Emily and Erik

Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish has been a slow process for me.  I see and hear improvements every week as I talk with people here.  One of the best ways to learn is to chat up the locals.  Here’s one of our local helpers, Erik:

Emily and Erik
Erik and I on the porch at our place.

Erik is patient with us and willing to put up with our incorrect Spanish.  A few minutes ago he was laughing at me for saying the alphabet incorrectly.  In 1994, “ch” was removed as a letter from the Spanish alphabet but apparently it is still in use because when I went straight from “c” to “d” Erik laughed and corrected me.  He looked through my pictures from Parque Historico in Guayaquil and helped me with animal pronunciations too.  I love that he’s willing to help us.  He always leaves with candy 🙂

Before we could begin chatting with Erik, we needed a foundation of at least some Spanish.    Scott and I have been using several language learning tools.  We tried a lot of different tools and only kept up with the ones that really seemed to help.  Here are the primary ones that I use:

Duolingo is a free website that teaches many languages.  It is very helpful and allows people to test out of each skill if they already know some of a language.  The learning includes writing, speaking, and listening to Spanish.  This is what the site looks like when skills are complete and up to date:

Duolingo gold

My biggest problem has been keeping each skill current.  When you have not visited a particular language skill for a while, it changes from gold to another color.  You need to refresh the skill or the site will look more like this:


As more time passes without refreshing a skill, more of the notches go away.  Within each skill are one to ten lessons and you need to get 17 of 20 translations correct to successfully pass a lesson.  My goal had been to finish all of the skills with everything gold.  I’ve had 5 lessons remaining now for a few months.  Every time I got almost everything back to gold, other skills would turn green, blue, or red.  Today, I finally said, “I just want to finish.  I do not care if everything is gold.”  So I finished my remaining lessons and got my virtual trophy. Big milestone for me!

Duolingo owl

I will continue to return every day and work to keep skills gold because repetition is necessary to retain the knowledge.

Learn Spanish the Novel Way
The book “Learn Spanish the Novel Way – 2nd Edition” was fabulous!  It is about a 10 year old boy from Los Angeles who spends a summer with his relatives in Mexico.  He learns Spanish from his cousin, who is bilingual.  My last few Duolingo lessons were actually fairly easy after having read this book.  It would be an awesome book to read aloud with kids, too, if you are all learning Spanish together.  There are 84 chapters – one for each day of summer.  As you get further into the book, it gradually goes from mostly English with some Spanish lessons to mostly Spanish with some English.

Destinos is a Spanish soap opera created to assist with teaching Spanish in schools.  It made it’s debut in 1992 so a lot of it looks dated (no cell phones, etc.) but it’s been great so far.  I have watched 17 of the 52 shows.  It also has a vocabulary and grammar quiz with each grouping of episodes.  It takes place in many different Spanish speaking countries so you can hear different dialects.

Señor Jordan
Jordan uploads lessons to YouTube and makes lessons fun when he can.  I haven’t watched any for a while but when I am done with Destinos, I expect to return to his lessons.

Lessons in person
We took some private lessons when we were in Guayaquil but haven’t done the same since we moved to the Olon area.  It is in our future plans though.  Right now, we are focused on finding property.  Once we can establish something of a routine schedule instead of our current hap-hazard one, we will take lessons again.

Learning has been somewhat slowed by the fact that we have spent a lot of time driving the coast looking for property.  President Correa speaks every Saturday and we often listen to him.  He speaks clearly and enunciates each word so it is easier to understand him than a lot of other people.

Feeling pretty good about my progress and looking forward to learning more each day poco a poco (little by little).

Hasta la próxima vez,

I am a US Expat in Ecuador. I grew up on a Minnesota farm, worked in IT in California's Silicon Valley, then moved to a coastal Ecuador fishing village. My goal is to share Ecuador with you, one snippet at a time. Topics include attractions, compassion, ecotourism, Ecuador products, everyday Ecuador, and flora and fauna. Please let me know what you would like to read more about!


  • Anonymous

    Thank you, that is very fun information. I also am using the La Vida Loco series prepared by the BBC, which is great. The Destinos looks like it will be very helpful. We are trying to get started on our Spanish for our move to Cuenca in 11 months.
    Neil and Monica

    • Anonymous

      I keep remembering I got the BBC series name wrong, My Crazy Life, Mi Vida Loca.
      The book has been great for us – perfect for where we are in the Spanish learning adventure.

    • Emily Bloomquist

      Hi Neil, No worries – I found it without problem based on your earlier description. I've watched the first few episodes and it looks like it is going to be quite good. Thanks again!


    I completed all the levels in Duolingo before our family trip to Spain in 2016. It was fantastic to converse with the locals in their own language (I speak a very slow, poor version of Spanish :D) By the time we came back from Spain, the duolingo progress had all but vanished. Boy was it a buzzkill! I didn't touch the app for nearly 20 months after that. Only recently did I fire it up again for learning Japanese.

    • Emily Bloomquist

      Duolingo is great for learning the basics before a trip! Hugely disappointing, though when all of the progress disappears.

      Good luck with Japanese, Varad! I took some before traveling to Japan for business years ago but remember very little of it now.

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