Fallynleaf's Spanish study log

¡Hola!

In the interest of growing the Spanish language learning community here, I thought I’d start a Spanish-language-specific study log and share my journey so far and some of the tools that have worked for me, as well as talking about what I’m up to in my current studies.

Japanese is still my main focus, so I can’t promise that this thread will be that active or exciting, but I thought my Spanish language learning journey deserved more than being relegated to a side note in my Japanese study log posts, so here we are.

Because learning Spanish has always been on the backburner for me, it almost feels like I’ve gotten as far as I have by accident? The vast majority of my progress happened as sort of a side effect of 1) developing an interest in pro wrestling, and 2) developing an interest in language learning specifically through learning Japanese.

I started out struggling to read articles in Spanish, and then three years of Japanese study later, I’m able to listen to native Spanish language podcasts with decent comprehension!

Huh? Wait a minute, how did that happen?

The long version is in my Japanese study log over on the WaniKani forum. This post here is I guess the Spanish language counterpart of my WaniKani level 60 post, which sums up the highlights of my Japanese language journey, trials and tribulations and all.

Mandatory high school language classes

I started learning Spanish in eighth grade, purely to knock out some of the high school language credits requirements a year early. I had no real interest in learning Spanish, or any other foreign language for that matter.

Naturally, I didn’t get far. I took two more years of Spanish in high school, then quit after Spanish 3, which was taught by a very mediocre teacher.

I don’t think I even technically made it past A2 in terms of language ability.

Forgetting it all

I stopped using Spanish entirely after my last high school class ended. I live in a city with a large Spanish-speaking population, so I’d see and hear Spanish spoken occasionally, but it wasn’t enough for me to retain any of my knowledge, so over the course of the next eight years or so, I lost basically all the knowledge I had.

And for the most part, I was fine with that.

Reviving my Spanish with Duolingo

I’m not sure exactly what got me to pick Spanish back up. I think I saw someone I follow using Duolingo on twitter and thought I might as well try it out, so I downloaded it and started working through the Spanish course.

It was kind of painful how much I’d lost, but miraculously, I started to get my knowledge back. I remembered a lot of the vocab after practicing it a bit, and the verb conjugations and such also came back to me, though the tenses I had been most hazy on during Spanish 3 (like the subjunctive tense) were still a bit hazy…

I don’t think Duolingo really helped me get beyond where I’d already gotten in class years ago, but it did help me recover what I’d lost.

プロレス and lucha libre

In March 2019, I discovered pro wrestling’s greatest gay love story and went from hating pro wrestling to being absolutely obsessed with it practically overnight. I had no idea that pro wrestling was capable of this level of storytelling.

I started out exclusively watching Japanese pro wrestling, but I ended up trying out American pro wrestling when All Elite Wrestling had their first show, and AEW ended up being my entry point into lucha libre. I discovered AAA, and watched my first AAA show not long after. At the time, my Spanish wasn’t good enough for me to catch more than a handful of words when listening, though I fared a little better reading tweets and such.

Like most English-speaking fans who care even a little bit about Mexican wrestling, I started following luchablog on twitter, and his account and blog were my main entry points into the Mexican wrestling world. However, I still hadn’t found a Mexican wrestling story that really hooked me, unlike with Japanese wrestling or American wrestling, so I mostly just watched occasional lucha libre shows and kept up with the big news in the scene.

Pro wrestling is an extremely global world, with most activity centered around America, Mexico, and Japan (with the U.K. a distant fourth), and with lots of cultural crossover between all three regions. So wrestlers will travel from one country to another, and storylines will get woven across wrestlers’ work in multiple companies and in multiple languages.

At the time, I had several friends who were learning Japanese for pro wrestling, and I wished I could also learn the language, but didn’t think I had it in me. But reading their posts got me wanting to do something with my Spanish as well, so I ended up getting a little more committed with Spanish, and amped up my Duolingo study.

I also started attempting to translate Spanish articles and interviews about LGBTQ luchadores so that my friends could read them. It was my first time reading native Spanish text. My primary interest in pro wrestling stems from an interest in LGBTQ performers and storylines, so I was really interested in learning more about this in the context of Mexican wrestling, since there was limited information about it in English.

There is a dearth of research about pro wrestling in general, but when you add in a language barrier and also add in a topic that is frequently stigmatized and unacknowledged, like LGBTQ issues, the amount of information that is out there about it shrinks even more.

For the first time in my life, I had a genuine motivation to learn Spanish. Despite living in an area with a high percentage of Spanish speakers, and despite needing the language to improve my job prospects, I hadn’t felt sufficiently motivated to actually study, but pro wrestling made me genuinely want to read and listen to materials that were only in Spanish.

Trying out that “immersion” thing I heard so much about

I did end up finally caving and starting to learn Japanese in fall 2020, though I didn’t get very far until I discovered WaniKani in December 2020. Even then, it still took until March 2021 before I really committed to learning. I discovered the WaniKani forums around then and got bit by the language learning bug and fell head over heels for it.

Language learning became my new obsession. I had a preexisting hyperfixation on pro wrestling, which grew into a hyperfixation on language learning, and the two interests fed each other a lot, because as my language ability improved, I started to gain more and more access to things in the pro wrestling world that were previously locked away behind a language barrier.

I heard a whole lot about the benefits of immersion on the WK forum, and lots of people there were reading stuff in Japanese, which got me wanting to try immersion, but I was so new to Japanese, I didn’t have a good enough base to try reading.

So, I thought, why not try it in Spanish?

I did a bit of googling and discovered that many people recommended El Alquimista | L24 for beginners to try reading in Spanish. So I got myself a (print) copy and started reading it.

I said in my second post in my WK study log:

Eventually, I’m probably going to replace the time I’m spending on this each day with reading Japanese material instead, but for now, I’m getting in the habit with a Spanish text.

A couple weeks later, here was my report:

I’ve made decent progress with El Alquimista. Since this is my first time attempting to read an entire book in a language other than English, I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it at first, so I ended up deciding to try sort of a blend of extensive and intensive reading. The scenes of the book are separated out like chapters, and each one is only a few pages, so I’ve been reading one of them a day. For my first readthrough, I don’t look up any words, and I try to just read it and understand what I can from context alone. I underline any word that I’m not familiar with, or which has a meaning I can’t remember. Once I’ve finished reading the scene, I go back and look up all of the words I didn’t know and write them in the margins of the book along with their meanings. Then I read through the scene again, this time aiming to comprehend as much as possible.

I was very intimidated at the beginning, and unsure if this was an effective strategy at first, but now that I’m 70 pages into the text, I’ve found a rhythm with it. It’s a little embarrassing to sometimes have to look up the same word over and over again when I know I already wrote it down in a previous chapter, but it occurred to me that this method is sort of replicating the SRS process. And sure enough, I’ve definitely learned some new vocabulary by doing this! I’m amazed that I’ve been able to keep up this reading habit without missing a day. It often takes me an hour to get through a scene, so reading the entire novel is quite the time commitment, but I’ve been able to stick with it thus far!

I’m feeling very encouraged by my progress, and optimistic that I’ll be able to motivate myself to read Japanese materials in a similar manner one day when my skill with the language is good enough.

A couple weeks after that, I was nearly finished with El Alquimista, and had backed a Kickstarter for a bilingual flipbook comic called La Mano del Destino, which incorporates themes from mesoamerican mythology, silver age comics storytelling, 1960s lucha libre, and Mexican culture. I also had another book lined up to read after that (Ferno, el Dragón de fuego: Buscafieras 1 | L22??), which was a young adult book in Spanish that I had owned for over ten years, but had never read. I bought it when I was taking classes in the language, thinking that I would try to read it, then never managed to work up the motivation to try.

I wrote in my study log:

I’ve tentatively committed to reading these additional books in Spanish before dedicating that time to studying Japanese instead. I feel like if I don’t do it now, I’ll never actually read them. And my confidence with reading in Spanish has increased a lot over the past month or so that I’ve been working on it every day.

I’m actually really grateful to the WaniKani community for being so enthusiastic and encouraging about reading materials in the language that you’re trying to learn, because I feel like I never would have tried that with Spanish, and it absolutely has improved my comprehension of the language by a lot!

By May 9, I’d finished El Alquimista! I started reading Ferno, el Dragón de fuego, and had finished it, along with La Mano del Destino, a month later. In that study log update in June, I wrote:

It occurred to me that if I want more reading practice, I could buy a digital subscription to Box y Lucha, a lucha libre magazine. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with it, but I decided to try out for one month and see how it goes.

The first issue of Box y Lucha that I read had an unexpected Golden Lovers connection, which was very fun for me! In the weeks which followed, I ended up translating a couple articles about the exotico wrestler Pimpinela Escarlata, and then read a few other articles that didn’t contain anything that I found worth reporting on.

Got distracted by trying to read some stuff in Japanese after that, though, and slowed down a bit on Spanish…

In my next study log entry, I talked about reading some tweets in Spanish, and also watching AAA TripleMania and getting some Spanish listening practice. I didn’t remark on anything I picked up while listening, so I don’t think I was able to glean a whole lot from the show.

By this point, I was starting to read in Japanese, and had signed up for my first WK book club, so my Spanish reading was getting a bit neglected, as I had predicted earlier.

However, I got a new job and started working as a librarian at a community college with a high population of Spanish-speaking students and a burgeoning collection of Spanish books. I don’t think I got any Spanish reading done for the rest of 2021 (I don’t mention any in my study log, at least), but it was certainly something on my mind at work…

I did try out listening, though! In October 2021, I started listening to the Duolingo podcast!

I started listening to the Duolingo podcast to practice my Spanish listening comprehension, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much of it I could understand! I figure trying this with Spanish will help build my confidence up for eventually trying it with Japanese. I also found some Spanish movies and tv shows on Netflix that look interesting. Thanks to a tip on this forum, I changed my language settings on Netflix to indicate that I speak Spanish and Japanese in addition to English, which should give me access to captions in more languages. I’m hoping to try watching something in Spanish with Spanish subtitles.

I didn’t talk too much in detail about my early attempts at listening to the podcast, but from what I can remember, I was able to follow the majority of the episodes, but it took me a little bit of time for my brain to adjust to the speed. The first several I listened to, I felt like my brain was always a half-step behind the dialogue.

The end of 2021 came with the bitter news that my favorite pro wrestling translator was leaving his position, which meant that my favorite company, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, along with DDT Pro Wrestling (both Japanese companies) no longer had English translation.

This marked a pivotal point in my language learning journey, because this was the start of me going down a path I never expected to take: I became a fan translator.

I didn’t want to do it. With my N5 Japanese, I wasn’t at all prepared for it, and the workload was incredibly high, and with extremely frequent deadlines, which meant a lot of stress, but since no one else was translating, I stepped up to do it so that I could keep following my favorite pro wrestling company alongside my friends with no Japanese ability.

It did mean that my free time took a bit of a hit, though, because I had to funnel a lot more time and energy into translating pro wrestling stuff. My book club participation sort of floundered as a result, though I was engaging with more native Japanese material than ever.

Poor Spanish was left by the wayside, though…

A particularly ambitious Read Every Day Challenge

On the WaniKani forum, we have something called the Read Every Day Challenge, which happens in the form of four seasonal threads that are basically always ongoing (the official challenge period for each challenge is for two months and then a one month break, but many people just keep going without taking a break).

I signed up for my first one in January, 2022, figuring that I was already reading pretty much every day to keep up with the translations anyway, so it should be easy for me to keep up with a daily reading challenge in Japanese (I was right).

I did set a bit of a stretch goal for myself, though. I said: “I might also be trying to read some in Spanish, depending on how much time I have. We’ll see!”

I ended up reading in Spanish for 10 of the 61 days total of that initial challenge period. I had picked up the novel Tempestad: El Legado de los Primarios | L30?? from an artist I really liked, and I tried reading it, but it was too hard for me, and I was having a hard time getting through it.

I also tried using a monolingual dictionary to read in Spanish, which I think was a mistake. It added extra time to doing lookups for a book that was already taking me too long to do lookups for…

In March 2022, I switched to reading Wonder - La lección de August (NUBE DE TINTA) | L29??! Here’s what I said about the decision to switch to a different book:

I ended up putting Tempestad aside for now, because I was processing some of our new Spanish language books at the library I work at, and when I flipped through Wonder, I noticed that it seemed extremely readable, so I thought it would probably be a better choice for my current level of skill. I checked it out without knowing really anything about the actual plot, haha.

Having read the first few chapters, I definitely think it was a good choice! Wonder is a great book for a beginner because it’s written in first person present (!) tense, and it’s a young adult novel with very straightforward, everyday language. Plus, the chapters are extremely short. It’s by far the easiest book I’ve read in Spanish so far, and I only have to look up a few words each page instead of a few words each sentence :sweat_smile:.

In April 2022, I signed up for the spring Read Every Day Challenge, this time with the explicit goal of reading in Spanish every day in addition to Japanese. As you can see, I was immensely more successful this time around, and finished the challenge with a perfect score.

Here’s what I said about Wonder in April:

The book is going very well for me so far! It feels almost like when I first started reading chapter books in elementary school, haha, and read a lot of stuff that was above my level and somehow managed to figure them out. Most of the time, I can guess what words and phrases mean from the context, so I’ve been tempted not to even look many of them up, but I want to make sure I’m actually internalizing as much as possible so that my next book is easier.

I switched to using Reverso Context for my main dictionary instead of a monolingual one. The monolingual one was just taking too much time, and with as fast as I’m able to read this book, since I’m largely mostly just confirming what I already thought a word/phrase meant, I’ve really been benefiting from reading the example sentences and their translations. It helps confirm the tone. I think I’ll save the monolingual dictionary for when I’m at a more advanced level.

An update a couple weeks later:

As I mentioned in another post, it has been an extraordinarily cool reading experience because it’s the first time in my life I’ve been able to read a book in a language other than English and actually feel like I’m reading. I never even dreamed of being able to reach this point (with any language) a few years ago. It makes reading in Japanese feel like a much more achievable goal to me.

A couple weeks after that:

Everything is still going well here! I finished part two and am on page 165. I did start to wonder (ha) if this book really was as easy as I thought, or if my Spanish has simply improved enough to make it seem super easy now. I feel like my reading comprehension has just improved across the board. I guess it’s the intermediate plateau at work, since I’m right in the midst of that with Spanish.

I finished Wonder in June 2022 and picked up another book, this one a parallel text book about local history. Then I basically just kept reading books from there. I spent a lot of time wishing that Natively had Spanish, because I wasn’t really using it for Japanese at all (the vast majority of my Japanese reading and listening was pro wrestling stuff that was impossible to log in Natively). As you can see from my example with Tempested, I had a bit of trouble finding appropriate books for my current level, so I started just picking up what seemed most readable at the library, and I would read that.

I think I bridged the reading gap from B1 to B2 mostly with comics and with young adult books without fantasy vocabulary.

Getting past the intermediate plateau

Midway through June 2022, someone started a Listen Every Day Challenge, which I signed up for. Naturally, I committed to listening to something in both Spanish and Japanese every day, not wanting to break the streak I’d started with the reading Challenge.

I talked about it in my study log:

As far as listening goes, I’ve been splitting my time between listening to the Duolingo Spanish podcast (which I can listen to while walking, which is awesome), and then on days when I can’t exercise, I’ve been watching La casa de las flores | L30?? with Spanish subtitles on Netflix.

I’m trying to do extensive listening, so I’m resisting the urge to pause and look stuff up. I was really amazed to realize that my Spanish is good enough, I can actually more or less follow La Casa de las Flores as long as I have Spanish subtitles! Parts of the plot are a little complicated, and there is definitely nuance that I’m missing, but I feel like I’m able to follow the story well enough to get invested in it.

I talked to my coworker (whose native language is Spanish) about the show, because she really likes it as well. She told me that one of the characters in particular has a certain way of speaking that’s considered stereotypical for upper class Mexicans. Once she pointed it out, I was able to hear what she was talking about, haha. When I mentioned that I was using the show for learning, she said: “You’re going to start talking like a rich person!” :joy:

It’s actually a huge milestone for me that I can watch a show like this, with native language subtitles, and find myself still wanting to watch more episodes without feeling fatigued.

I would say that at this point in my studies, La Casa de las Flores was primarily reading practice for me more than anything, as I was hopeless without Spanish subtitles. So I don’t think it benefited my listening comprehension a huge amount, though I suppose it’s possible I could be underestimating how much I was picking up.

I only did the listening challenge for a month, so I went back to focusing mostly on reading, though I’d still do a bit of listening when I was out walking, because the Duolingo podcast helped pass the time.

I picked the Listen Every Day Challenge back up in September 2022, once again doing it for the off month between Read Every Day Challenges. Here’s what I said in my study log about where I was at with listening at the time:

When September started, I got back into watching La Casa de las Flores! Since I’m refocusing on listening for a bit, I resumed where I left off in season two of the show. It’s still going pretty well, though I’m still missing a lot. It’s kind of funny because I’ll be pretty sure that something is happening in the show, but won’t be entirely certain that I understood it correctly, and then I’ll need to wait until the climax when everything comes together to find out how well I picked up on what was happening, haha.

I think I might honestly be at a point where I could move on from the Duolingo podcast? I’m not going looking for something else quite yet, because I do like the podcast, and figured I might as well listen to the remaining episodes, but I don’t really have trouble comprehending it at this point. That’s pretty cool!

I also had my Spanish study and Japanese translation work dovetail in a surprising way. A few luchadoras came to Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling on September 11, 2022, and they of course did their post-match comments in Spanish. I tried my best to transcribe the Spanish, then translated it into English, drawing on the help of one of my bilingual friends to correct my transcription as well as my translation. It was an incredibly cool language victory for me because I got to use all three of my languages.

That month, I also started watching other Spanish content on Netflix with Spanish subtitles, including Elisa y Marcela | L30??. Then I switched gears back to reading again for the next couple months.

In October 2022, I surprised myself by signing up for an intermediate conversational Spanish course at the college I worked at! Here’s what I said about it:

It’s a little bit scary, because speaking is still really intimidating to me, but I do really need it for work. It’s kind of funny because before, I used to be very afraid of the thought of attending a class entirely in Spanish, but I actually wrote on the feedback survey for this one that I would prefer it if they taught as much of it in Spanish as possible. I’ve learned that my listening comprehension of Spanish is way better than I thought, and I don’t think I’d have trouble with beginner level Spanish, as long as the teacher doesn’t speak too fast. No idea if they’ll actually do it that way or not. I guess I’ll report back on how it goes.

A few weeks after that, here’s my report on how it went:

The conversational Spanish class is going alright so far. The Spanish is definitely below my level, but that’s okay because I’m not really able to speak at the level I’m able to understand (the consequences of going hard on input without practicing output for years…). I’m happy to report that the instructor has been teaching a lot of it in Spanish as I requested, and I am in fact able to more or less understand it just fine.

It’s kind of interesting how the class material and style of teaching differs so much from the Spanish classes I took in high school, as well as Duolingo’s Spanish program. This class touches on some grammar that wasn’t taught to me until Spanish II, and teaches it in a much more quick and dirty way without really dwelling on memorizing full conjugation charts or any of that. We practiced some common grammar/vocab that I hadn’t learned until I saw it a lot in La Casa de las Flores and the books I’ve been reading. I’m not sure I’d like learning this way if I didn’t already have a base of knowledge to work from.

I also watched a Mexican wrestling show for the first time in a while, which was once again AAA’s Triplemania. I talked about it in the same post:

I haven’t been actively practicing my Spanish listening, but I did tune in for the latter half of AAA’s Triplemania show on October 15, and it ended up being my biggest listening comprehension victory thus far! The show had Spanish commentary, and I was blown away by the fact that I could… actually understand it for the most part? I had probably 80% comprehension, even without subtitles.

I’m not sure what exactly changed since the last time I watched lucha libre, since I haven’t really been watching/reading much wrestling stuff in Spanish lately. I guess it was probably a combination of reading (which improved my vocab) and then listening to the Duolingo podcast and then the TV show and films I watched for the summer listen every day challenge, which boosted my comprehension speed as well as gave me practice with recognizing words when I hear them.

It made the show a lot more fun because I was able to get more context on the wrestlers I wasn’t as familiar with (the commentary would point out notable moves and explain some of the characters’ history), and I also caught what felt like a fun easter egg lol when the commentary mentioned that Kenny Omega wanted to be in the match for the Megacampeonato belt, but his AEW suspension prevented it. That is more than has been officially said on AEW television regarding his current status. Being multilingual with pro wrestling gets you all kinds of fun bonus information haha.

It was just really cool! Felt like all of my studies were really starting to pay off. It’s super neat to watch native content without subtitles and actually understand it.

That month, I found out that I didn’t get the job I’d applied for, so I was going to be unemployed after my current employment contract ran out at the end of December, and was also going to lose access to the library’s collection of Spanish language books… I had a bit of trouble picking my Spanish reading projects to fill out the rest of the challenge period, because I didn’t want to commit to reading any book I’d be unable to finish in the few months that remained of the year.

My conversational Spanish class finished in November. I didn’t have much more to say about it:

My conversational Spanish class wrapped up this week! It was a good experience for me, I think! I’m still slow and awkward at conversing, but I’m able to understand a lot.

In December 2022, focusing on listening once again, I tried out a couple more shows in Spanish:

I tried watching the Spanish show Élite | L37 (with Spanish subtitles), thinking that since it was in a high school setting, it’d be easier, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of violence and sex and drugs and stuff, which my vocabulary (which has so far come from reading children’s books…) is not very well-equipped to deal with, and on top of that, Castilian Spanish is harder for me :sweat_smile:. So I think I’m saving this show until later!

Instead, I started watching Frontera Verde | L30??, which is a Columbian crime drama. Happy to report that even though this show also includes murder, the Spanish is a lot easier for me! This show also includes indigenous languages like Tikuna and Huitoto, which I have no familiarity with, but I haven’t had too much trouble following the Spanish subtitles.

In my last study log update for December, I had another breakthrough:

My recent big breakthrough with Spanish was realizing that I can watch Bob Esponja | L30?? (Spongebob) in Spanish without any subtitles whatsoever and actually follow along with it pretty well! My former coworker said that she grew up watching that show in Spanish, haha, which gave me the idea to try it. I’ve sort of been alternating between that and Frontera Verde (which I’m watching with Spanish subtitles because it’s much harder).

I saw some Spongebob as a kid, even though I was never a huge fan of the show. It’s a good choice for language learning because I don’t care if I don’t have perfect comprehension, haha. The episodes are also self-contained, which means it’s not a big deal if I don’t perfectly follow one of the plots, since it’ll have no bearing whatsoever on what happens next.

I kicked off 2023 by signing up once again for the Read Every Day Challenge, this time with an even more ambitious goal: In 2023, I wanted to complete alternating Read Every Day and Listen Every Day Challenges with a perfect score, 365/365 days, in both Spanish and Japanese.

I started out by reading Sí, si es contigo / Yes, If It's With You | L29??, which was my first time reading a Spanish book on kindle. Unfortunately the book is formatted as images, so the text was not selectable, which did not make it more conducive to lookups as I was hoping it would be…

I accidentally sort of inhaled the book once I reached a certain point, and I finished it in the first half of February 2023.

My reading pace picked up a lot as I got further into the book and more invested in the story. I’ve been trying to fix my terrible sleep schedule, but haven’t had a whole lot of luck, haha. One night, I started reading at 5:30am, telling myself that I’d just read a few pages and then go to bed, then ended up reading for TWO MORE HOURS :pensive:… I think that’s the first time this has ever happened to me with a non-English book? So on the one hand, it’s really cool that my Spanish has gotten good enough for a book to pull me in like that! On the other hand… it’s not exactly good for fixing my sleep schedule :sweat_smile:.

I ended up finishing the book much sooner than I expected, thanks in part to reading like 20% of the whole book that one night. Next, I tried picking up En el jardín de lirios, which is that academic study of GL media I linked a while back ago. I got through the prologue and am still interested in reading the rest of the book, but I had to do so many vocab lookups, I’m not sure it’s really worth trying to read it now. I’d look up words like “eje temático” and the dictionary would give me “thematic axis”, reminding me that I sure am reading academic theory :sweat_smile:. I ended up deciding to put it aside until my vocab is better.

I chose to read Cantoras | L34 instead, which was another book I had discovered on recommended lists of LGBTQ Spanish books when researching possible books to add to the library collection. I tried to look for an amazon preview so that I could see if the writing style looked to be at a good level for me, but they only had an audiobook preview. I listened to that and was able to understand a surprising amount, so I figured it was probably a safe purchase.

So far, I think that was a correct assumption! The book uses a lot of more literary words that I don’t know, but I found out the incredible benefit of reading it as a (properly formatted) kindle book is that I can use my kindle’s built-in dictionary to do instant look-ups, which is way quicker than having to look up words manually by typing them out. Currently, this is the most convenient media format I’ve found for reading in Spanish, and I’m really happy with it.

The next few months passed pretty uneventfully. I kept up with the alternating Read Every Day/Listen Every Day Challenges, never missing a day with either Spanish or Japanese.

I picked up podcasts again once the weather improved and I started getting out more.

As I mentioned above, getting back into walking has meant that I’ve gotten back into listening to podcasts! I’ve listened to 26 episodes of the Duolingo podcast so far this month. The podcast is definitely easy for me now, so I probably should move on to a harder one, but just when I was thinking about setting it aside, I looked at the episode list, and the next episode was titled “La lucha libre de hoy”:sweat_smile:

I ended up enjoying the episode far more than I expected to because not only was it about pro wrestling, but they interviewed an indie wrestler who is an exótico!! His ring name is El Demasiado, and I hadn’t heard of him before, but I found his story super fascinating because I’m really interested in LGBTQ wrestlers. It was surreal to hear the Duolingo podcast explain concepts like what a rudo and a técnico are, haha.

I was also fascinated by the “El mate de hoy” episode because the characters in Cantoras (which takes place in Uruguay) drink mate all the time, and the professor of my conversational Spanish class had mentioned that mate was also popular in Argentina, where she was from, but I was shocked to learn that even though Uruguay consumes more mate than any other country, almost all of it is imported.

As a regular tea drinker, I’ve tried mate several times in my life, but I was never especially a fan of it. I wonder if maybe I’ve just never had it prepared the right way. I had the sudden realization that I’d seen one of these mate gourds before, and sure enough, I had inherited one from my grandpa, which I’m not sure had ever actually been used before.

Maybe I should try the traditional preparation someday?

I did finally move on from the Duolingo podcast in June 2023.

I finished the Duolingo podcast! Or, well, not quite; I stopped right before the latest season, because they were re-releasing old episodes with a bit of new content added, and I tried listening to one of them and just didn’t have the patience for that, so I decided to move on.

I did want to say, though, that the last season I listened to, The Mystery of the Itata, was genuinely incredible. Legitimately gripping stuff! I was enjoying it completely independently of language learning practice. It told the story of the Vapor Itata, which was a boat that sank in Chile over 100 years ago, but for a very long time was basically entirely forgotten about, despite the fact that like 400 people died, most of them exploited laborers who were traveling to work in the mines on false promises of a better future.

I searched around for another podcast that was a bit harder than the Duolingo podcast, and ended up trying out Radio Ambulante, which was actually made by some of the same people, and which covers similar content. It’s an NPR podcast that is made for native speakers, which intimidated me a lot at first :sweat_smile:. But I tried it out, and to my surprise, I can understand probably about 70-80% of it? I was honestly blown away. Some part of me never thought I’d ever get this far with any language I was attempting to learn.

I still have far to go, but it’s nice to see that I am in fact making real progress. I’ve watched a lot of Spongebob in Spanish, but this is my first time listening to purely auditory native media in Spanish, and one meant for adults, at that!

With hindsight, this was really a major watershed moment for me with Spanish. I feel like this is when I really started to make the transition from intermediate to advanced, both in listening and in reading.

As it turns out, a year of reading and/or listening to your target language every single day really does add up.

In July 2023, I had another major breakthrough with reading:

On a lighter subject, I ended up not going on a walk for the last day of June because I’d already finished my walking challenge, so instead of listening to Radio Ambulante, I watched an episode of Bob Esponja.

I was amazed at how much my listening had already improved since the last time I’d watched any of the show! The podcasts have absolutely been helping my listening comprehension improve. It really made me want to double down on the Japanese podcast listening, too, because I could see how many gains I’d made with Spanish.

As far as reading goes, I found out that a book that I’ve had on my English to-read list for ages, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamín Alire Sáenz, also has a Spanish edition! It’s titled Aristóteles y Dante descubren los secretos del universo | L29??. I bought it on kindle because I can use the kindle dictionary to do fast look-ups that way.

I started reading that book on July 1 and it ended up not being too difficult, and to my surprise, I basically ended up completely inhaling it, haha. I finished the whole book in just six days! I’ve never read a non-English novel that fast in my life.

I bought the sequel (Aristóteles y Dante se sumergen en las aguas del mundo (Edición española) | L29??) that very day, also on kindle. It’s a couple hundred pages longer, and I am currently, uh, 29% of the way through already :sweat_smile:. So I’ll be having to find a third book to read very soon if I want to keep up with the reading challenge…

It’s kind of funny because one of the characters has a pretty large vocabulary and the other character talks about frequently having to look up words in the dictionary after talking to him, which is obviously what I’m doing all the time, pretty much every single page. Though most of the words that have confused Ari were not actually words I really needed to look up, because they’re words that are very similar in English and Spanish, and I was able to guess what they meant, haha.

Obviously I’m enjoying the series a lot! I’d recommend the first book if you want to read a gay coming of age story featuring two Mexican-American teens that takes place in America in the 80’s. The second book is good so far, too. Though it very much is a young adult book, with some of the quippy dialogue and other stuff you often find in the genre. That aspect doesn’t really bother me as much in Spanish, haha, because I’m just glad that I can understand the jokes :joy_cat:.

But, well, I wasn’t home free yet. In August 2023, after such massive gains in confidence with regards to reading in Spanish, I was quickly humbled by another book:

Speaking of which, I ended up totally devouring the Aristóteles y Dante sequel. It took me I think twice as long to finish it as the first book, about two weeks, I think. I liked the sequel alright! I think I liked the first half better than the second. It was a great series for me to read at my current level; reading it on kindle made lookups extremely painless, and there were relatively few of them, so I wasn’t reading honestly that much slower than I’d be reading it in English.

After I finished it, I picked up Las malas Andanzas | L36, which I think has an English translation available, but I’m not quite sure. It’s about a community of transgender sex workers in Argentina. There are some magical realism elements, like one of the characters is 178 years old.

I’m enjoying it so far, though it’s way, way more difficult to read than the other stuff I’ve read in Spanish, haha. It’s an adult novel with proper adult-level prose, and it uses a lot of evocative language that I have to look up. So progress has been much slower on this one. Especially since I’ve been enforcing a bedtime for myself recently, so I often end up with only about 15 minutes or so to read, which isn’t a whole lot of time.

I toughed it out with Las malas, though. And I kept making tremendous progress with listening, since I was doing a lot of walking, which meant a lot of podcast listening. Here was my report in September 2023:

Overall, my listening comprehension has improved loads with Spanish! There are still episodes of the podcast that are randomly difficult for me, but by and large, listening feels much more doable just in general. I also started watching Bob Esponja again (on days when I’m unable to go out on a walk so podcasts are less viable), and my comprehension is noticeably better since the last time I watched the show earlier this year. Sometimes it feels like I’m able to catch 99% of the episode, which is pretty miraculous.

For the first time, I found myself considering whether I should attempt to move on to a show that’s a little harder. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that, though. Maybe if the language aspect gets easy enough that I find myself getting bored of Spongebob haha.

And that’s about where I’m at now! I finished Las malas at the end of 2023. I’m also probably done watching Bob Esponja, though I haven’t picked another show to watch yet. I’m planning on picking Radio Ambulante back up as soon as the weather is nice enough for walks.

It’s hard to estimate my level, but I would say that with reading and listening, I’m high intermediate, on the cusp of low advanced.

Not bad for someone who never planned on getting anywhere with Spanish.

Tools and advice

So after getting so far with Japanese, to achieve success with Spanish, surely I applied the same methods and have an elaborate SRS setup with Anki sentence mining and a really high-tech array of tools at my fingertips that I diligently use to practice every day—Nope! :sweat_smile:

I actually made the decision early on not to use any SRS at all to study Spanish. I suppose I could change my mind on this at some point, but not using it has been working out great for me, so I currently have no plans to introduce SRS into my Spanish study.

Why? The main reason is because I already spend a lot of time on SRS for Japanese every day and I don’t want to increase my daily SRS workload further. I’ve also heard that it’s a good idea to keep your tools for learning different languages separate, and as long as I’m making progress in both languages and I’m having fun studying with my current setup, I see no reason to change it.

Tips

I credit almost all of my progress past the beginner phase to engaging in near-daily reading and listening practice! I found it really helpful to sign up for read/listen every day challenge threads, because I had the public pressure and accountability of committing to something and then feeling obligated to follow through.

With regards to balancing learning two languages at the same time, here’s what I said about it in my WaniKani level 60 thread:

This is another thing that people generally don’t recommend doing, but, well, it worked for me! I would recommend reaching at least the upper beginner stage in one of your languages before starting another, though. You want to have the foundation down.

The main con to learning two languages at once is that it will take you longer to progress in both of them than if you were focusing on one at a time because you simply have less time to devote to each of them each day. You’ll need to be very good at time management. You’ll also need to be patient. Japanese has a very long beginner phase. It will be even longer if you are learning another language at the same time. If both languages are important to you, the cost might be worth it, but you need to be pretty dedicated to keep it up without getting too frustrated or discouraged.

I’d recommend using different tools for each language. My Spanish was intermediate level before I started learning Japanese, so I was able to work on my Spanish just by reading books and listening to podcasts. I made the choice to forego SRS entirely with Spanish because I wanted to save my energy there for Japanese. I think this was a very wise choice!

Spanish is an easier language for native English speakers to learn, so it was encouraging to see my progress there while Japanese was much more slow-going. I could put a lot less time into Spanish each day and still see huge gains in comprehension, compared to Japanese.

Resources I used as a beginner:

As mentioned above, I took three years of Spanish class in high school, then totally dropped the language for years afterward, until I eventually picked up the Duolingo app and regained most of the knowledge I had had in high school. I have not done any sort of formal grammar study outside of those resources.

Would I recommend the path I took? No, I would not :sweat_smile:. Spanish classes can be great if you truly take advantage of the opportunity (I did not), and if you keep practicing after your class is over (I did not). The Duolingo app served its purpose for me, though I can’t speak to the quality of the teaching in its current state, as it has changed a lot since I used it, and I also can’t say how good it would be at teaching you the language if you come in with zero knowledge.

Resources I used as an intermediate learner:

:books: Reading

My favorite setup is buying books on kindle, then reading them on my kindle device. That way, I can read in bed without needing a computer, and I have the ability to do instant look-ups by simply highlighting an unknown word or phrase and using the built-in dictionary/translation software. This greatly speeds up the reading process and makes it a lot easier.

My preferred genre for the early-mid intermediate range was young adult novels about everyday subjects, told in first person so that they’re more conversational and use less literary language, and which don’t use a lot of fantasy/sci-fi vocab.

These are the books I feel like I got the most out of:

:headphones: Listening

By far the most helpful resource for me as an early intermediate learner was the Duolingo podcast. A lot of thought, research, and work has gone into simplifying the podcast material in a way that is consistent and easy enough but still compelling for listeners. The podcast is genuinely really great! I was surprised by how interesting I found the episodes. There’s something for everyone in there. My favorite was The Mystery of the Itata season they did, which is genuinely an incredible story just as a narrative.

I’m pretty sure that the app and the podcast use a lot of the same language research as their base for vocab, so I didn’t really encounter many unknown words in the podcast. My main issue was that my processing speed was slow enough, it was hard for me to comprehend Spanish at spoken speed, even if I knew the words. So the podcast helped a whole lot with getting me to stop translating in my head and also really drilling the intermediate set of vocab into my head because over the course of all those episodes, I got to really familiarize myself with that pool of words.

I also think I benefited a lot from watching Bob Esponja | L30?? (the SpongeBob SquarePants Latin American Spanish dub), which I started watching when I reached the point where the Duolingo podcast was easy for me. The vocabulary is fairly everyday, and the episodes are essentially entirely standalone, so you don’t have to worry if your comprehension is only spotty for one, because the plot will resolve by the end of it and it’ll move on to something else.

Bob Esponja was my first foray into watching Spanish media without subtitles (Spanish or English), and it was a good choice because it’s entertaining enough to keep my attention, and I had some familiarity with the series already, but had zero real investment in it, so it doesn’t bother me if my comprehension isn’t perfect.

After the Duolingo podcast had gotten too easy for me, I moved on to Radio Ambulante, which is an NPR podcast primarily aimed at native speakers. It’s similar to the Duolingo podcast in terms of overall tone and topics that it covers (some people who worked on the Duolingo podcast were actually with Radio Ambulante initially), but there’s no English, and the Spanish is spoken at native speed, and the vocabulary is not artificially limited.

It took me several episodes of Radio Ambulante before I feel like I was able to adjust to the difficulty, so my comprehension for the first few was much lower, but now I feel like I’m able to grasp most of the Spanish (though my comprehension varies depending on the topic), and I’m really enjoying it! I feel like I learn a lot from it.

Here’s where I’m at currently

(levels are self-assessed and are just my best estimation)

Listening—B2

I’m able to understand native media and everyday conversations, assuming the dialogue is spoken clearly and there isn’t too much specialized vocab. I can follow harder media with Spanish subtitles at spoken speed and have decent comprehension.

Reading—B2

I’m able to understand most tweets and most non-literary writing without a dictionary, and I can read literary writing and academic texts with a dictionary. Some genres, like young adult novels about everyday subjects, I can read very quickly. For more complicated texts, I am almost always able to at least get the gist without using a dictionary.

Speaking—B1

I haven’t practiced speaking much, but when I last took an intermediate conversational Spanish class, I was able to follow almost all of the instruction in Spanish, and could respond when prompted, though I was often slow.

Writing—B1

I also haven’t practiced writing much, but I’m able to express my thoughts pretty well when I have tried, and I can write about everyday things, but would have to look up more specialized vocabulary, and writing something like an essay would be difficult.

Goals

I don't have any! No concrete ones, at least. Currently, this is all I’m aiming to do:
  • Maintain my current level of language ability
  • Read/listen to more than I did the year before

Eventually:

  • Become proficient in speaking Spanish

Output is much more energy-intensive for me, and Japanese is still my main focus, so even though speaking is probably the most important language skill with Spanish for me, it’s not something I’m planning on working on in the near future.

Plans for this study log

I’ll probably mostly just be talking about whatever I’m reading/listening to at the moment, and any other interesting finds along the way. Feel free to chime in at any time! Interacting with other learners is part of the charm of having a public study log.

I currently have no plans for any sort of regular update schedule or anything equivalent to what I have going on with my Japanese study log.

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I posted about this in the Lotería Challenge thread, but here’s what I’m currently up to:

Inspired by the 2024 Natively Bingo Reading Challenge, I’m attempting to complete a lotería tabla of media read/watched in Spanish!

Here’s my tabla:

I am using a single lotería square to represent an entire book/movie that I read or watched, referencing this article on the card meanings for inspiration. I’m not trying to complete the tabla within any particular timeframe, though I suppose completing it by the end of the year would be nice.

If you don’t know what lotería is, here’s its wikipedia page for a little more information.

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I got my first lotería square a few days ago when I watched Coco | L23 to try to help grade it!

I think I’d say that vocab-wise, Coco is pretty doable, but I think the speed might be tricky for B1 learners. I think I would’ve had a hard time watching it if I’d tried two years ago. Then again, Spanish subs might compensate for that (I watched with no subs). But I have a hard time judging difficulty…

A low B1 to me are the Spanish portions of the Duolingo podcast, and this movie was certainly harder than that, though I think not out of reach for upper intermediate learners. I didn’t have perfect comprehension myself (songs are harder :smiling_face_with_tear:), but was easily able to follow the story.

I’m contemplating trying to convince my mom to try watching it in Spanish with me with Spanish subtitles, since I don’t think she’s even at B1 level yet (or if she is, it’s just barely), so it would be a real test to see how doable the film is for beginners…

Here’s my updated lotería tabla:

I don’t think I heard the word “violoncello” at any point during the movie, but I’m pretty sure I saw at least one in the movie, and it seemed thematically appropriate, especially when I looked at the verse associated with it:

Creciendo se fue hasta el cielo, y como no fue violín, tuvo que ser violoncello.

Growing it reached the heavens, and since it wasn’t a violin, it had to be a cello.

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The lotería is so cute! Que linda idea! I’m so tempted to join but I’m afraid I’ll be biting off more than I can chew!

I guess I’m gonna have to drop by Natively community every now and again to read your Spanish log! :sweat_smile:

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Don’t worry, I’ll probably be posting links to my posts here in my other study log! So you’ll be able to keep up with my Spanish updates on the WK forum as well :blush:

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I thought I’d post a small mid-book update! As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the forum, I started reading Lobizona | L30?? by Romina Garber, which is a series by an Argentine author that was originally published in English. I nominated it for a book club pick, though I think it might be a little too hard for our first club pick.

I discovered it when trying to look up the word “lobizona” when I was reading Las malas Andanzas | L36, where it was used to describe a transgender woman who was a lobizona! My dictionary was less than useful… Upon searching for the word, I was fascinated to discover that there was no real existing female counterpart for “lobizón”, hence why the book Lobizona came up in the search results.

The series seemed interesting to me, so I thought I’d give it a try! I’d hoped the YA label would make for a relatively breezy read, but I’d say it’s the hardest of the YA novels I’ve read so far :sweat_smile:! It’s not a bad introduction to some aspects of Argentine culture, folklore, and dialect, though!

The note at the beginning of the book talks about the decision to keep some of the voseo in, though it sounds like that’s mainly in the beginning portion of the book, and it’s only in occasional dialogue lines.

I never learned about voseo in Spanish class (my classes were mainly Mexican Spanish, though they’d toss in vosotros because they were obligated to teach it, haha), so I was totally thrown off the first time I encountered “vos” in a book! This is my third book with voseo, and I haven’t even intentionally sought out books by Argentine authors, haha, I just keep happening to pick them up… :sweat_smile:

Honestly, I wish it was taught in classes along with vosotros, even though both are only used in some dialects. Such a wide range of dialects use it, it feels worth knowing.

Getting back to Lobizona, in chapter 3, the characters play a game called chinchón, which I’d never heard of before. I found a short video (in Spanish) explaining the rules:

One of the fun elements of Lobizona is that the beginning of the book is set in Miami, Florida, and there are various different Spanish dialects that the character encounters and remarks upon. In chapter 8, for instance, she gets greeted with “¿Asere, que bola?” by a Cuban woman, and she doesn’t understand it despite knowing Spanish.

I had never encountered this phrase either! So I made note of it and then looked it up later. Here’s a website that explains it.

HopeWaterfall shared an interesting article about lobizonas which talks about the word in more detail. I might revisit the article after I’ve finished the book.

I’m currently about 1/4 of the way through Lobizona, though it’s somewhat slow going.

This isn’t a Spanish-specific tip, but something that has helped motivate me to read more in Spanish was downloading the Forest app. I have a specific plant in the app that I’ve assigned to Spanish, so if I want to have it in my little forest, I have to read in Spanish for 25 minutes. As it turns out, this has been great motivation for me to try to get in 25 minutes of reading each day, generally at night before I go to bed.

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Ooohhh what is this forest app!? I’m very interested!

On the topic of different Spanish dialects, just yesterday my Mexican Spanish teacher asked me to think about which dialect I would like to focus on. I’ve been having class with him for the last month and he said for Spanish learners, it would be easier to focus on one dialect first and then learning others later. Honestly, not too keen on boxing myself in like that and I was never asked before… I first learned Spain Spanish in high school and university, and then Costa Rican Spanish during my immersion program and now I have a Mexican tutor. Do you mind if I ask you what you think as a fellow Spanish learner?

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I can give you my thoughts on this. I’m from the UK and first learned Spanish during two summers spent in Mexico. I then had two years of evening classes with a teacher from Spain, and spent two weeks at a language school in Spain. I then spent three months living in Peru. I’ve spent a few weeks in Argentina too.

I’ve never found it particularly hard moving between different dialects. To me in many ways it doesn’t seem much different to the differences between US English or UK English.

I haven’t been to Latin America for many years, but visit Spain fairly frequently.

I have to make a conscious choice when in Spain whether to say my soft c sounds as a “ss” like in Latin America, or as a “th” like in Spain. I tend to stick to the Latin American way to avoid confusing myself, and because I make mistakes and pronounce some “s”sounds as a “th” as well.

I also have to make a choice whether to use “ustedes” like in Latin America, or “vosotros” with its associated verb conjugations like in Spain. Over time I’ve got use to using vosotros in Spain although I’m still rather weak at it as I’ve not had the same immersion in Spain that I’ve had in Latin America.

So my recommendation for a learner would be like your teacher has suggested, and focus on one dialect initially. And pick the one that you are most likely to be using in real life. As you get more confident in the language you can then learn the differences that exist between dialects.

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It’s an app mainly for phones where you have a tiny forest of trees and plants that you grow by setting a timer and focusing on a set task for that period of time. If you’ve heard of pomodoro timers, it employs that same concept, though you can customize the period of time and do more (or less) than 25 minutes if you’d like.

Here's my forest from a few days ago:

I use the lotus for reading in Spanish (and Japanese, though I use the geraniums for translation, haha). I’m trying to save up my coins for another plant right now, though it’ll take a while! If you try it out and want some bonus coins, you can get some with my referral code: 4Z7WXNMSG.

The app is free, but for custom tagging and such, you need to pay a very small one-time fee. I tried out the free version, realized it was really effective for me, and paid the fee within like the first day :joy_cat:.

I’d probably be less than 10% of the way through Lobizona right now if I hadn’t been using that app, haha.

I think Micki’s insight on the matter is probably more valuable than mine! I learned Mexican Spanish in high school (with the vosotros form sort of thrown in as a bonus), and the conversational Spanish tutor I briefly had a year ago was from Argentina, but that’s the limit of my official studies.

I’d say that for reading books and watching media, I don’t think you need to limit yourself to one dialect, but for speaking/production in general, it probably is a good idea to focus on one at a time, since in real life, you’d probably wouldn’t want to be mixing things from a bunch of different dialects in one conversation.

You might find it harder to bounce around while reading/listening, like if you watch a bunch of Mexican shows and then switch to shows produced in Spain, there will be a greater difficulty spike than if you stuck to just one dialect, but personally I enjoy the diversity, like I’ve enjoyed reading books in Argentine Spanish even though some things were a bit confusing to me at first.

One thing I like about the Duolingo podcast is that it features speakers from a variety of different countries, so you get exposure to various accents (I actually had more trouble with the Argentine accent at first and it took me several episodes before I was able to adjust), but I don’t think it really teaches many specific dialect differences (the vocab it uses is pretty generic). I do think it was very valuable to get the listening practice with various accents, though.

You might actually be beyond the Duolingo podcast already, though, with how much experience you have!

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Thank you so much for your two cents! I appreciate it. I actually had been having a hard time coming from learning Spanish through Instituto Cervantes and then going to my immersion program in Costa Rica. It was so confusing for me because they don’t only omit vosotros in their dialect but also tú. :face_with_spiral_eyes: So even the Costa Rican friend I lived with who I wanted to be casual with would always answer me in usted form. It was so strange…

I’m still at a crossroads on whether I want to do Spanish from Spain or from Latin America… But within Latin America I was thinking either Mexican or Colombian. I just want a more neutral dialect…

This forest is adorable! And yes, I used to do pomodoro for work as well. It’s soooo tempting… But I feel like I’m all stretched out now with my accountability tools. I’m still contemplating about a multilingual study log on Natively as well. :sweat_smile: But if I do, I’ll make sure to use your referral code!

Definitely not! High school and university was more than a decade ago so… :face_with_spiral_eyes: I had forgotten a lot before doing my immersion program just last year.

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It has been an exciting past few weeks for lucha libre!

It’s well-timed, because I made a new friend recently in wrestling fandom who is interested in watching more lucha, and she bought a CMLL subscription, which I’ve been benefiting from by tuning in for her streams. So I’m getting a lot of listening practice from those!

So far, here’s what we’ve watched (links go to the card for the show on Cagematch. The actual shows are on youtube, but require a subscription to watch. They have Spanish commentary):

2023.10.31 CMLL Lucha Femenil Naciones 2023

2022.10.28 CMLL International Women’s Grand Prix 2022

No Natively pages for these, unfortunately :sweat_smile: (and I’m not counting wrestling shows for the lotería). As you can tell, we’ve been focusing mostly on CMLL’s women’s wrestling. So far, my top favorite wrestlers in CMLL are both women, so I’m particularly interested in watching their work.

Overall, my comprehension of these shows is decent! I think I’m able to understand at least 70% of the commentary (more than I can understand with Japanese commentary, though the gap is gradually narrowing…). I’ve been helping match the wrestlers’ names to faces during the matches for my friends whose Spanish is not as good as mine, haha.

With wrestling commentary, my focus sort of comes and goes, so I’ll tune out of chunks of it (which is fine! I do the same when listening to English commentary). But it’s nice passive listening because the main thing is the match itself, so the commentary is a bonus but isn’t necessary for following the plot.

I guess a bit of context so that my posts about this make more sense to outsiders:

The three countries in the world where professional wrestling is most popular are America, Japan, and Mexico (with the U.K. as a distant fourth). Each of these countries has multiple large professional wrestling companies, which often have relationships with each other, either as bitter competitors/rivals or as partners. The company politics are constantly changing literally all the time.

In Mexico, the two biggest promotions are Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) and Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (AAA). CMLL is the oldest professional wrestling company in the world that is still in existence (they’ve been operating since 1933). AAA was founded in 1992 when some wrestlers broke away from CMLL, and there has been extreme bad blood between the two promotions ever since.

Both CMLL and AAA have had various relationships with different companies in America and in Japan. Sometimes things have gotten politically a bit complicated because you’ll end up in situations where New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has partnerships with American companies like All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and TNA/Impact while also having a partnership with CMLL, but then AEW and TNA themselves had partnerships with AAA and not CMLL, which makes for some awkward politics when trying to plan out shows involving talent from multiple companies…

Well, last October, things changed!

I wrote about it in my wrestling journal entry for Mistico vs Rocky Romero on October 20, 2023, which happened in AEW.

Here's that entry (cut for length):

One of the dreams that the founders of AEW had at the beginning was for it to be a place where all companies could work together. They wanted to work with everyone. Listening to those early interviews, you could hear in Kenny’s voice how much he wanted this, and also how much he doubted it would ever actually happen. Wrestling partnerships are tenuous and fragile. The industry is built on competition, and historically WWE has stayed in power partially due to devouring the other companies.

But AEW strove to take an alternate path. They started out with just a few partnerships, with AAA in Mexico and OWE in China. The latter was affected pretty severely by the pandemic and the relationship didn’t really come to anything, but the AAA partnership persisted even through the lean months of 2020. Then Thunder Rosa came into the company as NWA champ when the AEW women’s division was in dire straits. And at the end of the year, Kenny Omega shocked the world by taking the AEW belt to Impact. In early 2021, the real bombshell dropped, which was that AEW had finally managed to secure a long sought after working relationship with NJPW.

(Rocky was reportedly involved in that one, too. As was Kenny.)

From there, AEW eventually ended up airing on NJPW World with Japanese commentary, and they also formalized the relationship they’d had with DDT/TJPW since the beginning, which means that some AEW matches now air on Wrestle Universe as well. NOAH got folded in as part of the CyberFight relationship. Tony Khan saved ROH from dying an undignified death and rotting in WWE’s archives, and from that point on, ROH got added to the AEW mix, for better or for worse. 2023 even saw some RevPro involvement in the U.K., which meant that AEW’s partnerships now spanned all four of the biggest pro wrestling countries.

It’s a constant juggling act, one I don’t think AEW has always succeeded at. But at this point, they’ve worked with OWE, AAA, NWA, Impact, NJPW, DDT, TJPW, NOAH, ROH, RevPro, and GLEAT, in addition to countless indies. That’s a shockingly large percentage of the global wrestling world. It also includes several promotions which are themselves competitors, whom AEW somehow convinced to put aside their differences for this.

But there was one uncrossable bridge.

No other promotion hates another as much as the Mexican promotions AAA and CMLL hate each other. CMLL refuses to let their wrestlers even work the same shows as AAA wrestlers. They torpedoed their long relationship with the Muñoz family at the end of 2019 over something as minor as Dragon Lee working a PWG show which also included the Lucha Brothers.

Rush and Dragon Lee then both went to ROH, despite the fact that ROH was technically a partner promotion of CMLL at the time. This ultimately led to CMLL ending the ROH relationship in a huff in 2021 when ROH announced they’d be working with Federación Wrestling, a promotion Rush tried to start which didn’t even end up making it off of the ground.

NJPW stuck with ROH to the bitter end, though, despite their two partner promotions being estranged from each other. Then with ROH’s demise and subsequent rebirth as a Tony Khan property in 2022, it got folded right back into AEW’s relationship with NJPW, and here we were.

So AEW had built this great network of companies all working together to a varying degree, and everyone but WWE was willing to play along. Except for CMLL.

Then AEW pulled off a miracle.

Tony Khan dropped the bomb simply by announcing this match on twitter. I literally didn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the graphic. I thought someone had to be playing a trick on us. But no, it was in fact real. What exactly it meant was still up in the air, though. Was this just going to be a one-off match, or was it testing the waters for a deeper relationship?

It felt like the entire possibility hinged on how well this one match went. If the match went well, if the crowd reacted positively to Mistico and the CMLL presentation, if Salvador Lutteroth was satisfied with his treatment, maybe, just maybe, it could become something more.

Tony Khan decided to do this as a best two out of three falls match, wanting to give the AEW fans an authentic CMLL experience. Rocky and Mistico had been feuding in CMLL, though I confess I didn’t follow that feud closely enough to recount it here.

Mistico himself is an experience. He has an aura as a performer that is matched by few others. He is the biggest name in lucha libre right now, drawing packed crowds on the allure of his name alone. He even moved tickets to this AEW show, giving them a much-needed boost in attendance after this match was announced.

The match was great! It went about as well as could be hoped for, with both wrestlers playing their parts well. I was impressed by what I saw of Mistico here, and Rocky was as solid as ever, doing everything he could to put over Mistico.

Rocky lost the match, but he won where it counted. He was the architect of the fledgling AEW/CMLL relationship.

And sure enough, after the match, CMLL put out a press release which says, “Deseamos reiterar nuestra firme intención para que la colaboración entre el CMLL y AEW sea fructífera y beneficiosa para ambos partes, y pueda ser el inicio de una sólida alianza.” (“We wish to reiterate our firm intention for the collaboration between CMLL and AEW to be fruitful and beneficial for both parties, and for it to be the beginning of a solid alliance.”)

It remains to be seen what exactly this will entail.

Funnily enough, after CMLL fired Dragon Lee for working the same show as the Lucha Brothers, this show technically had Mistico working the same show as Penta El Zero Miedo. They got by on a technicality—Penta’s match aired live on Dynamite, and Mistico’s was recorded and aired on Rampage a few days later, technically a different show. Maybe CMLL is finally starting to thaw a bit on this issue.

Out of all of AEW’s accomplishments, to me, this match is the single most impressive one. It feels like if AEW can achieve this, they can achieve anything. You can sell out big arenas if you get lucky enough to have the right stars and momentum on your side, but navigating these complicated interpersonal relationships takes real work, and it takes a whole lot of trust.

I’ve fallen in and out of love with AEW more times than I can count, but I think at the end of the day, this is what keeps me coming back. They do this part better than any other company. They truly have become a global platform for pro wrestling, allowing the wrestlers and their diverse wrestling styles to speak for themselves without trying to homogenize them, without trying to own them.

It’s such an incredible breath of fresh air if you compare them not only to WWE, but to every other entertainment industry, where just about every industry is dominated by an oligopoly of a few companies that greedily seek to acquire as many properties as possible, constantly consolidating into bigger and bigger companies.

AEW not aiming to acquire the other companies and instead extending a hand to collaborate with them is something genuinely cool and special. It allows for the possibility of dream matches that never would have been possible otherwise. It’s pro wrestling done for the love of creation, not for personal greed.

I don’t know how long this era of pro wrestling will last. But I will cherish it for as long as we have it. This right here, this is the real magic.

There have been a few updates since then!

A couple weeks ago, a group of CMLL wrestlers came to AEW, and ended up kicking off a feud with one of the top factions in AEW, the Blackpool Combat Club.

The immediate lead-up was to a technical wrestling dream match between AEW’s Bryan Danielson and CMLL’s Hechicero on February 3. I wrote about that in my 2024 wrestling journal, which is still too much of a mess to share, haha.

But I can post this entry:

“Indie standout (great technical wrestler) who ends up going to the big promotion because what else is he going to do. Modifies his presentation to fit in with the style. Promotion thinks he’s good but maybe not a top guy. Die hard fans know he’s actually the best.” Is luchablog describing Bryan Danielson, or is he describing Hechicero?

It’s a trick question, obviously. These men are two sides of the same coin. They have more in common than they have differences, despite their careers taking place in different parts of the world entirely. Bryan Danielson wanted this match, and it’s obvious all throughout how much respect he has for Hechicero and his craft. Bryan gives him so much, letting Hechicero outmatch him and show the crowd his magic.

Quite literally, on some occasions—Hechicero is armed with spells, which he demonstrates by wielding fire during his entrance. He manages to get the whole arena cheering for him by the end, the crowd entranced by this technical wizard from Monterrey. He pulls out some variations on submissions that I’d never seen before, the beauty and real-world magic of having a diverse world of different wrestling styles.

As luchablog puts it, “The Danielson/Hechicero match will be great. The match will also give Hechicero a moment to play his music with someone who can play along, that he can be that top guy if given that chance. Wrestlers don’t always get what they deserve, but Hechicero is getting that tonight.”

(click here for match photos)

Since that match, the feud between some of CMLL’s top guys and AEW’s Blackpool Combat Club has continued. It’s been a lot of fun! Many of CMLL’s Mexican fans are really excited to see some of their guys get to perform on American TV in front of thousands and get treated like big stars.

It has presented a few more opportunities for me to get some listening practice in, too, because the CMLL wrestlers usually cut promos in (often unsubtitled) Spanish.

Here’s a promo where the CMLL wrestlers invite the Blackpool Combat Club to come face them at the Arena Mexico (CMLL’s home arena, and one of the most famous wrestling venues in the world).

Something kind of funny about the timing of all of this is that right now as we speak, most of CMLL’s roster is actually in Japan on tour for NJPW’s annual Fantastica Mania tour. I have fallen off of watching NJPW enough that I haven’t felt motivated to really watch this tour, but I did feel a bit tempted…

NJPW just had Bryan Danielson over for a match with Zack Sabre Jr. (see the October 1 Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr. match in my wrestling journal for some background on both of those guys). Naturally, Hechicero watched their latest match and wants one with Zack Sabre Jr., too, haha. I don’t know if that match will end up happening or not, but the cards are in place for it.

In addition to all of that, I’ve been following Pro Wrestling NOAH (another Japanese promotion) off and on, and they just had a show which heavily featured Mexican luchadores, including El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. facing Kenoh for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, which is the top title in NOAH, and one of the most prestigious wrestling championships in Japan.

To my surprise, El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. actually won that match! He was already one of the rare few Mexican wrestlers to actually achieve high level championship success in Japan, but this victory is on another level. It’s extraordinarily cool, and I’m happy the company trusted him with that win. It’s also extra fun for me because I can understand his promos better than I can understand the Japanese wrestlers’ promos generally, haha.

Dragon Gate, a Japanese promotion which I don’t follow, also currently has a Mexican wrestler as their top champion, whose name is Diamante.

So those are some of the fun and exciting positive things that have been happening in the global pro wrestling world lately!

I’m still mad at CMLL for a few things that I won’t go into detail here (mostly they’ve booked some wrestlers whom I don’t like as people), and their subscription service is prohibitively expensive, so I probably won’t be following them super closely, but I’m having fun watching casually!

AAA, on the other hand… I had a few periods when I was watching them casually, but they’ve booked wrestlers I hate even more than the ones that CMLL has been working with, and I’ve sort of reached a point where I’m fed up with their culture of enabling abusers, so I’m not planning on going back to watching them unless some things seriously change doesn’t sound like I’ve been missing terribly much lately, anyway.

I guess to end on a more positive note (for the most part…), my favorite CMLL wrestler right now is Stephanie Vaquer! I got introduced to her work when she visited Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling in 2022 (and I translated one of her promos into English for my translation blog, haha), and her gear game is always on point:

Here’s from her instagram:

She’s unfortunately dealing with some extremely negative stuff right now which makes me worry that she might not be able to keep working in Mexico…

(tw: mentions of domestic violence and xenophobia)

Stephanie was in a relationship with former CMLL (now AAA) wrestler El Cuatrero, but he got arrested for attempted feminicide. Unfortunately Cuatrero has a lot of supporters who are very unhappy that this case has put Cuatrero in jail, so there’s a whole conspiracy theory getting spread about the situation, and Stephanie is facing increasing hate from fans who are blaming her for it…

It doesn’t help that she’s Chilean, which has gotten her some hate from Mexican fans simply because she’s a foreigner. Her wrestling character is currently a ruda (the lucha libre equivalent of a heel, the bad guy in the match whom fans are supposed to boo), so the reaction she gets onscreen from fans comes across as the expected one for rudos, but some of the boos are not for her character work, but are aimed at the actual person for daring to accuse a popular luchador of domestic violence.

It makes me want to voice support for her even more loudly. So go watch her matches if you get the chance!

My other favorite CMLL wrestler right now is a luchadora named Quimera!

Here’s from her instagram:

I’ve still barely seen any of her matches, but I got interested in watching her work the moment I found out about her, because she’s one of the extremely, extremely few out LGBTQ luchadoras in the industry.

In fact, she’s the only one that I know about.

I know of a few male LGBTQ luchadores (there’s actually a specific role for them in lucha libre, the exótico, though not all exóticos are gay, and in fact the one in CMLL right now, Dulce Gardenia, is straight), though I don’t know any who aren’t exóticos.

There’s some more info about exóticos on the wikipedia page I linked, though most of it is sourced back to Heather Levi’s book, The World of Lucha Libre. It’s a good book, granted! But I wish there was more info out there beyond what that book has.

I actually just got the idea to check the Spanish version of the wikipedia article, and sadly it doesn’t have a whole lot more, but I did find another source. Here’s an article titled “Exóticos: luchadores diversos en construcción”. Maybe I’ll try reading that at some point?

Long post about a lot of stuff that most people probably don’t care about, sorry!

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Lobizona update:

I’ve slowed down a bit on my reading over the past few weeks because I was trying to catch up on some Japanese translations and some other Japanese study obligations, as well as work on some writing projects, but I’ve made it to 35% of the way through Lobizona! Over a third of the way there!

Something kind of funny is that one of the early chapters of the book explains that there’s a law in Argentina that the Argentinean president would become the godparent of all seventh sons/daughters, which the book explained was to protect these children due to a prevalent superstition that a seventh son would become a lobizón, and a seventh daughter would become a bruja.

I read that and was like “cool worldbuilding detail for your urban fantasy novel”. But I got curious at one point and looked up the law, and guess what?

IT’S REAL.

Here’s the wikipedia page on it! Apparently people aren’t sure of the exact origin of the law, though. It might’ve also originated from Russia, though Argentine folklore surely helped encourage it.

Here’s a random person’s blog post I found which talks (in English) about the law and also mentions a 1975 film called “Nazareno Cruz y el lobo”, a classic in Argentina, apparently, which the author of the blog found on DVD, and which miraculously came with Spanish subtitles.

Maybe I’ll attempt to track that film down somewhere, haha.

Something else I learned from Lobizona was the term “plural mayestático”, which came up in a sentence in chapter 12. I was like “‘majestic plural’?? huh?” but a quick search confirmed that this is just the term for “royal we” in Spanish! “Majestic plural” is also apparently used in English, but I’d never heard that term for it before.

Overall I’m still enjoying Lobizona, though I’ve reached the point where the trademark heterosexual young adult romance subplot has started to kick in, and I’m pretty uninterested in that aspect of this book (I’m holding out for the lesbian side couple that supposedly exists).

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It’s the kind of thing that’s unbelievable, but the more I look into it the more it makes sense. This is actually also done in Paraguay, not just in Argentina. From what I could find, other reasons for the existence of this law are mainly that certain superstitious people were killing their seventh born, mixed with it being a political move to gain support in times of elections.

I also figured out that the lobizón myth comes from guaraní mythology, which is most widely believed in Paraguay and the Northeast region of Argentina. Is that where Lobizona takes place?

According to this mythology, the lobizón is the 7th child of Taú and Keraná. This couple is cursed because of Taú, who attempted to kidnap Keraná (and worse), ended up fighting against the Spirit personifying good, Angatupyry, and won by using tricks (artimañas). Hence, all of their 7 children were cursed by Angatupyry and were born monsters:

  • Teju Jaguar, a seven headed dog
  • Mbói Tu’i, a parrot headed snake
  • Moñái, a horned serpent
  • Jasy Jateré, a small child with ginger hair (who uses his appearance to kidnap children)
  • Kurupí, a phallic deity
  • Ao Ao, a sort of sheep with a wild boar head and sharp talons as hands
  • Luisón (that’s the lobizón), a man with a large jaw, long dark hair and lots of scars. Its other form is that of a large black dog, with red pupils, sharp teeth and only three fingers on each hand.
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At the beginning, it takes place in Miami, Florida! The character and her mom fled there (illegally) from Argentina due to reasons that I’m only just now starting to find out about, haha.

The portion I’m at now, I’m not exactly sure where it’s located? The character doesn’t really know, either. It’s sort of a magical world, and it’s a bit unclear if it’s actually located in Florida or if it’s in some separate realm.

Some of these figures are characters in the book world! At the point I’m at, the main character only just started learning about all of that (and how it relates to her own birth…), so I’m also only just starting to learn, haha!

It’s really interesting, though! I’ve always really enjoyed mythology, but I really knew nothing at all about guaraní mythology before I started reading this book. I’m definitely interested in learning more!

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You’ve definitely sparked my interest in Lobizona. I’m very tempted to buy a copy and start reading along…

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