Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Big Goals Need Stepping Stones (My Diary on Learning Spanish #01)

So I’ve decided to start documenting my process in learning Spanish. There are various reasons why I’d like to write about this but the general reason is simple: so I actually do it. I think writing about it and making a goal public helps improve you reach it.

There are various techniques and things to consider in learning a foreign language. I’m already fluent in French and Chinese (though admittedly Chinese is a language where further refinement and work will be needed in the future). I’d like  to think about techniques and tools for language learning again as I attempt to learn Spanish.

Anyways, at present, I can manage in Spanish. I spent about 3 weeks in Spain in the fall 2012 traveling around (mostly in Andalusia  and working remotely on web development. Surprisingly, I spent a good portion of that trip in Spain speaking Chinese. Even though I know my Spanish comprehension is likely much better than Chinese, I’m much more comfortable joking and exchanging in Chinese, since that’s where I was living before. There is also a huge immigration of Chinese in Spain these days and across the world, so it was a good way to keep up my Chinese while away from China.

I’m moving to Barcelona in a week or so. Obviously that’s not the best place to be learning Spanish or Castellano (because they speak Catalan in Barcelona), but it’s one of the few places in Spain that doesn’t seem to be in total economic freefall and I like the weather. I can work wherever and wanted to be back in Europe and not have to pay through teeth to live in France or some other country.  Barcelona should be interesting place to place my feet for awhile.

So as such, I’d like to start writing about my process of learning Spanish and about the process of learning a foreign language in general.

I’m not a linguistic or expert in learning foreign languages, but since I’ve managed to get myself fluent in two previous languages, I thought it would be cool to vocalize my process and improvements to how one can learn a foreign language.

So let’s get started.

Big Goals Need Stepping Stones 

I’m a big believer that you can basically accomplish anything given enough time and enough pressure. You can learn to do and be just about anything if you are stubborn and persistent. It’s not easy but you have to keep going forward if you are going to get anywhere.

So whether your goal is big or small, you need to set up a plan of steps and individual tasks and then focus on those. You might say, big goals need stepping stones you getting there.

So, for my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish, let’s lay out a few stepping stones and starter goals:

  1. internet research about other folks learning Spanish and their tips.
  2. gather resources: figure out what our some of the best learning resources–both direct learning and passive ways like listening to music or watching movies
  3. find a partner or a teacher (or at least some to follow your progress)
  4. clutter your life, computer desktop, phone and world with “learn Spanish” stuff
  5. create a list of milestones you want to reach
  6. test out your resources, classes, websites, tools, etc and figure out the 2-3 that you think fit you best and you feel the progress the most.

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