Spanish language learning - part 1

Published by AxiomEval on

Wherein I introduce how I am learning Spanish.


This is my first post on my Spanish language learning journey which is coming up to a year long now.

I have been working through an hour of coaching a week and some weeks listening to audio content when walking round the block.

I focus more on outcomes and generally applicable and useful ideas here - and do not go into the finer detail on how to set everything up. If you are interested in trying this yourself you should at least know which tools will flexibly lend themselves to the task.

What is the problem this solves?

  • Learning languages is hard - especially when you don't have much time
  • Learning languages can be boring if you go about it the wrong way
  • Verb tables, declensions and learning by rote are probably not portable learning techniques (can you work through them anytime anywhere using just your own mind?)

What is this solution?

  • Use memory techniques [1]; memory palace, visual encoding etc to make your tools for learning portable
  • Make sure everything is fun, visual, amusing - choose the right course(s) [2], book(s) and use a mix of media
  • Figure out tools that let you both create and practice in a fun and visual way

An example

I use a setup including:

  • Obsidian
  • Obsidian Advanced Tables plugin
  • Obsidian tags
  • Obsidian canvas
  • Obsidian spaced repetition plugin

Notes - the building blocks of the system

The system is built out of notes which are easy to create in Obsidian using Markdown.

With notes we create our memory palace structure letting us link one location to another. It is up to you how you figure out locations and structure - I was very lucky - stumbling on a course called Spanish In One Month which gave me the perfect blend of an interesting course structure and merging in of memory techniques.

A typical note might look like this.

Sample note screenshot

A few things to note here (and we will cover these in more detail below):

  • we have links at the top taking us to the previous location and the next seamlessly letting us explore our world (almost like a text adventure game) - this is critical it lets us build out the structure of our memory palace
  • we have a convenient verb table thanks to the advanced tables plugin for Obsidian (the table includes bridging figures to help us encode and retrieve information)
  • we use Obsidian tags so we can find things later

A memory palace

Being able to link our notes and create a memory palace structure is perhaps the most important thing. This technique works - it is amazing.

Our links let us traverse the palace moving seamlessly from location to location rapidly rehearsing how things are connected and stimulating our brain to be able to retrieve information which traditionally we would have a far harder time doing.

This is a portable technique - we can look at it in Obsidian or wonder through it in our minds while sitting on a train resting with eyes closed.

Bridging figures or characters

The verb table above is useful - but once you try to cram a large number of such tables into your brain you will get bored, or just want to give up as recall starts to suffer.

Bridging figures help with encoding - the more amusing they are and the more animated the better - they can let you pull out sounds or parts of words or ideas which otherwise would be lost as you work with English and Spanish words across verbs etc.

If the figures appear in different comic situations across all of your locations you double down on consistency, places and familiar characters helping you to negotiate your way through recall.


Tags are very straight forward to use in Obsidian. The tags in our sample note let us search for Spanish related notes in the Obsidian interface.

Sample tags screenshot

With this example - we see Obsidian's UI letting us grab all AR regular verbs or all irregular verbs - this is helpful when you decide you want to review something specific, a weak area etc.

Making it visual - a map of our memory palace

Obsidian's canvas lets us go one step further - we can pull our notes on to a canvas and connect them visually. We can add images to any of these notes - we can build a world that lets us navigate from realm to realm by following links.

Canvas screenshot

This is an irregular verb realm.

The image shows:

  • a number of notes connecting to a streak where each note is the mailbox to a shop or restaurant.
  • clicking on a note takes to a front garden or 'future' for a verb for example
  • clicking on the sign post to the left moves us on to the next realm to the west which in this case is a regular verbs realm

Encoding information with images on the map of our memory palace

Much like with bridging figures we can use images on our memory palace map to encode more information or more 'cues' for recall.

I can't draw personally but these days there are a number of tools that will let an 'AI' create an image for a given prompt.

I have only just started to experiment with this and I'm going to refine my images (as I track the ever improving tools) - but already I can put something specific in a picture and apply that picture to a part of my map without ever needing to draw a thing.

Recall and testing

Obsidian even lets me use one of the better recall and testing techniques (that I am aware of to date) - with the spaced repetition plugin.

By encoding just a little more information in a note I can have the system nudge me to practice recall at just the right time for a given word or phrase.

Simply add a flashcards tag and a term and translation construct along the lines of 'soy:::I am' per the screenshot below.

Spaced repetition screenshot

And a spaced repetition deck is available for you whenever you would like it.

Flashcards screenshot

And the best bit is aside from the course or the book(s) everything else is free and easy to set up.

I have never been so engaged and excited to learn a language - the journey is in progress!


[1]: It is hard to find a more comprehensive explanation than [Magnetic Memory Method](

[2]: The best Spanish course I've seen is [Master of Memory - Accelerated Spanish](