The SuperCoco Blog

The Art & Science of Learning

How I came to love conjugation drills

The unexpected pleasures of drilling Spanish verbs I definitely didn't see this coming: I've been using our new conjugation trainer for a few weeks—and actually loving it. As I’ve written before, I’m a staunch believer in learning in context—with engaging content. Conjugation drills are about as boring and out-of-context as you can get. What happened? How to be an effective language learner Exclusive 5-part course when you join our newsletter Waiting for the need No doubt the first key to loving conjugation drills was waiting until I really felt the need.

Continue reading

A year of learning Spanish with SuperCoco

Eating my own dog food SuperCoco is an iPhone app for learning Spanish through conversations. I am SuperCoco’s developer and I’ve been eating my own dog food—learning Spanish exclusively through SuperCoco—for almost a year. Today I took the Cervantes Institute prueba de nivel (placement exam) and scored a high B1 (between B1.3-B1.4), placing me squarely in Intermediate level1. In this article, I’ll give my thoughts on what this result means; more importantly, I want to assess what’s working well in SuperCoco and where it still needs improvement.

Continue reading

Stop using flashcards

The hard part of language learning Are flashcards a key part of your language learning strategy? In this article, I hope to convince you there's a better way. First, let’s acknowledge the smart thing about flashcards: spaced repetition. A digital flashcard system can optimize the scheduling of each card so you learn with “maximum efficiency”. But, as we’ll see, this idea is a bit misleading. In any case, there’s a much more efficient way—don’t study isolated vocabulary at all.

Continue reading

The why of SuperCoco

1. Practice using Spanish. You can acquire all sorts of test-taking knowledge and still be unable to order a cerveza. Don’t do that. We think this is the single biggest challenge in language learning—and it’s why we designed SuperCoco around having conversations. … Read more … 2. Practice speaking out loud. What good does it do to “know” Spanish, if no one can understand you? We think people underestimate how much practice it takes to get comfortable making Spanish sounds.

Continue reading

The SuperCoco way

1. Practice having conversations… We set out to build an app where you constantly practice using Spanish—by having conversations. But how can you have conversations, if you don’t know Spanish? 2. With training wheels… Imagine you could have a little angel on your shoulder. Whenever there’s some Spanish you don’t know, the angel whispers it in your ear. And since the angel knows cognitive science, it worries about your retention.

Continue reading

How to trill (or roll) the R in Spanish

Haven’t learned the tap /r/, yet? Do that first … The Spanish /rr/ sound is sometimes written with double 'rr' and sometimes single 'r'. As with the Spanish tap /r/, /rr/ has nothing to do with the English /r/ sound. Spanish /rr/ is a trill, closely related to the Spanish tap /r/. Because English has no trilled sounds, many people find the trill intimidating; but with a little practice, it is readily learned.

Continue reading

How to make the Spanish R sound

The Spanish /r/ sound is written with the letter 'r'—but don't let that fool you. The Spanish /r/ has nothing to do with the English /r/. Using your English /r/ in Spanish produces an incomprehensible accent. Fortunately, you already know how to make the Spanish /r/. 1. How to make it Say the words buddy, petty, hotter rapidly, without overly precise articulation of the d’s and t’s. Can you feel what your tongue does in the middle of each word?

Continue reading

Stages of language learning

Introduction In SuperCoco, your journey from knowing no Spanish at all to being completely fluent is divided into nine stages. These stages closely mirror the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) levels that are based on extensive empirical study and validation. These stages are helpful for setting goals and expectations. At each stage (except A0) you have the ability to converse in Spanish. But the type of conversation you’re capable of will change.

Continue reading