How I learned Spanish in 1 year

1/28/20237 min read

How I learned Spanish in one year

The beginning

It is all started with corona in 2020. I still remember it was Thursday 11. of March. Everybody was sent home because somebody in the office was infected by corona and we stayed in home office for another 1,5 year. My job was to remotely organise business trips for sales men in Germany. Needless to say I didn't have too much to do in the next couple of months. Before corona I was pretty busy. I had an office job from Monday to Friday and I waited tables on the weekend. Of course the restaurant is also closed in a week after we stuck at home. I must say how much I enjoyed this mandatory break. Thus I decided to learn Spanish like many other people this time. I was on fire, I wanted to learn everything what I could not earlier because of my two jobs. Beside Spanish I started to learn learning techniques and photoshop. I especially enjoyed learning about learning methods. It was like learning to sharpen a knife before working in a kitchen. You have this beatiful feeling that you are going to be more efficient.

Spaced repetition with a twist

The only learning technique which I used until then was spaced repetition. I find this a highly effective method either static or dynamic. Let me explain this.I call static spaced repetition when you have a schedule regardless of the result of your repetition. Either because it is not important or because it cannot be measured. A typical example is reading a useful article multiple times. It is impossible to say exactly what percentage of the article has been implemented in your own life you just want to remind yourself again and again that they still need to be made to happen. Or it can be a reinforcement that you are doing right, or at best it’s just an acknowledgement that you have achieved about 90% of what you have learned in this material.

Dynamic spaced repetition is better for learning vocabulary because this is simply to prevent you from forgetting words. Here is extremely important to re-schedule the card by each repetition, based on your result. I would like to bring in here a very important caveat that many people don’t use with dynamic spaced repetition. The most important thing if you fail on a card is to recode the material. What do I mean by that? Don’t repeat a card over and over again but bring a new context or even a new picture for it. Let’t say you have 50 cards to review a day. You probably fail on 10-20%. Don’t just review them without changing anything. Remember the answer is not to try harder but rather try different. If you fail on a flashcard for 3rd or 4thtime, let’s add new card to the same word but with a new context.

Usually, the more difficult words require two cards, but even the most difficult words won’t ,,survive” the fifth context. With each new card you can change the word a little. Conjugation, past, future, third person singular, you name it. You simple make them more memorable with this method. We want to build memory here. You should imagine this like ripping a thread, it is easy to rip a piece of thread (1 card) but it’s almost impossible to rip a thick rope.(ripping is forgetting in my analogy, just to make sure :D) About using Anki I am going to make a video in the future

white light in dark room
white light in dark room
brown rope in close up photography
brown rope in close up photography

This is your 5-6-7 cards memory
(hopefully mixed with real life experiences)

This is your 1 card memory

The pareto principle a.k.a the 80/20 rule

,,The Pareto Principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, specifies that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes, asserting an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. This principle serves as a general reminder that the relationship between inputs and outputs is not balanced. The Pareto Principle is also known as the Pareto Rule or the 80/20 Rule."(

What does it mean for us, language learners? Actually for us is even more beneficial as 80/20. If we applied pareto principle for language learning it would mean that we need to learn 20% of the words to understand 80% of a random text.

The truth is even more appealing:

1000 words allow you to understand about 80% of the language which surrounds you, as long as it is not too specialized (Hwang, 1989; Hirsh and Nation, 1992; Sutarsyah, Nation and Kennedy, 1994)3000 words allow you to understand about 95% of most ordinary texts (Hazenberg and Hulstijn, 1996).

For me it says there is almost no pay-off (5% understanding for other 170 K) for learning the rest of the vocabulary. To be more precise, afterwards you only need to learn the specific words you need for your personal or professional life. Sounds great, right? However, it is important to note that everyone has their own frequency list. Men talk less about their make-up kit (you can guess why) , while woman don’t use the term of penalty kick on a daily basis. (or I don’t know, at least not in public 😁 ) Okay, Monday is Monday for everyone, we all use the toilet, we all have friends or relatives. It is about 2000 words, I highly recommend though to specialise your frequency list as soon as possible. Of course if you learn your target language through comprehensible input you have literally no chance of avoiding the most frequent words. I go further, buckle up buddy! If you reach A1-A2 level - or in my humble opinion if you are hard-core language learner you start with this- you switch to content you are genuinely interested in like cars, soccer, fashion or your favourite tv show where you are already familiar with the story, whatever you are concerned about. There is no way to bypass your customised frequency list. Wait, wait, wait! What is comprehensible input?

Comprehensible Input

Comprehensible input, also known as the "input hypothesis," refers to the idea that learners acquire language by comprehending messages that are slightly above their current level of comprehension. It means you don’t need to understand the words or the sentences, only understand what happens. If you read only one paragraph from the book ,,From the outside in” by J. Marvin Brown , this should be the one:

,,More than half of the meanings is carried by the situation. More than a quarter by face and gestures. More than an eight by tone of voice. Words carry the rest. Think of the meaning carried by situation, face, gestures, and tone of voice as Swiss cheese. It has a hole here and there for new words to fall into. And that's natural learning: new words fall into holes that are held and carried by the overall meaning. The words don’t carry the meaning- the meaning carries the words.,,

And another quote: ,,By far the biggest part of a speaking experience is carried by situations, faces, gestures, and tone of voice. Words carry less than 10 percent.”

The words don’t carry the meaning- the meaning carries the words.

Those holes in the cheese are the percentage of the importance of words. About 10%. I would like to apologise in advance for my a bit harsh example. Learning a language only through an analytical approach, without considering the cultural and social aspects of the language, is like raping a language. Just as rape is a violent and disrespectful act that disregards the autonomy and dignity of the victim, analysing a language without regard for its cultural context is a violent and disrespectful act that disregards the complexity and richness of the language. Instead of truly understanding and appreciating a language, the analytical approach only seeks to dissect and understand its individual parts without considering the whole. In the same way that rape is a traumatic and harmful experience, learning a language only through analysis can be a shallow and unfulfilling experience that does not truly allow the learner to connect with the language and its speakers.


I know, I know it's too much to digest. If you found this article overwhelming or confusing is good. Actually it is the best thing, what could happened. It's okay if you have found this article to be overwhelming or unclear. We need this sense of friction because it means you are learning a new concept, you are stepping outside of your comfort zone. Do yourself a favour and try out static spaced repetition with this article. If you feel like: Wow, I didn’t understand a thing I have just read. Go to App Store and download the free app which I designed called Spaced Input. Copy the link and save this article with your own schedule. (I suggest 1 week, 2 weeks, 2 months, 6 months, 1 year) I don’t want you to understand and implement everything you have read in this article in a day, I want you to do it in 1 year 8 months and 3 weeks) You need this time, in exchange I offer nothing less than that this single article will radically change your life for good. After a month, you’ll see how powerful spaced repetition is. With time and enough repetition you will understand even the most challenging concepts. By each repetition you are in a different state of mind, probably you learned more about the topic, probably you are getting deeper and deeper into the subject, you are most likely in a different room, at a different location. So many things have changed. The concept you found difficult earlier becomes a piece of cake. So save the link in Spaced Input and review it when it’s due. Ready to take your language learning to the next level and stay on track with consistent progress? Make sure to save this article in Spaced Input and use the power of spaced repetition to fully understand and implement the concepts covered. With Spaced Input, you can set your own schedule and review the material at the perfect intervals to reinforce your learning and maintain consistency. Do yourself a favour and give Spaced Input a try today – your language learning journey will thank you! If you want to enjoy an ad-free version of Spaced Input, be among the first to read our latest articles, and support the development of the app, consider joining our premium group in the settings menu for less than the price of a coffee. ☕️ With access to exclusive content and a supportive community of language learners, you'll be well on your way to achieving your learning goals. With Spaced Input by your side, the sky's the limit for your language learning journey! Keep up the great work, and remember that consistent progress and repetition are the keys to success. Keep learning, keep improving, and always keep pushing forward – you've got this!