For the first day of the month of learning Spanish, I took an online test to check my level of Spanish. I reached the level A1 but that was it. This shows that there is still work to do. However, the test enabled me to find out which points I should particularly work on.
Vocabulary vs grammar
When I took the test, I noticed that the questions I had difficulty with were grammar and conjugation question. On the other hand, I had no problem with vocabulary and reading comprehension.
I also did a few exercises on Duolingo. I could do them with little difficulty as these were mainly vocabulary exercises. They are important and I want to keep working on vocabulary but I can see I will have to work more on grammar and conjugation. This should be an important point of the month of learning Spanish.
Why rote learning is important.
Rote learning is often criticized. People learning a lot by heart are sometimes seen as people learning stupidly, without really understanding what they are working on. I think this is not the right way to see this.
When I was 20, I volunteered to help young teenagers from a poor neighborhood of a middle sized French city to do homework. One day, two kids told me: „We have an English test tomorrow. You have to explain English to us.“ I was slightly puzzled then and answered „You do not need to understand it, you need to learn it.“ This was not the best answer, obviously. They answered: „We can’t learn it because we do not understand it.“ I asked: „Which point do you need me to explain?“ They answered: „Everything.“
I tried to explain sentence structures but as you can guess, it did not work so well. In this case, the need to understand had become an obstacle to learning because actually, you cannot really explain why two languages are not working the same way except if you are a philologist. I am not one and even if I had been one, this would have helped much for the English test. Sometimes you just have to learn without asking too many questions. Things will clear up as you are working on the subject.
In my school time, actually, the time when I had to do most rote learning is the same as when I had to do most reflexion work. The same teacher made us learn a whole German grammar book by heart and analyze political articles from the German press.
What it does mean for the month of learning Spanish?
The point is clear. If I want to progress in Spanish the way I progressed in Germany 15 years ago, I have to really learn it. Doing exercises and reading texts in Spanish are little help if you do not learn your conjugations correctly for instance. I will have to learn some conjugations every day. At the end of the month, I should be able to level up to a higher level of proficiency.