Saturday, March 22, 2008

slowly, steadily....

I've been pressing on with my Spanish studies and am still working on LSLC.

I hit a wall a few months back and just couldn't seem to make new info stick in my brain. It happens, and by my age I've cultivated something of a relaxed attitude about it. heh

After a certain amount of grinding, I tried changing gears and focusing on a different approach to the material, but hit some dead ends.

So lately I've been back to a routine quite similar to what was working out for me before, and I'm finding it less of a grind. Maybe I was just becoming bored with the routine and needed a break, because the same material that had me stuck seemed reasonable enough when I returned to it.

At this point, I'm working on lessons on the Present Perfect Tense in LSLC during the commute. I still find a good bit of material overlap between Pimsleur and LSLC, but that's a *good* thing.

If I had to recommend just one Spanish self-study product of this type currently, I'd lean toward LSLC. For the money, it's quite good.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

road trip follow-up

Yesterday I took my road trip to Greenwood for the Delta Dinner and Blues class at Viking Cooking School.

It was a moderately long drive, so I used the opportunity to plow through Learning Spanish Like Crazy lessons on my iPod through lesson 12.

Even if the LSLC lessons didn't introduce new material, the review would be handy. But right from the first lesson there's a slight divergence between material covered, so I'm continuing to get a mix of novelty & review.

But it's familiar enough that going through a bunch of lessons during a road trip doesn't introduce a meaningful amount of stress.

The road trip itself, however, was exhausting. It kept me on the road until midnight, which blew my schedule.

The most intense Spanish-related exercise today was watching El Canal de Historia with closed captioning on.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How long does it take? Part 3

Is there any real point to all this speculation? Maybe in some odd way I can't think of off-hand. It might scare off people thinking of learning a foreign language, which would be unfortunate.

The point isn't that it takes a long time to learn a foreign language, but that it doesn't take that long to learn a foreign language.

I work as a Programmer Analyst at Sourcelink (which I love, despite my constant bitching). I spend 40 hours each week behind a desk, 5 hours at lunch, 5 hours commuting, etc.

Those 40 hours belong to the company as long as the checks clear. It used to be that the 5 hours of commuting time belonged to the road, and then I started devoting them to Spanish.

That time wasn't mine at any point, because I was stuck behind the wheel. I don't just dislike the commute, but deeply loathe it. Audio Spanish lessons turned that lost time into productive and enjoyable time!

Instead of letting the stress of the commute eat at me (and oh how it did), Spanish lessons have redirected my thoughts in better ways, and my quality of life is better as a result.

After my lessons have run their course, I expect I will reactivate one of my old satellite radio subscriptions and use that time to listen to piped-in Spanish audio in the form of news, music etc.

If you have a half-hour commute like mine, I'd say you can pick up the basics of a second language within as little as four months just by putting that commute to good use.

How long does it take? Part 2

It's tough to say with any accuracy how much time I'll spend over the next several months reading and writing Spanish, working with flash cards, etc. I'll have to keep an eye on that and see if I can figure out some estimates.

The LSLC Teleclass is one hour each week (missing some weeks, such as this past Wednesday, when I was too exhausted to participate).

Each episode of Destinos is half an hour and takes place entirely in Spanish. So it should be easy enough to figure out how much time I put into watching the show by noting the number of episodes I've watched and how many times I've viewed each one.

Tracking my viewing of Spanish language TV and such may be trickier. Some times I'm paying relatively close attention for comprehension, and some times I'm just contemplating Paulina Rubio in ways that would not likely win points with her father.

But even the more casual viewing has been paying dividends, because a catchy hook will get stuck in my head, and my subconscious will slowly decode what's being sung, so in the middle of the day I'll suddenly figure out a Belanova lyric. I believe that kind of language internalization is actually quite valuable within the scope of a disciplined study routine.

It's considerably more difficult to factor the actual duration of brief exchanges in Spanish with local native speakers. That sort of thing is very valuable time spent, but can't be fit into neat blocks of study time.

How long does it take? Part 1

Just for kicks, I did a bit of googling this morning on how long it takes to learn a foreign language.

Although I consider this sort of question something just barely north of pure entertainment, I did find some comments that seemed interesting and possibly even true.

After learning that first foreign language, no matter what it is, learning any other additional language is said to be much easier.

Learning a language similar to a language you already know is said to be made easier due to the similarity. Example groups of similar languages were Romance languages (Spanish, Romanian, French, Portuguese, Italian, etc.) and whatever grouping includes English and Dutch.

Estimates of the sheer number of hours of focused study vary pretty wildly for a variety of reasons.

So I got to thinking about the number of actual study hours I put in toward learning Spanish.

First off, I don't count time spent browsing language forums, blogging about Spanish, etc. But I do count the time I spend writing posts in Spanish, reading posts in Spanish, and such, because that is time spent actually in the target language.

I opened IDLE (an interactive Python programming thingy) and started adding up a few figures.

Pimsleur Spanish I-III contains a total of 90 half-hour lessons. (I don't count the "bonus" lesson in each set, because I don't use them.) That's 45 hours if one only went through each lesson once.

I've worked through each of the lessons in Spanish II and Spanish III at least two or three times, but seldom more than that. And I slogged through the Spanish I lessons over and over, because that's what it seemed to take to get them into my brain.

I believe I can safely say that I put 150 hours into Pimsleur and could easily put in another 50 for review of sets II and III at some point.

If I counted right, LSLC (through Nivel Dos) contains 72 roughly half-hour audio lessons and about an hour of video.

Assuming I zip through some of the LSLC lessons with relative ease due to Pimsleur having already made me familiar with the material, I'll estimate 100 hours of additional study with the audio lessons.

That puts me at 250 hours just working the audio lessons.

Friday, October 12, 2007

terminando Pimsleur y mi excursion este fin de semana

Acabo de terminar la ultimo leccion de Pimsleur Spanish III.

Mañana voy a manejar a Viking Cooking School en Greenwood para estudiar como cocinar tamales y otras comidas de la Mississippi Delta.

Mientras manejando, voy a estudiar unas lecciones de Learning Spanish Like Crazy en mi iPod.

Es muy importante que no termino mis estudios. Hay tanto mas que aprender, y debo continuar mientras puedo.

Creo que aprendiendo español está haciendo mi vida mejor. En todo caso, hay tantas personas muy agradables para quien español is el idioma primera. Espero que conocer unas estas buenas personas.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

fluency re-visited

While idly skimming a language learning forum shortly ago, I saw someone asking the question that never dies for long about what constitutes fluency.

One can blow a lot of time chasing that one. And some times I do for kicks.

Some of the suggestions I've seen involve the knowledge of enough vocabulary, rules, and colloquial speech to be able to do XYZ without having to look things up or mull it over.

Despite my unusually large and esoteric knowledge of English, I do still frequently pause while speaking to figure out how to express myself, and I look up terms for meaning, spelling, etc. So I will be surprised if I ever attain a level of Spanish mastery such that I don't have to do the same.

Some point out that terms such as "competency" and "proficiency" are far more useful than "fluency" in meaningful discussion, and I'm inclined to agree.

In my last entry I balked at the Minutemen patrolling the southern U. S. border and engaging Spanish speakers without any knowledge of Spanish. For some of these guys, a desirable level of competency might involve a core set of terms and expressions useful for conveying to migrant workers that one has no intention of shooting them but to smugglers that one is indeed willing to pull the trigger.

I'm more interested in being able to talk about food, computer programming, weather, current events, etc. I would like to be able to get through business meetings, enjoy a little recreational reading, and make friends.

So it makes sense for me to learn some specialized Spanish in addition to generalities. The Minutemen really just need to pick up a very small subset of Spanish in order to get by.

For day-to-day matters, it's less a question of "Am I fluent" and more one of "Can I do this thing I need to do?"