Fluent in 3 Months team member Elizabeth is learning Spanish from scratch. This is her first ever three month mission. In this update, she’s sharing the insights she’s found and blunders she’s made during the second month of learning Spanish. Take it away, Elizabeth.
Whoot! Whoot! 60 days down. Only 30 days left!
In my last article, I shared about my first 30 days of learning Spanish. How I chose my teachers. Several hostage situations. And my ambitious goal of having a 15-minute conversation completely in Spanish after 90 days of learning.
I’m participating in the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge. This is a three-month online course that promises students they’ll have a 15-minute conversation in their target language after just 90 days.
In this update, I’m going to share about the second month of my Spanish mission. How I kept my learning routine alive while traveling. How I survived an airport shuttle ride from Hades. And how I kept my sanity through it all.
My Day 60 Video — Here’s Me Speaking Spanish after 60 Days
Whew. The Day 60 video deadline was looming. Glad to be done with it. Making subtitles allows me to hear my mistakes more clearly. I make a lot of the same mistakes in Spanish as I do in French.
Differences between Day 30 & Day 60? I speak faster and I have more comfort with my beginner vocabulary.
I made this video a few short days after my vacation. I was jet lagged and recovering from the worst ever airport shuttle ride.
I had to tell the driver that if he didn’t stop texting while driving, he would need to let me of the van. We were on a six-lane freeway in Los Angeles. Trust me. Walking would have been a safer option. The other passengers broke out in applause when he stopped texting.
Okay, they were too scared to break into applause. But they were grateful. One of them whispered, “Brillant.” And another passenger mouthed a big “Thank you!” Karmically speaking, I saved the lives of six people that day. Sadly, bragging about it loses cosmic brownie points.
All this to say that I was on the road for a good chunk of this month.
Here’s How I Kept My Study Routine While Traveling.
Month two included an 11-day trip to visit a beloved friend out-of-state. At least half the month was filled with planning, packing, flying, exploring, and hugging. I’d heard plenty of horror stories about how travel can mess up a learning routine, so I was nervous. My trip was going to have me back home three days before my Day 60 video was due.
Would I lose my language learning mojo while away? It is easy to get distracted. The wonderful friend I was visiting had planned some fun activities for us. How on earth could I keep up with my Fluent in 3 Months Challenge commitment?
Here’s what I did.
Pre-trip Planning Was Key to My Success
Luckily, there were a few Fi3M challengers in my group that travel for work. I followed their posts closely to see how it was done. It looked like each globetrotter had their own routine. I asked lots of questions in our Fi3M Challenge online forum. From their counsel, I was able to develop my own style.
My routine started with packing the proper tools.
Here’s What I Packed
- iPad – I listened to an audiobook during the plane ride. For me, it was the first chapter of Harry Potter book one on repeat. Every night, I read a few pages of the same book. I used the LingQ application for both of these relaxing activities.
- Headphones – I was able to rest my eyes during the flight while letting the story of Harry flow over me. I didn’t understand everything. But I enjoyed feeling like a kid whose parents read them a bedtime story.
- Laptop – I used my laptop for Skype calls with my italki tutors. I scheduled three lessons during my stay. They occurred in the mornings before breakfast. I could have used a phone but mine is a bit too old and slow for the Skype application. Unfortunately, my schedule conflicted with my Dream Team meetings which was a bummer. Practicing with other participants was one of my favorite Fi3M Challenge activities.
- Notebook – I used a notebook to write answers to the grammar exercises in Spanish Uncovered. I usually did 15 minutes of grammar during a midday break. More productive than Facebook. And weirdly restorative, too.
- Gel pen – They make me happy to write answers to grammar exercises.
- Highlighters – I highlighted interesting vocabulary that popped up during my studies.
All these tools fit nicely into my carry-on backpack. I shared this photo on my Spanish only Instagram account. Every little bit of writing practice counts!
Here’s How I Planned My Study
Since I was a guest in someone’s home, it was important to fit my studies around their routine. I called ahead and explained the Fi3M Challenge to my friend. She’s always been supportive of my learning projects. This time was no different.
We worked out the best times for me to study. Since she was working a few days during my visit, I scheduled my lessons for times when she was at the office.
Setting up my lessons in advance and having them noted in my day planner a few weeks before the trip made it easy to make contact with my language. It also gave me interesting conversation topics at the dinner table each evening.
Plane Rides Are Perfect for Studying
This was the first time I studied languages on a plane. Let me tell you, it was a blast. The ride went so quickly.
I didn’t have to listen to my neighbor tell me about their nasal polyps. (Never again will I tell someone I’m an acupuncturist during a plane ride.) And I didn’t check my watch every 15 minutes.
I was having so much fun completing the Spanish Uncovered grammar worksheets that the flight was over before I knew it. It was almost as delightful as hanging out at the library all day.
What My Routine Looked like During the Visit
Before breakfast: I would do something to quickly start the day with a win. I had a list of easy language tasks that I could do if I found a spare minute. These were Duolingo, Spanish Uncovered exercises, and an Instagram post in Spanish.
Mid-day: I need downtime between social activities. Having a mid-day pause was a great way to recharge my battery. I would go for a walk and listen to Coffee Break Spanish. On very hot days, I would choose an audio book on LingQ and listen as I got my exercise inside the house.
Evening: I stayed on California time which meant that I went to sleep much later than my hosts. I used this night-owl time to read in my target language. It was a great way to help me sleep. My body loves routine. I read at night before sleeping at home, too.
I splurged on a paperback copy of Harry Potter in Spanish while we were at the local bookstore. Yes, I hooted when I noticed the Spanish language bookshelf. I could barely contain myself.
Three Ways I Got Back into a Healthy Routine
I know what you’re thinking, “Yea, yea, yea. That’s all fine and good. Study is easy when you’re lazing about on your friend’s couch eating bon-bons. How did you do when you had to get back to the real world?”
Firstly, I didn’t eat bon-bons. It was big plumb local blueberries. And my friend is an exceptional cook. So, yes. I filled my belly with delicious grub.
Secondly, lazing about and chatting with your friend’s Alexa is exactly what you’re supposed to do an a vacation. Alexa and I had numerous discussions about the weather. I found myself unconsciously thanking her for the report. And then realizing that I was talking to a computer.
But you have a point. It’s important to chat about how I got back into a healthy routine after I returned home.
The First Three Days Are the Hardest. Naps Help.
Even though I stayed on California time, my body doesn’t do all that well with jetlag. I have trouble sleeping the first day or so. My head feels swimmy. And if I don’t get enough sleep, I am prone to crying for ridiculous reasons.
Yes, I’m referring to the Pablo Picasso incident of 2004. I was overly tired and refused to nap because I wanted to visit Pablo’s museum in Paris tout de suite. Yes, we got lost. Yes, that’s not a big deal. Yes, I got a runny nose from crying.
To avoid this uncomfortable incident from reoccurring, I allow myself a nap when I get off the plane. Even if I don’t think I need a nap. Even if I don’t want a nap. I lie down somewhere and rest for thirty minutes. My husband thanks me. All the taxi drivers in the world thank me. Nobody wants a weepy tourist in their cab.
I Schedule Lessons for My First Week Back
Before I leave for my trip, I schedule one or two lessons for my first week back. I never schedule one on the first day of my return. Why? Please refer to the Pablo Picasso incident of 2004.
I don’t expect anything from these lessons except to get me back into routine. I don’t plan for them. Actually, I rarely plan for any of my lessons but definitely not after a trip.
I Make Time for My Language Routine Every Day
I listen to podcasts or audiobooks while unpacking. It takes time to get all my laundry back into its proper home. Why not listen to something in Spanish during this time?
Taking a peek at my list of tools each morning helps me decide what I need to work on next. If I’m feeling especially tired, I go for the easy stuff. Low-energy equals low-hanging fruit. I will watch a TV show in my target language at the end of my day.
No harsh judgement needed here. Just an easy week of staying consistent. The Fi3M Challenge community helps me keep my head on straight. If I start beating myself up, someone is sure to bring me back to compassionate learning. A gentle comment in the online community does wonders.
Three Things I Do to Handle Slumps
These actions helped me maintain my routine and prepare for my Day 60 video. I still hit a language learning slump during this month. They happen from time to time on the long, winding road to fluency.
I talk a bit more about how I handle slumps in this video.
My three tips are:
- Practice Extreme Self-Care: Take good care of your body and mind during a slump. Eat well. Sleep enough. Move your body a little.
- Find Pleasure: Do things you that lift your spirit in the language. I bought a Word Search book. It’s not in-depth study but I am making contact with Spanish. It feels like a treat which is great for getting my brain to enjoy Spanish.
- Don't Go At It Alone: I share a lot on the Fi3M Challenge forum when I’m feeling low. I don’t have to go it alone anymore. My Fi3M friends are always happy to offer suggestions and share insights.
That’s It for Now! Stay Tuned for My Last Spanish Update.
Thanks for joining me in the recap of my second month of Spanish.
Maybe you’re getting out of Dodge soon. Maybe you have a language routine you incorporate into your travels. Let us know in the comments! We can each learn from each others' tips.
In my next post, I’ll share about the final stretch of my three month Spanish mission. The finish line is in sight. Will she make it? Will she be distracted by a shiny object? Will Mr. Freeze foil her plans? Stay tuned for the next installment of Spanish learner!
Wishing each and everyone one of you happy language learning!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.