Weekly Tip – 4/3/15

Weekly Tip: Make sure your practice and effort is level appropriate.


Last week we started talking about students who are frustrated and feel stuck, like they’re not progressing. I asked you all to ask yourselves some questions about how much time you’re putting into your Spanish vs. how much progress you’re making.


This week I want you to consider the actual things you are doing to practice your Spanish.


For example, many students in the Advanced classes still do DuoLingo. While DuoLingo is a really fun app that at a high level can help maintain vocabulary and reinforce grammar, it is not going to help an advanced student get to the fluent level. On the other hand I know several students in the advanced beginner classes that read the news in Spanish. While learning advanced, specific vocabulary is fantastic, it’s not going to help you very much if you can’t sit down and have dinner conversation with someone.


It’s very difficult to give broad advise, because there are so many factors and each person is individual, but here are a few things to consider at different levels:


A1: Increasing your every day vocabulary is what you should concentrate on. DuoLingo for 15 minutes a day, is a great way to go. Keeping a journal of 3 things you did or are going to do that day is also a great way to learn vocabulary specific to your life.


A2: Continue to increase your vocabulary and start working on your comprehension skills. DuoLingo + start watching Destinos – An Introduction to Spanish + keeping a journal will be very helpful.


B1: This is the time to become more fluid, to improve your comprehension and to start refining your Spanish. Start talking to yourself. As crazy as it sounds, talk to yourself out loud so that you get more practice. This is also the time to start getting rid of all those little words you throw into your Spanish, in English. For example: “Primero fui a mi casa, pero no estaba mi hermana, SO fui a la película sola, YOU KNOW?
DuoLingo + Destinos + a journal are great choices as well as well. You should also start speaking to native speakers any chance you get.


B2: Its time to take it up a notch. It’s time to start reading the news, it’s time to start reading some magazines in Spanish, it’s time to start watching some tv. If you want to get to Intermediate 3, this is the time when you dedicate 50% of your Spanish practice to doing things made for Spanish students (like DuoLingo) and 50% of your time to things made for native speakers (books, news, podcasts, tc, etc.) B2 to B3 is where the transition starts to get a bit more challenging and time consuming. This is the time when you really need a good plan to get to the next level. If moving up from the other levels was like running a 5K, this is like a half marathon. You need to train. You need a plan. And it takes time.


B3: Time to take it up a notch again. The transition from Intermediate to Advanced is not an easy one. You really need to focus 75% of your time on things made for native speakers. This is the time when you have to start watching tv in Spanish (telenovelas are the best, as they repeat things over and over again – perfect for learning purposes), you need to start reading books in Spanish, the news, etc. If I’m comparing it to running as I did with B2, this transition is like running a full marathon.


C1: Ok, so to go from advanced to fluent is the big one. I’ve been comparing different levels to marathons – well this one is like running 3 marathons in 5 days. It takes a tremendous amount of work to get to this level. 95% of people who do it, do it by living in a Spanish speaking country for 1-2 years. However, it can be done living right here in the US, right here in San Diego.
I’m going to use the amazing Jackie McClish as an example. Jackie is a student who has been with PBO for several years. So far, she is the only student I have seen transition from C1 to C2, without living in a Spanish speaking country. Here are some of the things that Jackie did (and still does) to make this transition: Jackie takes 2 classes at PBO every week, she volunteers several hours a week with an organization where she gets to speak Spanish, she watches telenovelas, she reads books in Spanish, she meets with other students of her level 1 – 2 times a week and she often goes to the social club events. Apart from that, Jackie NEVER speaks to us in English, no matter what. I know there are other things that she does, but this gives you an idea of how much dedication it takes to become fluent. Jackie, if you’re reading this, you are a rock star! All of us at PBO are so proud of you!

C2: Congratulations! You did it! You are fluent! Take a moment to take that in. Feel proud of yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Jump up and down, because you are amazing!
So now what? Now it’s time to maintain your level and refine your skills. This is a great time to revisit grammar, to finally understand how to use the subjunctive properly, to learn where to put those pesky little pronouns and which one to choose, etc. It’s also the time to live half your life in Spanish, if improving your already awesome skills is important to you. This is a great time to let go of many things you do in English and only do them in Spanish. Do you watch the news? Watch it only in Spanish. Do you like to read? Read only in Spanish. Do you have Spanish speaking friends? Time to get some if you don’t. Are you aware of and taking advantage of all the opportunities you have to speak Spanish? Time to step up.

Bueno chicos, I hope that helps. If you’re not sure if what you’re doing outside of class is helping you achieve your goal, ask your teacher. As I mentioned, it really is a different journey for everyone, so this is just a guideline.