My 2019 Language Learning Plan

Rob Ashby
The Spanish Obsessive

In 2019, my goal is to get my Spanish to C2 – that’s the highest level you can test for. It’s a big, intimidating ask, and is the first time in a long time I’ll be “studying” Spanish again.

Read on to find out how I aim to hit this audacious goal!

I recently wrote a post about planning your language learning, and the plan that I’m going to share with you is based on that. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look!

My big, inspiring, audacious goal

Every plan should start with a goal – ideally one that’s big, inspiring, and audacious. The rest of the plan is built around this foundation, so it needs to be meaningful.

My goal is to reach C2, at some point in 2019. Now, that’s a high level – here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

  • Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
  • Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
  • Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

This is a tough goal, and I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to reach it.

However, even if I fail I’ll know that I’ve made substantial improvements to my Spanish.

Language Learning Milestones

Reaching C2 is the big goal; if I break this goal into smaller milestones it will help me stay motivated and provide a clear path to get to my ultimate goal.

Here are the milestones that will mark my journey to C2, roughly in order:

Milestone 1: An initial exam.

I’m taking an exam called the SIELE in a couple of days. I like this test because it will provide me with a score across the 4 disciplines (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) between 0 and 1,000.

That will give me a good baseline and help me understand which areas I most need to improve. I have a feeling writing will be my weakest area, but we’ll see!

Unfortunately, it turns out that this only certifies up to C1, so if I’m already at a C2 level (don’t think this is the case!) I won’t know from this exam.

I’m going into this exam “blind”, without doing any cramming or exam-specific studying, as I want to get a true reflection of my level without using exam “tricks”. I’m a glutton for punishment (especially as it’s a five hour exam!)…

Milestone 2: Bi-weekly “presentations” with Lis

Each week I’ll be researching a specific topic in Spanish, and will “present” to (the ever-patient) Lis each week. She’ll take note of what went well, and feedback to me on things I got wrong.

We’ll also record these episodes and put them live on the site, so that you can learn from them too.

The idea is to get me talking about things out of my comfort zone. I can “chat” in Spanish endlessly, but it’s only when you get into specific topics (which have their own jargon, vocabulary, idioms, and cliches) that you can actually push yourself.

For example, compare the challenges some of the following conversations with general smalltalk:

  • Explain the plot of a film, and give your critical opinion
  • Discuss what’s going on with Brexit, and how we are in such a mess (not sure I could do this in English, though)
  • Talk about space exploration and the future of the human race
  • Teach someone to play the piano in Spanish, using the right vocabulary
  • Hold a negotiation
  • Take a job interview

Over time, I’ll hopefully acquire various specialist vocabulary for each of these scenarios.

These are just a few ideas of areas that I’ll be “presenting” to Lis each week.

Milestone 3: Read a book each month

As part of this project, I need to dramatically increase my intake of Spanish from all sources. I already get plenty of speaking and listening practice, but don’t currently read independently in Spanish.

So, to correct this I’ll aim to read one novel per month, in Spanish.

I’ll make sure that I choose books that are by Spanish authors, rather than translated from English.

My language learning habits

The next part of the plan involves translating those milestones into habits, and deciding how much time I can realistically dedicate to those.

Habit 1: “Spanish only”

I’m in the fortunate situation of being able to practise my Spanish as much as I like with Lis. Although we speak both English and Spanish at home, from the start of February we’ll be “Spanish only”.

What I’ll be doing: Speaking only Spanish at home.
How long: Unlimited
How often: All the time

Habit 2: Change my media consumption to Spanish

I’ll admit it, I’m a news junkie (and I don’t think this is a good thing – in one of our intermediate podcasts (free audio) I argue that it’s really just a form of entertainment).

The first thing I do each morning is open a couple of news apps with my coffee, and spend about 20 minutes getting up to speed with what’s happening in the world.

That’s valuable time where I could be doing exactly the same thing in Spanish.

So, I’ll switch my default “news apps” to Spanish equivalents, and swap my English morning habit to a Spanish one.

This also goes for TV and radio, and any other “media habits” that I currently have in English.

What I’ll be doing: Switching to Spanish media for my daily news fix
How long: Around 20 minutes
How often: Every day (usually)

Habit 3: A lot more reading

In order to hit my milestone of reading one novel a month, I’ll need to actively dedicate more time to reading. I’ll aim to read around 30-40 minutes per day – that should be enough to give me a steady volume of Spanish input, which I’ll need a lot of if I’m going to reach C2.

What I’ll be doing: Making time in my day to read
How long: 30-40 minutes
How often: Every day

Habit 4: Keeping notes

As we listen to and read more Spanish, we always encounter something new.

That could be vocabulary we’ve never seen, interesting phrase structures, new ways of saying things, or little grammar points that seem odd to us.

I experience this all the time. Usually, I just make a mental note to ask about someone about it later, and of course I always forget!

However, this time I’ll take notes of these doubts and questions while I’m reading or listening to Spanish.

What I’ll be doing: Keeping a notebook of interesting/new phrases and vocabulary, as well as a list of doubts and questions I have.
How long: n/a
How often: Every day

Habit 5: Bi-weekly language coaching sessions

I’ll be having bi-weekly “coaching” sessions with a Spanish teacher. I’ll bring my own questions (see previous habits), based on doubts about Spanish that I’ve had during my own study (more on this later). They’ll also pick me up on any other Spanish mistakes I’m making and don’t even know about.

We’ll record these sessions and share them with you too!

Habit 6: Writing practice

This is the one I’ll loathe the most, but if I’m to hit C2 I know I need to improve my writing dramatically.

Writing is a very different skill from speaking, even though it also involves “producing” Spanish.

When we speak, we don’t use full, complete sentences. We leave our ideas half baked, and communicate with much more than just our words.

Believe me – I’ve spend a long time transcribing native Spanish conversations, and it’s hard to believe just how “incorrect” spoken language can be.

With writing, we need to be able to structure an argument and use the correct conventions and registers. We need to be coherent and aware of style, and that’s not something we worry about so much with speaking.

This needs practice, so I’m going to start trialing an exercise which I used to give my English students:

  1. Select a text in Spanish
  2. Translate this text to English
  3. Translate it back to Spanish
  4. Compare your version with the original Spanish. How are things phrased differently? What’s missing from your version, and what mistakes have you made?

This method has been around a while, and although I’ve used it with students I’ve never actually tried it myself (I’ve always been quite allergic to writing).

I’ll also aim to complete written tasks with my language coach, so will get valuable feedback there too.

What I’ll be doing: Written translation exercises, and written assignments
How long: 2 hours a week
How often: 3-4 times a week

That’s my plan. What’s yours?

Have you decided what you want to achieve with your Spanish in 2019?

I hope you feel inspired to create your own audacious goal, and maybe I’ve given you a couple of ideas for how you can get there.

Let us know in the comments what your goal is, but also how you’re going to get there. What are your milestones and habits?

Other blog posts you might like:

15 comments. Leave new

I’m curious which Spanish language news apps and/or news podcasts you recommend? Thanks!

Hi Linnea

I’ll let you know! I’ve downloaded El País (International), but will be looking for more.

Wow, this was really helpful to me. I’m just starting Year Four of studying Spanish. I really appreciate that you will share recordings of your lessons with us–I can’t wait to hear how your teacher works with you. I like my tutor a lot (I study with him on Skype once a week), but the one thing we don’t really have is a plan. But personally, for 2019, here are my Spanish learning goals:
1) Read in Spanish every day. I already do that, but I am reading much faster now so I need to push myself and get through more books. I just finished the “The Alchemista” by Paulo Coelho, and the Spanish version of the first Harry Potter book. (Harry Potter was fabulous for vocabulary!!) BTW, for a news app, I recommend BBC Mundo.
2) Vastly improving my aural comprehension, y poder hablar con más fluidez!! Ahora hablo demasiado lento. :-/
3) I need to force myself to watch movies and television programs in Spanish. They are extremely difficult for me to understand. I can understand news in Spanish, but movies or TV are hard, so I have been lazy and avoided them.
4) Make a BIG push to increase my vocabulary. I just came up with a new strategy for my Anki decks that I am hoping will help me.

I have ZERO idea what level I am. I found a trial version of that SIELE test you mentioned and I’m going to try it.
Would you consider sharing what level you the SIELE test determines that you are now?

Hi Tobi
Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll check out BBC Mundo.
I’ll share my SIELE results, even if they are embarrassing 🙂

Your plan looks amazingly similar to my routine (save the speaking Spanish at home to my monolingual spouse). Living in the Americas, I tend to choose among apps and resources skewed to Latin American Spanish so here are a few recommendations. I highly recommend the BBC Mundo app for news. It has a slew of sections to choose, from regional news to science to culture to sport, so it has a huge variety of topics. Note that the Spanish is Latin American. I also listen to the news from Voz de America. While it is from a US perspective, it had wide coverage of Latin American news.

Thanks for the recommendations Rob! Where do you live in the Americas?

I live in the States (Colorado) but travel frequently in Latin America.

Ooooh. If you really want a podcast that has super compelling stories and a wide variety of interviewees from around Latin America, check out Radio Ambulante at radioambulante.org. It is a division of National Public Radio and it features top-notch journalism with human interest stories that are really moving and compelling. You’ll be hooked after just one episode, I guarantee it. The website also offers transcriptions in both Spanish and English to go along with the audio.

Thanks so much for sharing your plan. I don’t have as much time to devote to studying Spanish, but I want to make sure that I am using the time I do have wisely. The little changes you are making like reading the news in Spanish doesn’t take more time, it just takes more thought. Same with keeping notes. It’s just a little thing, but it will really change the progress you make with your tutor. Great idea.

Thanks Amy – great way of putting it, that it doesn’t require more time, just more thought. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you’re right, I shouldn’t need to dedicate much extra time in my day to “studying” Spanish by making these simple switches.

Best thing I ever did was to switch my phone operating system to Spanish. Digital world vocab, instructions (LOL), Spanish news and websites are automatically loaded.

Your 2019 Spanish push inspired me to work on my own skills! I listened to all of the beginner episodes of your podcasts and some of the intermediate ones a few months ago, but the practice fizzled out when I realized I couldn’t bridge the gap between absorbing the beginner lessons and understanding the intermediate episodes. I often learn well from print and seeing rules organized paper, so I bought a Spanish language workbook, with the goal of getting through at least one exercise a day. I’m beginning with a small target to help me form the habit, with the hope that I can incorporate more as time goes on.

Colleen Anderson
30th January 2019 10:55 pm

Hi Rob, thanks for sharing your goals. You have motivated me to be more specific in my learning process. Right now the thing I want to improve most is my speaking. I meet with my teacher once a week (via Skype) and sometimes my speaking flows rather easily but other times I get stuck and frustrated. I am trying to think of a way that she can help me. (Sometimes I wonder if she is excepting my mistakes instead of correcting them). As much as I do not enjoy writing, I like your idea of translating to English and then back to Spanish. Also I think I will begin to read out loud. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Colleen Anderson
3rd February 2019 2:41 pm

Oops. Accepting..

Hi Rob,
I am very encouraged and inspired by your goals. I have also set a goals to improve my studying of Spanish this March. One main goal is to read more, especially novels in Spanish, however too often I only find books that are translated from English. Would you be able to send me some recommended novels that are not translated from English? Thanks so much. I am a level B2/C1. My struggle is that I am an avid reader ( in English), but reading in Spanish is not my favorite, I get frustrated way too easy. lol Thanks again for your help. Have a wonderful week!!! 🙂

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