Spring is here.
How do I know?
Because the cherry blossoms are blooming, the nights are getting lighter, and my bedroom wall has its first mosquito splatters of the season.
It’s not all gelato and vino living in Italy.
It gets too hot, my legs are the same colour as mozzarella (as a stranger once kindly shouted over to me on the beach) and I still don’t how to eat prawns with heads. La bella stagione is full of things that remind me I’m not made in Italy.
Despite this, I like to try and blend in – as much as my Persil white legs will let me.
Speaking the language
One thing that helps me blend in is speaking Italian. Learning the language builds an awesome bond with natives that you can’t get any other way.
Any attempt to speak the language – even if it’s just a few travel phrases – gives you an instant connection to people and their culture.
Of course, the more you speak, the stronger the connection. That’s why – even though I’ve been living here for years and can communicate comfortably – I’m always looking for ways to improve. I know that the better my Italian is, the more I can connect with Italians, and the more I’ll enjoy my life here.
So this spring, it’s out with the new and in with the old as I go back to focusing on the first language I ever learned: Italian.
Language Learning: April 2017
I’m currently learning 5 languages. To manage them all, I have 1 sprint language that I focus on intensively and 4 marathon languages that I study in a more relaxed fashion. Until June, my sprint language will be Italian.
I thought it’d be nice to have a piece of paper to certify my level in Italian, so I’ve decided to take the boss level exam in June. To help me prepare, I’ll do the following:
I’ll aim to watch an hour of Italian TV a day. I did something similar last year, but I specified which TV programmes I was going to watch beforehand. This turned out to be a schoolgirl error as I made something which should be fun into a chore. So this time, I’ll decide what to watch on a day by day basis, depending on my mood. Sometimes it’ll be highbrow stuff, like the news or political programmes, and sometimes it’ll be comedy. Or films on Netflix. By choosing my materials based on my mood, I’ll be more engaged and learn better.
I’m going to try and flood my ears with as much Italian as much as possible. While I’m walking to work, cooking or cleaning the bath, I’ll be listening to Italian podcasts. This is especially useful because I know in the listening part of the exam they often use radio interviews.
I’ve been working my way (slowly) through this pile of books on my bedside table. I’m going to try and crank up the amount of reading I get done in Italian between now and June.
I keep setting myself goals to work on my pronunciation but for some reason I’ve been struggling to get around to it. One reason could be because there are so many different things I want to try – I find it difficult to focus. I’m also a bit unsure about the best way to move forward. This month, I’m going keep it simple and do one thing at a time: I’ll focus on one sound a day from my nerdy pronunciation book (except weekends of course!)
I need to refine a few grammar points, so I’m going to do 2 exercises per day (except weekends). I don’t believe in studying grammar for grammar’s sake, so after each session I’m going to use the grammar to write some example sentences about my life – this will help me practice using what I’ve been learning in real contexts.
I’ll need to write a mini essay for the writing part, so I’m going to write 1 mini practice essay per week.
In March I completed the Add1Challenge for Chinese – an online language challenge in which I tried to improve my Chinese as much as possible in 3 months. Here’s a little snippet of me chatting to my tutor Jane after day 90.
What I did in March
I was getting a little bored of studying, so for the first 2 weeks in March I decided to create an immersion environment at home. I gave myself free reign: no structure, no routine, just whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it, as long as it was in Chinese. Obviously this meant I spent most of the time messing around on YouTube. But this worked out well: I had fun and I discovered lots of great channels and videos for learning Chinese, like Fiona Tian’s channel.
I aimed to finish my Pimsleur and Assimil courses by mid-March. I finished a little behind schedule – it actually took me to the end of March – but I got there in the end so I’m happy.
I found Chinese tough at first, but the more I learn, the more I love it! I want to keep learning at a fairly decent pace so in April, I’m going to:
- Read at least 1 graded reader story
- Take 2-3 conversation lessons per week with a tutor on italki
- Learn 15 new words per week
- Watch 1 short Chinese tutorial on YouTube per day (except weekends)
I’ve been “studying” German for an hour a day. I say this with quote marks because lately my study hour has consisted of watching German TV. But I’m feeling good about it: I’m still getting my hour of German in, my listening is improving and I’m picking up new words.
In March, I aimed to do 10 minutes of grammar a day, which I managed most days. I don’t like studying grammar out of context so I’ve been taking example sentences from TV programmes and trying to understand the grammar they used. This technique is working well for me at the moment so I’m going to keep this up in April.
French and Spanish
In March, I aimed to learn 15 words a week in both French and Spanish. This is a great number as it’s small enough to catch up with the following week if I’m too busy or I forget (which happened last week).
I’ve got loads of language stuff going on this month, so I’ve decided to take it easy with French and Spanish. I’m going to give myself carte blanche and do whatever I feel like – reading books, watching TV series, listening to podcasts – whenever I get time.
What about you? Which language are you learning at the moment? What are your plans for April?