Spanish Saturday – The Middle

I think this is the first time I have dreaded an midpoint review. Ah well, time to face the music.

Action Plan Progress:

  • 42/66 days of practicing Spanish
  • 0/1 Pimsleur Spanish audio-book completed
  • 0/2 Spanish movies watched
  • 1/10 Spanish children’s books read
  • DONE – 3/1 Spanish podcasts reviewed
  • 0/1 Spanish meet ups attended

Grade: C

Lessons Learned: With back to back vacations I have not made much progress on my action plan. Since I was travelling internationally I also didn’t have ready access to my Duolingo app so I had to improvise. I’ve also slipped on my weekly check ins. At this point it is fair to say this has been my worst showing with a habit to date.

That is in direct contention with the fact that I am really enjoying this habit. The Duolingo app is well built and taps into my competitive streak. It also helps that I have a good support group of people who are familiar with the language. While we were cruising my friend Ed would randomly quiz me on my Spanish vocabulary, and everyone was very understanding of my playing on my phone while we were at port.

I am learning perseverance with this habit. Things aren’t always going to go exactly as I planned, but it’s okay to adjust course while trying to stick to a commitment you made to yourself.

Pertinent Podcasts

Even though I don’t have a 3 hour commute anymore, I still try to make time for good podcasts. There are some great language podcasts out there so I sampled the ones with the best reviews. The podcasts below are listed in order of preference.

Spanish Obsessed

In each episode Rob, an English man, and Liz, a Colombian woman, have a short conversation. They translate the conversation and give you an opportunity to speak along with them. Each lesson is approximately 10 minutes. If you sign up on their website you can see a full transcript of the conversation.

I found it helpful that they don’t just focus on the exact translations, but also discuss the intention of the phrase. Also at the end they have a bit of fun giving you options for different phases or words you can use in the same scenario.

News in Slow

I could only listen to the beginning of the episodes without a subscription, but I like the samples. So much so that I am going to change my incentive for completing this habit. Once I hit my 66 days, I am going to sign up for the bronze subscription!

Right now I could only follow bits and pieces of the episode, but I think once I have a better foundation this site will really help improve my Spanish skills. If you’re further along than I am I would definitely check this podcast out.


I was not impressed with their website. You have to sign up immediately and there is a hard sell right up front. Once I finally got to listen to the first lesson I found Fernando and JP engaging. Their use of practical scenarios like starting you off in a grocery store is a fantastic idea.

They also do a great job of breaking down the sample conversation and analyzing the vocabulary and grammar. The sessions are very short at 5-10 minutes.

I am going to stick with Spanish Obsessed for the time being, until I reach my goal and purchase a subscription to News in Slow. I liked SpanishPod101 but I’m not going to invest a lot of time in it right now.

Do you listen to any great language podcasts? Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Meditation Monday Check In

It’s been a little over 6 months since I finished tracking my meditation habit. Now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the progress I have made.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • DONE – Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Aborted – Attend a Tai Chi class
  • BONUS – Practice Tai Chi on the Xbox One



The were 30 sessions in this pack and it was broken into 3 parts. In the first part we focused visualizing a calm blue sky, in the second part we visualized a bright light filling us, and in the third part we focused on letting our mind be free. I liked the last section because I experienced such a feeling of weightlessness and calm when he would say “let your mind be free and do whatever it wants.” It was more about creating a sense of calm and contentedness rather than trying to counter negative self-talk with positive self-talk. A neutral outlook is really what you are going for. Clayton seems that way naturally and I am trying to emulate him.


Another 30 sessions broken down into 3 parts. The exercises help you to practice focused flow by honing in on different parts of your body throughout the sit. You are supposed to carry the practice throughout the day and it is easy to pick up at random intervals.

Generosity will be my next pack. That will round out the series options, with Relationships since I have done one from Health and Performance.

Book Breakdown:

This book is broken down into 3 parts. Breathe! You Are Alive focuses on mindfulness and awareness in the small acts of life. The idea of smiling through out the day hit home with me, and I have made an effort to smile more to myself.

Transformation and Healing is about the benefits of mindfulness in healing difficult states. And Peace is Every Step is about the connection between inner peace and peace on earth. This book is short and sweet and full of wisdom. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Tai Chi:

After our move I discovered there are no Tai Chi classes in our small town. Rather than making a special trip up to the cities just to meet this goal, I decided to find something else that would allow me to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis. BodyWisdom is available thru Xbox Fitness and it tracks your movements with the Kinnect. I think this is a great alternative to an actual class, and as I learn the poses I plan to practice in a more serene area.

As I continue to practice meditation I find setting goals toward it is not in the spirit of the habit. I want to lessen my stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful state, not feel pressure to get it done. That is why I will not be setting an future action items. I plan to just enjoy the serenity that comes with a sit.

I’ll leave you with a one time use code for a free month of access to Headspace for the first person to enter it!

Gift Code: REW15-469237

Language Learning Tools

I chose Duolingo for my Spanish habit because I used a beta version for German a few years ago. I really liked the user interface, and since then they’ve come out with a great phone app. Below are some other online learning tools that seemed worth exploring, listed in order of preference.

Anki – More than just a language tool, Anki can help you remember anything you need to study. It is an open source tool with a very simple interface, but that makes it easy to use. I’ve created a deck for Spanish vocabulary and my project management exam.

Busuu – Similar to Duolingo. Select a language and determine your skill level. Lesson 1 starts with greeting people. I like the quick tips that are interspersed in the lessons like what time of day to use buenos dias. There are also images with the words which is very helpful. A key difference is that with Duolingo there are pronunciation exercises where you speak the words and phrases, but Busuu is all written exercises.

Memrise – Again, similar to Duolingo and Busuu, but my least favorite of the bunch. Their user interface is not well done, and you only focus on a few words at a time. I prefer Duolingo’s approach of using phases to reinforce the vocabulary.

I am excited to start building my Anki decks, but will pass on the Busuu and Memrise in favor of Duolingo. Duolingo is free, no adds, and no upselling. Plus it’s working for me so far!

Have you tried any other online language learning tools? Please share your experience in the comments below.