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Challenge: Learn Spanish in 40 days from scratch

Hi all,

As a part of my anti-depression therapy, I decided 6 days ago to learn Spanish and not in a normal way... but in 40 days. Well, not the entire language, of course. The goals are as follows:

  1. Vocabulary +1000 words
  2. Overall level: A2 (European standard)
  3. Find a native Spanish-speaker and test my conversation skills.

I am documenting this process as I go and will publish a video on youtube showing the result (if any :D) of this experiment.

My strategy:

  1. First 7 days - intensive Duolingo to build up some vocabulary (as I knew zero words in Spanish). Today is the last day of those 7 days. Last 6 days I did 2000XP per day every day on Duolingo and go to the 10th course or something like this. It takes me about 2.5-3h per day. Goal was to get to 300 words, I think I will end up at around 400.
  2. Second 7 days. Lower Duolingo XP daily goal from 2000 to 1500/1300. And dig into grammar more. Goal is to aquire 200 additional words. And get present tense, and two past tenses.
  3. Third week. Podcasts, reading and more. Duo daily goal for XP is 1000.
  4. 4th week. Find someone to start talking with.
  5. 5th and 6th week - I don't know yet, it will depend on my progress.

Also, part of the goal is to spend zero money and not more than 3h-4h per day learning.

I don't know if it is gonna work, but it is something that motivates me and keeps me busy from dark thoughts. You can follow me on instagram - same nickname as here. :)))

Let me know what you think, guys (and gals). Am I crazy?

EDIT: 25-day status update: https://youtu.be/lLlrYe4MV78

August 19, 2019



Love the idea. Good luck!


Good idea and after 40 days you can do free test on “Cervantes.to” for understanding your international spanish level


Oh, thanks for the suggestion. I didn't know about this website.


You are welcome and thank you for the lingot


:) I somehow have accumulated over 200 of those... and there is no other use for them but to share. :)


You can go to the shop and use your lingots there for streak freeze and others options


I've bought everything in the shop already :D and still have a ton of them. So sharing is good. :D


Best of luck to you!


Thank you! Dude, are you learning 5 languages? Wow, that's a challenge. :)))


I think you're not crazy and it's a good way to distract yourself from the pointless thoughts (I assume that the thoughts aren't harmful in a long term) Good luck, and let us know the results of this work!


Thank you! Will be posting results (soon))).


Good luck with learning it! I look forward to hearing how it goes. ;)


good luck! I might try some of this myself


Great idea and great plan mate :D Best of luck and remember to never give up ! This is really great for mental health, you should be proud of yourself !


Thanks for the support, broski!


Great plan! As a Spanish native I can help you if you want! I'd like to talk to you to test your speaking skills. Also, I recommend you a lot practicing through podcast! Here you are my videos on youtube that I made to help people like you <3 https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQuEoettX1iLBt5AnLenyAtMeymHsUCrJ


Woah, Angelica - thanks a lot! I take your offer :) and I will start watching your videos as of tomorrow - my head is exploding today :), last day of getting to 2000 xp was the hardest. Es muy, muy dificil. PS: tbh, you, guys, are great, I was not expecting this much support and warm wishes. Fantastic community!


Sure. Remember take care of yourself and don't study many hours without resting, that's bad for your brain. Good luck and let me know when you would like to practice with me


Hi Angelica, I would like to study by myself for a couple of days - to have at least some minimum level to be able to work with a native-speaker. :) Will as of Saturday work for you? You can contact me on instagram for more details - same nickname as here.


Sure. I'll do it. Saturday is ok for me


Hey, how are you doing?


Oh, Angelica, I am sorry I had missed your comment where you confirmed that Saturday was okay for you. Now I feel silly. :( Lo siento mucho. I am available to start working with whenever you have time. :)



great idea to boost your motivation.

I hope you find more people by this thread to join so you can share your progress and get some assistence.

Have you checked any open slots with the "#add1challenge"?

Sorry, it is not free as far as I know: http://add1challenge.com/

Q: What is your language learning background?
Q2: Do you have any experience with Romance languages and related grammar, specifically verbs?

Sounds like you want to use "binge learning" in the beginning? ;)

Rule number #1:

Make (very) realistic goals or subdivide your bigger goal into smaller (measurable) parts! :-)

The more realistic your personal (final) goal is, the easier it will become to realize, the less disappointed you will be in the end.

Rule number #2:

Don't learn more NEW words than you can review the next day / weeks.

Rule number #3:

If you do not clear your SR backlog queue on a daily basis with "classic reviews" (typing or self-rating answers), the due words sum up pretty quick:

  • Better to only learn (or fully plant) NEW words when your review queue is ZERO so you can better catch the next 4h or 12 spaced repetition (SR) interval.

  • The Memrise (Android) mobile app supports an additional trick where you can split the first "six planting steps" into 2x 3 steps, so you can basically half-plant 10 words for each Memrise level and get used to seeing those new words, even your queue is not empty.
    You can complete the next 3 learning steps for those specific 10 words (per level) after some hours in a second "learning session".

Rule number #4:

Make speaking your high priority.
At least say out aload everything what you hear and repeat.

Some Polyglots write on their blogs, that speaking should be the rule #1. If you have the feeling that you can do that (I did not), the better.

If you need more time (e.g 3-4 or 6-12 months) instead of only typing or tapping or answering multiple-choice around in the web or mobile learning apps, it also is not a fail....but you will not progress that fast!

More than one way will lead to Rome!

Rule number #5:

Activate Spanish audio

If you really want to stick to Duolingo, at least install Camilo's "Duolingo Tree Enhancer" userscript which you can use with the Tampermonkey / Violentmonkey addons on the web portal: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/19654789/Userscript-Tree-Enhancer

To activate Spanish audio for ALL listening exercises (incl. multiple-choice, L1 -> L2 right hand side target translations, maybe it also (sometimes) will work for "full the word into the blank").

Not hearing or hearing Spanish audio all the time for full sentences will make a night and day difference!!!

By the way, this was my 11 days Lingvist (Spanish) challenge back in 2017 (together with Carlos, Hola!): https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/25606961/Challenge-Learn-3000-5000-words-in-12-days-on-Lingvist-until-end-of-this-year-2017

-> In the end I had "learned" 1000 (random) Spanish words in 11 days and 20 hours (the Lingvist "review practice stack" works quite differently than Duolingo or Memrise!!)

-> to appropriately (slowly) learn - totally from scratch - "Spanish verb conjugation" for the personal pronouns and 1-2 past + 1-2 future tenses maybe a step-by-step waterfall approach is the better one in the beginning = first 3-4 / 6 months


Personally I somehow find shorter language courses for specific short-term goals (e.g 11 days, 40 days, 3 months, etc.) more suitable for ANY specific challenges:

-> I had used Ben Whately's *"Learn Basic Portuguese (BR)" course in the beginning, which also added several sentences, and I like it (but I learned all Portuguese grammar with my EN-PT Duolingo course!)

-> it is IMHO really good to have several parts, where you can reach a single goal sooner or even multiple goals in a specific timeframe!

-> each part uses LIMITED amount of words and mixed phrases / sentences so you know for sure that you can complete them in time, even if you continue reviewing the earlier parts on a weekly (or better daily) basis!

The (big) benefit with Memrise:

  • You can turn OFF multiple-choice (on the web)

  • you can activate typing on the web portal with Cooljingle's Tampermonkey userscript "all typing": It is very effective to drill words or the verb infinitives (base forms; you somehow need to complement Duolingo)

  • you can get assisted accents/diacritics (visible) placement with the "auto correct" userscript (you have the choice: type it yourself or be faster without typing, but still be able to see proper placements)

  • classic reviews (on the web) will be:
    L1 English -> L2 target language (Spanish) = RECALLING tests (learn from your own errors!)

  • you will benefit from six planting learning steps when you learn NEW (difficult) words

  • additional SHORT-term 4h + 12 hour reviews after planting: http://memrise-users.wikia.com/wiki/Memrise_Spaced_Repetition_Intervals

If you do not like typing (this is much harder than multiple-choice or tapping!), you could use AnkiSRS' self-rating answer approach as an alternative.

Duolingo is more about longer (CEFR) trees and gaming:

Picture exercises (I miss good MEMS/pictures on Memrise!), way too much tapping (on the mobile apps) with given hints, "fill the word into the blank" type exercises (like Lingvist or Clozemaster), higher ratio L2 Spanish (reading) -> L1 native/English translations (=not that much RECALL testing), reduced typing replaced by multiple-choice (with the last code updates even on the web portal)

Quote: Vocabulary +1000 words

Any beginner / basic / introduction / elementary course will do, e.g.:

Alternative available PASSIVE approaches

Audio courses

Review: https://language101.com/reviews/pimsleur/

Measure your challenge success

I am not sure if 40 days is too short or 3-4 (6+) months would be better to see a good progression and not to make the specific failure to be too impatient and do the wrong measurements?!?

  • Lonely Planet phrasebook (I have not used it yet: Does it have additional audio?)

But if you try to understand the texts and audio from the RoughGuide or Lonely Planet phrasebook it could be a good thing to measure your personal success, same with "50 languages".

The audio phrases from RoughGuides sound a bit more complicated to me (I do not have the PDF eBook; pronunciation of Portuguese EU/Portugal variant is also a lot more difficult than Portuguese Brazil).

If you want to buy any Books / eBooks it would be IMHO a really good thing to have the text in front of you in parallel while you are listening to the audio!

I do not think that I would have been successful with those in my first 3-4, 6 or even 12 months...but please make your own judgement as the more direct Spanish audio (not any swallowed syllables) should be - theoretically - better understandable than European Portuguese ;)

A little warning about Duolingo ahead:

  • Duolingo trees are built for the long-term committment:
    I really believe that! I have been doing this for 2,5 years.
    I know where I roughly was after 3-4 or 12 to 18 months and that after all that time I still do not speak (having conversations) or listen to native content (Podcasts, videos, TV shows,...).

  • Ein Duolingo Baum fühlt sich oft wie ein "Faß ohne jeglichen Boden" an!

  • My EN->Portuguese course (69 skills, 406 lessons) took me one year to complete it
    (pre-crown era, regular reviews, Memrise flashcards in parallel, Memrise 1-7 courses, a bit 50languages+Mondly in addition).

The updated EN-PT tree has now 91 skills and 463 lessons (French contributor A/B tree3 had 96 skills).

The course has many dedicated available "grammar skills", which you can also select and review with spaced repetition.

The new French/Spanish CEFR trees, which are aligned out around theme-oriented skills with a longer way to go with "present tense" conjugations on the greater half of the beginning of the tree are quite long (many skills, many lessons): https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/31573948/New-CEFR-aligned-courses

My math

My math (simple skill or lesson) recalculation says:

Spanish or French from English would roughly take me - as a true beginner - if I take them as slowly as I did with Portuguese (surely I had not done 4-6 hours / day, not even 2-3 hours):

~1,7 / 1,8 - 2,3 years

to complete on a L1 crown level (+ regular L1 skill reviews or some mixed L2-L3 pyramid crowns system for some skills).
For sure that timelime is not enough not to reach the highest L5 crown levels or L3/L4 crowns for ALL skills, if you do not use "binge learning" or "skill test-outs".

I definitely know how it feels having to re-learn 7 words x 10 lessons = ~70 words (or more) on Memrise for a full skill (=Memrise level) and being tested for those the next days.
With verbs you will have even more fun.

With Lingvist it was much easier for me to put in several hours per day across several "learning/review sessions" because of the supported cloze deletion (typing a single word, seeing and hearing the FULL Spanish sentence).

Sorry to say, but I do not have the feeling, that those quite long CEFR courses are any suitable for your 40 day challenge :-(

Maybe if you stick to the mobile tapping app and you really put into several hours per day??!??

My (Portuguese) progress after ~3-4 months

This was roughly my progress playing around with Duolingo for 3-4 months (and not multiple hours per day):


As you can see, I was not that far with learning my first Romance language, even with a classic (Non-CEFR) course and in the end I used Memrise in parallel, switched for a while courses and added 50languages (since a few weeks I learn the included phrases on Memrise with SR) and a bit of Mondly to keep going.

Having to learn too much animal and food vocabulary (which we cannot ignore or SKIP) had taken the fun away from me a bit!!

I wish you all the best with your personal challenge.
I hope you have got some new ideas and more people will join.

Best regards / Viele Grüße


Wow, that's a lot of info. I hope you didn't type all of it, but copy pasted it. :)



Nope, really nothing copy and pasted.

All written from scratch from my memory...just for you...I tried to re-arrange a few times in multiple single steps / blocks to improve readability.

For any reason I always feared that I may be suddenly losing my text in the browser text field (well, for sure this happened to me multiple times in the past years with a browser when I accidentally pressed the wrong button, e.g back or Ctrl + R) so I wanted to make sure I keep an instant text BACKUP in Notepad and better to save it multiple times ;)

I hope my text layout is at least readable...just let me know if you think I can improve anything or need to further split it into multiple (shorter) blocks...


Wow, I am out of words, mate. Thank you very much for all the effort! I will take a look closer at the stuff. For the timebeing I will stick to my plan - as it is already a mouthful of things to do. :))) And also I am a very simple man and usually a brute force for learning - learn or die learning kind of approach.


Broski, I come back to your post a week later. And it is fabtastic, I did not quite grasp the importance of it back then. Thank you very much for the very useful tips!


But I am planning on using some of the materials you've put at a later stage of my challenge - as of week 3, I think.


İts alot of info thanks for all dude , i read alot of it i guess it is very helpful for learn any language and not just spanish , it's very fantastic , helpful tips , good luck :)



  • week one - vocabulary +400
  • week two - vocabulary +650; grammar - present tense + one past tense. Couldn't do more physically. :)
  • week #3 - starts today. Let me tell you this - it is harder than I was expecting it to be. :)))

  • 1391

Hope you reach your goals! When I found out in 2018 that I would be able to take a trip to Brazil this past summer, I started learning Portuguese. I had studied Spanish several years in school and had worked on it with my children and there are some similarities in sentence structure and some words, much of it is different. I could not speak fluently in the language while there, but could get my point across enough as needed and the nationals told me my accent is very good. Thankfully, though, we had very good interpreters. One humorous thing that happened - our hotel key didn't work and I went to tell the people at the desk. An interpreter heard and rattled off a lot of words to tell the desk clerk. I said that I would not have used so many words. The other interpreter asked how I would have said it and I responded, "A chave nao trabalha" to which she replied, "That would work." So, my language is rudimentary but effective in a pinch. I am continuing my study although considering switching to Spanish because we have many Spanish speakers in our community. The problem now? I know more Portuguese now and it's confusing.


Oh I understand you so well! I know French and people told me that it would be easy to learn Spanish, but I find it very confusing sometimes. As many words sound the same but have different meaning...


No 40 day update? I was curious about your progress.

[deactivated user]

    Good luck!


    Sharing some of my progress with you, guys: https://youtu.be/lLlrYe4MV78


    this is a great idea

    Learn Spanish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.