Watching/Listening Experiment Post-Mortem

It looks like I'm reading right now, but I slipped a phone between the pages.

So at the start of the month, I decided to experiment with my studying methods.  Months before, I had switched up my focus to almost exclusively reading, because after the first month I had very noticeable results on not only my ability to follow books, but also my listening comprehension.  However, after three additional months of very heavy reading practice, with bi-monthly days of checking in to see how it was going along for my listening comprehension, I found myself rather disappointed with my progress.  I continued seeing improvements in my reading comprehension, as well as my overall grasp of Spanish, as it was in that time that I felt comfortable enough to begin writing blogs that weren’t in English, but my listening comprehension didn’t seem to improve.  It wasn’t getting worse or anything, but the same shows and types of content gave me the same problems, check-in after check-in, and I was feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere.  So, since changing up the script had worked so well before, I thought it was time to change it up again.

I still have a few days left on the month, and the experiment was disrupted for almost an entire week while I was out of town, but as it’s winding down, I feel confident in talking about the results and I know how I’m going to change my day-to-day work process after it’s officially over.  And, much like the last experiment, I am happy to say that this one was a success.

In the last month, I have been pleased to watch my listening comprehension skills slowly and steadily improve.  There hasn’t been any magical leap forward, like I busted through a wall and everything “clicked” or anything, it’s rather just that I’ve been having and easier and easier time following the things I watch and listen to.  I still have plenty of trouble with some of the things I listen to, like Pernocte, a very interesting podcast that I’d love to listen to more, except that the host and most of the guests are speaking Argentinian Spanish, which I find significantly harder to follow than any other accent of Spanish I’ve come across.  It’s interesting, and I can catch a good 70% of it, enough to follow the general topic points and get a feel for the shape and flavor of each episode, but not enough to where I could say I’m really understanding it.  Not having that robs a lot of the enjoyment out of an activity, which is why I’ve only listened to a few episodes of it sparingly.

The same is true for other shows and things I’ve tried, and even in the case of shows that I have a stronger grasp on, that’s often in the 90-95% range, and that remaining 5-10% counts for a lot.  That remaining is basically where all the subtlety and nuance of something lies, and while it doesn’t keep those things from being fun to watch like the 70% range does, it does limit keep my perspective in check.  This month has been a benefit, but I am not done.

Still, though, despite the problems, it has been a success, and I have seen improvement.  Something I ran into a lot with my bi-monthly check-ins during the reading-heavy workflow was that I felt reluctant to watch or listen to the “easy” things that I’d been watching before, because I felt like I was using up a rather finite amount of allotted listening time on something that wouldn’t give me any measurable results.  What I found happened there is both my enjoyment of listening and my confidence in my ability to comprehend anything plummeted.  Everything I was listening to was hard, and I had to put in a lot of mental work to follow anything, so in addition to not seeing results, I was also feeling bad about my abilities.  I did eventually give myself permission to watch a wider array of stuff on those check-ins as a way to counteract it, but it was only a partial success.  I could confirm that I was in fact not getting worse, but I still had trouble seeing if I was getting better, because the results felt static, check-in to check-in.

Meanwhile, after four weeks of listening every day, and aiming for listening a lot, it’s clear to me that I am improving.  Not only are the easy things often easier, the harder things have gotten steadily less intimidating and difficult.  I talked a bit last month about how it often felt like there were two different Spanish languages, one used by voice actors and one used by native speakers, and while I was confident on the former, the latter was overwhelming.  While that sentiment still rings true for me, it’s ringing less true now.  I’ve spent a pretty solid portion of this month watching and listening to content produced in Spanish from the get-go, like No Hay Tos, Arte Divierte, Daniel San GMR, and La Zona Cero.  Many of those are still more difficult than, say, watching an episode of Breaking Bad, but there has been a definite improvement.  Not only are those videos gotten more enjoyable over the month, I’ve also gotten more out of them.

However, the bigger takeaway I’ve gotten from the experiment hasn’t been the results with my listening comprehension.  It has been what it’s done for my daily schedule.

I was doing pretty well in the early going with the all-reading-all-the-time schedule, but after a while it really started to drain on me.  Three hours of focused, quiet reading per-day is a lot to ask out of a lot of people in their native language, and in Spanish, which I can read very well but still have to put in more effort than with English, it was a lot.  I kept my chin up and worked through it, I never burned out per-se, but it was often a major struggle, and was wearing me down bit by bit.  Part of why I went for this experiment was hoping that, even if I didn’t see much improvement, I’d at least get a chance to shake things up and possibly recharge my study-batteries.  And that definitely happened.

Despite being a generally voracious reader, I, like most people, end up consuming a lot of audiovisual media.  I stopped watching traditional television a good eight years ago and largely switched over to online sources, but I still end up watching a lot of stuff, as entertainment and to wind down.  I watch a lot less than I did a year and a half ago, when I started reducing my downtime in favor of Spanish study, and further when I started writing in earnest again, but it’s still a portion of my day that I work in around the other stuff I do.  And spending time each day watching or listening to Spanish slots a lot better into that normal flow of the day when I can do it alongside the youtube channels and podcasts that I already keep up to date on.

Before I was just using that time for reading, but it was draining me thanks to the extra headspace required for reading, but I found that using that time for watching had a lot less of a draining effect.  There was less friction clicking on a Spanish video compared to an English one than there was picking up my kindle, and less distraction staying with the video than trying to read for extended periods of time while also online.  And plus, I was finding, and then confirmed in Chicago, that I was comfortably reading for around an hour and a half per day without specifically making any time for it, which led to me often going over my soft goal of three hours a day, sometimes by a lot.

So considering all that, as the month winds down, I’ve been thinking over how I want to spend my time going forward, and that most certainly involves an increase in time spent watching and listening.  Even without any of noticed improvements I’ve had, I’d probably be making this change, simply for the quality-of-life improvement that replacing some of that reading time with watching has had.  Thankfully, there have been improvements, so I don’t even have to feel guilty.  My plan as of now is to bump reading time back up a little, and watching time by the same rough amount, evening them up to ninety planned minutes of both per day.  That’s going to result in me rarely needing to make much time for reading over what my baseline is, while reducing the pressure on how many episodes and things I need to queue up around other things, and I think it will result in me having a generally better time of things overall.  I’ll be starting in on that as we move into August, with the plan on reevaluating things as time goes on.  A lot of this project is trial and error, and the best way to run things of that nature is to be open to reevaluation and making changes.  We’ll see how things go from here.

Now then, onto this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 7/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Regimiento Monstruoso, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of Pernocte, 2 episodes of Arte Divierte, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 7/24

  • Duolingo: 48 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 7% of Regimiento Monstruoso, ~70 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~160 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 7/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Regimiento Monstruoso, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 7/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 8% of Un Sombrero de Cielo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 7/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 8% of Un Sombrero de Cielo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 7/28

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 8% of Un Sombrero de Cielo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, 1 episode of HeroSword, ~130 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 7/29

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Un Sombrero de Cielo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 2/5 books, 430 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 13 youtube episodes, 1 podcast, and 2 tv episodes watched, 1,010 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 hours 0 minutes

A … rather high numbers week.

I had a bit of extra free time overall this week compared to normal which helped, but the main factor that came into play was me working through some stream archives on Daniel San GMR, several of which were around 3 hours per video.  I continued to read the same amount, but on days that I watched a big stream, I inevitably went over my goal of three hours total so I could finish a stream.

This has led to the appearance of me possibly dropping a few shows I had been watching regularly, like Los Simpson and Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I figure those shows will certainly still be around to watch after this experiment officially ends, while finding time for a three hour stream when I’m also trying to read more might prove challenging.  Not impossible, mind you, but hey, while I have the excuse of the experiment, it’s easier to burn through the archives.  In general, I find the streams a pretty good use of my time, as the conversations in them are all pretty off-the-cuff and casual, so it’s a rather natural segment of speech to be working on understanding, and Daniel plays a lot of games I have interest in/attachment to.

Aside from Daniel San videos, I caught some more Arte Divierte, which I’ve been enjoying, and watched an episode of HeroSword, a channel about cartoons that had an episode featuring Chucho, the host of La Zona Cero, which was interesting, and I’ll probably be taking a closer look at HeroSword in the future.  I’d been considering trying to watch something big and special to finish off this experiment at the end of the month, but as I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to keep up with a heavy amount of listening practice, that seems less important now.  I don’t know, still have a few days to decide on that.

I finished Regimiento Monstruoso this week, and it feels weird to be taking this long to get through books considering the pace I was going before, but on the other hand it’s been nice not spending the money on new books so regularly.  I quite liked Regimiento Monstruoso, though it’s in far too stiff of competition to come close to topping my favorites list of the series.  I then started in on Un Sombrero de Cielo, which is another Tiffany Aching/Wee Free Men book.  I’ve been enjoying it so far, I quite like the characters and segment of the setting they’re in.  I’m looking forward to picking up my reading pace a little, so I can get through these books a little bit faster.

In Duolingo this week, for a sentence that translated to, “Pick up your socks!” someone thought that it ought to be keep your socks, because based on their understanding, ‘pick up’ meant to lift something and hold it.  Which of course it does, but ‘keep your socks’ sounds more like ‘don’t throw them away’ than anything else, and when ‘pick up’ is used as a command, it almost always means to collect something from the ground and put it away, give someone in a different location a ride in your car, or clean up a room.  In talking about it, I mentioned that lots of Americans grew up hearing “Pick up your room!” yelled at them by their parents, though with the caveat that that phrasing might sound strange in England.  I then discovered, in talking about it with a British friend of mine in a chat, that England might not be the only place where that would sound strange, as it seems to be a regional American phrase.  It goes to show that there’s always more to learn about my native language, let alone Spanish.

Well, that ought to do for this one.  TTFN.

5 thoughts on “Watching/Listening Experiment Post-Mortem

  1. how do you read spanish? kindle? physical book? intensively? extensively??? i’m only reading spanish books with english translations currently since i need to refer to the english translation from time to time. hopefully i’ll wean off eventualllllllly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been a mixture of print books (mostly used books) and ebooks, depending on availability and price. I’ve mostly stuck with extensive reading, there was some intensive at the beginning when I was having trouble following even basic things, but after I got the hang of it it’s been basically all extensive reading for the past year. I haven’t read any side-by-side translation books, going just for Spanish language books and ready to look words up if needed. The amount of look-ups has been steadily going down, to where I barely need to at all anymore. I’m sure you’ll be able to wean yourself off of needing the translations. 🙂

      I haven’t used audiobooks at all, going for podcasts, youtube creators, movies, and television shows for listening experience. I tend to have trouble paying attention to English audiobooks, so it didn’t seem like a good use of my time to try it in Spanish. In hindsight, I think I would have had a better time when starting off learning Spanish if I had listened to an audiobook version while reading along myself, which is something I’ll probably aim to do if I go on to learn a third language.

      And I understand the lack of interest in reading English work that was translated into Spanish, you aren’t really getting a sense of the culture from something translated. In saying that, there is something to be said for the wide availability of translated books compared to those written natively in Spanish, and in the early-going having familiarity with the original work for things like Harry Potter really helped me out when the writing complexity was still a bit over my head. I don’t know, I felt embarrassed for a while that I was largely reading translated books, thinking of myself as being sort of culturally insensitive, but I’ve talked to enough native speakers who, when asked what their favorite books and shows were when they were growing up, answered “Harry Potter and The Simpsons,” to change my mind on that. The world’s got a somewhat shared pop culture at this point, and consuming your own pop culture again in the form that a different culture consumed it DOES give you some perspective on the culture in interesting ways. I have read/watched and enjoyed quite a bit of original Spanish content at this point, too, so it’s not like anyone has to do one or the other instead of both. I do understand the hesitance, though, so more power to you if you’re sticking with native content only.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. also i have zero desire to read stuff in spanish that was translated from english to spanish etc…. and so i recently finished shipwrecked sailor by gabriel marquez and i’m currently reading Cajas De Carton- Francisco Jimenez

    Liked by 1 person

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