90 Day Challenge: Spanish

There are twenty countries in the world today that use Spanish as their primary language, each with its own unique history and identity. Add to this the innumerable indigenous cultures of Hispanoamerica, and the diverse stories of Spanish-speaking migrants in places like the United States. When I consider the vastness of the Spanish speaking universe, I find it impossible to turn away. Like Ignition by R. Kelly, I will never get sick of learning Spanish.

Inspired by Steve Kaufmann‘s quest to improve his Korean, I am coming back for one last hurrah with Spanish with a 90 Day Challenge of my own. I will be suspending the Mandarin project, and avoiding German as much as possible, too. My deadline is the DELE exam on April 11, and I’m aiming for the C1 (Advanced) level. I want to beef up my Spanish so I know it’ll survive when I go back to Mandarin and be there whenever I need it.

Two of my objectives are to improve my vocabulary and my aural comprehension. After all, you can’t be a good conversationalist without first being a good listener. At the moment, I think I’m around the B2 (Upper Intermediate) level. I still usually need more than one listen to properly understand SBS Spanish podcasts, for example. These are usually quite short (5-15 minutes), and relatively straightforward in context – they are usually about current affairs, health, technology, music, literature etc. I want to listen to more creative material like Radio Ambulante (a Spanish-language version of the podcast This American Life) with only the odd double-take. Next time I’m in a noisy pub with some Latinos (or, if I’m lucky, una Latina) I don’t want to be constantly asking “Qué?”.

In my experience, I know that improving my vocabulary will come with time and exposure. I don’t worry too much about turning passive vocabulary into active vocabulary. If I have the former, I will already be able to access interesting and meaningful content; the latter will develop with time as I push myself to keep up. I will listen, read, write down new words as I encounter them, and review afterwards. The most common phrases will come up time and again and will be memorised first. I don’t obsess over catching every new word, I prefer to move on to the next episode or article as that’s more enjoyable and keeps my motivation up.

Ultimately, I want to be able to speak fluently. At the moment, I still think lot before I speak. It is one aspect of learning a foreign language that is much easier to improve if you travel to the country but I don’t have that luxury this time. I will have to push myself go to more Meetups, Skype with my Latin American friends when I can, and pluck up the courage to speak up when I’m put on the spot.

Takeaway: Just a quick update on where I’m at and where I’m going. Follow my new Twitter feed for updates on my progress. And look forward to posts about Spanish resources I find useful as I build up to the big day. Thanks for reading, don’t forget to comment, follow and share. Hasta la próxima!

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