Fluent in 3 Months team member Elizabeth is learning Spanish from scratch over just 90 days. In this final update, she’s sharing the insights she’s found during the third month of learning Spanish, plus a video of her progress on Day 90. Take it away, Elizabeth.
If you haven’t read the other articles about this mission, here are the links:
The Bottom Line: My Results Are Remarkable
Let’s face it. No one is going to make a full-length movie out of my three month mission. No one will be banging down my door to beg me to give a keynote speech on perfect language learning. My results are not newsworthy.
But my results are remarkable. They are remarkable to every person I’ve met whose eyes soften when they say, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to learn Italian (or French, or Swahili or some other beautiful tongue).”
They are remarkable to my husband who brags about me when he doesn’t think I’m within earshot. “She’s learning Spanish. She has actual conversations in Spanish!”
They are remarkable to my best friend who shows her 12 year old daughter my progress videos. “See? If your aunt can learn a language, you can learn French.”
Lots of money shelled out. Lots of time invested. But no Spanish speaking ability. Until now.
How Exactly Did I Do It?
A lot of people have the same burning question. How did I do it? How does someone manage to have a 15 minute conversation in 90 days?
The previous articles about this mission offer the specifics of how I reached my goal. This article will spell out the progress I made in 90 days. If you’re dying to see my 90 Day video, scroll down the end of this article.
Solo Learning Vs the Fi3M Challenge
Two years ago, I started teaching myself French. Three months ago, I started learning Spanish with the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge
Let’s compare apples to pears or rather croissants to tacos. Here are the differences between learning French as a solo learner and learning Spanish as a Fluent in 3 Months Challenger.
Community is key to keeping doubt at bay. I started French as an autodidact without a language learning tribe. Non-Fi3M compared to the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge? It was tough going.
In the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge online community, I shared my wins which might sound minuscule to someone not in the trenches. But the Challenge participants get what a big deal it is to have a three sentence conversation with a shopkeeper.
I learned to lean into my discomfort. Surrounded by my fellow challengers, I was not alone. Others had done this before us. We did it together.
I Reached a Good Level of Listening Comprehension 4x Faster
I worked within the structure of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge. Because of this, my listening comprehension reached a good level four times faster compared to when I learned French solo. This happened for a number of reasons.
I Had a Clear Goal
I wanted to have a 15 minute conversation in Spanish. That meant I needed to understand what the other person was saying to me. I immediately jumped into listening comprehension practice by using LingQ daily.
Within 90 days, my Spanish listening comprehension matched that of my French after a year of learning!
I Asked Questions in the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge Community
There are many repeat challengers and seasoned polyglots in the challenge. I got some great ideas from them. I connected with the Fi3M online community to help me when I was feeling unmotivated or lost.
Those two hard-to-measure emotions stop countless language learners in their tracks. Many solo learners have never recovered. I would know! Those gremlins thwarted my language learning for most of my life.
I Learned from Past Mistakes
The Fi3M Challenge reminded me of the typical pitfalls of language learning. I was able to steer clear of them. The assignments kept me from slipping into no-growth ruts.
Here’s a quick breakdown of my three month Spanish mission as it relates to my listening comprehension.
- I understand the basic plot of a TV show without subtitles.
- I understand 80% of what my three teachers say to me.
- I understand 65% of small talk conversations I have with native speakers.
- I understand 0% of what a fast native speaker is saying if I get nervous.
Speaking Ability Was Two times Faster
Because I am a fan of speak from day one, this skill was practiced early on in my French solo learning. Yet the acquisition of this skill was two times faster when learning Spanish with the Fi3M Challenge. Why?
The Fi3M Challenge Got Me Speaking More Often than I Did As a Solo Learner
Once a week, I would meet with my Dream Team where we took turns deciding on topics to discuss. The assignments helped me prepare for my lessons with italki tutors.
Group Accountability was a Big Help
This community picked me up when my brain was fried and my enthusiasm was a runny omelette of shoulds.
I got warm fuzzies whenever someone who had a Nay yesterday mustered up a Yay the following day. Those silly emojis of support are quite effective.
Mini-challenges Made Sure I Was On Target For My 15 minute Conversation in Spanish
With all the steady support in place, I found speaking practice to be a rewarding activity from the start.
Here’s a breakdown of my three month Spanish mission as it relates to my listening comprehension.
- 99% of the time, people are surprised that I’ve been learning Spanish for less than three months.
- 98% of the time, my teachers understand the ideas that I’m attempting to convey.
- 100% of the time, my American accent thickens when I get nervous or excited.
How Much Learning Time Did I Put into Spanish?
|Speaking||60 minute lessons||36 lesons||italki|
|Listening||Hours of listening on phone or laptop||32.6 hours||LingQ|
|Reading||Known words||2534 words||LingQ|
|Free reading comprehension test||B2||LingQ|
|Number of books read||1/2 young adult book||Harry Potter 1 by J.K. Rowling|
|Number of books read||1/4 non-fiction book||The Linguist by Steve Kaufman|
|Grammar||Courses taken||10 chapters = 1/2 course||Spanish Uncovered|
|Writing||No data available||No data available||No data available|
I Practice Speaking from Day One
As you can see from the table, I had a steady flow of speaking practice. I scheduled lessons bi-weekly and sometimes as much as three times a week.
I usually have my lessons in the wee hours of the morning before my work day begins. My tutors have seen me with bedhead and sleepy eyes. I tiptoe through the house to chat via Skype in my living room.
I have a few reasons for speaking from day one.
I Lose Motivation if I Don’t Start Speaking
Speaking from day one helps me feel connected to native speakers. It’s instant gratification.
Nothing keeps me as motivated as laughing with my teacher. When I make up words or manage to explain a silly story in Spanish, it's golden.
Someone recently asked me how I speak from day one if I don’t understand anything. I like to work with teachers that use images. I use some techniques mentioned in this YouTube video.
I’m Not a Big Fan of Studying or Homework
I pick up a lot of beginner grammar while simply chatting, listening and reading.
You don’t need to spend as much cash as I did for tutors. I was on a tighter budget when I learned French. Language exchanges are free and fun.
I Listen to Interesting Content Daily
In one of my other updates, I talked about creating space for language learning in my daily routine. When people ask how I practice listening, images of soapy dishwasher flood my brain.
Why? Because I listen to Spanish every morning while washing my dishes.
You’d never think I’d be elated to get a set of dishpan hands. This chica loves to find ways to peacefully multitask. Here are a few of my favorite times for listening practice.
- Washing dishes
- During meditation I listen to guided meditations in Spanish. Hat tip to Kerstin Cable of The Fluent Show for sharing about Insight Timer on one of her podcast episodes.
- Chopping veggies
- Hanging out in a waiting room
- Doing any mundane task
I’m a Natural Bookworm
You’ll notice there are a lot of measurements for my reading skills. That’s because it’s very easy to measure. It’s satisfying to finish reading your first book in a target language.
I completed my first book a few weeks after the Challenge. It felt great when I could add that to my target language list of accomplishments.
I Did a Minimal Amount of Grammar
I’m working my way through Spanish Uncovered which is an enjoyable course. It’s a meaty curriculum.
I’m glad I can work it at my own pace. I’m surprised at how often I appreciate the exercises. Each chapter is like a puzzle to unlock.
I Wrote in My Target Language from Time to Time
Writing is also not one of my most pressing goals at the moment. I’m interested in speaking with Spanish speakers. I don’t have a huge desire to write in my target language yet.
However, writing out a few scripts for my Dream Team meetings was helpful for our discussions. I wrote simple sentences for things like my introduction and my language tools.
Getting out of My Comfort Zone Was the Key to My Progress
Having the Fi3M structure to move me out of my comfort zone was the secret to cutting my learning time in half. I focused on doing the challenge as it was. I didn’t try to find an easier, faster way.
The Group Dynamic Kept Me Going
Outside of the structure, it’s difficult to explain the wave of energy within the Fi3M Challenge. I do well with accountability when it’s practiced in a positive way. And the community of the Fi3M Challenge provided me with that.
I’m not saying this Challenge is the only way to get that community. It’s just the fastest and most steady way I’ve found. And the electricity that comes from everyone working on the same goal was a game-changer for me.
If you meet me in one of the future Fi3M Challenges, don’t mind my happy puppy energy. My enthusiasm is hard to contain. Why? Because I know that if it worked for me, it can work for you.
Spanish in 3 Months: My Final Mission Video
My Day 90 video was supposed to be 15 minutes long. It ended up being 45 minutes long. I kept the camera rolling so that you could see what a lesson looks like when it’s completely in the target language. My teacher, Emanuel, is talented at keeping the lesson in Spanish.
I showed this video to my French language exchange partner a few days ago. He asked me with a wry smile, “It’s a good video. But you planned what you were going to say, right?” That gentle suspicion was the best compliment anyone has ever given me.
I had no idea what specific questions Emanuel would ask me. It looks like he wrote down a few to keep us on track. Before the recording, I told him that I’d like to talk about the subject of language learning and the tools that I use.
During the Challenge, we practiced having a 15 minute conversation at the beginning of every lesson. We talked about what we did that week, travel and language learning. So, I did practice talking about the topic of language learning from time to time.
If you look closely, you can see my lips pierce into a tiny little bow every time he asks a question. I was quite nervous. Remember, I’ve never had a three month language mission before now.
I plan on continuing my trek to fluency in Spanish. I signed up for another Fi3M Challenge. I will be focusing on improving my listening comprehension. I’d also like to get a handle on the present and simple past tenses.
Thanks for joining me along the way. Your kind words of support were greatly appreciated. And the real gold here? If this language learning drop-out can learn Spanish, you can do it, too. I hope you found my Spanish journey helpful. If you missed some of the earlier articles, here’s a recap.
- The tools I used to learn Spanish
- How I fit language learning into my daily routine
- What I look for in an online tutor
- How to study while traveling
Are you planning on embarking on a language mission? Have you already succeeded in one?
Let us know in the comments! We’d love to know what you’re up to. After all, we are always on the lookout for the next language mission.
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.