Learning Spanish in Mexico: My Study Routine

coffee cup notebook pen

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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

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Preparing For Our Wedding

So, wedding stuff…… lights, flowers, music, alcohol, food, dress….. oh and that list goes on and on and on. . . 

With our wedding a few months away, we’re now on the clock to get everything sorted for it, and let’s just say, I’m very happy that we only have to go through this once! It’s only one day, but there’s so much planning and preparation that goes with it, I don’t think I could do it all again! This is the time when you need a wedding planner. (If only I had like tonnes of money to be able to get one) 

I still don’t have my dress, and one that I liked was too expensive. Now I have no real idea what wedding dresses cost as we haven’t really shopped around, but let’s just say it’ll be hard to find a cheap one! And what was planned as a small ‘party’ in our garden has turned into having it in an event venue with toasts, ceremonies and everything else that comes with weddings! I kept saying to myself, and others around me “It’s not really a wedding at all, it’s more like a party”. I was trying to make myself think that “it’s just a party, only a party, nothing crazy like a proper wedding, definitely not…….it’s just a small party”. But no, it’s not ‘just a party’ anymore, which scares me! 

I really don’t like being centre of attention, and a whole day being about me (and my fiancé of course) scares the living daylights out of me! Thankfully it won’t be a huge wedding, maybe with around 50 guests. I can handle that number. 

I suppose I just have to think ‘everyone getting married goes through this’. Everybody. I’m sure there’s not one bride or groom that won’t be nervous, stressed and secretly terrified about their big day, so that comforts me a little. 

But anyway, the next few months will be focused on the big day, and it’s hard not to think about anything else. When you are tight with money, you need to be careful with your budget, how much everything costs…blah blah blah. 

Oh, and I’ve learned…… photographers are EXPENSIVE!!!! I never knew how expensive they were. That’s another thing that we need to think about. I read a few years ago that one thing you shouldn’t skip on is having a professional photographer at your wedding. Yes they are expensive but they take much much better photos than anyone else at the wedding. Plus you’ll always have memories of the day by having beautiful photos. So it’s expensive but I think it’s necessary (unless you want blurred photos taken by your drunk relative as your memories)

Thankfully we are having it in Mexico, a country that is known to be cheap, so hopefully that will help our budget. We are just trying to have a cheap but nice wedding day. I know it’s an important day but I don’t want to blow loads of money on just one day. Cheap doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad wedding. Plus with both of us not working isn’t helping, it’s not nice having our money slowly but surely disappearing, with no way to replenish it. 

With regards to our honeymoon, we haven’t really talked about it. We’ll most likely visit somewhere nice in Mexico. First get the big day out of the way, and then we’ll talk about the honeymoon. 

The countdown is on! 

Aisling

Worrying

woman working girl sitting

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So with my latest posts, I was talking about how I enrolled in a Spanish course in a university here. My second time going was a bad experience, you can read about it here: No, It Didn’t Go Well

We decided to go and meet the teacher and explain to her that the level is too high. So, it turns out that the other two students that were in the class have been studying a year at the university, so they use Spanish every day because their course is in Spanish. So that is why their level is so good! I’m guessing on their free mornings they come to have class just to strengthen their Spanish. So I was worrying and wondering how I was stuck in with them when they were supposed to be ‘basic’ like me. Unfortunately the teacher never told me this, so I couldn’t understand why they were in my class. Apparently theres only two levels available to take, so they just came to the lower class. Maybe they have class before or after so 10am was the only time to go.

The teacher said that I can continue going and just observe the class, so I can improve my listening at least.

So the day after I had class and I just couldn’t go in. I just sort of had an anxiety panic attack. I just didn’t want to go in and have to sit there while the the others are blabbering away and me not being able to understand anything. I just hate that feeling.

On Wednesday I arrived to class and chat chat chat was all I heard. Again I couldn’t understand much. She asked me some questions and I ‘tried’ to answer, but when the others are talking I just can’t understand. Yesterday I went in again and there were 4 male students, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand about 80% of the class. Honestly. It was very difficult for me. They were laughing and joking about something and I just sat at the side just doing nothing. I couldn’t participate or anything.

So I came out of class a little down again, thinking ‘Is this what I have to deal with 5 days a week? I have to worry every morning about going in to class which I shouldn’t have to worry about. Every class I’m anxious that she’ll ask me something and I don’t understand. Maybe they’ll be chatting about a topic and the teacher will ask me “So Aisling, what do you think about climate change? and I’ll be sitting there like an eejit because I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, never mind giving my opinion on something more advanced than talking about myself’.

These are the things I think about. And I know it’s stupid. I know I should just go in there and try. But I can’t try because I can’t participate. I don’t understand anything they say, so I can’t even try to say something.

So for this week I went in 2 days, today (Friday) I woke up and just said to myself “Nope….not going in today”. And I didn’t. And do you know what? I feel absolutely great today! I’m not worried or anxious about the class. I’m not annoyed at what I didn’t understand. I’m not sad after it and thinking “Oh I said that wrong, I should have said this…” I feel wonderful today.

Anyway, that’s my dilema! Either go to class and struggle, but know that I’m getting something out of it (god knows what because at the moment I feel like the only thing I’m getting out of it is stress). Or I could just not go and be happier, but then feel annoyed that I’m not going and at least trying. It’s a tricky one!

I don’t want to feel like I’m giving up. I really don’t. But the class is just so difficult for me. If it was the level that I’m at and I just didn’t go, then yeah I would be giving up. But this situation is different, so it’s harder.

I’ve also started seeing a therapist for my anxiety. I’ve wanted to go while in China but it was expensive. So I talked about how the class went to him and why I worry a lot. So we’ll see how that goes!

But anyway, today I feel happy and worry-free. So that’s good.

Aisling

It’s Actually Sticking In My Head

It’s Actually Sticking In My Head

Spanish, I mean. It’s slowly beginning to stick….. I’ve realised this with how I’m improving on Duolingo. It would give me a sentence to translate into Spanish, and I’d give it a go, thinking that it is wrong…. but nope! It was right! That is happening more and more now which I’m happy about.

I would really recommend Duolingo if you are learning a language. It helped me out a lot at the beginning, and I really just used that and spoke with my fiancé. This was all while I was in China, so it wasn’t possible for me to take classes. So I learned the basics of Spanish just by myself and trying to practice speaking with my fiancé.

Just yesterday I joined a spanish class in the University where my fiancé studied all those years ago. (The private companies are horrendously expensive) This one is extremely cheap for the semester, and  there are 3 other students in my class. I go Monday-Friday 10am-11am. So that’s 5 hours altogether. I’m in the basics level so my Spanish is still low, but I’m just happy that they had a class that I could join.

Today was my first day and it went so so I suppose. There was only 1 other student with me and he could speak more and understand more than I could. I only realised that he has been in the class a while now, and they have gone through half the Spanish book already.  So I joined very late in the semester.

I’m glad I joined but it kind of made me realise how much I don’t actually know. Yeah I know the basics but I’m still messy with tenses and my listening isn’t the best either. The other student was blabbering away and I didn’t understand him a lot of the time. I don’t know whether it was the vocab that he was using which I didn’t know, or that he just had a strong accent and that was why! I’ll pay attention tomorrow and see if I can figure out why!

So tomorrow there may be more students. I wonder how their Spanish is? I hope I will improve a lot in the next few weeks. Or at least get better with the tenses!

Aisling

My Move To Mexico

For months now, we’ve always had the plan of moving to Mexico. The reason was mainly so I could learn Spanish and then when it was good enough I would have better chances of getting a job related to tourism. That was the plan anyway!

I’ve been here I think almost 3 weeks now. (I’m not really counting). We didn’t bring much with us, just some clothes and what not. My fiancés family have offered for us to stay with them and we are very grateful for that!

We have a lot to organise in the next few months! At the moment I am on a tourist visa, meaning that I can only stay here for 6 months. In order to tackle this, we are organising the civil ceremony so that I can apply for a temporary 1 year visa. In that way I’ll be able to work on that visa.

Second, we are also organising our wedding/gathering/party for early next year. We aren’t planning anything wild, just something in my fiancés parents’ garden. It’ll be a small wedding! And big surprise, my parents are actually coming to Mexico! I spent 5 years in China and absolutely no one came to visit me. ( I had to have a wedding to make someone care about coming to see me).

But anyway, they are coming at least. Finally.

So at the moment we really aren’t doing anything productive. With both of us jobless, we are trying not to spend any money. (That also means not going anywhere either). I don’t really mind, I get to study Spanish more.

Oh, and on learning Spanish….. it’s ridiculously expensive to have Spanish classes with a private language learning centre here. It’s madness!!! Most of them are over 400USD per week!! Now they are intensive classes, but I just can’t afford that. So that kind of annoys me. They are catered to Americans who come for a few weeks to learn. They hike up the price so much though, even my fiancé was also shocked at how expensive they are, especially because a lot of Mexicans wouldn’t even earn that in 1 month.

I’ll try and find classes elsewhere if I can. I know myself that I need to be in a classroom to learn things. I’m bad at self-studying.

Exercise wise, my fiancés parents have a pool so I’ve started swimming for about 3/4 hours a week. I’d like to lose some weight and just get fit. The worst thing is just getting in at the start as sometimes it can be a little cold! But if I swam in a freezing cold cenote, then I can tolerate the pool!

So at the moment we are talking about our wedding, what needs to be done, what we need to get for it, and the civil ceremony and what that entails! AAhh!

Aisling

This Time Last Year

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The University where I worked at

It’s strange to think that this is the first September that I’ve been in Ireland for 5 years. Every September I’ve been in China. It’s not very significant but it means a lot to me. It’s change, and that’s good.

This time last year I started teaching University students. I was making PPT’s for them and getting used to waking up at 6:30am, work at 8am. I was trying to learn all the students names and where my classes were for teaching every class. Little did I know that in a years time I would be at home enjoying time with my family and getting ready to go to Mexico. It’s a nice feeling to know that my life has changed (in a good way) from 12 months ago.

As for teaching and after my crappy students from last semester, I’ve gone off teaching altogether. I really want to try something new. I’m really fed up of teaching now. The students did a good job with that!

I think private teaching would be ok in the future. When I worked in a private company I had some great students and I really enjoyed their classes. But first I’ll try and do something that I want do, and then maybe for extra income I could work teaching privately. It’s good to know that I can fall back into teaching if everything else fails. (which I’m sure they won’t)

But yeah, it’s just a great feeling to know that things are moving now. I’m not stuck in China teaching yet again, for another year. I can start to learn Spanish, I can start looking at jobs I want to do, I can start doing things that I just couldn’t do in China.

Even making friends, I hope I can make new lifelong Mexican friends in Mexico. In China, we made friends and then lost them…. as everyone moves away eventually. So it’s hard to meet and keep in contact with people, especially in China.

I have to think, what will I be doing this time next year? I’ll most likely be in Mexico. Will my Spanish be good? I hope I’ll have new friends. I hope I’ll be living in an apartment. Ha I’ll push the boat out and hope I’ll win the lotto and be rich.

Who knows!

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