Adjusting to Just Reading

So after last week’s blog musing over the idea of switching over to just reading, I decided that even if I didn’t stick with the experiment, it was at least worth a shot.  So at the start of the week, I bought the remainder of the Dresden Files books that were available in Spanish (which isn’t all of them, unfortunately), reduced my daily goal on Duolingo, and hunkered down to read.  After a week of it, I think I’m going to keep on with the experiment for the next three weeks of blogs, giving me a “month” of the experience, and then seeing how my listening comprehension has fared.  That said, making the switch has proven to be challenging in ways I wasn’t expecting.

In some ways it was a pretty easy transition.  Last week, I’d finished up Violet Evergarden, which was the last of what I’d been watching recently that had really hit me hard.  I also tried a number of shows that I then dropped because I wasn’t into them.  I still had things I could be watching day to day, but nothing that was really jumping out at me as a must-see that I’d feel conflicted about putting aside for a while, so there was no real friction with the idea of tuning down that focus for a while.

Additionally, putting in the extra time with reading hasn’t been terribly difficult most of the time.  I’ve already been reading abundantly each day, and adding on the time I was giving up from not watching anything hasn’t been too difficult.  Most of the time.  Some days it’s a walk in the park.  Other days it’s been strangely challenging.  And oddly enough it seems to be that way when I’m presented with a bunch of short chapters in a row.

My guess is that has to do with the friction of starting and ending a chapter, which I don’t really think hits me too hard, but it’s the only thing that makes any sort of sense.  Looking at the days when I read the fewest number of chapters, the time spent reading felt like it went the fastest, and vice versa.  In reading El Trono Blanco, I was struck by how drastically different it was structured compared to the previous books in the series, where there would often be a couple of short chapters, followed by a really long chapter.  El Trono Blanco on the other hand had chapters of a fairly uniform short length.  None of them took all that long to read, but there was never a push when I was reading to “just get to the end of the chapter” before putting it down to eat or go to the bathroom or whatever.  The book was enjoyable and a page-turner, but I still found it harder to get through in single-sittings than the one before, for reasons I don’t totally understand.

For the most part, though, I’ve been surprised by how smooth the change went.  I didn’t expect that reducing the watching and Duolingo time would be particularly challenging, but I thought I’d have a harder time finding the reading time than it really has been.  It’s one thing to sit down and watch a show or two, that’s something that’s easy to do while also eating and doesn’t take much willpower aside from paying attention, while reading has a bit more of a demand going on, whether that’s from the trouble of environmental distractions, or trying to do other things.  For example, I’ve never been very good about reading while eating a meal, I end up slowing way down and getting frustrated.  I also have an easier time of pausing a show to talk to someone/write a message on Discord, and then unpause and get back into the flow of things than I do when reading.  But despite those possible stumbling blocks, it really hasn’t been that much of a problem.  Even my “challenging” reading days have still ended up with a nice total for the amount of time spent on them.  That time just felt like it cost me more to do.

Outside of the transition process, something I’ve noticed that’s happened already has been a slight increase in reading speed.  Part of that, I think, might just be that the percentage of time spent per day reading out loud has gone down, but I do think I’ve already started getting through books faster in the same amount of time compared to just a week ago.  That’s given me some optimism that my “after” test with listening will have favorable results.  All I can do now is keep on with it.  At this rate, I’ll be out of Dresden Files well before this experiment is over.  Thankfully the first few Discworld books in Spanish are also available as ebooks, so I can keep this going.  I’ve checked.

Looking forward a bit, I’m not quite sure what this experiment is going to net me yet.  What I’d really like to happen is that I’ll get to the end of the four weeks, try a show like Club de Cuervos, and find that I can understand it clearly.  If that happens, I’ll feel comfortable with my foundation to start in on some speaking practice through italki.  Those same case histories that pushed me into this experiment put forth the same conclusion that pure reading will result in an increased ability and confidence when speaking out loud, but I feel like there’s still a learning curve to purely speaking that needs to be overcome before someone can really be comfortable with it, and the only way to get there is through practice speaking.

I don’t know, maybe that’s me thinking with my gut instead of my head, but I can’t imagine there not being a period of awkwardness and stumbling at the first real attempts at speaking, regardless of the level of knowledge and confidence someone has in the language before that first speaking attempt.  It likely doesn’t need to last very long, and someone can get their speaking legs underneath them in short order with a strong enough foundation (now there’s a weird-sounding metaphor), but they still have to battle through taking the knowledge they have in their head and convincing their mouth and body to use that knowledge in an automatic and comfortable manner.  I’d just as soon do that with a tutor than try and earn that practice naturally through difficult conversations with strangers.  At least, that seems like the easier option.  Maybe I’m just shy.

But again, that’s all supposing that I’ll come back in a month and find my listening skills leveled up enough for me to continue on with my yearly goal of Striving, but getting that isn’t particularly a guarantee.  It could be that I do notice an improvement, but not as significant an improvement as I want, in which case it’ll be an easy choice to keep on with the heavy reading for another few weeks.  On the other hand, it could be that I come back to find no real change in my listening ability after the month.

If that happens, I’m not sure what my next move will be.  I’ve mentioned a steady improvement in my listening comprehension up to this point, but it’s honestly a difficult thing to try and measure and a lot of the time it feels like I’m treading water.  Coming back after the experiment to find no apparent change to my listening comprehension could mean a number of things.  Maybe there was an improvement, but I just couldn’t notice it thanks to the things I watched.  Maybe there was an improvement, but at the same rate as I would have gotten if I’d spent the month with listening comprehension practice like I have the last few months, which at this point is gradual enough to be easy to miss.  Maybe there wasn’t an improvement and this experiment resulted in me shooting myself in the foot.  I really don’t know what the best move to take will be if what ends up happening is unclear to me.  Returning to the mix of watching/listening and reading would probably be the safest choice, but I suppose I’ll just have to cross that bridge and make a decision if and when I come to it.

All righty, let’s look at those reading-heavy numbers for the week.

Tuesday 2/05

  • Duolingo: 10 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10 chapters of Culpable, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 2/06

  • Duolingo: 30 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 11 chapters of Culpable, ~200 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 2/07

  • Duolingo: 10 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 13 chapters of Culpable, 2 chapters of El Trono Blanco, ~240 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 2/08

  • Duolingo: 30 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 17 chapters of El Trono Blanco, ~170 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 2/09

  • Duolingo: 10 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 16 chapters of El Trono Blanco, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 2/10

  • Duolingo: 30 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 7 chapters of El Trono Blanco, 2 chapters of Un Pequeño Favor, ~160 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 2/11

  • Duolingo: 10 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10 chapters of Un Pequeño Favor, ~190 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 130 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 88 chapters read, 1,320 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 hours 0 minutes

So, y’know, another pretty great week.  This section of the blog looks oddly barren compared to how it normally looks, with tons of sections, different shows, and so on.  Now we just have the token Duolingo usage, which hasn’t been enough time per day to even warrant counting as time spent, the talking practice of reading out loud that I intentionally don’t count as time spent, and all the reading.

I lowered my XP per day goals in Duolingo to 10 a day, and have been alternating between a day where I do one lesson of a topic, and then the next day testing through the rest of the topic to get it to level 2.  I could probably be doing the same amount of work and clearing out more XP with some of the higher level topics, but it’s not like XP in the game matters anymore, and the lower leveled topics are of a higher complexity, so it feels like a better use of the token amount of time on spending on the app through this experiment.

As for the reading, the extra attention is giving some clear results.  I finished up Culpable in a few days, read El Trono Blanco in a few more, and have a decent chunk carved out of Un Pequeño Favor already.  When I started in on this, I went ahead and bought the rest of the books up through Renegado off of Amazon, and then spent a few hours trying to hunt down the rest of the series in other places.  Fortunately, I found the next book, Cambios, available online digitally through a Madrid publisher (which meant I got to buy something in Euros, I feel so fancy), but after that the trail ran dry.

Cambios was only put out in the last few months through that publisher, so I fear that I can’t find the last three books in Spanish because they don’t exist.  Which is a bummer.  But as I said earlier, I’ll be moving along to Discworld next.  Discworld has the benefit of being a series that I’d started and really enjoyed, but hadn’t gotten around to reading more than the first couple, so there’s a lot of new ground for me to cover with it.  Additionally, there’s like 40 books to it, and at a cursory glance, I believe I can get the whole series in Spanish, so it can be a source of reading that will last me a long time.  Even if after the planned month of concentrated reading I go back to the previous schedule of studying, I won’t be left wanting for books for a very long time.

Anyway, that’ll be it for this one.  TTFN.

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