Since spring, I’ve dedicated a large slice of my free minutes to learning Spanish. The intention sat in the back of my head for years, decades even. The action never made a move. Well, that’s not entirely true. The action periodically advanced an inch. But this latest foray is the farthest I’ve gotten on that learning goal since high school. I can say I’ve made progress, and that’s progress.
I think my language comprehension sits about where it did when I graduated high school with three years of Spanish class. I can conjugate hundreds of verbs, learned hundreds of new terms and can translate basic sentences. I still can’t hear in Spanish. When I hear it spoken in a natural rhythm, my brain can’t process quickly enough to understand what’s being said.
Hable despacio, por favor.
A combination of apps, books and web services got me here. The most helpful and useful methods? So far, lots of dedication and the Brainscape Spanish app on my iPhone.
I downloaded Brainscape’s Spanish Verbs app a long while back for $6. I used it often, so often that I wanted the rest of their sequence. That includes vocabulary, verbs, practice with sentences and lessons on “business” Spanish. I hesitated, though, because the broader Spanish app that included all of these things also included the verbs I already paid for. I didn’t want to pay $20 when I had purchased some of those lessons already. Then, the whole thing came up in a daily digest of freebie apps I get.
Brainscape has a clever approach. It presents you with a word or phrase, you tap to see the translation and then you rate how well you knew the answer on a scale of 1 to 5. That answer determines how often a particular card comes up in the future, so cards ranked with 1s and 2s get drilled with more frequency. It relies on honest self-assessment to drill the knowledge into your noggin. For me, it works. I find the verbs sequence most valuable. It covers I think every tense. After upgrading, I’ve spent the most time in the sentence builder sequence. That’s also quite helpful.
The app weighs in at 140 mb. I saw complaints about the size in app store reviews. A dozen high-quality mp3s can take up that much space so, to me, it’s a matter of balancing utility and space. This app’s really useful for the space it takes up. I think much of that heft comes from hundreds of compressed audio snippets of proper pronunciations. That size also means the app stands alone. It doesn’t rely on running to the internet for this component or that, which came in handy on several recent three-plus hour plane rides.
While it does stand alone, Brainscape’s app can also sync with a web component. I study on my iPhone, tap a time or two to sync, and can continue studying on any browser.
Overall, this has made studying a breeze and helped retention immensely. And I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s in the app. It still says I’m at 12 percent mastery, so I look forward to months of studying ahead.