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.
- 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:
- Select a text in Spanish
- Translate this text to English
- Translate it back to Spanish
- 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?