Learning Spanish as an adult

Over the last few weeks, a few people have asked me how I went about learning Spanish as an adult.

A recent guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog by Gabriel Wyner may be helpful for people that want to learn.

At a high level, the plan I followed was similar:

  1. Learn spelling and sound.
  2. Build a foundational vocabulary.
  3. Learn grammar, abstract vocabulary and patterns.
  4. Get as much exposure to the language as possible. Identify your trouble spots and work them out through self-study.

Although Wyner’s definition of fluency is a little too loose for my taste, the post is filled with solid insights.


Why watch the same movie twice?

I’m a huge fan of revisiting good movies again and again over the span of several years. But not just movies—books, music, other works of art, foods. Anything of quality is fair game, even if I was only lukewarm to it initially.

This quote attributed to Heraclitus comes to mind:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

In this case, the work you are revisiting is the same. You, however, are not. And the context from which you are experiencing it is not.

It’s rewarding to dive into the same good book every few years and find fresh lessons and insights waiting there for you each time. You see things you did not see and likely could not see at a previous point in your life. In a way, the fact that this happens is a sign of life—a confirmation that you are still growing in whatever areas that work covers.

An elegant answer to a personal question

"I believe we are here to contribute our verse. It is what I worry about, it is what I solve for."

Avinash Kaushik is somebody I’ve developed a great deal of respect for over the last year. I was originally exposed to his work when studying web analytics. Since then, I’ve come to realize that this guy could write an article called “The Best Sandwich I Ever Ate” and I would still be smarter after reading it than I was before.

During a recent Q and A on Yabbly, somebody tossed him a rather personal question:

What is the purpose of your existence? Do you believe in God?

To which he replied:

I love this poem by Walt Whitman, and I believe we are here to contribute our verse. It is what I worry about, it is what I solve for.


O Me! O Life!

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

I loved the fact that he didn’t dodge the question. He answered it honestly and concisely, but in a way that still lets him maintain his privacy.

Clayton Christensen on Hardship

I’m currently reading Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life. Before hitting Add to Cart on Amazon I spent a few minutes searching the web for things written by him and about him. I came away with several thought-provoking quotes and ideas, some of which I wanted to share.

From Forbes:

I’m an optimistic person. But for the first time in my life, with all my problems, I focused more and more on me–and it was depressing, literally. Sometimes I just wanted to quit trying to learn and speak and write again and just go into my basement and build furniture. I learned an important lesson from this. I learned that focusing on my own problems does not bring happiness. God didn’t say, “Okay. For those with problems it’s okay to focus on yourself. And for those who don’t have problems, I want you to focus on helping others.” Even in dire times God does not exempt me from his commandment to focus my life on others, because it transforms hardship to joy.

Another article ends with this powerful quote:

The person I decide to be has to be robust enough that it doesn’t matter what happens in my life… Life will happen to me. But I don’t want what happens in life to determine who Clay Christensen becomes.

Relearning to Concentrate

I’ve been studying for my MCTS Examp 70-448 the last month and a half and have found my ability to block things out and focus for long stretches of time to be lacking. And I don’t think it is the somewhat dry nature of the material. I’m tackling an engaging book on a different topic in my spare time and find the same thing — my attention seems much less disciplined than it used to be. [Read more...]

My Toastmasters Icebreaker Speech

The first speech you give when you join Toastmasters is called The Icebreaker. It’s designed to ease you into public speaking. The assignment is to speak for 4 – 6 minutes about yourself.

Creating the speech was more challenging than I thought it would be. But the writing was fun and so was delivering it.

Here is The Icebreaker I gave tonight. [Read more...]