Finding Motivation Day to Day

I’ve discussed motivation for language learning in a roundabout way a couple of times before in this blog, because it’s such a key component to success.  Without motivation in the big picture, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day, get discouraged or bored, and drop the endeavor like it was an exercise plan three weeks after new year’s (that simile might sound autobiographical, but don’t worry, I didn’t bother to even try and start an exercise routine).  And without motivation on the small scale, it’s easy to never reach for the big picture as days without progress bleed by without any thought given to them.

The big picture motivation is a bit more personal, as there are so many different reasons for wanting to learn a new language that can be anywhere from totally compelling to absolutely unappealing, depending on who you’re asking.  A lot of people’s eyes would glaze over if you tried to tell them how Spanish’s grammar works, which I find fascinating, and while I totally admire how someone could say that they want to be able to walk up to strangers and talk to them, the idea of doing that in English gives me anxiety.

The day to day motivation, however, can be approached in a much more concrete way.  It also has the benefit of being more important, I think.  You can have a sort of wishy-washy reason for wanting to learn a language and still succeed if you end up putting in the work, but it doesn’t matter if you know that learning one will allow you to win the Nobel Peace Prize, you’re not going to be able to do it without sitting down every day to learn.

In that vein, as I’ve slid into the second year of my journey to learn Spanish with nearly eight months of hardcore, intense daily work on it, I’ve been asked a number of times by friends and family if I’m getting burned out by it, if I’m getting sick of it, if it’s draining or annoying to make sure I work on it every day, not just a little, but for several hours.  And honestly, it really isn’t.  Some days it sort of is, I can expect at least one day a week where I get home from work feeling like I got kicked in the head, and the thought crosses my mind to just go to bed in the middle of the afternoon, rather than sitting down for three-ish hours to work on my Spanish.

Those days take a bit of willpower to move through, which is something I’ve gotten significantly better at over time.  I’ve come to think of willpower a lot like a muscle, something that starts out not terribly strong that aches to use, but the more you use it over a long, consistent amount of time, the stronger it gets and the more it can pull without getting tired.  Before I started this blog, I messed up a lot and had many missed days, and in the early going of my tracking here, you can find weeks that I was happy about with half as many hours logged as weeks I’m ambivalent about nowadays.  On those knockdown, worn out days a lot comes down to my now jacked willpower muscles doing the heavy lifting of getting me sat down and working.

But in saying that, if willpower was all that was keeping this going, even if all my days were the normal sort where I’m not feeling beaten up, I probably would have ended up stalling out by now, because the much more important aspect is the motivation in the work itself.

When a friend asks me if I’m worn out from working on Spanish every day, I ask them if they’ve gotten tired of watching TV every day.  Or, y’know, reading a book/watching YouTube/trawling Facebook/playing video games, because I tailor my question depending on who’s asking.  Because that’s really what this project is like for me, it’s fun leisure time.  I’m not even going particularly far off from how most people spend their leisure time, really.  I’ve recommended shows I’ve really liked on Netflix to friends as worth watching for their unwinding binge-time.  If I were more of a gamer I’d probably be seeking out games that had Spanish voice tracks and menus, and playing those, though I haven’t done much gaming in the last several years.  Yeah, learning Spanish has been work for me, it’s something I put a lot of time and effort into every day, but what I’m doing for it is fun.

And I think that ends up making all the difference in the world for it, really.  When I came home beat up and thought about just going to bed back before I was learning Spanish, I usually ended up cracking open a book or watching crap on Netflix or YouTube and spacing out for a while.  All that’s changed is the language I do that in now.  It took a while to get to the point where I could do those things in Spanish and get anything out of it, because for a long time there just wasn’t enough comprehension to get through anything, but in hindsight I don’t think getting to that point was even what I would consider the most difficult part of this project.

In the early going, when it was still too hard to get through shows like Puffin Rock, which is written with children under six in mind, there was so much to the language that was novel that it still didn’t feel like work to be picking up the basics.  It feels sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, where you’re just slipping matching pieces together and you barely have any idea what the overall picture is going to look like yet.  And each new piece joined up feels like a real accomplishment, and you can very clearly see your own progress happening very quickly.  Things only started to get rough and tumble after that initial period of discovery, when you’re left staring down the barrel of thousands upon thousands of new words to learn, pronounced in ways that don’t immediately make sense your ears and tongue.  But, at that point, you start getting access to the stuff that’s fun to do, and that long, long trek to the end of the voyage can almost become an afterthought while you just have fun enjoying content you might otherwise watch in your first language.

So at the end of the day, have I gotten worn down and tired of learning Spanish?  I’ll tell you when I run out of Netflix.

All righty, let’s look at this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 1/15

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 4 chapters of Máscaras de Muerte, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Maniac, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 1/16

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 5 chapters of Máscaras de Muerte, ~120 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Maniac, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 1/17

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 5 chapters of Derecho de Sangre, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Maniac, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, ~70 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 1/18

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 6 chapters of Derecho de Sangre, ~100 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Maniac, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 1/19

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 7 chapters of Derecho de Sangre, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 1/20

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 5 chapters of Derecho de Sangre, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 1/21

  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 6 chapters of Derecho de Sangre, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of Little Witch Academia, 1 episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~100 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 1400 XP, 210 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 15 tv episodes, and 5 YouTube episodes watched, 470 minutes
  • Total reading: 38 chapters read, 650 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 hours 10 minutes

A high-octane week again.  I finished up Maniac and came away really, really liking it, kind of sad to see it go.  The numbers look a little screwy, because being a Netflix series, episode length is a little variable, so some days it went over my usual hour, while others it went under and I backfilled with some Daniel San GMR.  After running out of Maniac, I was making up my mind on what to start watching again, and noticed that a new Netflix show of Carmen Sandiego came out.  I tried it, and was totally onboard with it immediately, gonna be watching that through in short order here.

Also, in considering my yearly themes and wanting to push my listening comprehension up to the next level, and since I usually end up spending an hour working on listening comprehension and an hour and half on reading, I thought that it would be a good idea to try flip-flopping my time spent on reading with my time watching to try and get in some extra practice. I’m not planning on doing that every day, but some of the time, maybe back and forth day to day.  I tried it out on Monday, and it worked out pretty well, though I ended up reading an extra chapter of Derecho de Sangre on Monday after finishing up everything else for the night.  Which is not a complaint.  I like these books.

Speaking of, Dresden Files has been going strong.  I finished up Máscaras de Muerte and jumped onto the next, Derecho de Sangre (which as a title still really bothers me, translating to Blood Rights, when the original title was Blood Rites), and part of the decision to try and switch around my time spent per day some of the time is based on how quickly I’m running out of these books.  My cost breakdown for January is going to be significantly longer than the last few months have been from buying these books.  They’re not really hurting my wallet or anything, but it’d be nice for them to last a smidge longer.  Just a smidge.

Going back to the listening comprehension thing, I tried again to watch an episode of Club de Cuervos without subtitles after finishing up Maniac, and boy howdy, I really couldn’t understand it.  I’m a little surprised by how tough it is, seeing as it’s Mexican Spanish specifically, which is what I’ve had the most experience listening to, but it’s just beyond my deciphering ability.  I didn’t count it on any of the days, because it was only for a couple minutes.  Right now it’s my goal I’m trying to work toward, as the yard-stick for improvement in listening comprehension.  Might take me a while to get there.

Anyway, think that’ll do it for this one.  TTFN.

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