Resources for Language Learning on the Internet

Based on some of the internet's promises, you now know 8 languages.

I think it’s pretty undeniable that the internet has made language learning a lot more accessible than it used to be.  The number of available resources has skyrocketed and multiplied, attacking the challenge from multiple angles.  Go back twenty years or so and you were stuck with text books and cassette tapes of conversation examples, or you were paying out the nose for classes or tutors, with no guarantee that any of it would work, and the truth was that most of the time it wouldn’t work.  After all, while the input-based method existed back then, you didn’t have the champions of it spreading the word online, so most people wouldn’t know the best way to go about learning.  And even if you did know, you’d need quite a bit of luck to find books in your target language at a local store, or end up paying heavy import fees to get something shipped in from another country by way of some sort of catalog.  Nowadays, there is so much information, and so many sources of input available at our fingertips.

Something conspicuously absent from that sentence about what we have now is that I didn’t mention anything about the online tools for language learning.  And that absence is conspicuous, because it doesn’t take much looking around online to discover that the majority of people talking about language learning out on the interwebs are doing so while trying to sell their method.

Which is cool, I should mention, I’m not trying to throw shade over here, especially considering a number of the tools and resources out there are much better than a lot of the previous alternatives and tackle the challenge from a wide range of angles, from things like SRS flashcards that automate a time-consuming and difficult to organize manual task, to apps like Duolingo that adds videogame elements and progression to the process, to platforms like LingQ that offer a constantly evolving personal dictionary and word-tracker that would be totally outside the realm of feasibility working by hand.  There’s something to appeal to people of all types out there, and if you’ve found a system that works for you, more power to you.

Personally, though, I do end up discounting them to a degree.  Learning systems are a type of scaffolding for supporting a learning project, but are themselves not the learning itself.  The learning itself just sort of happens as a side-effect, which is a great side-effect to have, but can lead to the conflation between the learning process and the scaffolding used to structure your time.  Having neat systems to use and fun games to play is great, but at the end of the day, I think it’s more efficient—and more rewarding—to just find joy in the learning process itself.

It is therefore uncommon for me to have much to say about tools for learning on this blog.  I wrote a [LINK]post a long while ago about Duolingo’s utility, but haven’t had anything to really point at since then.  I don’t use many tools in my learning, especially now, where I’ve pared down to “keeping my streak going for the hell of it” on Duolingo and don’t use anything else outside of books, shows, movies, and podcasts.  Well, this week I get to change that, because I started using a new tool, and its utility for learning Spanish is fantastic.

I got Disney+, y’all.

Okay, okay, I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, as Disney+ has been all over the chunk of internet I frequent lately (no, I don’t care about baby Yoda, I don’t like Star Wars, don’t @ me), but I’, also being serious, too.  Digging through what’s available to watch, I’ve been surprised by how much of it is available in Spanish, even compared to other streaming services.  Old stuff, too, shows from twenty years ago have Spanish dubs.  There are a dozen different nostalgia bombs I can give myself while practicing Spanish.  I was a bit leery giving the mouse even more of my money as the monopoly on all entertainment grows wider, but there is just so much material available on it that it kinda feels like I have to, even if I wasn’t learning a language.  I guess that’s how they get you, though.

That said, I don’t think it can really take the place of Netflix, especially for languages other than Spanish.  I’ve seen a few other languages here and there on things, but it’s definitely sparse for anything other than Spanish, especially in comparison to Netflix’s selection of other languages.  And while the catalog looks pretty good, so does Netflix’s.  I would be hard-pressed switching to just Disney+ if I had to choose one or the other, but on the other hand I don’t have cable and running both makes that decision an even better one now than when I cut the cord.

This shining endorsement aside, looking at the actual numbers for the week, I haven’t utilized the service very much so far.  Part of that’s because I’m still settling into the new job and am figuring out how best to find learning time.  So far I’ve been getting ~75% of my reading time per day done at work on breaks and lunch, and ~50% of my watching/listening time on my commute, streamed over Bluetooth in my car.  Which has worked very well and results in me not feeling stressed about getting through everything in the day, but has limited a lot of my watching to things that I don’t mind only listening to, since I can’t watch a video while driving.  And if I’m going to watch something at home, well, I’m still trying to get through the most recent season of She-Ra.  I’m sure this problem of abundance will sort itself out over time.

Anyway, if you’ve been eyeing Disney+ and were still on the fence about it, it really does have a ton of cool stuff, with a lot of it available in Spanish.  And if you do have it and have done some digging through it, I’m open to taking suggestions on things to watch, I was joking before, feel free to @ me.  Just don’t @ me about Star Wars.

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

Tuesday 11/19

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of Gargoyles, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 11/20

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1/3 episode of Ciudad Champiñón, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 11/21

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of No Hay Tos, 1 episode of She-Ra, 1 episode of La Zona Cero, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 11/22

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1/3 episode of Ciudad Champiñón, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 11/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of She-Ra, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 11/24

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 9% of A Todo Vapor, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kiwillius, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 11/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 2/5 books, 450 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 7 YouTube episodes, 1 2/3 podcasts, and 2 tv episodes, 460 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 hours 10 minutes

A normal week on the new daily goal structure.  I’m feeling good about this amount of work per day, I’m not feeling stressed or hassled about meeting the goal, but still feel like I need to apply myself to actually do so.  Feels like it’s at a good place for me where it’s not so easy that I feel like I’m squandering an opportunity, but not so hard as to be all-consuming.  I’ll be feeling better about it once I’m back to writing consistently, but in the meantime I don’t feel bad.

I’m nearing the end of A Todo Vapor and should be finishing it Wednesday.  I only have one more Discworld book to go before I finish the series.  I’m wondering if finishing it might make me cry.  It very well might.  There won’t be any photographic evidence of it either way, though.

In addition to the normal stuff and the aforementioned toe-dip into Disney+ with an episode of Gargoyles, I also started watching a podcast series, Ciudad Champiñón.  As you might have noticed, I haven’t actually finished a podcast of theirs, thanks to their episode lengths compared to my time available, but I’d like to devote more time to the show in the future, as I’ve liked what I’ve heard.  Plus podcasts are an all around better option for listening practice with my current schedule.  We’ll see, though, I’m elbow deep in a long-running series by Kiwillius that has had me distracted for a long while now.

While I’m blogging about it next week, sometime right around this blog coming out marks my two-year anniversary learning Spanish.  It’s kind of a trip to think about that, and while I have come a really long way, I still feel like I have a long way to go.  Here’s to another two years, if that’s what it takes, though more on all of that next time around.  Until then, TTFN.

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