My Spanish speaking summer – Giving Duolingo the go

In Travel Planning by Jaclynn Seah8 Comments

Hola amigos! You saw that previous post where I was mulling about the languages that I know and how that has helped me to travel. This June, I’ve been inspired by Christine of Almost Fearless to have a bilingual summer and learn a new language! (Technically I’m already effectively billingual, should this be my trillingual summer instead?)

An Pan Man

An Pan Man approves!

Right now I haven’t got the time to commit to regular classes, and while I do plan to do language classes on the road in future, I wanted to give myself a bit of a head start to really get myself in gear for my future South American travels (typical kiasu Singaporean side of me talking)… you guessed it! I decided that I would attempt to pick up some Spanish aka Espanol.

Sadly, though I’ve been to Spain twice, I hardly knew any Spanish then besides Hola and Cerveza and Calamari (essential words I assure you), but hopefully if I do go back again I will be better prepared.

Sherry Sherry Baby

Ok it’s not beer – but sherry is the same difference – they call it Jerez (see I knew that!) and named a whole region after it… it was awesome

I joined Duolingo – I’d heard of it previously from Munich friend S previously, as well as seen it pop up on other travellers websites. It’s a pretty fun language learning site with a gamification element to it, where you have points and goals and ‘compete’ with fellow friends in terms of progress – if you’re on it, do add me @jac_theocctrav!

You can download the iphone app (android one on its way) for some language learning on the go, or use the website – basically there’s are various levels and sections which are visualized in a tree of learning, which you slowly unlock as you progress.

Duolingo - Tree

still very early on – not much unlocked yet

There are many ways that they test you – it usually starts off with picture matching for new vocabulary, and slowly but surely they introduce new words, as well as new grammar. I like the varied ways that they test you so you get a well rounded introduction to the language, and that they allow you to peek at the words by hovering over them.

Duolingo - Tasks

Many ways of testing – you can practice saying the words out loud, multiple choice or translate words.

I have also realized that my strength when it comes to languages is my memory for vocabulary – I remember new words quite well so I can pick that up quickly. I also read well, and recognize words quite easily when I see them.

My weakness has always been shitty grammar, and Spanish has all these singular/plural/masculine/feminine forms of the same word which is soooo confusing! I can never get that right. Also, while I’m a visual learner, I tend to write very phonetically by what I hear, which is probably why I often spell things wrongly – when I was learning Chinese, my essays always sounded correct when you read them out but I always used the wrong word!

But still, perseverance… the fun part of course is seeing how all your friends are doing, and that motivates you to keep going…

Duolingo - Award

Yay! Conquering Espanol bit by tiny bit

Right now I’ve progressed to food words like la manzana (the apple) and phrases like yo como un emparedado (I eat a sandwich), and trying to get the accents right (it’s like Chinese all over again, but in a different hell), and while I’m still bottom of the pack, it’s been fun!

No Hearts Makes a Sad Owl

Ay Carumba! Even when you get the sad owl for being a lousy student


  1. Duolingo is a useful application that allows to know the basics of the language. Very helpful, but there’s nothing like a living person with whom you can talk:-)

  2. I added you! I have been so bad about doing this consistently, but I am determined to get back to it. I’ll make you look good in the meantime 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks Carmel! I tend to do mine in bursts rather than consistently everyday… and you are SOOOO far ahead I’m never going to catch up!

      (lovely blog btw, the design is great inspiration for how I want mine to look eventually, clean yet pretty!)

  3. I have been using Duolingo as well and it’s pretty fun. For me I just need the vocab. The grammar is too much work lol. As long as I make myself understood when travelling that’s fine. So vocab is good enough =)

    1. Author

      haha yeah when travelling it’s a lot of “word 1? word 2?” and flapping hand actions 😛

      but I like the idea of being able to be conversational and understanding what people are saying! i find it very difficult to listen and intepret foreign words when spoken because i’m used to seeing them on paper!

  4. Hi! I’ve just discover your blog today and It’s a pleasure spend the sunday reading your posts. 6 months ago I arrived from Barcelona to live in Singapore. So if you need some help with your spanish I could teach some useful words for your next travels!

    1. Author

      Hola Sandra, very nice to hear from you! I hope you like it in Singapore, and yes I’ll definitely get in touch when I feel ready to try out some proper Spanish conversation =)

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