I did it.
This past weekend I completed the final lesson in Pimsleur Spanish 3. This was a New Year’s resolution of mine that I kept, with a week to spare before the end of 2010.
It was not easy… It was tedious at times. It was boring at times. It was annoying at times… But I got it done.
In total, this goal took about 100 hours of time over the course of the year. (Not a mountain of time, but not a mole hill, either.)
The most important thing was trying to do something with it every day. I knew that if I didn’t try to do something with Spanish every day, I would never acquire it. Now, I am not fluent by any means, but I am definitely not where I started.
This past month and a half, in fact, I have really been going nuts with it (a result of getting a departure date). I have been practicing over an hour a day with the lessons in an attempt to accelerate my Spanish acquisition.
What I’ve Learned
It is satisfying to have accomplished a goal I set out for myself this year, and I feel I have learned some really valuable things along the way that I might not have learned otherwise.
1. You will not learn to speak Spanish primarily using programs.
This is something that most people understand, I think, when they first attempt to interact with native speakers of the foreign language they’ve been learning. Once you do this, you find that your training with the programs simply did not get you to fluency.
The process of language acquisition teaches you a lot, particularly about what works and what doesn’t work. As one insightful individual put it (Randy), “You learn what you do.”
In other words, what doing the Pimsleur series made me good at was doing the Pimsleur series.
I’m serious. No one can plow through these lessons like I can. I have laser focus and can even multi-task while doing it (play basketball, ride a bike, watch TV, etc). Sure, I learned some Spanish. But the main thing this program did was made me good at the program. In some ways, it made me conditioned to hearing certain expressions and cadences over and over again… which will not happen in real life.
In future language acquisition, I will go much more the route of guerrilla / active / in-life practicing… because that is what I want to get good at anyway.
2. Your goals should be modified if you find out they are not taking you where you want to go.
As I said above, a lot of what Pimsleur did for me is make me good at the Pimsleur program. About mid-way through, though, I found LiveMocha interactions, Skype friends, Spanish music, and a lot of other ways which helped me to acquire Spanish better. However, I didn’t realize these existed until half-way through the year!
I know I would be much further behind if I had a “Pimsleur only” approach to Spanish simply because it was my resolution. I’m glad I was open-minded. I needed to be flexible and incorporate better ways of doing things that I didn’t know about when I made the resolution.
3. Your goals need to go in your schedule.
If you don’t put it in your schedule, it is not a priority. If it’s not a priority, it will never get done… I had to consciously set apart the time to get to the Spanish lessons by planning a convenient time of day to get to them.
Imagine the utter inanity if year after year you come up with goals and yet never schedule them. What is the point of having goals if they are not a priority? “I don’t have time” is the lamest excuse in the world. Your time is now. Aren’t your goals the things you want to be working on during your time? …This is your life by the way, in case you haven’t noticed.
There is no such thing as busyness. There is only priority.
4. Make wise use of your “middle” time.
Also about half way through the year, I realized that I had a lot of time that I could use for listening to these audio lessons. Riding in the car, watching TV, riding the bike in the gym all could be transformed into more productive goal-achieving time.
If you have these “middle” times in your day that are currently not productive, or that could be more productive, throw on your headphones and get learning! Middle time is a great way to do more things during the day than you thought possible.
This is some of what I’ve learned from my 2010 resolutions. What have you learned?