Ash Does Spanish: A Newbie’s Language Learning Progress Report – Update 1

This month’s Clear The List post is a very special introduction to a new series here on Lindsay Does Languages. As we travel across Latin America, Ash, my husband, will be learning Spanish. He’s pretty much new to this whole language learning thing, so I thought it would be good to get his perspective on how things go.

With that in mind, I’ll hand you over to Ash as he starts to do Spanish.

Travelling Latin America and speaking Spanish is a must. Follow Ash and learn Spanish in Latin America along the way with him.

Before you read too much into this post, thinking to yourself, “Lindsay’s usual writing flow seems to be a bit sloppy this week, she must have the flu or something”, I am not Lindsay, nor am I another wonderful language person from another very inspiring blog talking about language.

No, I’m Ashley, a primary school teacher from a small village in middle England, who enjoys making films and running ridiculously long distances.

No, I’m not a language expert, enthusiast or even dabbler of languages, I’m Lindsay’s mono-lingual husband; film guy behind some of her videos; and fighter of dragons…the last bit I might have made up.

Being married to a self-confessed language nerd and all-round amazing language learner, the need to learn a second language for travel or work has always been, I’ve felt, rather pointless.

After all, where’s the need in painstakingly learning really basic French or Spanish vocab, when the person you’re travelling with can not only communicate in a 2nd, 3rd and 4th languages, but also tells stories, jokes and can even spin a yarn in a foreign tongue.

In other metaphorical words, why bother driving when your partner’s a Formula 1 star and you’re still working on your LegoLand driving experience medal?

Now, for seven years this has been great! I’ve been able to see huge parts of the world; experience amazing thing; and bounce from adventure to adventure, thanks hugely to my awesome polyglot wife and her inspiring love of languages.

But at the same time, there has always been an element of guilt at my, to be quite frank, laziness to learn another language beyond basic pleasantries for pastries.

Over the years I have tried to learn a few languages. I’ve dabbled with Spanish; played with German; and even flirted with Russian but nothing’s ever really stuck or kept me motivated to keep going.

The initial steps of learning names of food (el pan) and saying please and thank you in response to said food (Puedo tener el pan por favor….Gracias) is always exciting but when the Memrise course or Duolingo quiz drifts towards the more complex elements of language, my brain goes “Nope!”, and so begins the downwards spiral of endless reasons to give up, with another well-intentioned hike into the unknown becoming another welly stuck in the mud.

However, with the start of our epic adventure through Latin America (August 2017 – July 2018), me and Lindsay will be traveling through predominantly Spanish speaking countries, where English is very much a second or 3rd language of importance.

And, so that I don’t feel like a constant language wart, needing Lindsay to communicate for me and about me to every non-English speaking person we come across, I’ve decided to try and learn Spanish…but properly this time.

I’ll be doing this in a range of different ways, using resources I have now and the amazing opportunity of immersion into the culture and language in the different countries.

Firstly, I’m already using Memrise and Duolingo; I’ve also bought a phrase book, which I’m using to help bolster my skills in a non-tech based ways.

I’m also trying to write a bit of Spanish each day and construct different sentences and phrases of my own, which are more relevant to my own life, rather than just using stock phrases from courses. For example:

‘Donde hay que correr por aqui?’

Now I’m not aiming for complete fluency or just basic pleasantries, I’m aiming for something in the middle, where I can feel independent enough to ask a question and dare I say, understand the response.

The amount of time I spend learning each day is also going to become an important factor, with the aim of spending at least 40 minutes per day practising and improving my Spanish skills, as well as using it in to day to day life in and around the countries in Latin America.

I’ll also be making myself very much accountable for my learning by posting on here, as well as creating update videos of my progress, so as stop myself from quitting when things get too difficult or my brain tries its hardest to say “Nope!”


Oh, and of course, Ash is my video guy. So naturally, he made a video back home to showcase his pre-start-spending-time-in-Latin-America-Spanish.

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And if you want to share your own goals, Clear The List is a great way to do so!

So is this a doable task? Do you have any tips or hints that could help me out on this language adventure. I’d love to hear them. Share in the comments below.

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About Lindsay Williams

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)

16 comments on “Ash Does Spanish: A Newbie’s Language Learning Progress Report – Update 1

  1. That was so funny!! Good luck Ashley for your Spanish language adventure and to both of you for your one year trip!!

  2. There are plenty of things that my spouse can do that I can’t do at all, although the only thing I can do is languages (we she can do pretty well, too).

  3. I’m getting really excited about your videos. Ashley looks like an awesome filmmaker. The two of you will be great together.

  4. Midge is learning Spanish too! One thing she picked up this summer was she started to read kids books in Spanish. They’re simple and really cute, so it helped her remember simple things like numbers, letters, colors, and adjectives.

    We’d love to be immersed in Spanish for a year like you, but… that would be impossible, so we’ll just have to live vicariously through you! 😉 Can’t wait to learn from your journey, since this is our first mission post too. 🙂

  5. Ash – your sense of humour is great. I’m sure that you will be speaking Spanish real soon. I have just started learning Spanish with Duolingo, Michel Thomas. MosaLingua plus other text books. With Lindsay coaching you, plus the necessity to function in a Spanish world, you will be a fully fledged Spanish speaker before you know it.

  6. Not only won´t you have access to 5G in Cuba, there are also not many places to connect to Internet.

  7. Learning a language is easier if you have a good reason for learning it – and here you are learning Spanish for your epic trip around South America! Good luck!

  8. I love this new turn of things, it was fun to read! 😀 Really looking forward to hearing how it goes for Ashley. Good luck!

  9. My top tip is to sling out all songs you listen to for now that do not contain all Spanish lyrics.
    Find a singer or two from each country who was very popular in the nineteen-seventies and/or eighties. That way practically every local you meet in that country will know them and their songs, and will often be interested to hear your take on them, so an excellent and quite focused ice-breaker. In my experience the folky singer-songwritery types are the best, as they usally place great emphasis on clearly-pronounced lyrics, often containing a story or suchlike that’s compelling enough to follow. Give each one a fair chance by listening to two or three of their tracks two or three times.
    Soon some will grow on you, and some you’ll not bother further with.
    I guess it’s too late now for Silvio Rodríguez, right?
    But you’ve still got lots of your Rubén Blades, Carlos Vives, Joseph Capmany and the late, great Chavela Vargas, among HUNDREDS more.
    Just chill and enjoy their songs when you’re relaxing and you’ll soon find that some of their lirics start creating and inhabiting some useful new grammar and vocabular slots in your brain, played over in your mind with perfect pronunciation and pitch, giving you a good trampoline to repeat and vary them in your conversation.
    You’ll also learn a ton of subtleties about the local culture in each place from what they sing about.

    Best of luck,

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