Diminishing returns is definitely a factor now. I remember how I hit 100 hours around this time a year ago and how much my listening comprehension improved. Now, after hitting 1,000 hours and comparing myself to where I was at my last progress report of 500 hours, the difference isn't really that big. I can still follow the plot, but I still don't catch 100% of what is being said. It's more of a comprehension issue than a vocabulary one. I know most of the basic vocabulary by now, so when I go to the dictionary, it's for the lesser used words that, most of the time, are not central to the plot (in other words, I could get by without the dictionary if I had too).
I think where I actually did improve more was grammar. Specifically when to comes to the subjunctive, direct/indirect object pronouns, and reflexive verbs. I'm not saying I can now use them mistake free. Not at all. But I am starting to notice certain patterns a bit more.
I would say my pronunciation/accent got a little better too. When I repeat certain sounds, they sound more like what I hear on TV. I think my L pronunciation got a little better. Now I have to work on my N sound (the regular one, not the one with the tilde). Sometimes it just doesn't sound right when I say certain words. Also the B/V sounds. There are times when they're harder, and there are other times when they're softer.
I haven't been reading much, but I'm positive I would be a lot further along had I spent more time reading. Particularly with grammar.
In terms of motivation, it's still there (I am ahead of schedule after all). However, I am starting to worry I'll run out of material. A lot of my hours came from shows like El Chavo and La familia P. Luche. A lot of the episodes I've seen more than once. I still like them, but they're not as funny the fourth time around. I really hope some more new stuff comes along to catch my interest.
One thing that helped a lot more than I thought it would was music.
I remember other language sites saying listening to music in your target language is a good idea, but I thought, come one... it's the same lines over and over again.
But that's precisely what makes music so effective. You get the lyrics stuck in your head. And you know what? Sometimes the lyrics contain...
There were plenty of times when I tried to come up with a grammatically correct thought in my head and pulled straight from song lyrics. It's a much more natural and intuitive method than trying to apply grammar rules you read about in a textbook.
One last thing about language learning in general that I noticed... 1,000 hours sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. I know there is a debate going on about whether adults can truly learn a second language to the level that a child can. But think about this hypothetical, but realistic scenario...
An adult and his or her small child immigrate to a country with a different language. Although the adult is immersed in the new language on paper, he will probably spend the majority of his time hanging around people who speak his native language, at least at first. Let's say he decides to make an effort to learn the new language. He takes a class twice a week, one hour each. He also spends an average of about one hour every day watching TV in the new language (similar to what I'm doing). This equates to 9 hours a week, or 468 hours a year. He interacts with natives sometimes, but since adults are mature, they don't make fun of him for speaking with an accent or saying things wrong.
The child enrolls in school with teachers and other kids who speak the new language. He is in school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. He also hangs out in the playground for another hour after school with his friends. Let's assume that school is in session 2/3 of the year. This equates to around 1,200 hours a year. He also averages 2 hours a day, every day watching cartoons. Another 730 hours. This alone comes out to almost 2,000 hours a year. I'm not even counting the homework he does in the new language, or what he does in the summer. The 2,000 hours is a very conservative estimate.
And keep in mind that kids, unlike mature adults, will make fun of each other if they speak in an accent or say things wrong. Talk about the incentive to get things right.
Whether or not there is in fact something physiological that prevents adults from learning a second language to the same level as a child is not something I'm going to get into here. But I will say that a child will end up putting in way more hours than an adult. Make of this what you will...
Until next time.