Reflecting on Learning Methods

Self-reflecting comes naturally to me. As does self-effacing. I'm fat.

So it’s been a good chunk of time now that I’ve been using audio material heavily in my day to day routine, and I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate this routine again.  A big part of being successful with self-directed projects is the ability to be introspective and approach your own thought process and methods with a critical eye and be willing to change and adapt things that aren’t having the intended effect, even if you enjoy them.

It’s very easy to get invested in a routine and stop defining a pastime by the goal, but rather by the method, even if that method ends up not getting you anywhere.  There have been plenty of times—both for me and for people I know—where someone starts up a diet to lose weight, and then gets attached to the diet for an extended period of time, even long after it’s clear that it’s having negligible effects on their waistline.  That said, sometimes a diet has multiple goals, including improving your overall nutrition or even giving you an excuse to be smugly superior to all your friends, so sometimes it’s worth keeping something around that isn’t optimal for one goal because it fits a lot of goals better than other choices.  Things like this are rarely clear-cut.  If they were, you probably wouldn’t need to reevaluate, because it would be obvious without thinking about it.

So, two and a half odd months into this watching/listening routine, I’m left puzzling over how to rank my progress.  It’s quite obvious to me my listening comprehension has been improving lately.  I’m finding myself drawn into the flow of shows and “forgetting” that they’re not in English more and more often, and I’m picking up a lot more nuance in the shows I watch compared to what I used to.  Those things happened sometimes before, but they’re happening with more regularity, which has the benefit of both showing me that I’m getting better, but also making the time spent listening easier.  Listening practice still takes a not insignificant amount of focus from me to keep from just letting it reduce to background noise, which means working on it results in fatigue.  The things I watch are fun and it doesn’t feel much like it’s a chore or anything, but it isn’t quite the same as relaxation, goof-off time the way watching, say, an episode of The Game Grumps is.  It is moving in that direction, though, which is overall a really positive sign.

That improvement is, it should be noted, on the midrange and lower levels of listening difficulty for me.  It happens for shows that are aimed at a younger audience, such as Miraculous, where nothing that’s said is all that complicated, the accents are neutral, and it’s spoken at a neutral pace, or shows that I have a high level of familiarity with, like Daniel San GMR, where I’ve listened to the host for a long enough time that I am familiar with his specific accent, delivery, and preferred vocabulary.  Where it does not happen is with shows at the top end of difficulty.  Shows like TED en Español, Diablero, Club de Cuervos, and Pernocte are some combination of speed, accent, word choice, and delivery to where I continue to get regularly lost in the process of listening to them.  I’m never so lost that I have no idea what things are about, but a lot of the time I come out the other end of listening to something feeling beaten down by it.  I followed what was happening, but I didn’t get it, there was too much left on the table for that to be true.

This isn’t really the best.  For the most part, it seems to be a similar level of improvement over two months compared to the improvement over the two months leading up to my listening experiment in the first place.  The mid-range and lower stuff continues to get easier, while the top-range stuff continues to remain more or less opaque.  I’m left wondering what the driving force in my improvement is.  Has the listening practice helped?  Would I have gotten the same result as fast or faster if I’d just spent the time reading?  I spent so much time focused on just reading, following research that showed it improved all aspects of comprehension, including listening, and I switched it up feeling like I wasn’t getting much in the way of listening improvements after a while.  Was I getting those improvements at the same or better rate, and just didn’t notice because I wasn’t testing my comprehension levels with a wide enough variety of different listening material?

It’s a little hard to say, and if this were the only relevant metric, I’d say it might be time to try and control for things a little more closely and give some pokes and prods to my methods, aiming for as optimized a method as possible.  However, it is not the only relevant metric.  Over the past few months, I have felt a lot less stressed day to day about getting in my time with Spanish.  It might feel like three hours a day is three hours a day, regardless of what one’s doing, but splitting that time between the wildly different activities of watching something on my computer/phone/whathaveyou and reading something off my kindle has made a world of difference to me.  I have always enjoyed reading and could reasonably go for longer than I do daily, but an hour and a half longer is pushing it, and I’m feeling comfortable with how much I read per day now.  The same could be said for watching (though I could probably stand to do more of that per day without much stress).

Much like a slow-acting diet that does result in you eating healthier, I’m feeling like this current schedule is pretty nutritious for me still.  Maybe switching back to reading only would squeeze out a bit more effort-rich input per day than my current schedule, but it might also push me further toward burning out.

End of the day, my takeaway is to keep on going with this current course for now. That might sound like the whole thought exercise was a waste of time, but I’m continuing on the current course feeling a lot more confident in that choice, having sat down to think it through, which is itself a benefit.

Now then, let’s look at this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 9/03

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, 1 episode of TED en Español, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 9/04

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Miraculous, 1 episode of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, 1 episode of No Hay Tos, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 9/05

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Miraculous, 1 episode of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, 1 episode of Carole and Tuesday, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 9/06

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carole and Tuesday, 3 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 9/07

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 5 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 9/08

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 9/09

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of Dinero a Mansalva, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: .7 books, 630 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 10 youtube episodes, 2 podcasts, 1 movie, and 6 tv episodes watched, 660 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 21 hours 30 minutes

Another nice and solid week.  I continued on with reading Dinero a Mansalva at a steady pace and will be finishing it up in the next couple of days.  After that, it’s t-minus 5 Discworld books to go before I finish the series.  The wistfulness is real.

I rewatched Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus this week, because I really, really like it and just wanted to watch it again.  I also checked out Carole and Tuesday on a recommendation, and I am definitely interested in watching it through, alongside what’s left of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and Miraculous.  I got distracted on the latter half of the week watching some longer form gameplay videos from Daniel San GMR, mostly because I’m rather naturally drawn to consuming that type of media, but I’m sure I’ll get back to the Netflix stuff here pretty soon.  I try to let my whims dictate what I watch or listen to day to day, so I end up bouncing around a lot.

In Duolingo this week, I ran across one of my absolute favorite things, which is when someone aggressively and confidently states something about English that is utterly wrong.  I’m not being sarcastic here, it’s one of my favorite things because I find it really funny.  There’s something hilarious about smug righteousness when saying something utterly wrong.  My favorite ever was someone saying something like, “It should be ‘I isn’t available now,’ this translator never includes contractions, you should fire them,” but in this case it was someone saying, “’Anyway’ is incorrect, it should say ‘anyhow.’”  I know English is hard and I’m not trying to call anyone out about this sort of thing, but I just can’t fathom being that bold and confident about something you’re obviously still in the process of learning.  I suppose with Duolingo, which does have faults and won’t take right answers sometimes, it’s easy to come in with an assumption that the fault is with the system and not with you, but still.  It’s just so weird and funny.

Moving forward, I’m hitting a weird point of needing to change around my daily habits for Spanish a little.  For a very long time now it’s been habitual for me to read while smoking cigarettes, I do both activities regularly throughout the day, and I need to go outside to do the latter, so it’s a good excuse as something to just generally do to fill up that time.  Earlier this week, though, I quit smoking.  There’s the chance that quitting won’t stick, but I seem to be doing okay for now, and I’d like to for-real be quit, but in the meantime I’m left with the sort of annoying problem of not being sure when or how to fit in ten to fifteen minutes of reading randomly throughout the day.  I’ve found myself going outside and reading for ten minutes every few hours like I have for years now, just without smoking anything at the same time.  That’s okay for now, but the weather’s still comfortable here, I’m not going to be wanting to go stand outside and read when the snow hits if there’s no reason to do that.  I’m going to have to reorganize this.

Anyway, that’s it for this one.  TTFN.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on Learning Methods

  1. So would you say you spend more time doing stuff in Spanish than in English when it comes to tv and books??

    For myself, I am content with just reading Spanish books and I have too many American shows to watch ( i am really behind!!) so the closest thing I do to watching tv in Spanish is listening ( I rip the audio, truncate the silence on audacity) to the Spanish dub of South Park or whatever American show . I will gladly watch a Show in Spanish that’s originally in Spanish if it’s as good as game of thrones or breaking bad or mad men or halt and catch fire etc but I know they don’t exist so I’m just watching my American shows ( that I know I like and are of a certain quality) and listening to the dubs to make the most of it.. I’m mostly listening to french dubs actually lol… listening is very fun .. I hope the new season of South Park is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now, almost all of my reading time is in Spanish. I sometimes proofread and provide feedback to writer friends of mine and the like in English, but all my relaxation reading for nearly two years now has been in Spanish. This has led to me annoying friends of mine who try to recommend me books and my only response to them is to ask whether or not there’s a translation available, but honestly they should have gotten the hint by now. 😀

      Watching and listening stuff is more mixed. There’s a lot of daily youtube stuff I watch, and I follow a couple of podcasts that are English, which by their nature are only going to be in English, so there’s nothing to be done about it. I’m also a fan of a few sport events that I watch pretty regularly, including American football (which I COULD watch in Spanish, except I usually watch it with my dad, and he’s not up for not understanding the commentary) and pro fighting game tournaments, which are beginning to have more Spanish language players and commentary, but is still mostly English and Japanese. I have been reluctant/unwilling to add new Netflix shows to my queue that aren’t available in Spanish, but I’m otherwise a lot more relaxed about getting a mixture of English and Spanish audio media than I am with reading. That said, I probably still watch MOSTLY Spanish media compared to English per day, save when there’s, like, a game tournament to watch or a two hour podcast comes out or something.

      And yeah, I certainly run into problems with accents, though I can at this point usually tell if it’s the accent that’s giving me problems or something else going on. Sometimes it’s definitely the accent, like the podcast Pernocte, which is Argentinian and super hard to follow, but sometimes it’s something else like the speed of conversation, the sound-mixing, or unfamiliar vocabulary. Which does make it more difficult to tell what my comprehension level is in relation to something, at least compared to reading where I can tell at a glance how many words on a page I don’t know. On the other hand, I try to get in a reasonably wide range of different sorts of media and material, in order to have a larger pool of information to base my comprehension level off of.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Also isn’t it hard to gauge sometimes if your Spanish comprehension is good or not because there are so many regional dialects/accents/etc since you’re always going to come across people speaking “Spanish” that you have trouble understanding for a myriad of reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

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