My first 3 months with Spanish – My goals vs what I actually did

I talk a lot about my monthly goals over on my YouTube channel but have never written about it over here before. 

Therefore, I thought it would be useful to reflect and write about my first 3 months learning Spanish.

If you are just starting out learning a new language but not quite sure where to start, I hope this post will offer some ideas of a good way to get started, and how to set a series of progressive goals to push yourself without overstretching.

In this post you will read:

Why setting goals is important

What were my monthly goals during my first 3 months learning Spanish?

Did I achieve my goals, what did I actually do?

Tips for beginners starting out in a new language.

Why should you set goals?

 

Setting goals, in my opinion, is a massively underutilised tool when it comes to language learning. It helps you carve out a path and break the process down into smaller steps, but without goals, it can seem like you have an unscalable mountain to climb. 

It helps you do all of the planning in one go, keeps you on the straight and narrow, and makes sure you can keep on making progress in the language. 

Without setting goals, there is a big danger that can creep in. This can be summed in two words: Decision fatigue

But what is decision fatigue? Ever wonder why Mark Zuckerberg wears that same famous grey shirt every day? It's for the same reason. 

The actual process of making decisions and finding the right plan of action takes a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that could be better spent on other things, like actually learning a language! By taking out the need to make decisions and wearing the same grey shirt every day, this frees up your time and energy to do things that actually matter to you and make the whole process a lot easier.

By setting my goals ahead of time, I know exactly what I am doing and exactly what I am going to do ahead of time. All that is left for me to do, is to keep on plugging away and actually do the things I said I was going to do. 

 

Monthly Goals

 

In this next section, I will cover my monthly goals that I used to get started with Spanish and quickly progress onto interesting and authentic material.

Everyone's interests vary and what may be enjoyable for me won't necessarily be enjoyable for you. But, by being specific and showing you exactly what I did, I hope that you can find some inspiration to help set your goals and carve out your own path to fluency. 

 

Month 1 (Nov - 30 days)

All of my goals have one thing in common, they are purely input based. For me, input is the main driver of learning and as long as I keep on exposing myself to a variety of content in the language, it is impossible not to make progress across the board. Vocabulary, grammar, comprehension all improve simultaneously while you sit back and enjoy rich and interesting content.

Apart from when I first start, I can't understand interesting content, so what now?

Typically in month 1, I like to find any solid beginners course and work though. With Spanish, there are many courses to choose from, so I would simply pick one you like the look of. The main thing here, is to make sure to pick a course that is full of dialogues. 

Here is a video where I cover some of what I think are the best options available for Spanish beginners today: 

To find my Spanish resources page referenced in the above video, click here.

For me, I chose Spanish Uncovered. This course offers as compelling a story you can hope to get from a beginners course, with good length chapters and clear audio.

I aimed to complete 1 chapter each day, with a total of 20 chapters, and then leave 2 days for review. This gave me a total of 22 days.

As this would give me a solid base in the language, I figured the next best thing I can do is to improve my vocabulary. Therefore, I also bought a book of 8 Spanish short stories for beginners.

I aimed to complete four out of eight of the stories in this first month, giving myself 2 days per story.

This gave me a total of 30 days making up the rest of my time for the month, my month 1 goals are summarised below:  

 

Spanish Uncovered (20 chapters) - 22 days

(4/8) Short Spanish Stories (8 days):

3. El Caballero (Knight) (2 days)

6. Ferrg, El Dragón (Dragon) (2 days)

2. La Criatura (Creature) (2 days)

7. Tierras Desconocidas (Unknown Lands) (2 days)

Watch Extra

Extra is a sitcom-style TV show made for college Spanish students with lots of body language, Spanish subtitles and the language isn't too fast either. I figured starting off in Spanish would be the perfect time to enjoy this cheesy but funny sitcom as a way to ease myself into an immersion environment.

So what did I actually do with month 1?

As far as my focused study time went, everything pretty much went off without a hitch. The one that caused me the most trouble was actually extra.

And the reason might not be what you are expecting. It wasn't because the show was too hard, too complicated or even too long. The whole series is only 13 20 minute episodes long! 

The reason is simply because I got distracted. My girlfriend had just bought me Skyrim on steam and I also managed to find my favourite anime (Hajime No Ippo) dubbed in Spanish completely for free on Youtube.

Where I said I was going to going to be watching extra I spent my time running around as Sangre De Dragón (dragonborn) slaying dragons and screaming "eso es Ippo!" at my TV.

An important note, wherever possible I try to align my immersion with my more focused time. Because of my time playing Skyrim, I decided to pick all of the fantasy-based stories to read first. 

But having said that, I did eventually complete my goal of watching Extra with a bit of a binge towards the end of the month.

 

Month 2 (Dec - 31 days)

With my first month out the way I finally started to get a decent grounding after having finished Spanish Uncovered. Therefore, it was time to push onto the next stage.

For my month 2, I decided to select an intermediate course, again, built around dialogues. The one I chose,Spanish Conversations, is split into 20 Chapters all revolving around story.

Again, taking a similar approach to before I gave myself 22 days, going through 1 chapter a day with 2 days for review at the end.

After that, I decided to go through the rest of the four stories I hadn't read yet from my short story book. I gave myself 1 day per story, and from then on trying to ease myself into native content.

Thanks to the new feature that allows you to import YouTube videos into LingQ, I figured now is the perfect time to import short and interesting videos to study for the rest of the month. I hoped, this would broaden my vocabulary and help me start getting used to native speakers at full speed.

The break down of my month 2 goals is shown below: 

 

Spanish Conversations (20 chapters) (22 days)

 (4/8) Short Spanish Stories (4 days):

1. La Paella Loca (1 day)

5. El Cofre (1 day)

4. El Reloj (1 day)

8. Laura, La Mujer Invisible (1 day)

 

YouTube Videos:  

History of Mexico (3:01) (1 day)

10 things you probably didnt know about Skyrim (7.56) (2 days)

6 tips to learn any language faster (6.35) (1 days) 

Veganism in 2015 vs 2018 (7.17) (Conversations review days, 2 days) 

 

Month 3 (Jan - 31 days)

Going into my third month of learning Spanish having now completed Conversations, I started to pick up a bit of speed. Now, is the time to throw away the stabilisers and start cycling through the masses of native level content that Spanish has to offer.

To do this, I decided to start by reading a book. But with a relatively small vocabulary, where do I start? 

In the end, I chose The Linguist written by Steve Kaufmann (available on LingQ completely for free). The book is split into 63 chapters, all of which are very short, and the book comes with full audio.

What's more, is that because this is a non-fiction book about a very specific topic, language learning. This limits the range of vocabulary used quite significantly which makes it a great choice for anyone looking to start reading authentic content in their target language.

In general, I think that non-fiction books tend to be a lot easier to understand than fiction. Where a non-fiction book will try to simply get a point across, fiction books try to use very poetic and artistic language to draw from all their life experiences to paint the most colourful and vivid picture they can for the reader. The end result is very dense language, that is very hard to understand for a learner. Also, because this is a translated book and not in the original language, this too lends itself to be more easily understood by the learner.

Additionally, to keep on the theme of language learning and to give me a bit of a break between books, I gave myself the goal of going through a TedxTalk I found on YouTube on the theme of language learning.

 

Here are my goals for month 3:

 

The Linguist - LingQ (63 chapters) - 2 to 3 Chapters a day (30 days)

How to learn a language and contribute to society (10:42) (1 day)

 

So to my surprise, The Linguist was nowhere near as difficult as I had originally thought. Due to the huge amount of repetition across the book, short chapters and engaging content, I found myself finishing the book in just under 20 days. Much less than I had originally planned. 

From there, I went through the TedxTalk as planned and set off to start next months book ahead of time, to read Leafstorm and step into the exciting world of fiction.

This turned out to be rather more difficult than I had first anticipated, which lead to an overall very hazy understanding of what actually happened in the book. But more on that later.

For my next post in 3 months time, I will go over the next stage of my learning and how to fight your way through the seemingly endless intermediate plateau, come out the other side (hopefully) having successfully and enjoyably learnt a new language. 

 

General tips and advice for beginners 

 

Starting out learning a new language can be very intimidating, especially if this is your first time. Hopefully, you can now see that with the setting and accomplishment of a series of short goals becoming progressively more difficult, this can help bring structure to your language learning and help keep you on the right path. 

This is just what I did in my opening months learning Spanish, and not what you have to do. The important part is not the deadlines nor the materials I chose but rather the ability to break down a big task into smaller steps and keep improving. If you can manage this, by setting progressive and attainable goals, then you will be well on your way to being fluent in Spanish before you know it.