Setting a Structure for Language Learning

This may come as a shock, but it turns out that I like structure.

So this week was a weird one for me, and counter to how things have been going in the world, that weirdness was neutral to positive.  My day job is a Monday to Friday affair, but is open for limited hours on Saturdays, so they have to work around that.  Everybody gets scheduled one Saturday per quarter to work with a day off in the middle of the week, and this weekend was my scheduled Saturday.

On the negative side, that meant that my three day weekend thanks to Memorial Day was reduced to two, but on the positive side, rather than having a split shift week with two single days off (which objectively sucks), I had a regular length weekend with a bonus day off on Wednesday.  Then, things got even weirder when management decided to give as many people the day off on Friday as possible as a thank-you for dealing with the pandemic stuff for the last few months, so suddenly I had Friday off, too.  I worked Monday and Tuesday, had Wednesday off, worked Thursday, had Friday off, worked Saturday, and capped off with a weekend of Sunday and Monday.  Super weird week.

As per normal for me, I treated those days off the same as I treat weekend days and focus on watching/listening time.  I’m still not entirely convinced of the efficacy of audio input over reading input, whether we’re talking about improving listening comprehension specifically or not, but I am comfortable saying that I have a harder time reading for extended periods of time when I’m not at work.  Being on the phone queue doesn’t exactly lend itself to listening to things, so reading is a natural fit for filling up the downtime on the clock.  Conversely, when I’m not working, it never quite feels like “reading time” anymore.

I used to have a built-in reading schedule before, because I always-always read while smoking cigarettes, but ever since I quit las September, that routine’s gone away completely.  Watching stuff on the computer, meanwhile, that has time in abundance during quarantine, so it’s easy to spend those extended periods of time clicking around Youtube or Netflix, seeing what catches my eye.

My schedule has slowly evolved to make the most out of these feelings, with me maximizing for the amount of reading-time I can fit in during workdays, and watch-time over the weekend, and now I have a ready made framework for any given day, regardless of what’s on the schedule for it.  Am I clocking into work today?  Great, I’ll have the set schedule to read around and can do some light watching for an hour as I wake up.  Am I free for the day?  Great, I can delve through some of the longer/more involved stuff online and catch a bit of reading when I can.

There’s something to be said for an alternative to working like this, which would be to follow the things that strike your fancy the most.  If you’re reading a book, and really into that book, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to stop at the hour and a half point and try to figure out what you can watch for an extra hour of content that day any more than it would to stop binging a show you really like to read something tedious “just to be sure you’ve read something.”  Staying natural to the whim of your interests in a language is a really great direction to take yourself in, because being engaged with the language is way more important than whatever marginal differences in efficacy there are between one type of input and another.

That said, though, I am a person of habit and structure.  I want the constraints and goals for the day, because they are targets that I can aim for and make me feel productive when I reach them.  Going with the flow and watching or reading stuff on a whim could very well result in me having days where I went drastically over my soft goals for daily Spanish input, but I’d probably feel less productive doing it, just because there wouldn’t be that sense of completion for the day’s plan.  If that isn’t you, by all means, follow your whims, but if you’re like me, having that framework to plop onto a day and take all the thinking out of it is the grease you need to keep a project like learning a language going.  It’s certainly helped me out.

Now then, let’s take a look at the weird numbers of the week.

Tuesday 5/19

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 7% of Estirpe de Reyes, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of She-Ra, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 5/20

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 5% of Estirpe de Reyes, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 4 episodes of She-Ra, 1 episode of Kiwillius, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 5/21

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 4% of El Bucanero del Rey, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Calex MP, ~70 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 5/22

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1% of El Bucanero del Rey, ~30 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kiwillius, 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 5/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 5% of El Bucanero del Rey, ~120 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 5/24

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1% of El Bucanero del Rey, ~30 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kiwillius, 1 episode of BRCDEvg, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, ~120 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 5/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1% of El Bucanero del Rey, ~30 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of Ducktales, 1 episode of La Zona Cero, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1/4 books read, 450 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 15 YouTube episodes, 1 movie, and 10 television episodes watched, 670 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 hours 40 minutes

After all is said and done, a pretty normal week overall, though slightly higher than normal due to a few days of “pushing through” on things, resulting in slightly higher than normal numbers.  I finished Estirpe de Reyes this week on one of those pushes, since I was at the tail end of the book, and overall liked it.  I’m part of the way into El Bucanero del Rey now, and it’s on the long side compared to some other books in the series, so it may take me a while to finish.  After that, I’m out of books in the series, though this time I know exactly what’s happening when I finish, which should be an exciting change up I’m looking forward to.  In the meantime, El Bucanero started off well, so I’m not in a rush to be done or anything.

I also finished She-Ra this week, which was the show’s series finale, and boy howdy, did the show stick the landing.  I was already a huge fan of it from the outset, and that ending solidifies it as one of my favorite shows ever.  There’s a chance that it’ll show up on these blogs again, because a rewatch from the beginning may be in order before too long.

With She-Ra over, the brief ‘ooh, something shiny to watch’ period is over, and it’s largely back to the incidental stuff again.  I did pick up Ducktales after remembering that I never did finish it, and I’m not sure why I haven’t stuck with it more, because it really is a good show, so it might stick around for a while, too.

Next week’s the big milestone, as this blog is the last one for year two.  We’ll close out the year with a big recap of the journey so far, and start to take aim at what year three can bring.  Hopefully whatever it brings will include vaccines and stuff with it, because eesh, 2020 has been rough so far.  Anyway, that’ll do for this one, TTFN.

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