A Look Back on 18 Months of Language Learning Progress

If I've learned anything from these 18 months, it's that I need a life.

As November wrapped up, this blog hit 18 months old and my language journey learning Spanish turned two.  A lot has happened in that time and I’m proud of myself for sticking to this project and for making as much progress as I have.  There are lots of times when I feel like I’m walking in place and never getting better, but thanks to this blog, I have a nice little series of time capsules over the course of time, giving me a glimpse back on where I was and what things were like, even if I don’t quite remember all the details anymore.

Last big milestone like this, I went back and added up a cumulative total of time spent and documented on this blog, so let’s do that again.  My running tally at the year mark of the blog looked like this:

  • Total Anki: 21,960 cards reviewed, 1,830 minutes (30 hours 30 minutes)
  • Total Duolingo: 99,753 XP, 9,480 minutes (158 hours)
  • Total Watching/Listening: 448 tv episodes, 14 podcasts, 10 movies, 3 OVAs, and 105 youtube videos watched, 13,000 minutes (216 hours 40 minutes)
  • Total reading: 877 chapters, 24 2/3rds whole books, 1 video game, and 94 pages read, 38,865 minutes (647 hours 45 minutes)
  • Total writing: 3,400 words written, 450 minutes (7 hours 30 minutes)
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 7,980 minutes (133 hours)
  • Total Time: 1,060 hours 25 minutes

Year one still blows me away.  To think that I hit over a thousand documented hours on this project is just wild.  For a more in-depth look at that first year, check out the blogs here and here.

Now then, this last six months has had some bumpy times, and it’s only gonna get worse from here considering the gradual decrease in focus I’ve had to implement lately, but I’m curious if I’m on track for breaking two thousand with year two.  Let’s find out.

June, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 634 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 11 tv episodes, 8 youtube videos, and 2 podcasts watched, 340 minutes
  • Total reading: 6 whole books read, 5,040 minutes
  • Total writing: 1400 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 900 minutes
  • Total Time: 92 hours 10 minutes

July, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 656 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 33 tv episodes, 72 youtube videos, 7 podcasts, and 1 movie watched, 3,215 minutes
  • Total reading: 2 and 2/3rd books read, 2,070 minutes
  • Total writing: 1300 words written, 180 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 930 minutes
  • Total Time: 91 hours 5 minutes

August, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 620 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 42 tv episodes, 28 youtube videos, 10 podcasts, and 1 movie watched, 2,365 minutes
  • Total reading: 2 and 3/4th books read, 2,480 minutes
  • Total writing: 1300 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 930 minutes
  • Total Time: 83 hours 15 minutes

September, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 600 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 15 tv episodes, 41 youtube videos, 14 podcasts, and 1 movie watched, 2,690 minutes
  • Total reading: 2 and 1/4th books and 2 video games read, 2,630 minutes
  • Total writing: 1300 words written, 180 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 900 minutes
  • Total Time: 91 hours 40 minutes

October, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 560 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 21 tv episodes, 89 youtube videos, and 3 podcasts watched, 2,250 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 2/3rd books read, 1,950 minutes
  • Total writing: 1100 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 900 minutes
  • Total Time: 72 hours 50 minutes

November, 2019

  • Total Duolingo: 600 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 15 tv episodes, 36 youtube videos, and 8 2/3 podcasts, 2,190 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 2/3 whole books read, 1,530 minutes
  • Total writing: 1100 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 720 minutes
  • Total Time: 64 hours 30 minutes

Six Month Grand Total

  • Total Duolingo: 3,670 XP, 0 minutes (0 hours)
  • Total Watching/Listening: 137 tv episodes, 42 2/3 podcasts, 3 movies, and 274 youtube videos watched, 13,105 minutes (218 hours 25 minutes)
  • Total reading: 17 whole books and 2 video games read, 15,700 minutes (261 hours 40 minutes)
  • Total writing: 7,500 words written, 960 minutes (16 hours 0 minutes)
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 5,280 minutes (88 hours)
  • Total Time: 494 hours 25 minutes

And the running grand total for the blog:

  • Total Anki: 21,960 cards reviewed, 1,830 minutes (30 hours 30 minutes)
  • Total Duolingo: 103,423 XP, 9,480 minutes (158 hours)
  • Total Watching/Listening: 585 tv episodes, 56 2/3 podcasts, 13 movies, 3 OVAs, and 379 youtube videos watched, 26,105 minutes (435 hours 5 minutes)
  • Total reading: 877 chapters, 41 2/3rds whole books, 3 video games, and 94 pages read, 54,565 minutes (909 hours 25 minutes)
  • Total writing: 10,900 words written, 1,410 minutes (23 hours 30 minutes)
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 13,260 minutes (221 hours)
  • Total Time: 1,535 hours 20 minutes

And there you have it, 18 months of work reduced down to a few lines of text, which would be disappointing if those few lines of text didn’t have some wild numbers attached to them.  I am amazed to see that I am getting close to a thousand hours in just reading.  That’s crazy.  And I knew that my speaking practice from reading out loud had become natural and quick for me, I’ve been doing it for over 200 hours now.  It’s also cool to note that thanks to the increased focus on watching/listening practice time that I started up in this last six months, I more than doubled the amount of listening practice compared to what I had before.  I of course slowed down on the reading speed as a result, but that’s still at the impressive closing-in-on-a-thousand figure.  Even writing, the thing I’m spending the least amount of focus on by only devoting one blog a month to real writing practice, has made it to over 20 hours with me barely touching it.

We of course can also see the largely abandoned tools here, too, with Anki being a relic of the past with its info sort of grandfathered in, and Duolingo growing modestly in the XP total, but not in the time.  Which, when looking at it honestly, is pretty absurd, there’s no possible way that I added over three thousand XP in zero minutes of work.  The amount of time per day I spend on it’s pretty negligible, but even negligible time compounds on itself eventually.  I mean, If I spent two minutes a day on average, in a month I’d have devoted an hour of time to Duolingo.  I’m not going to add that to the figure, even if there’s some sense in doing it, but it’s one of those hidden, rounded off figures that’s lurking all over the numbers of this blog.  It’s gonna be the case with everything if I’m not timing myself with a stopwatch.

And looking at it all now, it’s nice to see that I am on track for breaking 2K in the next six months, but am aware that I probably won’t.  Just looking at the trend month to month, things were at a level to meet and exceed that goal, up until I had to reduce the amount of time invested in working each day.  November’s down from the 90-hour range to closer to 65, and I didn’t even cut all the way back to my current soft goal until midway through the month.  There’s only a slim chance that I’m actually going to be over two thousand hours the next time a blog like this comes around, and I wouldn’t bet on it, personally.

That said, I have a really good feeling about where all this is headed for me.  I’ve been rather comfortable with reading for quite a while, to the point of not noticing much in the way of improvement, but my listening comprehension is another story.  One of the clearest differences between this six months and the previous year is the rocketing number of youtube videos watched.  A topic I’ve touched on repeatedly is the skill gap in listening comprehension between authentic Spanish speakers and dubbed over Spanish, and one of the reason I’ve gravitated toward youtube is because that content is almost entirely comprised of the former type of speaker.

Okay, some of them speak very slowly and serenely, like Leonardo Pereznieto, the host of Arte Divierte, but most of them are just regular people talking about video games and stuff.  And in the early going, I could catch maybe half of what someone like Daniel San GMR said in a video, and that was with subtitles on.  Now, though, it’s still harder than, say, She-Ra, but I catch 80% or so, and that’s with the subtitles off, and with a rewind and some focus I can get it close to 100%.  I’m getting more comfortable and more confident with listening.  Looking back at the start of 2019, I totally underestimated how long it would take me to get to a point where real speaking practice would be worth worrying about, but I think I’m finally getting to a point where that’s right around the corner.  I’m beginning to understand and appreciate just how much of a lifetime pursuit language learning can be, and it’s only as I’m beginning to make out the vague contour of my next big milestone, way off in the distance.

Now then, let’s take a look at the numbers for just this past week.

Tuesday 11/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of A Todo Vapor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of No Hay Tos, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 11/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of La Corona del Pastor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 2 episodes of She-Ra, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 11/28

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of La Corona del Pastor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 11/29

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 15% of La Corona del Pastor, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 11/30

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of La Corona del Pastor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 12/01

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 15% of La Corona del Pastor, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 12/02

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 10% of La Corona del Pastor, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of Andrea Ga, 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 3/4 books, 480 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 10 YouTube episodes, 1 podcast, and 3 tv episodes, 480 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 16 hours 0 minutes

Ended the month on a solid note, helped along largely thanks to Thanksgiving weekend giving me four days back at 2.5 hours or studying.  The week had a bit of emotional ups and downs for me, but time spent working on Spanish went well.

After finishing A Todo Vapor and tearing up over the fact that I would likely never “see” most of the cast again, I started in on La Corona del Pastor, the final book in the series, and on the first day of reading it had to put it down and really cry for a while.  Discworld is something truly special.  It maybe didn’t feel that way at the start, or for a long time into it for me as I read book after mostly goofy book and thought of it in terms of stack-ranking against other books in the series, but somewhere along the way that sense really changed.  I’d been told before by friends that the books were special, and while I believed them, I didn’t really understand for a long time what it was about them that was so special.  I might have to read the whole series again pretty soon, and I might end up making that a regular thing.  Pretty big undertaking, even in comparison to my usual Harry Potter revisit.  Probably worth it, though.

I’m slowly but surely nearing the end of a really long game series by Kiwillius, which while fun hasn’t struck me with nearly as much introspective melancholy.  I’m also nearing the end of several TV seasons that I’ve been poking my way through but not quite getting around to finishing for ages.  Netflix and Disney+ are still less desirable options during my daily work commute, so I’m still working at consistently filling that gap, but I’m probably going to switch my at-home focus pretty soon and work my way through to the end of a number of shows I’ve left dangling, at least before they all come out with new seasons and leave me in the dust.  That should be fun.

Now then, let’s look at the numbers for the month as a whole again, but this time in more specific detail, and with the money spent thrown in, too.

  • Total Duolingo: 600 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 15 tv episodes, 36 youtube videos, and 8 2/3 podcasts, 2,190 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 2/3 whole books read, 1,530 minutes
  • Total writing: 1100 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 720 minutes
  • Total Time: 64 hours 30 minutes

And here’s the breakdown for money spent.

  • A Todo Vapor, Fiction, Ebook, Amazon, $9.35
  • Antihistoria de México, Nonfiction, Ebook, Amazon, $3.11
  • La Corona Del Pastor, Fiction, Ebook, Amazon, $9.35
  • Carlos Camarón en los Aullidos del Horror, Fiction, E Comic Book, Kickstarter, $4.11
  • Netflix Subscription Standard HD Plan, Television and Movie Streaming, $10.99 per month, $10.99
  • Disney+ Subscription with Hulu and ESPN+, Television and Movie Streaming, $12.99 per month, $12.99
  • Amount Spent on Fiction Books: $22.81
  • Amount Spent on Nonfiction Books: $3.11
  • Amount Spent on Services: $23.98
  • Total Spent: $49.90

So again, a bit of a subdued month compared to how it was there for a while, but nothing I can really complain about, since it’s all expected.  I’m still making good progress, just at a pace that’s sustainable with my current workload.  I don’t foresee a need to slow down further right now, which is a nice feeling, and I can continue working and chipping away at different content.

You’ll notice aside from the last two Discworld books, I also bought a nonfiction history book about Mexico this month.  Amazon had a flash sale on Spanish Ebooks, and it caught my eye as something that looked interesting.  And also, while I actually backed it a while ago and forgot about it, I got fulfillment on a Mexican comic book that I back ed on Kickstarter this month, so I’ve included the cost of it now.  I also have El Mundo Según Garp waiting for me after I bought it last month, so I’m not going to be totally at loose ends looking for something to read once Discworld is truly over for me.

In less on-top-of-it news, this month continued my disastrous trend for writing, with me completing 9,050 words for blogs, and no fiction.  I’ve been cutting myself some slack on that, thanks to the hurricane of change that I’ve been going through, but I’m really hoping to turn that around this month and get back on the fiction horse.  If you are also a fan of MLP, that turn of phrase is extra funny.

As alluded to in the main body of the blog, I’m also starting to tentatively think about working on speaking practice for real pretty soon.  There are some things that are holding me back—not the least of which being the holiday season coming up this month—but I’m in a financial position thanks to my current job where paying for some tutoring will be slightly easier to handle.  I’m also feeling like my listening comprehension has finally gotten in a range where it makes sense to do it.  Nothing for that will likely happen in December, but I’m going to strongly consider it going into January.

There are some other things that are holding me back on that a little, though, because, well, I am also starting my medical transition in January, and I’m going to spend a long while feeling pretty awkward and exposed as I go through that.  Something that I don’t think stumbling through Spanish with strangers is going to help me get through.  I don’t know, I’ll see how I’m feeling then, especially since that awkwardness will be a bigger problem months later, not in January itself.

Anyway, that ought to do for this one, it’s getting pretty long and unwieldy.  Until next time, TTFN.

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