help with that! Their reminders about maintaining the streak really helps to ensure I practice at least 5-10 minutes a day and their leagues and leaderboards makes me want to practice more daily to hold or improve position.

Vocab and ability to form sentences are equally important 🤝

Knowing hundreds of words and not being able to form basic sentences to communicate sucks! I realised this a little bit late as I focused on learning a lot of words initially and struggled to converse even for basic things. What helped me is learning 3-5 new words a week and making sure to practice conversations every day. If you are using Duolingo, completing few exercises and at least few stories a week is something you can try.

Too much focus on grammar can hurt sometimes 🤕

When we are in our initial phase of learning and we are trying to form basic sentences for conversation, trying to make sure the sentence is grammatically 100% correct can take a lot of effort and sometimes demotivate us if we make a lot of mistakes. Instead, try to convey the meaning effectively; learning from the person on the other side of the conversation about how to correct our mistakes is way easier and I remember things a lot easily when I hear it from someone than reading from books!

The Struggles

Remembering is tough

I personally struggle a lot with remembering all the words I learn and I remember new words only when I have used it in sentences a couple of times. I do use some memory techniques like linking the word to a story or some funny meaning but it can only go so far.

Mastering the technicalities

Grammar is quite difficult to get right all the time when it's not our primary language or not similar to any of the languages we already know well. It also becomes a bit more difficult for me personally if nouns have gender since my primary language doesn't have it.

Finding someone to converse with

Since I'm mostly learning on an app, it's a bit difficult to actually find someone to speak with, which would have made the learning process a lot faster and easier. Though I can join some rooms to practice in groups, I prefer a more on-on-one conversation where it's easier to correct each other's mistakes.

Also, Spanish is not used in the place I reside or at work so I don't get to use it often as well.

Validating pronunciation

Since Spanish is a lot different in terms of pronunciation when compared to any language I know, it is quite difficult for me to get it right while speaking. Though Duolingo does a real good job of speaking out the sentences, validating what I speak for correctness is not that good.

The speed!

I personally struggle to comprehend when I try to follow native Spanish speakers as I feel that its way too fast 🙈 I usually slow down videos and try to understand but still struggle most of the time when long sentences are spoken.

I would love to hear your language learning stories and how you managed to solve some of the struggles I mentioned! Ping me on my email and we can help each other with learning Spanish or I can try to help you if you are learning Kannada 😃