Diary Notes of a
200 Words a Day! Student learning
Spanish and French...

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It even works for non-native English speakers, learning over 2,000 Spanish words in less than a month...

Rolf Backstrom is Swedish, and bought the Learn Spanish 200 Words a Day! Courses 1 and 2 in February 2006, and kept notes of how he progressed with the courses, and regularly emailed us with his reports and progress.

Here is a summary of his findings from his emails. Bear in mind also that Rolf's first language is Swedish, not English.

The two courses comprise of over 2,000 Spanish words, and Rolf covered them all in less than 10 days, consistently scoring over 90% in his tests.

He then started on Reviewing his Lessons, after a week, and a month, then moved on to the Learn French 200 Words a Day! course.

Our answers and comments to some of Rolf's comments are in the indented paragraphs.

Day 1 and 2 Spanish Lessons

I am setting up my test schedule now. I am going to take good notes and document my proceedings in good detail.

I think it is a good idea to turn on the kinesthetic mode - it takes more time but it sure helps you remember the word.

I have thought to go lesson by lesson and alternate my ways of study as I go along. I can't tell whether any particular lesson is more difficult than the other.

I must experiment with the first lesson a bit more so that I now what I am doing.

Yesterday I was doing the first lesson with people around me and I still scored 82 %.

I lost points on those !!!###** up and down exclamation marks etc.

Our comment: Yes, for exclamations you must remember the upside down exclamation marks in the Learn Spanish course, or else you will lose points. Also the same applies to questions. The Spanish use the upside-down question mark at the beginning of a question. (In English we wait until the end of the sentence.

Day 3

I am really enjoying this way of learning! Although my native language is not English I can still use this method very well.

I must admit, however, that in some (but few) cases I really don't get it. I still remember the pictures and of course I make my own associations as well.

Our comment: You can keep your own notes on the screen that your learn the word by using the 'Notes' function. All these words with notes that you make can be called up in a separate Lesson from the Lesson Menu. So if you want to see or review only thosee words for which you have typed your own notes, you can go to this Lesson.

I used lesson 1 - 3 for warming up and therefore I started recording from lesson 4.

I have used approx 82 minutes to cover 102 words and my score has been over 90 % all the time.

So if I keep up this rate I could very well reach 500 words in 8 hours.

I have only gone through the lesson once and never used the repeat button. I have used the kinesthetic mode all the time, and played the included music as well.

This is fun!

Day 3

Today the Finns are going crazy! The Hockey Team is fighting Sweden for the Olympic Gold! It is better to stay inside and not show oneself on the streets ...

No problem with the question marks really - I know how to do them - I just seem to overlook them, as well as the accents - however, I think I would be understood speaking - but let's not discuss that - of course it is vital to be able to write correctly as well ...

I will concentrate on the testing today and tomorrow - I still need to prepare a little more - I feel I don't quite know all the fine points in how to work the course.

I have tested the first three lessons just like they are with background music and I have scored over 90 % each time.

Day 4

It seems that I should update myself on actors and celebrities - I don't have a TV and I seldom go to the movies so I am a little lost - this is of course no criticism, with some of the characters.

I loved that hairy duck cartoon! Good that I was alone when the shot came - it would have woken up the whole house ...:).

Good that I was born with a sense of absurd humor!

The background music really does work according to the literature and I think you have chosen good music. It makes me very calm and happy.

I am a little more concerned when it comes to French ... Well we will see.

I am going to do a lot today on Spanish.

17:42
I have now completed 20 lessons of the Spanish course. This is about 20% of the course.

I am very satisfied with my results. They are usually 90 % or higher with some exceptions.

The material is very good and makes it very easy to remember. Some of the memory triggers are very brilliant.

I must admit though that in a few cases I don't quite get it and this is probably due to my non-English background. It seems to work anyway.

Also the accents are becoming easier to remember.

I am still doing well. I scored 74/78 in lesson 10. Mostly I make mistakes with the darned accents.

Day 5

Subject: Statistics from yesterday

Here are the statistics from two days of study.

The Spanish course is great! There are very many really clever memory triggers and this makes it very easy to remember.

Only sometimes I don't really get the idea behind the triggers and this is probably due to the fact that my native language is not English.

Still I must say that I have seldom score zeros for a word. So far I think approx 5 times. I will keep score of this from now on. Most mistakes are related to misspellings and in most cases I think I would have been understood when speaking.

10:07:02

Just stumbling on pretty well. It took 91 min to cover lesson 26 - 31 - this is 159 words.

Percentage above 90 except for lesson 31 where I seem to have a little trouble. Here I scored a zero twice and once in Lesson 29.

I just love this course! So many of the memory triggers are just great - it makes me smile!

I am off now to see my son in Helsinki. They have been on vacation at the grandparents' and are on their way to Stockholm. I will be back late.

Day 6

You know - this Spanish course is great! I know I have an absurd sense of humor myself - but many of the memory triggers had me laughing myself and falling off the chair. I would if I wasn't in such a hurry to learn ...:)

Day 12

Subject: Progress report

As of right now the statistics tell the following: 590 words in 3 hr 19 minutes spent on Lessons and 2 hr 20 minutes spent on Tests.

Overall I like the course more and more as I go along.

It has been designed by very creative people. It is easy to follow.

Day 14

As of now I have covered 30 lessons from the Spanish course and for 25 of them I have been prompted by the Program to do the 24 hour test.

Words learned are now 762, lesson time 7 hours 7 minutes and test time 4 hours 52 minutes. My average is 96 %.

Overall I am very satisfied with the course. There are some lovely aspects and it is very easy to learn this way.

I have very special reasons to learn Spanish very quickly. There are some valuable reports I want to read and they are written in Spanish.

Therefore I am looking to learn even more words after I finished this course. I think you understand this.

During the years I have looked at different courses starting already during the sixties when the courses were still on gramophone records!

Day 16

Subject: Progress report

I am now on lesson 55 in the Spanish course and I have learned 1,333 words. I am still on the 93% level or so, in my Tests.

I am satisfied.

Today I noticed, however, that if there is something else on my mind then my concentration gets disturbed and it really affects the results - naturally.

I had more errors in the first round but I was able to correct in the second and sometimes the third.

I am very happy about this course I must say and I have talked to language people about it and they quite impressed and curious. I'll tell you more later.

I have noticed a few things that I would like to bring up but I save it till later. Now I just want to ask about this (f) phenomenon. Why do I have to type it? Example: el agua (f). I left out the (f) and the program complained.

On some of the Spanish words in the course you are required to type in (f), where it is a feminine word, but uses the masculine 'el'.

The (f) is to highlight the fact that these are feminine nouns, although the definite article used with it is the masculine 'el' instead of 'la'. It's important to realise this when it comes to adjectives, so they correspond correctly. Most feminine nouns beginning with a vowel take 'el' so that it sounds smoother. It's an easy one for learners to get wrong...

I am pushing real hard to get through this course. I have a very selfish reason to do so because I want to read about some research in Spanish. I hope to finalize this course this weekend.

Then I am going to read through the textbook and then listen to the lessons. I borrowed a classical one from the library. This library course also contains some 2000 words. It is of course different. It should now be very much easier to understand it.

I listened to some Spanish being talked yesterday and I thought I understood at least some. I also looked at some Easy Readers in the library for fun and I thought I was rather okay with them.

Day 17

Progress report

I guess I don't have to report every day but it is a little bit of fun anyway so I'll do it.

As of today Saturday 3:30 pm GMT I have covered 80 lessons of the Learn Spanish course.

It means according to the Review 1837 words in 15:54 lesson time, 10:24 test time and words per day 559.

From left to right on the Grand Total line: 92, 96, 90, 93%. (Overall score results).

I went to the library today and got myself 3 Easy Readers in Spanish. I took one from series A, B and C which means a vocabulary of 600, 1200 and 2000 words, respectively. When I have covered the remaining 10 lessons, hopefully later today, I will read this books just to see how I am doing. They are pretty thin. At least I understood the text on the backs of the books pretty well.

22:07
So I made it through the 90 lessons of the Spanish course today 9 pm GMT.

Lesson time is 17 hours 20 minutes and test time 11 hours 14 minutes - a total of 28:34.

Grand total line: 92, 96, 90, 93.

It was quite a battle but I made it less than a week.

Of course I have not done the 24-hour test from lesson 36 onwards. I just wanted to get through the course and rehearing starts tomorrow.

[The course prompts you to re-do the Lessons after 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months and a year].

I can't tell that there is much difference if a have the background music on or not from the results. They seem to be consistent anyway.

My intent was not to make a world record but just to show people and anyone interested how effective this is.

Day 18

Now, I will proceed with the traditional course and the books and then I will redo the test again. I already took a peek at the material and my impressions is that I understand a lot anyway.

I will start the French soon but right now I must concentrate on a few other things first.

Subject: Another report Sunday morning

I got up one hour before I had planned. I was so eager to test myself.

So I used this hour to check out the Spanish traditional course I borrowed from the library. And I didn't want to start anything else since I had to be going in an hour anyway.

It consists of 25 lessons and covers approx 2,000 words.

The first 10 lessons I could understand without difficulty when reading.

Then I jumped to lesson 20. It was not anymore difficult.

Day 20

Subject: Repeating and testing the Spanish course

I love this Spanish course and I have now taken up the 24 tests again. I had to stop at lesson 36 and do something else.

I tried the various options, I thought listening through the whole thing with option 5 took a long time.

So I tried the options including the one to see only the summary.

I cannot tell any big difference except for the time needed. So far I have scored over 90 % correct no matter what option I use. Admittedly, I am a very visual learner in most cases.

With this system the best thing for me would be a mix between the autorun normal and autorun rapid. I just wish I could direct the tempo in the autorun rapid mode so that I can read everything including my notes. It is a little bit too fast for me at the moment. Of course it will get better.

I read somewhere that it is best to see the word (or whatever) to be learned three times within 72 hrs e.g. once a day and then after a week etc.

I could think of spending let's say 30 minutes each morning looking at the summary screens not necessarily doing the tests just as a memory refreshment and also before going to bed in the evening.

Another thing could be to have the whole thing flash in front of my eyes from beginning to end in the autorun rapid mode style. You know the old saying "my whole life flashed in front of me". Just a thought.

I will go through the 24 hour round first using the various options and then with that background I will attack the French course. I am a little worried about all those accents in French since they seem to even more complicated than the Spanish ones.

I also noticed that some of my mistakes in the Spanish course sometimes are just pure typos.

They would never have occurred had I written by hand. And sometimes I concentrate so much on remembering the word that I forget to write el or la - much to my annoyance.

It certainly does not matter as such - I am obviously learning anyway and who cares about if the average is 92 % or 98 % anyway?

Another observation is that I am obviously too old (54) to know the young actors and famous people. It would have been an advantage if I would have been introduced to them before starting the course and perhaps see a real picture of them. This is of course a thing I can do by myself, I knew Mama Cass very well but Linda Carter I had no idea about ...:)

Well, you see you can even expand your general knowledge with our course! Children obviously won't have heard of as many famous people and to make it truly effective for them we'd need to use current cartoon characters and people they learn about at school - say up to age of 10. We usually get told that Kevin is showing is age (44) with the people he uses, but many of them he had to search for on the internet as well - the male and female names that somehow corresponded with the foreign word - e.g. beginning letter the same... We also consult regularly with our sons who are teenagers for characters that can be used as Memory Triggers, so there is a wide range of famous people used.

Day 21

Also I would like to complain a little of getting penalized for writing el artista / la artista. I don't remember if it was exactly this word where I scored zero. I think I was quite correct.

There are also in the same lesson two different Spanish words meaning more or less the same - for example el empresario and el hombre de negocios.

There is no way of telling which one you want unless you happen to remember (2) or (3). I suggest that the program should answer: "yes, you are right - do you another one as well?"

A very food example of this is "fridge"! The Spaniards are very inventive around this word - there must be at least six of them!

Our comment: Yes, we will amend later courses by asking the student for fridge (fr ...) for fregadero [that starts with the letters fr...] or fridge (he...) [heladera that starts with the letters he...] as a prompt where there is more than one possible Spanish word.

I quite agree that you always should write el or la - of course - but don't you think the course could be kind enough to ask: " Did you forget la or el Rolf?" and give me another chance?

That is why we have the 3 point marking system (i.e 3 points for a fully correct answer) and if most of the word is correct you only lose 1 point instead all three, so it acknowledges the fact that you got most of it correct, rather than just a straight correct/incorrect result. We deliberated a long time about how we could be flexible with this...

Another thing I have observed - and this is probably due to my non-English background - is that I am sometimes unsure of whether you want the verb or the substantive. So perhaps it would be a thought to give a hint about this as well as if there is a feminine and masculine version of the word. As said before - we are up to learning the language- nothing else.

At bottom left of your screen, it tells you if the word is a verb, noun, adjective, etc - as well as the number of words in the lesson and which word you're on.

Darn! I concentrated on the upper part only ... sorry!

Day 21

Subject: Short report!

Today I have continued to review the lessons in the Spanish course.

I tested to review only the summary page and the autorun rapid mode - both for 30 min each.

In both cases I covered four lessons and I scored slightly better in the autorun rapid mode. It seems it helps me to hear the words pronounced.

I have rehearsed up until lesson 48 now.

Day 22

Subject: Thursday Morning report

Just a short report on my progress.

I am now on lesson 56 and my scores are still consistently over 90 %. Usually I get it right in the second round and I rarely need a third one.

It also seems to me that it does not matter if 24 hours have passed or if even longer time has passed. Since I studied very hard one day I am behind schedule and I have not taken all the tests within 24 hours.

Day 23

Subject: Comments on lessons 59 - 73

I just observed that I sometimes make the same mistake twice or sometimes three times. Embarrassing!

Do I spoil anything if I start reviewing before the scheduled one week test? Let me know cause I really want the best possible results to show the strength of this course. I am happy to wait until the schedule hits if you want me to.

I do not think one has to rigidly stick exactly to the Schedule of Reviewing Lessons. You can vary it to suit your needs, but try to keep close to the recommended times of reviewing after 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 1 year. If one puts the new words to use, e.g. in class, with a teacher, or say if one is living in a Spanish country the reinforcement is happening anyway.

I also have observed that these pictures pop into my mind during the day for no special reason. It ´just happens when I am taking a walk or shopping etc. Quite fun.

Day 23

Subject: Progress report and comments on lessons 59 - 73

I have now reviewed 73 lessons and I am doing well.

It is almost like I just had gone through the lessons - the pictures just pop up.

I have experimented with the various options and I have chosen to use autorun normal at this stage.

I noticed that the time used with this option is not much longer than with autorun rapid because I end up staring at the summary.

It is obviously just a psychological thing. It just feels faster.

I still have one wish though, if I may, and it is to be able to stop the speaking and proceed. You know when you have the feeling "okay, okay I got it!" It is not a big thing though and of course it does only good to hear it again. I guess I am a bit impatient.

Our comment: This feature is being added to new updates of the software.

I also have observed that these picture pop into my mind during the day for no special reason. It ´just happens when I am taking a walk or shopping etc. Quite fun!

I asked Rolf:

Do you find a particular style of picture pops up in your mind more than the others? Or maybe the animations? Would be interesting to hear if there's any pattern to your recall ...

I can't say I have seen any pattern and I really haven't thought about it in that way.

I'll do it from now.

I can of course say that the most "crazy" ones really stay - like the crocodile - drilling a coconut - what a thought! It is like Monty Python and I have also like that style of humor.

Subject: Late Friday night - Lessons 73 - 78

I have proceeded with the course in Spanish and I have made the observations reported below.

In Spanish lesson 76 I found the most severe error - it should never have occurred - I am sorry to say this - the word is wing. There is a female voice saying "la ala" but the program is demanding me to write "el ala (f)" to score three points. This is an impossibility and should never have passed the acid test. In computer lingo the system would have come to a complete halt.

Our comment: - this is actually correct - this is a feminine word starting with a vowel where they say 'el' instead of 'la' because it is easier to say. That is why there is also (f) after it to remind you that it is indeed a feminine word. If you look in your dictionary you will see... Another word like this is el agua, a feminine word that uses the masculine article 'el, instead of 'la.

I also noted that I happened to write el Sur instead of el sur. I got 2 points out of 3 - correct of course but still ...

Spanish don't use capitals for most nouns, that is why you got it partially correct.
I still like the course very much ... please don't get me wrong!

Day 24

Subject: Progress report Saturday morning

I have rehearsed 83 lessons now.

I cannot really say that I can see any pattern regarding the words and pictures popping into my mind. It seems not be related to animations.

The almost nude lady pictures work really well - I must admit that!

A wise man once told me, "A dirty mind is a joy forever!"

Day 25

Subject: Sunday Evening Report

So I started the one-week test now and I have done the ten first today.

Some observations from the lessons:

It is like I had seen these pictures only yesterday. It really works so well!

That's all for today.

Day 27

Subject: Progress report Tuesday morning

I have now progress in my review to lesson 23. It is working very well and as long as I stay concentrating there is no problem at all. Sometimes I do get distracted though.

Day 28

Subject: Progress Report

I have now been through all the lessons thoroughly and scrutinized them.

I can now report that I am doing fine and I am very satisfied and there is nothing to complain about. I have now reviewed the first 35 lessons in the weekly schedule.

I am still over 90 % most of the time. The words and the pictures really pop up when I hear the word and / or see it on the screen.

I cannot tell that some animations or tricks work better than others since my score is 90 % or better than I must conclude that it all works very well.

Day 29

I am not quite with you here I am afraid when it comes to el ala.

My dictionary says female word and I took it to mean it is "la ala". Am I out sailing totally?

My objection was also that the female voice in this case says "la ala" but the screen shows "el ala (f)".

I hope you don't mind me saying so but it is enough to confuse anybody.

Day 30

Subject: Just a small thing

About my progress. I am doing fine with the course.

Anyway, it works very well to study the course by Finnlectura. No problem at all and I don't have to look words very often. Just the verbs give me a little headache - I mean the irregular ones.

I just compared for fun Finnlectura and 200words-a-day regarding words starting with the letter "a".

In 200words there are some 130 words. I found 100 words of these also in the Finnlectura course. That is a very good sign I think. I might look through some more of this just for fun since I am studying and it is essential for me to learn Spanish.

I have progressed to lesson 50 now.

Well - yes - el aula makes more sense - but I must say that it is a bit weird from the beginning. Who ever thought of this - I would like to have a word with the inventor!

I think every language has exceptions to every rule!
- YES - Sigh!

However, el hambre - there is a female voice saying the word - don't tell me it is because the "h" is not pronounced so the word actually starts with "a".... :)

- yes, that's right actually - the emphasis is on the first syllable and the h is not pronounced. So the el is used for the same reason.

- DOUBLE SIGH!

Has nobody else done it this quickly before? Perhaps I should attempt an Guinness Record with the French course ... Now that I know how the courses work I think I could have gone faster with the Spanish course and reduced the time to some 20 hours in total - especially if you trim it as I have suggested. On the other hand - who cares?

What I am doing now is that I am reading through the standard Spanish course I lent from the library. It is a very typical course. It covers some 2,000 words and I can read and listen to the lessons and understand them without difficulty. This is of course not the same as writing and speaking.

Yesterday I read Bunuel's "A las tres de madrugada" in the Easy Readers series A based on 600 word and did so without any difficulties. Today I will attempt a B based on 1200 words.

Day 34

I have progressed to Spanish lesson 73 in my weekly test Round and I am doing fine as long as I can keep myself concentrated on the course

I have continued to experiment with the settings and I must say that I now recommend anyone to stay with the basic mode including typing the words [kinesthetic mode] in the lesson as well and really to use some more time to read the notes you have made and to make own notes if necessary. It does take a little longer but I think this will work better in the long run.

I am referring to Hannaford and Montessori saying that there is no true learning without movement - e g writing, constructing, typing - kinesthetic.

You don't become a golfer by reading books about it, do you?

I notice that I have difficulties with some of the Spanish spelling - especially the characters c, s, and z. I could equally write cerveca or cervesa. I know that there is the lisp as well but it is not in my "bones" yet.

Arja and I discussed this subject yesterday. With her Finnish background she has even more difficulties with the pronunciation than I.

Finnish language is very easy in this respect since a letter is pronounced in one and only one way.

She said to me when I corrected her: "I am only saying the words as they are written". I answered: "Yes, from a Finnish point of view as you have been trained and trained yourself (programmed?)".

It seems this has become so integrated in our BIOS [built-in-operating system]that it is very difficult to change as an adult.

Anyway, I decided to start the French course today and to celebrate my birthday in this solemn way!

I will proceed more slowly than with the Spanish course, which will be my focus.

As I told you there is some urgency with the Spanish.

So the first French lesson - and really using the experience from the Spanish course - took a little longer - about 16 min in total, which is some 5 min more than the average Spanish lesson.

I really took the time to listen and to look and not start typing before it sound ends and to read the notes if there were any. I scored 93 % - here the apostrophes are really jumping around!

I think I mentioned before that I have a very simple program to train your typing and get up to speed.

It uses a flat file as input so I started to make a file with the English word first and then the Spanish, Finnish, French etc. It is a little more work to do so but not that much.

I have to type the words anyway so I am just writing them into this textfile with notepad while I am at it.

Then I can use this in our typing program since I am anyway training my typing speed - as is Arja - so why not combine the two? The program functions pretty much the same way as the lessons. You can't get by unless you type it write.

Day 34

Subject: Spanish progress report

This is just to report that I have now finished the "weekly" round of the Spanish.

My results are pretty consistent. I can see from the review that some lessons resulted in poorer results than before. I think it very much has to do with my concentration. There have been a lot of things going on in my head lately.

The next stage is the "monthly round" of reviewing the words and lessons.

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