Long Overdue Spanish Learning Update

Well time really does fly, and it’s been a whole seven months since my last update. Lots of factors have affected my lack of updates… Christmas, Easter, not to mention returning to work full-time in January (not an easy task with an energetic two-year old daughter!).  I have continued with my Spanish learning during this time without any break in my learning, although I have slowed the pace this year.

I was previously having three online lessons per week.  In February I rolled back to two lessons per week, as my 3rd lesson was on a Sunday morning.  I was just so tired, and now I am working full time, I want to spend every possible moment on the weekend with my daughter.  I had my final lesson with my Venezuelan iTalki tutor just over two weeks ago, as he is taking a break from teaching.  I had completed 73 hours of lessons with him, so it was almost like saying goodbye to a friend.  We are still connected on Facebook, so I hope to see him settled in the near future.  That currently leaves me with one lesson a week, each Wednesday evening with my ever-trusty Spanish tutor, who I have now completed 74 hours of lessons with.

I spent the last two weeks trying to choose a new iTalki tutor for a 2nd weekly lesson.  Whilst I greatly enjoy my lessons with my tutor in Spain, I like two different tutors as differing approaches helps my overall learning.  After lots of research on iTalki, I scheduled my first lesson with Colombian tutor for this coming Sunday.  I am very much looking forward to it, as I think having someone new to speak to in Spanish will freshen up my learning for the better.

My Spanish learning on other methods (DuoLingo, Memrise etc) is almost non-existent at the moment.  A long working day, followed by much cherished family time in the evenings (even if much of it is spent cooking or at toddler bath time) is about all I have time for right now.  Most evenings I watch Spanish language videos with my daughter on YouTube, as I am trying to be consistent in my efforts with her achieving bilingualism.

My daughter is very good at naming colors, numbers and animal names in Spanish.  At the moment she really loves Plim Plim, which I love watching with her.  We also watch Peppa Pig in Spanish (if YouTube defaults to English language, I quickly find a Spanish one instead).  It helps with my learning too, as I do my best to actively listen and hone my understanding.

In total I have completed 190 hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons, plus 26 hours of Uni lessons.  On the topic of Uni, unfortunately I withdrew from my Diploma of Spanish just before the new semester started in February.  It was a tough choice, as I had received High Distinctions for both of the subjects I completed last year.  I honestly couldn’t see how I would find the time with my other commitments.

On a happy note, we have a family vacation scheduled for late June & early July.  The three and a half week trip includes six days in Southern Spain, which I am very excited about.  This will be my first trip to a Spanish speaking country since embarking on my language learning journey.  I am a little nervous about speaking to natives, but also I am very much looking forward to it.  I will report how my efforts went in July.

In the meantime, please keep up with your language learning journey and feel free to contact me if you have any questions via Facebook or Twitter 🙂

Language In A Year – My Results

Well what a year it’s been, and how fast it has gone!  Since my first Spanish Skype lesson last October, I’ve completed 126 hours of one-on-one lessons plus an additional 26 hours of University online group tutorials.  I decided the best way to find what level I’m currently at on the CEFR scale of A1 to C2 was to run a few free placement tests.  My results are as below:

Language Level A2 (doesn’t provide a specific score from 15 questions taken)

AIL Madrid A2 (21/38 questions correct)

Lengalia B1 (doesn’t provide a specific score from 20 questions, but it only allowed me to take the next set of questions as I passed the first set)

Battersea Spanish A2.3 (Pre-Intermediate 3/70% correct)

Language Trainers A2 (Pre-Intermediate/Score of 26)

From my scores above I would place myself as lower intermediate.  Whilst I would have loved for all of these tests to place me at B1 or above, I’m not disappointed.  Looking at the CEFR it seems like I have a long way to go, but I can also see how far I have come.

In a remarkable co-incidence, two nights ago I was at an Elton John concert.  At the end of the show, a couple asked if I would take their photo stood next to the stage.  I thought they looked Latino, and asked where they were from (in Spanish).

I then had a conversation with them for five minutes or so in Spanish, finding out that the lady was from Colombia and her husband from Chile.  This was the first time I have ever spontaneously spoken in Spanish.  Whilst I’m sure I made errors, I was understood and received answers to the questions I had asked.  It was a great moment for me!

Knowing everything I now do, and with the hindsight I have, I feel sure I could have reached level B1 in one year.  I am going to continue with my Spanish until I reach a level where I feel comfortable enough to converse with minimum error, and where I can watch Spanish language movies and shows, and be able to understand the majority of the language.

My journey is far from over, but when I look back to one year ago, I know how far I have come.  My intention is to learn a 3rd language in the near future, using all the knowledge I gained in the last 12 months.  I feel confident I can reach B1 in a different language within one year, by having three hours of lessons per week, and using only the DuoLingo and Memrise apps for additional support.

¡Deséame suerte!

Learning Update… Almost at the One Year Mark

My Spanish learning journey is almost at the anticipated one year mark.  I began my journey just short of one year ago, spending hours online and on phone apps trying to find the most effective way to learn another language.  I have just re-read my first post to this blog for the first time in almost a year.  It seemed like a good time to look at where I was back then, and compare it to today.

I was really surprised with my own post; it almost feels like a different person wrote it.  On November 1 last year I wrote my first blog, after having my first Spanish lesson on October 20.  I had spent around a month prior to this using various free online tools, many of which I hated and really didn’t help me much at all.

I began my Spanish lessons by taking two per week, which I only increased to three per week in February this year.  I now regret not having three lessons per week from the offset.  Whilst some apps and websites have been a fantastic help to me, my learning only took hold when I began spoken lessons.

Taking everything I have learned about learning… this is what I recommend to anybody who wants to start learning a new language today:

  1. The only apps you need are Memrise and Duolingo.  Both are free, and have at least 25 different languages available.  Spend as much time as you can on these two apps in your early stages of learning.  They are fantastic for giving you a learning platform, and helping you grasp a new language.
  2. Start spoken lessons asap.  I recommend by the end of week two, and definitely by the end of the first month.  If you don’t feel ready to speak in a new language by then, you probably never will.  iTalki is the best value for paid lessons, and has many languages available.  Read the reviews of other students to help you decide if a particular teacher of tutor is for you.  Trial 2 or 3 teachers and/or tutors before making your final decision.
  3. I recommend three hours of lessons per week from the beginning, if you have the time and finances available.
  4. Never give up!  Keep motivated and never cancel your lessons (unless completely unavoidable).  I’ve had many of my lessons whilst being tired and lethargic due to work, family etc, but the tiredness always goes away as soon as my lesson begins.

I’ll give my final conclusion on my mission to learn a language in a year in a couple of weeks time, but it’s definitely looking good 🙂  If you have any questions please drop me a line, or head on over to my Facebook & Twitter.

9 Months Down… 3 To Go!

I’m now well into my personal challenge to learn conversational Spanish in one year.  I’ve kept up with my three Skype lessons each week, and haven’t given myself a week off since my last post. I completed my first Uni subject, and was very happy to receive a High Distinction after obtaining an overall score of 87%.  My second Uni subject (imaginatively titled “Spanish 1b”) commenced last week.

I definitely haven’t lost my drive or desire to see this through to my goal. It’s quite strange in a way, as at numerous times in the past I’ve given up on things for no particular reason or simply because I lost interest. I can’t quite put my finger on what is driving and motivating me each week, other than I really do enjoy it. There are the occasional times when I’m really tired, and at 8pm I would rather have an early night, but I take my Spanish lessons regardless.

I’m not feeling completely confident that in three months time I’ll be fully conversational in Spanish, but I already know I could meet a Spanish native for the first time and have a really good go at conversing with them. I occasionally forget words that I have learned, and I still get mixed up with conjugation from time to time. I’ve recently spent quite a lot of lesson time working on the Preterite tense. I still need more practice, but it definitely feels like I’m making good progress.

I was hoping to start a new one year language challenge at the end of this year or early 2018. I’ve considered Dutch, Portuguese, Italian and Norwegian as my possible next language. I’ve been contemplating how to learn a 3rd language whilst still learning Spanish. I feel I still need at least two Spanish lessons per week, and with a 3rd language I would also need at least two lessons per week. I’m unsure how I’d be able to have a total of four lessons per week (in addition I would still have Spanish Uni classes for 24 weeks per year). I’ll re-assess later in the year, closer to the end of my one year challenge.

In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help your language learning in any way!

Half Way There… 6 Months To Go

It’s now just over the half way point in my personal goal to learn Spanish in a year.  My first verbal lesson was on October 10 last year.  In total I’ve had 67.5 hours of one-on-one Skype lessons, plus 10 hours of Uni group lessons.  My total so far is as follows:

  • Oct 16 – 5.5 hours
  • Nov 16 – 9 hours
  • Dec 16 – 9 hours
  • Jan 17 – 8 hours
  • Feb 17 – 13 hours
  • Mar 17 – 11 hours + 6 hours Uni
  • April 17 – 12 hours + 4 hours Uni

I increased my one-on-one lessons from two per week, to three per week, commencing in February.  I have read several articles online which vary in how many hours it takes to learn a language.  I have been using Language Testing International as my guide, which suggests it takes 240 hours to learn a Group I language, including Spanish, to Intermediate Mid level.  My goal is to become conversational , thus Intermediate Mid is my target.

With the above in mind, my six month total of 77.5 hours suggests I’m short of my goal to learn in a year.  If I continue with 16 hours of lessons for the next six months, my total verbal lessons will be 173.5 hours for my year learning Spanish.  If I add to this 110 hours of app time (70 hours completing Duolingo (see below), 30 hours to date on Memrise + 10 hours to complete the Spanish Verbs Sea Game), this will bring my total to 283.5 hours.  There is some debate if app hours count as equal to verbal hours, however despite this I still feel I am genuinely on track for reaching my goal.

In addition to my verbal lessons, I completed the entire Spanish Duolingo course back in January (see blog post) and completed about 3/4 of the Memrise Intermediate Spanish 1.  I haven’t used Memrise for a couple of months.  I didn’t make a decision to stop using it, but have changed my focus in the last couple of months.  I also watch TV in Spanish when possible.  This mainly consists of watching Spanish language Childrens TV on YouTube with my daughter, and sometimes Spanish language shows on Netflix.  I recently watched the first episode of Club de Cuervos.  I enjoyed the episode, however I plan to watch the first episode of Ingobernable this week, before deciding which of the two to binge watch!

My University subject, Spanish 1A, is going really well.  I submitted my first written assignment this week.  The written task was 300 words using the present tense and near future (e.g manaña, la próxima semana y el próximo mes).  We also were required to use some key items we have learned so far – these included the use of gustar, a variety of regular and irregular verbs, estar and Ir + a + infinitive.  The assignment is worth 20% of the overall subject grade.  I’m hopeful of scoring at least 16-17 out of 20 (fingers crossed!).  I enjoyed writing the assignment.  One of the main reasons I signed up to the Uni subject was to practice my Spanish writing skills.

I have also completed 3 out of 5 online quizzes for the Uni subject.  Each of the online quizzes is worth 5% of the overall subject grade.  Of the 3 to date, I scored 95% overall – a score I am very proud of.  The remaining two quizzes will be held in May.  The oral test for the subject will be held the week commencing 29 May, although the exact weekday has not yet been set.  The final written exam will be held on 7 June.  The Uni subject has been great clarification and extra practice for areas I have already covered, as well as filling in gaps in my knowledge.

One thing is for certain – I have not lost my enthusiasm or sight of my goal.  I have hit a couple of bumpy patches on the road so far, but I have been able to proceed with my lessons even when I’m really tired.  My key to keeping up the lessons has been integrating them into my weekly life.  They are routine, but in a good way.  I look forward to the lessons and look forward to speaking with my tutors each week.

Is it possible to learn a language in a year?  At the half way point, it’s a definite yes from me!


If you haven’t started your language learning yet, please see the following blog posts:

List of available languages – 100% Free 2 week challenge – 25 languages available

How to Choose an iTalki Tutor


Spanish Learning Update

It’s been a little while since my last blog post, but I haven’t lost any enthusiasm for my language learning goal.  I have continued with three Skype lessons per week (one hour each) plus I’ve just completed week 5 of my University subject, Spanish 1A.

The University subject has a 1.5 hour group online lesson per week.  The number of other students each week varies, but is normally about six people.  The teacher gives us direction and allows us to speak to each other in Spanish; as an example, she will pick two students and ask you to have a short conversation on a topic we have just learned.  She will also pick a verb and ask us to take it in turns to conjugate using the six subject pronouns.

The subject has really helped my learning.  I have already covered some of these topic areas, but this allows me to really concentrate on learning the correct spelling and pronunciation of words, including making such I place an accent above the correct letter if required.

I have also requested some Spanish language books from my local library.  When I signed up recently I was provided with some pamphlets.  One of the pamphlets was in relation to languages, and advised you can order books in your chosen language if none are available.

I received a follow up phone call from the library yesterday, to clarify what type of books I require.  They are ordering in some board books for my one year old daughter in the Spanish language, plus some intermediate books for me.  Who knew the good old fashioned (and 100% free!) library would be such a great source of learning materials?!

If you are currently learning a language, I definitely recommend seeing what your local library have available.  If you haven’t begun speaking in your target language yet, please read my posts below for (hopefully) some motivating words to get you started!

The Speaking Challenge

How To Choose an iTalki Tutor


A Change of Pace

Since completing Duolingo 25 days ago, I somehow feel like I haven’t been moving forward at the rate I would like.  I’ve still been completing a minimum 10 minutes per day on Memrise, plus I’ve still been completing my iTalki lessons each week.

Last week I increased my online lessons from 2 hours per week to 3 hours, in an effort to keep moving forward.  I completed a free trial class on Verbalplanet.com to see if a different learning approach may help me.  My teacher was great, and he provided valuable feedback after the lesson.  My rating from the teacher was level A2 for reading, A2 for listening but only A1 for speaking.  It’s great to have a reality check, but also a bit disappointing after 30 hours of online classes to still be classed as level A1.  I really did question whether I can reach my goal in a year, since I’m about half way there…

I was recently inspired after reading an article I found on Twitter called “Learn Spanish The Narcos Way: Netflix Star’s Language Learning Secrets Revealed“.  Wagner Moura, the Brazilian actor who played Pablo Escobar in Narcos, had only three months to learn Spanish.  In the article, under ‘secret 5’ the article says Moura enrolled in a Spanish class at University, as the weekly deadlines helped keep him on track.  I was so inspired in fact, I researched all Spanish Diplomas available 100% online from Australian Universities.

I had missed most of the deadlines for applying, as the next semester for most Unis start on 20 February.  I was fortunate enough to find Deakin University, which works on a trimester instead of the standard two semesters each year.  Due to this, their next semester starts on 6 March.  I was lucky enough to apply just before deadline, and am pleased to say I’ve been accepted to study the Diploma of Modern Languages (Spanish).

I understand this option may not be for everybody, but here in Australia the government cover a large portion of the tuition fees.  Australian Citizens then received a loan to cover the student contribution portion (AUD$793 / USD$605).  I have only enrolled in one subject, so the entire Diploma will take me 3 years (total of 8 subjects).  Depending how I go with the workload, I may increase to two subjects each semester.  I am really looking forward to starting, as I really feel like I needed some goals to reach towards.  I will of course keep up my Memrise and iTalki lessons.

Remember not to give up on your language learning goals.  If like I did, you feel like you’re not moving at the pace you would like, research other options or increase the amount of time you are currently spending if possible.  If you haven’t had a live chat yet, I recommend signing up for a free 45 minute class with Verbalplanet.com.  They have a long list of available languages in addition to Spanish, so there’s a strong chance they can get you started on the language of your choice.