My Strategy for Learning Spanish Without Immersion

In my last post, I wrote about how I set a goal to overcome a decades-long, self-imposed negative belief that I am not good at learning languages. This self-belief was based on the fact that I took so many years of language courses in high school, college, and grad school trying to learn Spanish and German. Having failed to become conversational or even achieve reading fluency, I believed my brain was just not suited for learning languages.

But now I believe that belief was bullshit. I amĀ good at learning languages. And my goal is to prove that to myself by rapidly learning Spanish.

First and foremost, my strategy is to try and speak it as much as possible. Since full immersion in a foreign country is not an option, I will be trying to converse with my partner, who is herself learning the language and more advanced in her learning than me (but by no means fluent or advanced).

Second, I am using Duolingo to learn vocab and grammar. I am doing it on the desktop version which forces me to write out sentences with a keyboard instead of just selecting pre-selected words (and there are no hearts, which slows down my speed on the mobile app). I am also taking full advantage of the stories feature as well as the podcasts to help with my listening skills.

Third, I am using Spaced Repetition Software to help memorize a list of vocab flashcards I am building up in a custom deck. Spaced repetition has been shown to be the most scientifically reputable method of memorization, for it “spaces out” the easy, well-known items and helps you focus on what is actually difficult, until those become easy, and so on and so on.

I compiled a list of Spanish-language reddits to follow, because the multi-media aspect of reddit really helps with context. I joined several Spanish-English discord servers to follow real-time conversations in Spanish.

I am also using other Spanish apps like memrise to supplement Duolingo. I am using the gamification of Duolingo to motivate me to spend significant time on the app learning, which inspires me to learn through other avenues.

I am watching youtube videos. I am watching Spanish tiktoks. I am listening to audio courses and podcasts. I am reading children’s books.

Basically, I am trying to immerse myself in the language as much as I can without real immersion.

I have just started this journey. I know my biggest hurdle will be to maintain motivation and not get distracted by all the other things I want to learn and read that are not Spanish. But I’m hoping to combine some of my interests, like religious history, with Spanish by reading folks like St. John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic.

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