Refold Approach to Language Learning: Spanish ~900-Hour Update
My Seventh Update about Learning Spanish in a Nutshell
This is my seventh update for my Spanish learning journey with the refold approach. For my first update, see here. For my second update, see here. For my third update, see here. For my fourth update, see here. For my fifth update, see here. For my sixth update, see here. For more information about the Refold approach, see here. For a basic Spanish Anki vocabulary deck, see here.
Reached 900 total hours of immersion. Continued to immerse in chosen focus areas (history and historical fantasy). Recovered from a long hiatus away from language learning. Greatly improved Audiobook comprehension. Started Outputting.
For reasons unrelated to language learning, I had to step away from Refold for most of the summer. I had a pretty bad breakup at the beginning of June, and thinking about my thesis proposal for grad school prevented me from finding the time for language learning. However, I recently came down with COVID (again), which has given me time to think and immerse. I do want to learn Spanish, and the only way that will consistently happen is if I make time for it. This month, I’ve aimed to get back on track with my immersion.
In the last update, I had shifted my focus to listening. Since I’ve seen the gains from all the audiobooks I’ve been listening to, I’ve decided to shift back to reading to acquire more vocabulary (i.e. sentence mine for Anki). Since then I’ve finished Ficciones by Borges, El Misterio de La Tundra and Tración en El Norte in the Guardabosques series by Pedro Urvi and two of Joe Abercrombie’s books El Último Argumento de Los Reyes and Los Héroes.
El Sendero de Guardabosques has become a little too bland and boring for me, although I was surprised by some of the deaths in the last book. I don’t think I will continue to read the series, as while the Spanish is perfect for immersion, the story is not gripping me anymore, and reading started to feel like a chore.
I’ve waffled back-and-forth on translations in a lot of my updates. On the one-hand, I really enjoy reading fantasy that I would want to read in English. On the other, shouldn’t I be trying to experience new cultures?
Ficciones was as enjoyable as when I read it English. Some of the stories really made me think: Tres versiones de Judas, Funes el Memorio and Las Ruinas Circulares in particular stood out to me. My Spanish is not quite at the level where I understood the stories in the same way I would understand English, but I still got a lot out of them, perhaps because I did have to try and fill in the gaps with my own thoughts.
Currently, I’m reading Tierras Rojas by Abercrombie, El Aleph, the next collection of stories by Borges, and the same thick print books (Te dare La Tierra and Olvidado Rey Gudu) for when I don’t use electronics on Sundays.
Total Immersion time: 439 hours
Future Plans: Continue reading Abercrombie. Finish Borges. Start other literary fiction. Actually, finish Africanus.
Open Questions: Translations vs. Original fiction? Literary fiction recommendations?
I’m up to 842 cards now with a 92.58% mature retention rate. This retention rate is dropping, which is good, because I’ve added new cards and started to be more honest with marking cards as correct or not. I’m aiming to reduce this to a retention rate of 85–90% over time.
Since the last update I added ~40 from El Misterio del Tundra, ~50 from Tración en El Norte and ~40 from El Último Argumento de Los Reyes. I did not make cards for Ficciones. I am currently finished with all my new cards, so I’ll be adding more from Los Héroes. The number of new cards I can make from each book seems to be dropping on a per-page basis, which is a good sign, although this may just be because I’m reading more each day. I’m aiming to finish a book every 10–14 days or so, and if I keep this up I’ll have a solid stream of new cards.
I’ve continued to count Anki time as immersion time. I’m at about 15 hours spent on Anki, doubling that for card making gives me about 30 hours of immersion from anki.
I also continued by A/B, A/C testing from last time. Here are the numbers for mature cards:
Image: 744/778 correct
English: 661/703 correct
Spanish: 681/737 correct
I am trying to make more English and Spanish cards to correct the imbalanced categories sizes. I did a Chi-squared test and obtained a p-value of .02. Significance is obtained at p<.05. This is significant: looks like the image cards are the best for retention, and the Spanish cards the worst! I will continue to gather data over time, but this is pretty promising.
Scientific Study: I’d love to work on a scientific study with this experiment, but I’d need a lot more data (probably 100 individuals with maybe ~300 Anki cards for a year). You’d need to have reached the monolingual transition. Reach out to me if you’re interested: I may put together a deck. Would also love for this to happen in other languages: reach out to me if you’d like to collaborate!
I’ve continued to write Goodreads reviews for the books that I’ve listened to and read. Still limiting myself to what I can think of in Spanish. Maybe a good idea to get those reviews corrected by someone who knows Spanish: maybe I’ll post them on reddit, or some forum.
Open Questions: Where/ How to get my writing corrected?
I don’t really watch TV much anymore because I don’t like what it does to my mind, so most of my listening in these 100 hours was audiobooks, a few Spanish Masses and a few Podcasts. I’ve listened to three books in this time period: El Imperio eres Tu, Lifespan, and the first half of Lev Grossman’s Los Magos. El Imperio eres Tu was a bit slow at times (a lot of drama with the emperor’s love life), but Javier Moro did an excellent job of treading the line between textbook and narrative. By the end of the story I came away with not only a little more knowledge about the history of Brazil, but also of the character of its first emperor, Pedro I. Lifespan was very disappointing: not much I already didn’t know about lifespan-extending drugs, and the last third of the book was complete hopium bullshit about a society in which we all live forever. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for the Magicians by Lev Grossman (see my rambling blog/essay on it here). I’ve actually only read the last two books in Spanish, so I thought I would finish off the trilogy with the first audiobook. It’s certainly a comfort listen at this point: since I know the plot I can really focus on listening for new vocabulary.
I’ve also been tracking my Spotify listening with last.fm. I would certainly recommend it if you’re counting music as part of your immersion.
I am becoming increasingly worried that audiobooks aren’t really cutting it for conversational skills, so I’m looking for good podcasts that involve unscripted conversations. I will happily receive recommendations.
Total Immersion time: 461 hours
Future Plans: Find more conversational podcasts. Roma Soy Yo by Santiago Posteguillo. Continue to listen to music
Open Questions: Best conversational podcasts about varied and interesting topics? Thinking Joe Rogan of the Spanish world.
I’ve found I have a bit out output anxiety so I haven’t been speaking much recently. I plan to start iTalki lessons once things quiet down at work (I feel like I say this every time), but would also just like to get an in-person partner to meet and speak with once a week. If you live in Baltimore, DC, or Philly, email me and we can find a time/place to meet and talk in Spanish!
None. Through Immersion, I’m finally understanding where it is appropriate to use the subjunctive. In my most recent review of Los Héroes, I naturally used the subjunctive
Only doing my leftover Anki cards from my dabbling at the beginning of the year. Don’t have the bandwidth for anything else.
In his interview with Lamont, Matt talks about how meditation has been helping with his Chinese. I’ve been starting to meditate 15 minutes in the morning and evening and I feel like this has helped me to pay more attention to the content that I’m immersing with. I’m absorbed/present in the content, rather than self-judging “am I learning”. I will continue to update as my mediation practice improves.
I took a pretty long break from Spanish and was pleasantly surprised at how much ability I still have, especially with listening. After about 10 hours of immersion in both listening and reading, I felt like I was back to baseline. However, I am worried that my listening practice might not be that useful for everyday life. Overhearing the Spanish-speaking staff at work, I can’t necessarily understand what is being said (part of this may be not focusing on what they are trying to say), but I wonder if listening to audiobooks/scripted podcasts is really going to help me be fluent in the language.
Open Questions: Has anyone else done meditation? Conversational vs. literary/formal Spanish listening: is one useful for understanding the other?
Full immersion link data link.
If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up for my mailing list here. I blog about language learning, biology, the science and art of learning, and many other things
Deus ex Vita