A Look Back on Six Months of Progress

With November finished up, we have another month’s worth of numbers, bringing us to a total of six months’ worth of data logged through this blog.  Six months is a nice, round number, which sounds like a good time to reflect and analyze how things have gone and see if any more long-term patterns have started to emerge.  Here are the last six months gathered together in one place, including November’s numbers, so spoilers for how part of this week has gone before the full week’s breakdown.  I’m not going to include the money spent here, as I’m not sure what could really be gathered from looking at that; that’s more a running tally sort of thing, with maybe a look back on how much everything cost total once I’m done.

June, 2018

  • Total Anki: 4,510 cards reviewed, 300 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 20,457 XP, 1,830 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 25 tv episodes and 2 movies watched, 710 minutes
  • Total reading: 94 pages + 50 chapters read, 995 minutes
  • Total Time: 63 hours 55 minutes

July, 2018

  • Total Anki: 4,000 cards reviewed, 310 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 39,467 XP, 1,860 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 35 tv episodes and 1 podcast watched, 725 minutes
  • Total reading: 48 chapters + 2 short stories read, 1,920 minutes
  • Total Time: 80 hours 15 minutes

August, 2018

  • Total Anki: 4,000 cards reviewed, 310 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 3,572 XP, 1,080 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 82 tv episodes and 1 movie watched, 1,715 minutes
  • Total reading: 87 chapters read, 2,385 minutes
  • Total Time: 91 hours 30 minutes

September, 2018

  • Total Anki: 4,010 cards reviewed, 300 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 2,353 XP, 900 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 47 tv episodes, 7 podcasts, and 2 movies watched, 1,250 minutes
  • Total reading: 62 chapters read, 2,770 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 690 minutes
  • Total Time: 87 hours 0 minutes

October, 2018

  • Total Anki: 3,660 cards reviewed, 310 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 4,790 XP, 930 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 32 tv episodes and 37 youtube videos watched, 1,165 minutes
  • Total reading: 65 chapters and 1 book read, 2,870 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 930 minutes
  • Total Time: 87 hours 55 minutes

November, 2018

  • Total Anki: 1,780 cards reviewed, 300 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 6,000 XP, 900 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 61 tv episodes and 27 youtube videos watched, 1,815 minutes
  • Total reading: 55 chapters, 1 short story, and 2/3rds of a book read, 2,550 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 900 minutes
  • Total Time: 92 hours 45 minutes

Grand Total

  • Total Anki: 21,960 cards reviewed, 1,830 minutes (30 hours 30 minutes)
  • Total Duolingo: 76,639 XP, 7,500 minutes (125 hours)
  • Total Watching/Listening: 282 tv episodes, 8 podcasts, 5 movies, and 64 youtube videos watched, 7,380 minutes (123 hours)
  • Total reading: 367 chapters, 3 short stories, 1 2/3rds whole books, and 94 pages read, 13,490 minutes (224 hours 50 minutes)
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 2,520 minutes (42 hours)
  • Total Time: 503 hours 20 minutes

Well…that is quite the chunk of time to see all together at once.  I can tell right away from looking at it, that I must have accidentally skipped a month when I did a quick and dirty estimation for a comment I left last blog, but eh, not important.  I apparently crossed over 500 hours of logged studying, right in the last two days of the month, and that’s cool to know.  I’m sure I crossed over 500 total sometime before that, thanks to the lawless six months leading up to this blog, though how many hours were in those six months are basically unguessable.

The big totals are a nice “look how far I’ve come,” though in honesty I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself; a figure I’ve had rattling around in my head is the Foreign Service Institute’s language difficulty rankings, which place learning Spanish (from the perspective of a native English speaker) as a level one language, with an estimation of reaching proficiency in 575-600 hours.

Now, this isn’t quite fair of me, because those hours are specifically classroom hours, and wouldn’t factor in expected additional time spent studying (y’know, homework time), so the fact that I’m not at what the FSI defines as “professional working proficiency” isn’t really a sign that I’ve been doing something wrong, or that I’m particularly thick-headed.  In reading through their definitions of the different levels of proficiency, I’d say I’m not particularly far off as far as comprehension levels go, and I think I could get my speaking level up to scratch with a good, solid chunk of devoted time if I wanted to.  Where most of my disappointment is concentrated is the fact that this all suggests I’m on the home stretch for getting to a reasonable, functionally viable level with the language, but I don’t feel like I’m there, at least emotionally.  I have the suspicion that with some real, concentrated work on the speaking part of the puzzle, I’d feel more confident and more like I was in that stretch, so I’m not gonna be stressing the disappointment.

Another, tangential result of reading their scale is that I find that I like its definitions of different levels of proficiency and will be having them in mind when struggling with the nebulous ideas of fluency/proficiency/mastery/what have you of a language.  When I was struggling to define my ultimate goals at the start of this blog, I would have been able to do it a lot more quickly and succinctly if I’d read through this thing first.  I’d say that my end goal for this blog is Professional Proficiency, or level 4, though perhaps I’ll be happy at a robust level 3.   Higher end level 4 or level 5 Native Proficiency is more of a ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ sort of thought, but getting there would be something that I probably wouldn’t want to be actively working at.  At the high 3/low 4 I think that the language would be so naturally and seamlessly integrated into my life that so long as I didn’t decide to never look at anything in Spanish again (and why would I do that?) it would naturally continue to develop and grow on its own, without any focus.

Outside of the large scale, I’m noticing some patterns across the months.  June and July are sort of easy to discount, as they’re both sort of “ramping up” months for me, as I got into the swing of things and the general totals started evening out, but it’s interesting to me that I’ve watched a grand total of five movies, and two of them were in the first month.  I remember making note many blogs ago that movies were very time-rich and worthwhile, and it’s interesting to me that I haven’t really capitalized on with that.  Part of the problem is availability, I think, as there have been a lot of shows aimed at younger audiences that I’m interested in watching which are available with Spanish dubs, but a lot of the movies I’ve looked at on Netflix are only available in English.  I think that it might be worth revisiting movies again, now that my listening comprehension has improved.  There are probably more options open to me now that I could actually follow.

Additionally, it’s interesting to know that I’ve now had 42 hours of experience “speaking,” from reading out loud for a chunk of each day’s reading time.  I’m a ton more confident now with pronunciation and flow of speaking with Spanish than I was at the start, when I both really struggled to get my mouth to say most words, but also got tired from speaking very quickly.  Not just on a psychological level, I mean my throat got sore within a few minutes of speaking.  That went away after a few weeks at it, and my ability and comfort has continued to improve.  I knew I wasn’t doing a lot to work on it particularly, but it’s cool to see how all that adds up.

And lastly, I had been considering for a while dropping my current uses of Anki as being not particularly useful for me, and seeing the figures here makes me think I’m not going to be missing out on very much.  It already wasn’t a big part of the day, but after I lost the huge chunk of process in the really big deck of vocab I had been using, I switched to a new one that I’ve found less pleasant to use.  It got less bothersome after a few days, but it’s continued to be something I’ve low-key dreaded doing every day, and if that’s my reaction to it, I really ought to not do it.  Maybe I’ll work on doing something more useful with the program, because I’m not really down about the program itself, but I made the decision to drop it starting this week in December, and that’s what’s happening for now.  If I were to return to it, it would be under a more specific use-case than the general one it was before, like building my own deck with vocab or phrases that I come across in books or shows that I want to really cement in my head.  We’ll see if that comes up.

Overall, looking at this, I feel really proud of myself.  I know it’s only six months of stuff out of a year, but they were definitely the most active and engaged six months in this project.  And, well, I certainly did commit.  It’s crazy to think I’ve been reading Spanish for over 225 hours now, a little over 9 days straight, and how the thing that I just decided to drop as not mattering and not having much of an effect still added up to over 30 hours of my time.  I’ve got a real sense of how cumulative this all is, and it totally helps reinforce the ideas I’ve talked about before, about how it’s all single steps, day to day, building up to something big in the end.

Well, now that I’m done talking about these numbers, let’s, uh, talk about the other numbers.  Hooray, numbers!

Tuesday 11/27

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1.5 chapters of American Gods, ~70 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of She-Ra, 1 episode of My Little Pony, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 11/28

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: .5 of part 1 of Fahrenheit 451, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Club de Cuervos, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 11/29

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: .5 of part 1 of Fahrenheit 451, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of My Little Pony, 1 episode of Puffin Rock, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 11/30

  • Anki: 80 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: part 2 of Fahrenheit 451, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 12/01

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: .5 of part 3 of Fahrenheit 451, ~70 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of My Little Pony, 1 episode of Kulipari: Dream Walker, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 12/02

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: .5 of part 3 of Fahrenheit 451, ~70 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of My Little Pony, 1 episode of Kulipari: Dream Walker, 1 episode of Puffin Rock, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 12/03

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: part 1 of El Alquimista, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Anki: 290 cards reviewed, 40 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 1400 XP, 210 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 12 tv episodes and 5 YouTube episodes watched, 420 minutes
  • Total reading: 1.5 chapters, 1 book, and 1 part of a book read, 560 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 hours 30 minutes

A solid week all around.  My hopes that Fahrenheit 451 would prove to be a quick and breezy follow-up to American Gods’ long haul were met, and I’m already onto El Alquimista…which, based on how that’s been to read, might end up taking less time than Fahrenheit 451 did, since I ended up reading 80 pages of it on Monday.  Probably should have checked and found that the layout of the book leaves about a third of the pages blank or taken up by an illustration.  And I probably should have ordered a new book earlier than last Sunday.  Ah well!  Worst comes to worst, I’ll end up rereading something I have lying around until it gets here, I haven’t done that in a while.  I must say, I’m really enjoying El Alquimista so far, it’s right up my alley.  It would be nice if some of these books had chapter breaks instead of just first/second/third/etc. parts, but maybe I’m asking too much.  It’s just awkward to try and log stuff like “half of a part of the book, which is about a sixth of the total length of the book, I guess.”

As I said further up, I dropped Anki for now as of Saturday, so this may be its last appearance in these numbers roundups.  I’m idly toying with the idea of building a personalized deck with unfamiliar vocab I come across in books and movies to try and hammer those words home, as at this point I’m not coming across a ton of new stuff anymore in the process of reading and it ends up being strange use-case words that are good to know but unlikely for me to get prompt reminders of.  We’ll see.

I finished She-Ra this week and needed some new blood in the shows I watch again.  On a recommendation last blog, I checked out Club de Cuervos, which I found immediately compelling, but hard for me to follow without subtitles.  I think I’m going to let it incubate another week or two and try again, as that seems to have worked out for me in the past to clear hurdles that are just slightly too high for me.  I’m really trying to ditch subtitles entirely, and I’ve managed to do it with Daniel San GMR videos with the understanding that I’m going to end up missing more than average in them compared to some of the easier stuff I watch, but the format makes that more standable.  Missing chunks out of a show like Club de Cuervos is gonna result in me getting lost.

Speaking of incubating and coming back to too-hard stuff, I went back to A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was another one that I had real trouble following without subtitles, and found it much more understandable.  Both shows have the problem of being on the long side, which isn’t a problem per se, but gets in the way of me having lots of variety, which is something I have been trying to keep in mind.  I suppose they’re a change of pace, which is a form of variety in and of itself.

I also gave a Netflix original show called Kulipari: Dream Walker a try, and…it’s really, really weird?  I don’t know how I feel about it yet, and I’m already a couple episodes deep, I can usually tell if I like something or not faster than this.  I think I’m going to keep giving it a shot, as it’s intelligible but difficult for me to follow, which makes it perfect practice, but I may be dropping it from not liking it, if at some point I decide that I do not in fact like it.  I frankly have no idea yet.

Now let’s look at the numbers for the month as a whole again, this time with how much I spent as well.

  • Total Anki: 1,780 cards reviewed, 300 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 6,000 XP, 900 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 61 tv episodes and 27 youtube videos watched, 1,815 minutes
  • Total reading: 55 chapters, 1 short story, and 2/3rds of a book read, 2,550 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 900 minutes
  • Total Time: 92 hours 45 minutes

And here’s the breakdown for money spent.

  • Fahrenheit 451, Fiction, Used Copy, Thrift Books, $7.10
  • El Alquimista, Fiction, Used Copy, Thrift Books, $3.79
  • Netflix Subscription Standard HD Plan, Television and Movie Streaming, $10.99 per month, $10.99
  • Amount Spent on Fiction Books: $10.89
  • Amount Spent on Services: $10.99
  • Total Spent: $21.88


Focusing in on November specifically, it was a pretty gangbusters month.  Nearly five hours more than September, with one fewer day being counted, and September was already very successful.  And all that in the same month I was doing a Nanowrimo challenge, too.  This is all largely from me really pushing for consistency with watching/listening practice every day, and sticking with it, which I feel has been paying off with my listening comprehension.

I’m hitting an interesting point with reading, as I’m starting to feel a little stretched thin on books.  I have Ubik by Philip K. Dick in the mail, which was something I was planning on getting around to reading in English last year before I started focusing on Spanish.  After that, well, I’m not sure what I’m going to end up reading.  A lot of things I’ve thought would be nice to read, as they’re favorites of mine in English, have been really hard to find in Spanish (or are easy to find, but cost way more than I’m willing to spend, like The Last Unicorn for around $940.00).  I’ll be thinking about it over the next few weeks.  Really, I need something like Harry Potter to read, where I have a series to dig through for a long time and break up with other books here and there.  I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet.  I’m not sure I want to read Game of Thrones, in Spanish or English.  I’ll be brainstorming.

Also, since I’ve mentioned the partial Nanowrimo challenge a few weeks ago, I figured I’d follow up with how I did.  After modifying my goals within the first week of the month to match what I was capable of fitting into my time, I settled on a goal of 22.5k words of fiction (thus an average of 750 words a day), with the drafting of these blogs not being counted in that total at all.  In the end, I beat that goal with 23,460 words of fiction for the month.

I had a bit of a stumble in the last week, missing a day and having a not-good day right after, but I’d had enough of a running tally from over-750-words days to weather that stumble, and I ended up course correcting and finishing the month strong, going nearly a thousand words over my goal.  If I were to count the blog drafting as well, I wrote 32,180 words in the month.  I’m very happy I managed to hit my targets and stick with it all the way through.

I want to keep up with fiction as a daily part of my life, but scaling back from my schedule in November is absolutely necessary going forward.  I’ve settled on counting blog drafting as my writing for the day, rather than doubling up like I was doing in November, and I’ve tentatively kept the 750 words per day target, not as a must-meet to reach a monthly total or anything, just a figure to aim for as a minimum per day.  That might end up changing, I’m not sure, because since the month has ended I haven’t really had a chance to test it yet, from spending time on either blogs or on editing the big mass of spelling errors and awkward sentence construction that was the final product of my Nanowrimo efforts.  Whatever I settle on, I feel a lot better emotionally to be writing again, so I’m not gonna drop it if I can help it.

Well, year one of Spanish learning is now officially behind me, let’s see what year two brings.  TTFN.

5 thoughts on “A Look Back on Six Months of Progress

  1. The way you’ve quantified the time you put into learning is really impressive. I wish I had been as meticulous with tracking my progress, but I had no idea what I was really doing in terms of my language learning until this year when I made a focused effort to learn about how other people learn languages.

    After reading your post I sat down and put together a rough estimate of how much time I’ve invested in Spanish since I decided to commit to learning it:

    2015: 250
    2016: 165
    2017: 110
    2018: 825
    Total: 1350

    After starting strong in 2015 with a summer immersion trip to Ecuador and daily 1-on-1 classes/ a homestay I really wasted the following two years with an anemic amount of time put into learning and with a heavy focus on output. What’s sad is that it took me two years to realize that at that rate, and with those methods, I was never going to reach my goals.

    This year I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement in my speaking/comprehension due to the amount of hours I’ve put into Spanish and I can enjoy the process of learning so much more now. I’m reading a Brandon Sanderson book in Spanish and loving it, watching YouTube videos in Spanish about things I’m interested in, having fun conversations on iTalki, and can enjoy shows on Netflix with Spanish audio. It’s really motivating to finally get to a point where the process doesn’t feel like a montonous grind. I look forward to this time next year—I think I’ll be very comfortable with the language by that point.

    I’m sure within a year or two you’re going to be C1 if not C2. At that point, are you going to continue with Spanish? Or are you interested in learning a third language down the line? And out of curiousity, what inspired you to dedicate yourself to learning Spanish in the first place?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I’ve gotten to a level I’m happy with in Spanish, I’ll be stopping with this concentrated effort on it, as I would like at that point to be comfortable enough with the language that I’ll be using it regularly without spending all this time specifically working on it. And at that point, I dunno, maybe I’ll move on to learning a third language. If I did, it’d probably be either Japanese or German, because those two interest me the most. Japanese is really intimidating with its crazy complicated writing system, so that might keep me at bay from it, but there is an abundance of media I’ve already consumed that was originally IN Japanese. German caught my interest years ago, because my ex-wife was fluent in German. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I’m satisfied with my Spanish level, whether or not I’ll want to add a third or if I’ll be happy with the two, but I’m leaning toward probably adding a third and possibly more. I’m finding the act itself of language learning a very fun and rewarding experience, and I could see wanting to keep going with it with more and more languages over time.

      I’m not sure how far a level I’d want to GET with additional languages, if I’ll want to go whole hog like I am with Spanish or if I’ll be more interested in getting to a level where I can read/listen to them mostly comfortably, like I am with Spanish right now, which I could see being a satisfying goal with Japanese. If what I’m going for is watching anime and reading manga without needing a translation, it’s not like I’d really need to keep going just to get to a fully robust level in the rest of the language.

      As for why Spanish, it’s kind of a mix of existing interest, pragmatism, and convenience. In the part of the US I’m in (Denver, Colorado), about a third of the population speaks Spanish natively, with a half of that speaking little to no English, and growing up here, it’s been around me a lot. My best friend when I was, like, nine, spoke Spanish at home with his parents. Of any language other than English, it’s always struck me as the most useful to know. Also, I’ve always really LIKED Spanish, in how it sounds, and as I’ve learned about the mechanics of it, it’s just become more interesting. And in addition to that, what initially sparked this whole thing was having a copy of Rosetta Stone for Spanish gifted to me (although it didn’t end up being particularly useful). So it was more of a perfect storm that led me to go with Spanish, or at least go with Spanish first.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s