Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spanish update - three months in

I've just come back from my first Spanish language exchange so I thought I'd give a bit of an update on how things are coming on with the language.

After what felt like a blistering start, working very hard and late into the evenings on learning Spanish vocab, things felt like they've hit a bit of a brick wall. I learnt around 1000 words in my first month but I'm not sure that that has increased much in the following two. With such a gradual process it's rather hard to monitor my own progress, but certainly with recent conferences and winter schools, there have been some big breaks in getting into the language.

Things look relatively clear ahead and I'm managing around 4 hours a week of lessons in the evenings, one-on-one. My teacher speaks no English during the lessons and I use almost none. With my work currently moving along reasonably well I'm working solidly in the day and then usually for a while after dinner. The idea of then going through flash cards of vocab and drilling myself on the grammar seems to become less and less appealing.

So, as an incentive to get another mode of language input I went along tonight to a bar in the old town which hosts a weekly language exchange. I turned up late but was still able to find a Spaniard to torture for a while and language was indeed exchanged. I'll certainly be going back as I'm finding the biggest hurdle at the moment is actually using what I know.

As with Chinese I'm going through the Pimsleur course which is a great addition. In the case of Chinese it was the best method I found for picking up the correct sounds, whereas for Spanish, the sounds are less of a problem and the grammar (which is in some senses non-existent in Chinese) is much trickier.

In fact I find it much more relaxing to listen to Chinese podcasts (Chinesepod) these days and am probably picking up more Chinese than I reasonably should be - they have hundreds of lessons at all different levels, highly recommended. As I've said before, having put a modicum of effort into the Mandarin before, I really don't want to lose it.

I thought that watching Spanish television would help but the programs seem to be so mindless that I simply turn my brain off and let it wash over me - not a terribly good solution. Radio is slightly better but harder to understand due to lack of context

Anyway, three months into Spain and I can converse on a pretty basic level. Not quite where I wanted to be by now, but definitely heading in the right direction.

No comments: