My Experience and Tips Learning Spanish (after one month)

As of this writing, I am on a family trip to Spain—a trip that unexpectedly got extended for me after I caught COVID-19. Catching a disease during a vacation is an awful experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but there is a silver lining. My parents were already going to stay in Spain longer than me and my sister, which means I am staying for a few more days and get extra time to practice speaking Spanish in a place where it’s the language of the majority. (Actually, my trip has been in the Catalan-speaking part of Spain, but Spanish is just as common in the major cities like Barcelona.)

Note that the tips in this blog post don’t just apply to learning Spanish. They apply to learning any language! Also note that I will use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) a few times in this post: the sound represented by a letter surrounded by slashes means what you probably think it does, unless otherwise stated.

My Prior Impression of Spanish

I’m no stranger to learning foreign languages. For one thing, English isn’t the only language I learned since I was a baby. German is my mother tongue in a literal sense: it’s my mother’s native language, and while my German vocabulary isn’t as fluent as in English, I’d say my skills in it are still pretty good. I also learned French extensively in school, and though my French skills could use some work these days, I spoke it a few times during my trip because some strangers I encountered didn’t know English but could speak French. I even took Chinese classes during high school for a while, but I don’t remember much of the language aside from a few words and phrases, so I don’t count it. Learning languages runs in my family too: my parents met in a Russian college class, and my grandfather on my mom’s side was a French teacher, for a few examples.

Because of all this prior experience, I had often viewed Spanish as a boring language; the one that you learn if you need a foreign language credit at school and want a quick A. I imagined Spanish wouldn’t need any real effort to pick up, especially because in the United States, some signs are in both English and Spanish. But once I learned of this trip last month, I decided to take some time to learn the basics of the language in earnest, and I got much deeper into it than I would have thought. It’s also a much more fascinating language than I expected, and I’ll soon go over that.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 38: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils + Leap of Faith

Introduction

< Part 37 | Part 38 | Part 39 >

Season 4, Episodes 19-20

If you know how much I like Sweetie Belle, you won’t be surprised to know my review of For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils is going to be a long one. Not a record breaker, but it’s up there.

Also, greetings from Spain! As of this post’s publication, I am in there right now, though I had written it a few weeks prior. This is unrelated to MLP, but I have taken it upon myself to learn Spanish since a month before the trip, and I’m having a lot more fun learning it than I would have thought. I may publish a blog post about learning the language in the future.


Season 4 Episode 19: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils

In five words: Sweetie Belle nearly ruins Rarity.

Premise: Jealous of all the attention her sister Rarity is getting over her, Sweetie Belle destroys the crucial stitch in her sister’s dress for Sapphire Shores, but then she has a dream where Princess Luna shows her what would happen if she doesn’t turn back.

Detailed run-through:

Before I begin, I need to make something loud and clear: This episode is not called “For Whom the Sweetie Bell Toils”. You have no idea how much it drives me crazy when people get the name of this episode wrong. I swear there are some people who know how to spell Sweetie Belle’s name correctly but not the name of this episode, and it annoys me so much.

I love Sweetie Belle so much. She’s just such an appealing character.

Anyway, now that I’m done complaining about something extremely minor that no one cares about, it’s time for me to dive into this episode and pick apart an extremely minor detail that no one cares about!

This episode starts with Glasses Rarity (remember, she’s Rarity but wearing glasses) preparing dresses for Sapphire Shores’ concert, while Sweetie Belle is extremely excited to help out and immediately brings out any materials that Rarity so much as considers using. The second material Rarity mentions is sequins, and Sweetie Belle grabs a bowl of them only to clumsily slip, and some of the sequins land on her tongue. Rarity then uses magic to lift them off, apparently not at all worried that some of them may have Sweetie Belle’s germs due to landing on her tongue. Does she trust that Sweetie Belle keeps proper hygiene? Does she know magic spells that can instantly cleanse any object of others’ germs? There’s lots of possibilities, but it would probably be more relevant to talk about how eager Sweetie Belle is to help with making dresses. She’s so determined to make Rarity proud and be even a fraction as good at making dresses as she is, and her desperation to be in the spotlight reaches a breaking point early into this episode.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 37: Somepony to Watch Over Me + Maud Pie

Introduction

< Part 36 | Part 37 | Part 38 >

Season 4, Episodes 17-18


Season 4 Episode 17: Somepony to Watch Over Me

In five words: Apple Bloom struggles with trust.

Premise: Apple Bloom is left to watch over Sweet Apple Acres while the rest of her family is gone, but Applejack frustratingly won’t stop being overprotective. Apple Bloom thus sets out on her own to prove herself capable of being on her own.

Detailed run-through:

To start the episode, Apple Bloom and her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders listen in on an unintelligible conversation between her immediate family, then Granny Smith breaks the good news: Apple Bloom has been deemed old enough to watch over Sweet Apple Acres on her own for the afternoon. Apple Bloom keeps up a serious image through this big decision, but as soon as she thinks her family can’t hear her, she and the other two Crusaders break into excitement. This scene establishes the episode as one focused on the difficulties of growing up and gaining your family’s trust, an experience that’s familiar to many viewers of the show. To younger viewers, this episode is likely to be immediately relatable; to older viewers, it’ll more likely bring back older memories, or maybe even remind them of their own children or younger family members.

While the other Apples prepare for their journey to deliver pies to some dangerous places, Applejack gives her sister a long, detailed list of chores and instructions to take care of. Here’s where I’ll address probably the most common criticism of this episode: Applejack being extremely overbearing.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 36: Twilight Time + It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies

Introduction

< Part 35 | Part 36 | Part 37 >

Season 4, Episodes 15-16

Looking at the lineup of season 4 episodes left for me to analyze, here are the ones that I’m the most excited to go through:

  • Episode 18, Maud Pie (because I think Maud Pie is awesome)
  • Episode 19, For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils (because I think Sweetie Belle is cool)
  • Episodes 25-26, Twilight’s Kingdom (the absolutely epic season finale)

The rest of the remaining season 4 episodes I’m not nearly as excited to go through; I’ll have fun with them for sure, but the really exciting ones are listed above. And then when I get through season 5, I am looking forward to analyzing pretty much every episode of the season. You can expect my season 5 reviews to be some of the most long-winded ones yet.


Season 4 Episode 15: Twilight Time

As with several other episodes involving the Cutie Mark Crusaders, this one contains spoilers for midway through season 5. Also a few for the season 4 finale. Plus a bit of early season 6.

In five words: Crusaders exploit Twilight’s big name.

Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders come to Twilight Sparkle to help them learn skills, but they get carried away in using Twilight’s princess status to their advantage.

Detailed run-through:

We haven’t been to Twilight’s place that often in season 4. It sort of feels nostalgic being in here now.
Also, I like how this scene teases the mystery of the chest with six keys.

This episode starts with the Cutie Mark Crusaders at Twilight Sparkle’s place practicing skills they want to learn: Sweetie Belle with magic, Scootaloo with assembling a unicycle, and Apple Bloom with brewing potions. Each of the Crusaders is at least partly hoping to get their cutie mark through these activities, and they’re all reluctant to read detailed instructions. I think there’s something interesting to analyze from each Cutie Mark Crusader’s choice of activity to learn.

For Sweetie Belle, I’m not sure what the common fan consensus is on how long it usually takes unicorns to learn magic, but my view is as follows. Unicorns typically learn magic through tons of practice, and Sweetie Belle never had much reason to use magic while growing up. But now that she’s getting older, she feels that it’s her duty as a unicorn to properly learn magic, and through enough determination, she admirably figures it out by the end of this episode.

But while Sweetie Belle’s motive is to rectify her lack of a fundamental unicorn skill, the other two Crusaders are pursuing activities that relate more to their usual interests. Scootaloo wants to branch out her interest in athletic stunts by assembling vehicles on her own, while Apple Bloom, the one who perpetually flits between various interests, wants to hone in her potion-making interest a little more.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 35: Simple Ways + Filli Vanilli

Introduction

< Part 34 | Part 35 | Part 36 >

Season 4, Episodes 13-14

I had said in an announcement post that I would probably go on a decently long hiatus after finishing my review of Simple Ways. And I did go on a hiatus for nine days (several of which I spent extremely sick), but it was short enough that it didn’t interrupt my post series’ weekly queue.


Season 4 Episode 13: Simple Ways

In five words: Rarity bends herself for love.

Premise: A travel writer named Trenderhoof who Rarity has a crush on visits Ponyville, but when he ends up obsessing over Applejack, Rarity tries to overhaul her personality in response.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with a Ponyville town meeting where it is announced who will get to be the master of ceremonies for a festival celebrating the town’s founding, and Rarity wins. This sets up the premise for the episode and gives Rarity a reason to meet her celebrity crush face-to-face.

You know what? I’m going to skip to the part where Rarity reveals her crush on Trenderhoof, a travel writer who she hopes to impress during the Ponyville Days Festival.

I’ve heard that some people criticize this episode for focusing on romance, supposedly because Lauren Faust didn’t want the show to have any, which is total nonsense because Rarity has had crushes since the start of the show. I think the real reason this episode’s focus on romance gets flack is one of two things: (1) Twilight Sparkle’s romance arc with Flash Sentry in Equestria Girls left a sour taste in fans’ mouths, and they doubted the show’s potential to have good romance arcs in the future, or (2) fans don’t want canon material to intervene with their favorite ships. After Prince Blueblood turned out to be a disappointment, it makes sense that Rarity would set her eyes on a new love interest, who she’s revealing at long last. I really don’t see the issue with Rarity having a crush in this episode. It’s not like Trenderhoof was an already existing character; he’s introduced as Rarity’s love interest, and he’s, well… not much more than that. Rarity gives some exciting descriptions of the guy, saying that he’s good at predicting trends and wrote an article about Las Pegasus before the place got popular, but once we see him in person, he doesn’t get much of a personality. But I’ll get to that.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 34: Three’s a Crowd + Pinkie Pride

Introduction

< Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35 >

Season 4, Episodes 11-12


Season 4 Episode 11: Three’s a Crowd

In five words: Discord’s trickery leads to irony.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle and Cadance plan on spending an ordinary day together without Equestria’s fate in the balance, but Discord gets in the way of their times by purporting to be ill.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle getting exciting news: a letter from Cadance confirming that the two will get to spend some quality time together as sisters-in-law this weekend. Then Fluttershy barges in sharing some exciting news: she’s been given a chance to observe these tiny creatures called Breezies, which serves both as leadup to It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies a few episodes later and as a reason for her to be absent from most of this episode, since Fluttershy is normally the one who keeps Discord’s eccentric ways in check. It’s interesting that the Breezies are being teased ahead of time, but it also makes sense since those creatures originated from one of the older MLP cartoons, and some fans would no doubt be excited to see them return. And finally, Pinkie Pie barges in sharing some exciting news: she got a flyer for a sale for used, broken patio furniture. This is nothing more than her being comically zany, breaking up the pace a little before this episode’s plot begins.

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Update on my MLP posts + life stuff in general

The past week has been a weird week for me.

While my real-life job has been on stagnation, I spent much of the past week blitzing through the Homestuck reread I mentioned in this post, especially in the last few days leading up to 4/13 (the last day of the reread). That, and blasting my way through five MLP episode reviews,* until I cleared the halfway point of season 4 earlier today. Writing all those reviews has been fun, but it’s now left me feeling very exhausted. As such, I want to cool off for quite a while before I review the second half of season 4.

* Pinkie Apple Pie, Rainbow Falls, Three’s a Crowd, Pinkie Pride, and Simple Ways if you’re curious.

I don’t want to get too personal in this blog, but I’ll just say my mental health has been a mess through this whole year so far, largely due to work frustration. I want my personal projects to be fun side things I do as my life goes smoothly, not something I turn to to avoid confronting problems in life. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a show that I hold a deep attachment to, one it took me a long time to finally own up to. But I know that obsessing with a work of media can be dangerous, and I don’t want my relationship with that show to collapse or be soured like it was in 2014. Nor do I want myself to get so burnt out with this episode review project that I pause it for a year or more. So for the next month or so, I’d like to confront some of these life problems and either make big changes to my job or find a new one that isn’t as frustrating, because I know I’m at an age where motivation to move forward in life has to come from myself. Not to mention that I want to be in a good mood when I go on a family trip to Spain in a month, so that I don’t feel bummed out when I arrive back home a week later.

As for personal projects outside of work over the next month, nothing in life gives me the same burst of joy as working on music. I’ll try to focus on that a bit more while I cool off and try to sort things out in life. Another thing I’d like to get started on soon is updating the content on my dinosaur of a large number site called Pointless Large Number Stuff to move to the new Google Sites, since I kind of have no choice now.

See you soon!

Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 33: Pinkie Apple Pie + Rainbow Falls

Introduction

< Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 >

Season 4, Episodes 9-10

I may as well say here that since writing my review of Rarity Takes Manehattan which came out last week, I have kind of maybe gotten obsessed with Coco Pommel and how adorable she is. She hits a sweet spot of character cuteness by being meek and cutesy but not a full-out exaggerated smushy baby. After so many years, I finally know what it’s like to fixate on a minor character in MLP, like so many fans are prone to do. Maybe it’s weird for me to say, but I think part of the charm of this show is that every character, no matter how minor or trivial, has some set of fans out there who think they’re the coolest thing ever. Slice of Life a season from now is a celebration of that fact, and I plan on going as hard as I possibly can when reviewing it.


Season 4 Episode 9: Pinkie Apple Pie

In five words: Genetic relationship cemented as ambiguous.

Premise: Pinkie Pie discovers evidence that she may be distantly related to Applejack, and she sets out on a journey with Applejack’s family to discover if she really is.

Detailed run-through:

You know what I find incredibly satisfying? When the very first scene of a MLP episode has something I can pick apart in depth, so that I don’t need to start with some empty fluff. This episode is a good example thereof.

Pinkie Pie: Whatcha doin’?
Twilight Sparkle: AAA!
Pinkie Pie: “AAA!” yourself! But that doesn’t answer my question, silly.
Twilight Sparkle: Just some genealogical research.
Pinkie Pie: Ohhhhh. (falls out of bookcase)
Pinkie Pie: (whispers to Spike) I don’t know what that is.
Spike: Genealogy is the study of family history! You know, where ponies come from, and who they’re related to.

While Rarity Takes Manehattan is one of the most adult-oriented episodes so far, by which I mean one more easily digestible for adults than for children, this one feels like a blast from the past with the strong amounts of slapstick humor and Pinkie Pie not knowing what a complex word means, leading Spike to explain it as though this were an educational TV series. By which I mean a show that was always unambiguously educational and didn’t just have an educational mandate of some sorts marked by an “e/i” symbol that was dropped after season 1. Not that this is a bad thing at all—it’s nice for MLP to vary the pace with its episodes.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 32: Bats! + Rarity Takes Manehattan

Introduction

< Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 >

Season 4, Episodes 7-8


Season 4 Episode 7: Bats!

In five words: Fluttershy becomes one-off vampire.

(Arguably I could have squeezed one more word in, but if I were to count two words connected by a hyphen as one word, I would be able to cheat very easily.)

Premise: Sweet Apple Acres has been run with an infestation of a certain animal species—I bet you can’t guess which one. Applejack wants to get rid of the bats, but Fluttershy doesn’t. An agreed-upon solution leads to surprising consequences.

Detailed run-through:

She was so excited and proud, and THIS is what she’s met with.

This episode starts with Applejack confidently waiting for apple bucking day to begin. The moment the sun rises, she gets right to it and bucks some apples, basking in their delight for a few seconds until they turn out to all be rotten and mushy. It turns out that the nasty vampire fruit bats have returned. The intro to this episode sets Applejack as the proud traditionalist who likes things the way they are, in contrast to Fluttershy who she gets into a moral debate with.

Applejack rings the bell at her barn, saying this is a code red at Sweet Apple Acres, so the rest of the Mane 6 and Spike come aboard. It’s weird that Applejack’s immediate family aren’t the ones who come, but the episode gives a justification for that later on—a justification that allows this episode to focus on the Mane 6’s dynamics instead of the Apple family.

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Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 31: Flight to the Finish + Power Ponies

Introduction

< Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 >

Season 4, Episodes 5-6


Season 4 Episode 5: Flight to the Finish

In five words: Bullying gets better of Scootaloo.

Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders prepare an opening routine for the Equestria Games, but when Diamond Tiara mocks Scootaloo for her inability to fly, they’re discouraged from going further.

Detailed run-through:

Been a while since we last were at the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ school.

To start this episode, Cheerilee brings two special guests to the class she teaches: Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash. They announce that the kids may get to take a part in the Equestria Games, specifically through a competition where they each need to come up with a flag-carrying routine, and the winning team gets to perform it in the games. This is the point where I remember that the Equestria Games are the other overarching plot of season 4—the one that doesn’t involve finding the keys for the mysterious chest, that is. But those plots do intersect in Rainbow Falls, which is a few episodes from now.

Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash play off each other in fun ways as they explain the rules of the opening routine. Ms. Harshwhinny insists on keeping a reserved, professional attitude, while Rainbow Dash can’t control her excitement and brags about the time she carried the flag as a filly, which Scootaloo of course swoons over. When Ms. Harshwhinny mentions that Rainbow Dash will accompany the winning team to the Crystal Empire, the Crusaders’ faces light up one by one. To them, this is their chance to see the place they got a taste of when Spike wrangled them up in babysitting antics! And opportunities to go such places don’t come easy for them, being fillies and all.

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