Learning Spanish in Mexico: My Study Routine

coffee cup notebook pen

Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

I’ve been in Mexico since October and I’ve tried to keep studying my Spanish and talking in Spanish as much as I can. But it’s hard sometimes!

Usually my daily routine goes like this:

In the morning I’d usually do 2 wheels from Duolingo. It’s not too taxing for me in the morning and I like seeing how my wheels change colour when I’ve studied them. I’m going down my tree turning every wheel one colour, so the whole tree will be green/blue….. Then I go back up to the top and start turning them another colour. It depends on the theme/ grammar point in each wheel, but usually 2 wheels will take me between 30-45 minutes to complete. (Especially the harder ones which are lower on the tree, also if I keep getting them wrong).

I also sometimes read some Duolingo Stories, but these are really when I’m in the mood. I don’t feel like they help me much for studying, but some stories are interesting to read. 

Then we usually have lunch and I try and speak Spanish, but usually I just eat in silence because I’m not particularly talkative even in English! But this is a good time for some listening practice, as my fiancé and his parents LOVE to talk, so that’s good for my listening! I know I need to work on this though, so I’ll try and make an extra effort in speaking during this time. 

I find that after lunch is the most difficult time to study. I’m tired (maybe due to lunch) and just want to take a nap really! So I end up usually just procrastinating during the hours of 2pm-4pm. So again, another thing I need to improve on. 

Later on in the afternoon I sort of get my energy back up again and I start studying grammar. I have one book called ‘Collins, easy learning; Spanish Grammar & Practice’ and it teaches basic spanish grammar. What I like to do is read every thing that I’ve studied before in the book, and then start a new grammar point. I try and understand it and then do some written exercises which are in the book. I get my fiancé to go through them and explain to me if I got something wrong. 

I have another easier book to use which I switch back and forth. This one is a classroom based book with dialogues and what not. 

It’s starting to get dark outside now and I move onto something else. I’ve set each day of the week (bar 1) where I learn 10 new words . So maybe on Monday I look at my calendar and see I have to learn nouns, so I learn 10 nouns for that day. I have 5 things to learn; nouns, adjectives, verbs, tenses and tense conjugations. So first I will learn my nouns, then I will review everything that I’ve learned from these 5 categories. For example,  I’ve lots of nouns that I’ve already learned so I go back to the beginning and re-read them all. Sometimes It’s boring but I realised I remember pretty much all of them just by reading them everyday. 

The same goes for adjectives and what not.  I think maybe I could push to 20 words per day, so I think I might slowly increase my new vocab. At the beginning I was learning 30 words everyday and by the end, having to learn so many made me dread that time of day! So now 10 is very easy for me. 

So all that takes me a while to do, but It really does help me. I’m not stressing myself if I forget an adjective or tense, because I know I’ll review them tomorrow and the next day, so they will stick one day!

After this, I might dabble a bit with some listening practice by watching YouTube videos. I usually do this sporadically during the day. 

Then, I have a list of questions in Spanish on my computer and I have to write an answer and learn them off by heart. The latest one I learned was ‘Que hiciste ayer?’ …’What did you do yesterday?’. So I try and write it in spanish, and then my fiancé comes and corrects the mistakes. It’s great having him nearby to fix all of my errors! After that I try and learn every sentence off by heart, until I know the whole answer. Sometimes It’s difficult as I’m using tenses that I’ve haven’t studied yet, but I don’t want simple answers, I want answers that are complicated and so I learn new vocab and tenses. 

Sometime during the evening I try and spend an hour speaking with my fiancé about a topic in Spanish. I’m grateful he takes the time out to help me with my spanish, as he’s busy doing his own things. 

I might also use another book which is an Irish exam paper. There are two levels, higher and ordinary,  with higher level being more difficult. In it there are exam papers that student’s do for their Leaving Cert to get into University. Every practice exam paper has stories to read and then questions to answer underneath. I enjoy doing this and I can notice they are getting easier to read, especially when I remember reading them while I was in China! 

Finally, I like to read at night so I downloaded some free spanish kindle books to read. I really enjoy reading so this isn’t a chore for me at all, unless it’s super difficult! I’ve watched some tv shows in Spanish with the family but I lose interest after a while because I just don’t understand anything. Watching a film in Spanish that I’ve already seen before in English helps though, as I already know what it’s about so it’s not as bad. Plus sometimes a programme/film will be in English with Spanish subtitles, which I would rather not watch! 

So anyway, theres my day of learning Spanish. I try and speak Spanish throughout the day but I know I need to stick in extra speaking time, but it’s difficult as I’m not a lover of talking. I know I’d improve faster if I spoke more, so I’ll try and make an extra effort with that. 

Aisling

Advertisements

Our (Not So Nice) Hostel

You know when you go onto booking.com and you see all these great hostels at a great price? The location is perfect and it looks like a nice place to stay? Reviews are very good with only a few bad ones? Well sometimes it’s too good to be true.

We were going to stay in Madrid for 10 days as my fiancés Mum and Dad were visiting his Aunty, so we decided to stay longer than usual in order to visit a few places with the parents and also his Aunty.

Well, the hostel wasn’t great to be honest. There was problem after problem with this place, and I was pretty happy to have left!

Usually there might be maybe a few minor problems with hostels. But with this one there were tonnes.

1. No lock on the door.

This means that everyone can just go into your room. This is unusually strange. So then of course one night I hear someone enter the room, hear some footsteps, realise that it’s pitch black and they can’t see anything…. so they decide to leave…..and surprise they leave the door open. So I had to get up and close it then.  I really wasn’t impressed with this at all. It’s really not hard to get locks for the doors.

2. You can’t turn on/off the lights.

Room related again. Another surprising thing is that the only people that can control the lights in every dorm room is the receptionist. So they decide the time. It depends on who is working during the night shift, but the lights could turn off at 9:30pm, 10:30pm, 11:05pm or even after 12:00am. In this case the receptionist actually forget they were on……

I can’t understand why we don’t have control of the light swtich?

3. No control over the air-con

Another room one for you! Once again the receptionist is in charge of the air-con. Every night we have to go and ask them to turn it on. The third night we were there I woke up at 5am literally sweating! I was wondering why I was so hot. Sure enough I saw that the air-con was off. We asked the receptionist and they said “Sometimes we turn it off in case the people get cold”.

Mmmmm I’m sure. After that night the air-con was left on. Again, why can’t we decide if we want it on or off?? Do they think we are going to steal the remote or something?

4. Noises everywhere

Because our dorm room was literally, and I mean two steps away from the common area, that meant we could hear every type of noise; chatting, cutlery clattering, the washing machine, the people washing their dishes… everything. Another one that was added was the recent addition of the squeaking of the mens toilet door every time it opened. So that was a new one. I thought ‘they may actually fix it’, but no, it was still squeaking when we left. I’m so thankful that I had my earplugs with me, or else they all would have driven me mad.

5. For the smokers, the entrance of the hostel was the smoking area… which of course means that all the non-smokers  and the people checking in have to walk through the cloud of cigarette/ marijuana smoke to enter. Because it was sort of inside, the smell just lingered in the small area which wasn’t very pleasant.

6. Cold showers

In the ladies toilet there were 3 showers, and 2 of them I liked more than the other one. So the first shower which I had was lovely and hot! No problems! The next shower was also fine. The third one was getting cold just after I put shampoo in my hair, but it wasn’t too bad. It was luke warm. The next one however was absolutely freezing! As soon as I turned it on it went straight to icey cold. I thought maybe it would heat up but no, it just stayed cold. That was a very tough shower as I can’t cope with the cold!  After that one I asked could I have a shower in my fiancés aunts house, I just didn’t want to have another cold shower like that. I don’t even think I rinsed all the soap off my body it was that cold! I just wanted to get out!

So my last shower we were supposed to get up at 8am as we were checking out at 10. I ended up waking at 7:20am and decided to go for one them, hoping the water would be fine.

There was nobody in the bathroom when I entered and I switched the shower on to make sure it got hot. And it was!  My last shower was as good as the first! I’m guessing maybe the other girls use up the hot water, but there should be at least warm water for everyone.

7. Weird people

There was one particular person there that kind of creeped us out while we were there. While we were in the common area, this girl would be walking around with a big fluffy coat on her…. by the way the weather was 30+ degrees, so she looked totally odd wearing this in the hostel. I’m pretty sure everyone was looking at her wearing this big coat.

Also there was something sort of just ‘off’ about her. (The coat didn’t exactly help either)  She would just be walking about the common area, going to the bathroom, walking a bit more…. that was pretty much all we saw her do in the hostel.

Until one night….

So I was in my bed and had to go to the bathroom. It was around 1am I think. I get up and open the door. I walk past this girl and she nearly bumped into me. I wasn’t really paying attention to her or what she was doing, but I was wondering why she was so close to me. I realise that she’s swaying and making a “huh” sound every so often. I realise she’s high as a kite. On what I have absolutely no idea, but she was definitely high. I quickly went to the bathroom and when I come out she has moved over to the fridge and is swaying and doing god knows. I didn’t want to continue watching her.

Then as I walk toward my dorm room she begins to (try) to walk towards me. i rush to my room and  look over to her as she began to bump into the mens toilet.

At least I’m back in bed. Until….. that was the night someone walked into our dorm room. I’m guessing it was her. So of course I was scared then to go back outside as she could be outside being zombie-like.

But the drama doesn’t stop there! I wake up again at 5:30am with someone in the common area shouting! I was half asleep at this stage so I wasn’t really paying attention, but my fiancé also woke up and he heard it. He said that someone from the hostel was shouting at the girl in Spanish and in English. “Get out!!!! You are drunk! You are high! You have to leave!”

Do you think she left? Nope……we get up around 8:30 and guess who we see… the girl with the black coat. She was no longer high, but now she had her pink bag with her and was (yet again) walking around the common area. I’m guessing she was awake for the whole night.

There was another female worker there and she went up to the girl and in English said “You have to leave now. Get your things and go.” The girl started saying that she wanted to speak to the manager as at 5:30am the guy that she was talking to was very rude to her.

“I want to know why he was so rude to me, I was only smoking inside”. (which she clearly wasn’t)

The lady said “He was the manager!”

“Ok, then I need a refund”.

“Fine, we’ll give you your refund but then you have to leave.”

“How much would it be for another night?”

“No, you are not staying another night! There is a hostel across the street, you can go and try to stay there, but you are not staying here”.

“I want to use the bathroom.”

“Again??? This is the second time you have to go to the bathroom”

So she went to the bathroom and came back out. She walked a bit more and then FINALLY she left the building.

The drama was over and there was peace at last! I kind of felt sorry for the girl but at the same time it’s not on getting high or whatever while in a hostel full of other people. She was travelling alone so god knows what bad things could have happened to her. She shouldn’t get herself into a state like that, especially when she couldn’t even speak Spanish. (She tried but the the lady told her to speak English as her Spanish wasn’t very good)

So yeah, it was eventful staying at the hostel. If any of you want to know the name of this delightful place, it’s called the d’hostel.

Would I recommend it? No…. it needs upgrading and looks kind of shabby. Plus all of the problems  mentioned above, there are a few more that I won’t mention as the ones here were the most annoying for me. Although the location was great as it was in the centre and only 5 minutes walk to the metro. So it’s very centric.

Would I stay here again? NO WAY.

Aisling.

While I’ve Been Back

While I’ve been home in Ireland, there are more and more things that I notice every time I come back. Here are a few since I came home.

Roche Castle

Roche Castle

There really are 4 seasons in 1 day

In China, it’s either sunny or cloudy/smoggy and there is little change during the day. In Ireland, in the morning it could be sunny, at noon it could be cloudy, in the evening it could be sunny and then all of a sudden rain would appear, and then maybe it will be cloudy again. It really does fluctuate here, and I’ve never realised how much it does until I came back here. So you really do have to have an umbrella and coat with you!

Ireland is dirty

Having lived in Chengdu which is very very clean, and then travelling around Japan, which is also spotless, I arrive in Ireland and there’s rubbish everywhere. A bottle here, a crisp packet there….. It’s only now that I realise how dirty it is. While we were in Dublin, I saw two dead rats on the pavement (plus loads of rubbish). I admit I feel quite ashamed of the state of my own country. Why do people think it’s ok to throw rubbish instead of just putting it in the bin? I’ll never understand it. But yeah, unfortunately Ireland is very dirty in comparison to Chengdu and Japan.

More variety in ethnicities.

Having moved from Ireland 5 years ago, I’ve noticed many more different ethnicities here. Even in my small town of 40,000 I’ve seen many more. (I really don’t understand why they would come to where I live, there’s nothing to do here!) I don’t see a problem with them coming here once they contribute to society and not just arrive to receive social benefits. Also in Dublin I’ve seen a lot more tourists about! It’s good to see but I can see in the future that the city won’t be able to handle the big influx. Dublin isn’t a very big city at all, so I feel there may be problems in the future.

More expensive

I was looking at the prices of sweets in shops, and a lot of small bars are like €1! Just for a chocolate bar! I don’t know whether I’ve just never noticed when I lived here before, but I really don’t remember having to pay €1 for a bar. Maybe 70cent. But yeah, I do notice things are expensive here. (Cry)

People are fat

Again, I’ve noticed that there are many bigger people here. Maybe it didn’t register when I lived here before, but I feel there are more people that would border on being obese than before.

Needing a car

My house is literally 5-10 minutes away by car from the town centre. It’s really close but yet I need a car to get there. There are no pavements on my road until closer to the town, and I wouldn’t feel safe walking on the road (it’s quite busy), so the only way to get there is by car. There are also no buses.

It’s actually quite annoying. My fiancés parents also said that they wouldn’t like to live here because you need a car. So it’s nice to live in the countryside but that means you will need your own transport to get around. The transport system here is crap, and unless you live in a big city like Dublin then you need a car to go pretty much anywhere.

I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of right now. It’s nice being with the family though. I love going to bed in my own bedroom and sticking something on to watch while I’m surrounded by all my own things. I couldn’t do that in China.

Aisling

I Hate Visa Time

Time has again rolled by for having to apply for a new visa. I don’t particularly enjoy having to renew my visa; nothing ever goes to plan. I don’t think we have ever successfully applied for ours in one day. You always hear:

“You don’t have this document.”

“You need the original copy of this”

“Where is blah blah blah copy?”

But our 1 year study visa has nearly run out, so it is a must!

Having to sort out visa things a few times now, we sort of know what exactly we need to bring. We were pretty sure that everything would go smoothly!

Wrong!

One by one, each person is called to a desk and the officer looks through our papers and what not. This is the bit that I dread. They could ask you nothing, and simply carry out checking you have the correct documents, or they could bombard you with questions! This time one year ago I was bombarded with questions about working and studying.

So this time round I was a little nervous. I don’t want to say something wrong or stupid and then have them cancel my visa!

I’ve been hearing lately that the visa officers are becoming more and more strict with visas and who they give them out to. In China, the people who cannot get a work visa, decide to enrol with a university and get a student one, but then never come to class and just work 30-40 hours a week. So now officers are checking random foreigners to see if they have the right visa.

But thankfully with my visa everything was going ok… until he said “Today you will have to pay 800yuan for your visa”

What??? I was only prepared to pay 400yuan… If I was staying for less a year, or even just 364 days, then I only need to pay 400yuan.  I thought all my documents said that I wasn’t applying for a year visa.

I started blubbering and saying that I wasn’t applying for the year one, in which he replied “Do you see here on your passport visa, it says this name, but on your work contract there is another name, so I can’t give you an extension because they are different. I know they are the same company, but they gave you a different name of the company on your work contract then whats on your passport visa.”

He carried on telling us that we could either wait until the current visa is about to expire and then apply, or pay the 800yuan. We told him we couldn’t wait; we would be leaving China only a few days after they expire, so it was impossible.

But then, thankfully he said “well if you want to go to your work company and ask them to change the name, then come back tomorrow and we can process your visa then.”

Oh I was so happy when he said that! I really didn’t want to pay an extra 400yuan.

We didn’t want to have to go the next day to sort it out so we decided to go straight after, get it all over and done with in a day.

We went to our work headquarters half an hour away and they filled in another contract for us. We travelled back to the PSB office and the man was surprised when he saw us “Oh you have the correct one now?”

We both successfully paid and we were finished, having to collect our passports in three weeks, then it’s over! No more worrying!

再见

爱玲

Chinese Golden Week

Once again China has their annual ‘Golden Week’, where they all have 7 days holiday.. usually from the 1st to the 7th of October. During this time China becomes mad with people travelling here and there… but I certainly won’t be going anywhere!

It’s great to get a week off going to University, but unfortunately China is just too busy during holidays. Many just stay at home and relax, while others will venture out and join the swarm of other millions of people.

It’s such a pity though. I would love to go and travel during this time, but I know, from experience, everywhere you go there will most certainly be too many people. Plus the roads leading out of Chengdu will be jam packed with cars.

No, I think we’ll leave the travelling to the braver ones. We plan on relaxing, saving some money, try and study Chinese…oh and work.  Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean the children have a holiday. Of course they will have tonnes of homework and will have to come to English class.

I asked one of my 14 year old student what were her plans for the holiday. She replied ‘I’ll go with my family travelling but my teachers gave me a lot of homework, so I will have to bring my homework with me and do it during my holiday’.

The poor Chinese students never get a break from school. I really feel sorry for them. No wonder many families are sending their children abroad to study now…

Her Mum is planning on sending her to America next year to study so fortunately she will be out of the Chinese education rat race to be the best. Although she is extremely clever, with the 2nd highest exam scores of her whole school for her summer exams. So she will be fine in America.

So with no school for a whole week… when I return I will certainly not want to get up early in the morning again!

再见

爱玲