Preferred Input Styles

I’ve tried to be careful on this blog when referring to input to not be overly biased in favor of reading specifically.  I won’t pretend that I don’t have any bias, because I do think that reading is superior to other forms of input based solely on the density of input.  Even though I’m still rather slow compared to English (I could probably have read Yo No Soy tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana in about five hours, considering its length and my reading speed, and I bumbled through it in Spanish in roughly twice that amount of time), the time spent on it is incredibly word-rich time.  In comparison, while I get a lot of enjoyment out of the random shows I watch in Spanish day to day, not all of the time in those shows is devoted to speaking.  An hour of time spent reading versus an hour of time spent watching a show is going to be heavily weighted in reading’s favor in regards to quantity of words.  However, in saying that, I am aware that I’m personally biased towards books, and specifically books in print, whether physical copies or ebooks.

That is, of course, in contrast with audiobooks, which have become an increasingly Big Deal in the world as technology has made them more accessible (I’m old enough to remember audiobooks being a good fifty to a hundred bucks and purchased as a big, squishy plastic case like an oversized Disney VHS box that was filled with cassette tapes), with things like Audible and a modern cellphone making them often more accessible for people than trying to find the time to read an actual book.  And I’m not naysaying that at all, I have several friends who swear by audiobooks and I’ve recommended them to plenty of people, I’m not one of those stuffy pretentious nerds that thinks listening to an audiobook isn’t real reading.  It’s just that for me, I don’t have much use for audiobooks.

One of the possible arguments against audiobooks is that they take longer to read than if you were doing it yourself, since they are delivered by a person, but that argument kinda falls apart in my case.  I could read a book in Spanish faster than an audiobook would be, but in practice, they end up taking about the same amount of time, because I end up reading out loud to myself for half an hour of my daily reading, and while I am better at reading out loud in Spanish than I was at the start, I am definitely going more slowly than an audiobook would go.  As a result, my time spent reading Yo No Soy Tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana was just barely less time than the audiobook’s length, and not by enough to where that argument holds water anymore.  Perhaps from needing to rewind and relisten, the time would become a bigger factor, but I’m not sure.  Regardless, it isn’t the time that’s the problem for me, and my bias is much more a personal issue with how my brain works.

This is kind of getting into the territory of the idea of “learning styles,” the idea that some people learn better by doing, or by seeing, or by hearing, and so on, which is widely considered a myth.  People might have slight preferences here and there, but it isn’t an all-encompassing sort of thing that drives the way an individual is physically capable of learning.  No, what I’m talking about it is a more basic sort of difference between people, in how they think and how they process stimuli.

Something that I find fascinating is how the “mind’s eye” works, and how different it is from person to person.  I’ve talked to a large variety of people and have been left constantly surprised by the sorts of answers I’ve gotten when discussing how people “see” conversations inside their head when talking and listening.  Some people process what they’re saying totally in terms of visual memory, with images and movement attached to the words they hear and articulate.  Others are auditory and associate the sounds they hear with “stored” sounds for those words, and when they think and talk it’s all through a verbal inner monologue.  I remember talking to someone in high school who swore up and down that he thought in memories of odors, which I’m still struggling to wrap my head around.

Obviously, most people think in some combination of things, which is the case for me, and an important distinction that I have compared to several people I’ve talked to is that my knowledge of words is associated with how they’re spelled.  I don’t have to, like, sit down and think about how a word is spelled to understand it or anything, it’s more like the information in my head for the word and its meaning is encoded with the spelling as a key part of that piece of knowledge.  As I process things I hear, and think in my inner monologue, each word comes along with its visual representation of spelling, in addition to any other things that my brain has tied up in its meaning: the auditory sound of the word, images, specific memories, smells, etc.

I don’t think this is particularly strange of me or anything, but it has led to me understanding that I don’t really get a handle on adding a word to my vocabulary permanently until I see it written down.  I can maybe guess at the spelling, and in Spanish those guesses are often accurate, but I have distinct memories of hearing words—English words—when I was younger and not really getting them until I’d seen them in a book, after which they stuck.  I have a lot more evidence for this about me in the last year from encountering a mountain of new vocabulary in Spanish.  The only new vocab I’ve successfully added to my brain from listening to things has happened after I looked those words up and saw how they were spelled.  My brain just needs that information to actually store words.

If I thought this was true for everyone, I’d let my bias flag fly and really argue in favor of reading above all other forms of input, but I know it just isn’t a universal experience.  I’d be just as willing to bet that there are plenty of people out there who are the opposite, and could read a word a thousand times and guess at its pronunciation, but wouldn’t be able to pin it into their heads until they heard it said out loud.  And of course you have a huge range of diversity in people, like those with aphantasia, people who don’t have a mind’s eye at all and would be busy reading this blog and saying “What do you even mean, seeing or hearing something in your head, what the hell are you talking about?”  The important thing here is knowing yourself, and knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you do or do not need to really learn new words.  In my case, books are always going to be a huge necessity in converting anything into my permanent vocabulary.

But hey, if audio works for you, go for audio.  I’m honestly kind of jealous that I can’t just set an audiobook on and get a chunk of reading in for the day while driving, or working out.  I’d have more free time if I could.

Well, let’s look at this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 12/11

  • Duolingo: 2120 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 5 chapters of Yo No Soy tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana, ~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

Wednesday 12/12

  • Duolingo: 1750 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 5 chapters of Yo No Soy tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kulipari: Dream Walker, 1 episode of Hero Mask, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 12/13

  • Duolingo: 1230 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of Yo No Soy tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana, 1 chapter of Tormenta, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kulipari: Dream Walker, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 12/14

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of Tormenta, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of That ‘70s Show, 1 episode of Hero Mask, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 12/15

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of Tormenta, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of That ‘70s Show, 1 episode of The Good Place, 1 episode of My Little Pony, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 12/16

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of Tormenta, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 12/17

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 3 chapters of Tormenta, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of That ‘70s Show, 1 episode of Hero Mask, 1 episode of My Little Pony, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 5900 XP, 210 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 13 tv episodes, 1 movie, and 3 YouTube episodes watched, 450 minutes
  • Total reading: 26 chapters read, 600 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 21 hours 0 minutes

A continuation of the streak of good weeks.  You may notice the spike in Duolingo XP, which was caused by a slight change in the layout of the Spanish->English tree, letting me test out of a few huge swaths all at once.  In a certain sense, Duolingo has changed in its use for me into a general brain game/light practice with Spanish, more or less just keeping me thinking about and playing with the language, rather than learning anything from it.  Which is fine, I’m past the level that it’s really striving to give people.  And most importantly it’s still enjoyable to use.  Were it the only thing I was using or I was putting too much stock in its value, I might be kinda down about it, but it’s more or less the least of my worries day to day, especially since dropping Anki review.

I finished up Yo No Soy tu Perfecta Hija Mexicana and was indeed left without a new book, as I’m pretty sure the one I had on order was lost in the mail or never processed, and seeing as I apparently bought it while not signed in and just paid through a paypal sign in, I’m not quite sure how to go about checking in on it.  Something I should probably work on fixing soon …

Anyway, my abject laziness at dealing with money issues aside, I bought the ebook of Tormenta, the first of the Dresden Files books in Spanish and started in on that.  I think Dresden Files is the perfect sort of fit for that desire of wanting a book series to grind my way through like I did with Harry Potter.  I’m a huge fan of them (and I’m waiting with barely restrained emotion for the next in the series, like everyone else), but in truth I’ve not ever reread the series.  I’ve reread Ghost Story and Cold Days in anticipation for new books coming out in the series as a way to refresh my memory, but most of the series was read once and moved on to the next book, back when I first got into them in, like, 2010.  It’s nice to get reacquainted with the character and the world.

I managed another movie this week, with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which is fun but kinda bad.  I’ve also tentatively settled on That ‘70s Show as a fill-in for that wish last week of a sitcom I could watch a random episode from ad nauseum.  It’s working out fine so far, as I watched the show infrequently when it was new and found it watchable.  I’d be happier with a show I had a stronger fondness for, like Seinfeld or Frasier, but the shows that fit that bill either aren’t available, or aren’t available in Spanish.  It’s okay, I don’t hate it, I can watch an episode of it every day probably forever.  If I somehow stumble into a Spanish dub of Seinfeld, though, I am jumping ship.

Now, the obvious answer here would be Friends, which is available with a dub, and were I making a recommendation to someone else, it would be the first thing I’d suggest.  It just so happens that I personally hate Friends.  Ah well.

Anyway, I also tried out The Good Place on recommendation, and I liked the first episode quite a bit.  I’ve been jumbling things around a bit on what I’m watching, but I’ll likely be going back to it, once I finish Hero Mask in a few more episodes.  I finished out Kulipari: Dream Walker already, and like with Hero Mask those shows have the problem of being rather short and leaving me scrambling to find new stuff to watch regularly.

Well, that’ll finish up this one.  TTFN.

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