Spanish progress update – June 2011

2011-06-09

Hi all. It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so I thought I should check in.

I’ve been enjoying the nice weather here in Vancouver, and searching for an apartment. I’ve also been researching fitness and nutrition, which has taken some time away from my language learning, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

That said, I’m still working away at Spanish at the moment. Yes, for those who are asking, Polish is on hold while I work on Spanish. I wanted something nice and easy to work on while I relax over the summer, and then I’ll probably resume Polish later in the year.

Right now I’m still in need of a lot of vocab in Spanish, but I’ve started doing a lot more reading in order to remedy that. I recently bought a Kindle ebook reader from Amazon and it’s greatly increased my reading time. I got a built-in Spanish dictionary for it, so I can look up any word just by moving the cursor to it. It’s also much easier to read outside, and I have lots of selection.

I’m comfortably reading some sci-fi and fantasy books at the moment. The general story shines through, even if I miss a lot of words. I just keep going, and I continually try to push my reading speed. I pick only one or two words per page to look up at most, because the more frequent (and therefore more important) words will show up a lot in the future too, so I don’t have to worry if I miss them on one page. As long as I can keep my speed up, the story keeps going…if I slow down and try to look up too many words, then it gets boring fast, because I lose the movement of the plot.

I’ll be reading mostly in Spanish for the next two months while I enjoy the summer, focusing on having fun. I’m not going to worry too much about audio or video at the moment, since I have piles of books to read already, and it’s easy to work reading into my vacation schedule. I’ve got a list of both translated books and original Spanish works by some famous Latin American authors.

So far, I’ve been reading a bunch of Robert J. Sawyer, which I’ve found pretty easy to read in Spanish. A lot of the sciency words are pretty similar in Spanish, so I don’t need a lot of specialty vocab. Sci-fi is good for this. I’ve also been reading Spanish-translated Robert Jordan though, which is a different kettle of fish. There’s a lot of fantasy vocab, particularly anything relating to swords and armor and fighting, or anything in a rural setting. There’s a lot of elaborate description of scenery and characters, so there’s quite a lot of obscure vocab to learn, but I’m still enjoying it and it gets easier the more I read.

We’re just about finished our “6 week challenge” for Spanish, although I didn’t do much work on it for the middle 3 weeks. I’m catching up now, but I’ll just be continuing on Spanish after the end of the contest anyway, so I’m not too worried about being competitive. I like the 6 week challenge idea – it was a fun game to play, and I’d like to do it again some time when I’m not overwhelmed with moving to a different country and finding apartments.

That’s about it for now. I’ll do a self-test for vocab soon and report back so I have some numbers for my progress. Until then, keep reading!


6WC: week 1 progress report

2011-05-05

I started on my new Spanish project on the weekend, and I’ve been enjoying it so far. I’ve been trying to gather a variety of materials to work on, so that I don’t get bored of any one particular thing.

I’m watching a bit of two different TV series on DVD; both american shows that have been dubbed. It’d be better for the lips if I had some original spanish language series, but at the beginning it’s much easier to go for something that’s easily predictable. To that end, I’m watching lots of Star Trek, because I know what’s supposed to be happening, so all my learning time is spent on the language, not figuring out the new characters and plots.

For reading, I’ve found an audiobook for Albert Camus’ El Extranjero (“The Stranger” in English). It’s been hard to find audiobooks that have a Latin American accent, rather than the funny “th” sound for z and c in the accents from Spain. Here in Vancouver there are very few people from Spain, but thousands from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, etc.

I’ve also been spending a small percentage of my time on an old Spanish textbook that I tried to use about 8 years ago when I last studied Spanish. I was at about an A1 level back then, and I’ve quickly revived most of my basic vocabulary. I’ve been using the textbook just to review some of the grammar points that I’m encountering in my novels and TV shows.

If I go slow and use a pop-up dictionary a lot, then I can figure out quite a lot of the books I’m reading, even though they’re regular adult novels. When I just read along while listening to the audiobook though, it’s quite a struggle to understand anything. I’m just getting little bits and pieces here and there. I know from experience that this will improve over time; I just need to put in enough hours.

For those interested, you can see the high-score list for the contest here: http://6wc.learnlangs.com/. There are two “score” columns in the chart. One is for the “target” language, which is Spanish in my case. The other is a total number of hours spent on any language learning activities, although at this point I’m putting almost all of my study time into Spanish.

That’s it for now, nothing much to report yet since I’ve only put in 14 hours. I’ll keep updating as time goes on.