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Singing in French & Spanish, dancing salsa & working efficiently: A day in the life of an Irish polyglot in Colombia

| 42 comments | Category: particular languages, travel

Tuesday of this week I filmed a lot of what I did throughout the day, from getting up around 7:30 to coming home at 2am, so check out these videos and summaries of how a typical day for me here in Medellín went!

I start with some work and then get into the real fun! Watch me sing in French, dance some salsa, share some interesting cultural facts in Spanish and even sing Christmas songs in Spanish, all in today’s videos.

Part 1: Working and time management

As said in the video, I start my day working on the most important project of that day before I even glance at distractions like e-mail and twitter. On this particular day finishing and sending the previous blog post was the priority.

While writing, I like to take a tip I got from Viperchill, which involves using a program that takes over your whole screen and only lets you write (so no distractions). Lifehacker has a great list of some programs to do it in (although the one I personally use is PyRoom as I’m on Linux)

After I have done that then I let myself into the e-mail inbox to see how much has piled up since I cleared it the day before.

I had serious problems getting some sense of control over the large amount of e-mails I have been getting since Fluent in 3 months has gotten popular, and even had a two month backlog of e-mails in my inbox at one stage! But I followed some great advice from Sid Savara about dealing with e-mail overload and now I successfully clear my inbox almost every day.

I get way more done overall by having every task time-boxed specifically using the Pomodoro technique. I use a great free program (that works on all platforms) called Pomodairo, to manage my time-boxing.

Finally, something I do that greatly increases efficiency in my work day is to have a siesta (a.k.a. a power nap) for just 15 minutes. Because of this I don’t need more than five or six hours of sleep at night, and I have a great energy boost for the afternoon (I don’t drink coffee other than socially). Siestas are actually more in tune with our bodies’ natural rhythm and I found ways to make it work even when working in 9-6 jobs. I’ll write more about siestas another time.

Since I currently choose my own hours, usually I’ll follow the Spanish working time of taking several hours off for the afternoon and then working later in the evening because of this. Although this particular day I didn’t work in the evening as shown below.

Part 2: Singing in French, dancing salsa and strategic consultation call

Now comes the fun videos!

Since singing is a great way to get into your languages, I like to do a little every day if I can. Today I chose “Le temps qui court” by “Les Enfoires” (you may recognise the tune of “Could it be magic”) and you can hear me sing it in this video!

Next, I recorded a little of the salsa lesson that day. If I get enough footage while in Cali, I’ll make a video just about my salsa learning experience and go into that part of my time in Colombia in much more detail later.

Just after the salsa lesson I had a strategic consultation call, where I coach someone over Skype who is struggling to be able to speak a language and help them get into it with dramatic improvements.

This is my favourite part of the work I do. At the moment I only have one call a week, but I’d like to do more! If you’d like some help with learning a language, running a website or working for yourself, you can Skype me too!

Part 3: Colombian myths and legends parade explanation and singing Christmas songs (en español)

The first half of this video is in Spanish (with subtitles). I talk about the parade celebrating myths and legends of Colombia, and then I go around the town looking at the amazing Christmas decorations.

To really get into the mood, I sing bits of Christmas songs that I’m sure you know (Jingle bells and Silent night), but in Spanish!

Then I wrap up the day by going out to dance, coming home at 2am!

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I hope you enjoyed joining me on a day of my life in Medellín. Any thoughts on any parts of these videos? Share them with us in the comments below!

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  • WC

    In highschool Spanish class, we learned some Christmas songs. I actually remember some of them better in Spanish than English!

    Learning songs in other languages is fun and rewarding.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Definitely! You can see how much fun I was having! After Jingle bells I got an applause from random people on the street, so it’s fun and rewarding for more than just the singer :P

      • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

        Your next trip to Italy, I expect to hear some opera…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Hahaha, that sounds like a chat-up line :P
    This year I have been exercising less than normal unfortunately, since I was indoors so much. But clearly as shown in the video I am “working out” with daily salsa lessons here!

    • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

      After the Salsa lessons Benny always makes sure he bench presses his Salsa teacher…

    • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

      After the Salsa lessons Benny always makes sure he bench presses his Salsa teacher…

    • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

      After the Salsa lessons Benny always makes sure he bench presses his Salsa teacher…

  • http://twitter.com/Sebas035 sebastian Martìnez

    very funny and enjoy your day; life here in Medellìn always is very entertaining. I appreciate it (¿) your advice.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, I’m going to miss this city!

  • http://www.wanderingtrader.com WanderingTrader

    Great video Benny! i didn’t know the Irish could break it down on the dancefloor like that!! LOL

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Private lessons every day for several weeks will do that to ya!

  • http://katiaandkyliemac.com Kyliemac

    I love the fact you mention singing in your target language. I’ve been using this technique too, but I would never record myself and put it in the internet! :)

    I particularly enjoy singing along to musicals which also includes a story to follow – especially the ones that I already know in English. The words may change, but I already know all of the tunes. And it definitely helps with pronunciation…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, luckily all these mistakes I’ve been making in languages over the last 7 years means I’m almost immune to embarrassment, so I have no fear of putting a bit of my off-key French online :P

      • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

        Have you considered doing Karaoke (in your target language while you’re in the country where it’s spoke, e.g. French while in France, Spanish while in Colombia, etc)? How about recording yourself on your computer then playing it back and listening for mistakes (then wash, rinse, repeat, etc.)?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/FluentCzech FluentCzech

    I am very impressed with your time management. Many people become stressed by time slipping away, and say “I don’t have time for xxxx”. Your splendid recommendations, and the way you put them into practice, should be read by all.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Wow, thanks Anthony!!
      It was kind of born out of necessity. I tended to waste a lot of time online previously, but to run a good website and to deal with the amount of e-mails I get in an efficient way I had to read up on what others have done and adapt their tactics. There’s nothing magical about timeboxing, but the commitment that “for 25 minutes I am only doing this” is amazing. I simply don’t drift into e-mail or twitter when the timer is ticking and that makes me get so much more done.
      I actually set a time to Facebook in a particular pomodoro, so I know it’s waiting for me :) Actually giving in to the temptation but doing it in a systematic and structured way, means you are not being a pure work machine :)
      There is ALWAYS time. I wish people learned to manage their time better rather than phrase their excuses better…

  • Alex

    Jaja, está chido tu mouse.

    Oye, en México también cuentan la leyenda de la llorona, no sabía que era colombiana. También cantan las mismas rolillas en navidad.

    Y sobre el rechazo por ser extranjero… ¡para nada! Las “gringas” bien podrían llamarse “árabes”, sólo es un nombre. Lástima que seas vegetariano porque las gringas con carne de trompo son la mamada. Ya se me antojó una…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Me imagino que hay algunas leyendas que existen en varios países latinoamericanos :)

      Tienes razón, ¡sólo es un nombre!

  • http://hessiess.com Hessiess

    Interesting post Benny, I absolutely HATE having anything on screen which is not directly related to the task at hand, hence why I do almost everything with keyboard driven/command line tools (Vim, Firefox+Vimperator, Blender). Also, I love my automatic Tiling Window Manager (xmonad).

    Currently I spend all my time inside, Asperger’s has badly effected my social ability. I just don’t know how to meet people and normally turn them away. Need to do something about this as it does get lonely sometimes.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I got rid of a lot of clutter on my computer recently, including shortcuts on the desktop and taskbar, and use Gnome Do to launch all applications now by the keyboard. It’s way better than when they were always there tempting me!

  • http://hessiess.com Hessiess

    Interesting post Benny, I absolutely HATE having anything on screen which is not directly related to the task at hand, hence why I do almost everything with keyboard driven/command line tools (Vim, Firefox+Vimperator, Blender). Also, I love my automatic Tiling Window Manager (xmonad).

    Currently I spend all my time inside, Asperger’s has badly effected my social ability. I just don’t know how to meet people and normally turn them away. Need to do something about this as it does get lonely sometimes.

  • http://www.genvejen.dk/ Genvejen

    Siestas are the best. Taking a 20 minute nap after lunch lets me get by with 4,5 hours of sleep/night – much less than I needed before I started napping.

    Even better is polyphasic sleeping. When I was doing that for a few weeks, I got by on 2 hours of sleep/day (6 x 20 minute naps). But polyphasic sleep is difficult in relation to social life, wife, children, etc., so that’s why I’m doing 4,5 hours + 1 nap instead.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, I’ll write a post about siestas in particular soon, and mention polyphasic sleep. Had a test of it myself too!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Sure, might come back to it later since a few people seem to like my tips :)
    I’ve asked a few people if I can interview them, but they get very shy. Took a lot just to convince my teacher to let me air a video of us dancing! So interviews about their daily lives are tough!

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    I am quite impressed with those moves!

  • http://twitter.com/ykarabatov Yuri Karabatov

    It’s great you’re not embarassed about anything, that’s the way to go! In my early stages of studying English it took a bit of a nerve to actually talk to foreigners. But I did anyway and never regretted it :)

    You’re an inspiration!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Thanks! Hopefully my lack of embarrassment will rub off on some readers :)

  • http://twitter.com/pulsarlight Julian Virguez

    wow, super bien, me gusto ver como compartes el dia a dia tuyo para ilustrarle a la gente como practicas tus idiomas.
    Buenisima idea!!
    un saludo. Julian

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Gracias! A ver si lo hago en las otras misiones ;)

  • Anonymous

    ¿has oido hablar del “primary-recency effect”? Es una pieza de investigacion que esta en soporto de los bloques de tiempo para estudiar, trabajar, etc… esta pagina es muy corta y basica, pero tiene un buen introduccion al idea (con gráficos interesantes): http://sciencegnus.com/Primacy%20Recency%20Effect.pdf

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Thanks! However, I’m nothing as minimalist as other bloggers you’ll see. That’s evident by the fact that I have a giant pencil and a car mouse with headlights :P

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    I really liked the salsa lessons bit, that’s something I know I need to do it’s just a matter of setting aside the time and finding someone locally who can teach me–can you hold your own with the Colombians yet, especially the Caleños?

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Going to Cali on Tuesday. I’ll record more video and write a post just about salsa ;)

  • http://twitter.com/daniel_hers Daniel Hershcovich

    Hey Benny, that’s a wonderful post! I wish I could have as much fun as you :P

    I didn’t know Christmas is celebrated already at the beginning of December! Or is it just a local thing for Navidad around los países latinoamericanos?
    (I don’t know much about Chrismas at all, being a non-Christian citizen of Israel…)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Christmas is promoted by most governments and businesses globally as an excuse to get people embracing their inner capitalist. I’ve seen decorations start coming up in pretty much every country I’ve lived in, from late October / early November.
      South America however does stay more true to the actual religious aspect of it, but that’s drowned out by the lights, Christmas trees, santas etc. that have nothing to do with the religious aspect of Christmas. But I’m not actually religious, so it’s all the same to me. I like seeing so many lights and an excuse to have people out in the streets, especially in cold countries.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Excellent! You really should be an early riser – it’s how empires are built ;)
    Hope all is well!!

  • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

    Only problem with siestas is that Americans might attack you during one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Jacinto#Prelude_to_battle

    (well Texans actually)

  • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

    Only problem with siestas is that Americans might attack you during one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Jacinto#Prelude_to_battle

    (well Texans actually)

  • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

    Only problem with siestas is that Americans might attack you during one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Jacinto#Prelude_to_battle

    (well Texans actually)

  • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

    Only problem with siestas is that Americans might attack you during one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Jacinto#Prelude_to_battle

    (well Texans actually)

  • Daivat Pandya

    Benny, I would actually disagree with you here. According to you, having an organized lifestyle makes the person more productive. But from what I have seen in life, most successful people in the world were never organized. They never made to-do lists, if they did, they never followed them. In short, they were terrible procrastinators and that was the reason they succeeded. I understood this from this very interesting article I read online:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html
     Please go through this. I would love to know your thoughts regarding this.

  • http://twitter.com/julianpum julian mejia

    hahaha Im from Colombia and hey nice accent, u speak really nice spanish haha
    and by the salsa mm.. yeahh IM from Cali/ciolombia AND QWE DEFINETLY DANCE IT BETTER Xd, WE have that humm… we dance it the cali’s style, you gotta try it someday dude.
    by the way is so cool u speak all those languages, and came to colombia, hope you had a great time.
    any advices for me?
    i speak spanish, english and im learnning french .
    what u recommend bro?
    c/ya