If you’ve been attending an Italian evening course in your town, or were about to set off to Europe for an Italian course in Bologna or another Italian city, a rethink might be required. No more classes for a while, course cancelled – what a shame!
My neighbour is a lifelong, body-building, gym rat, married to a lovely lady who, when not house-wifing, runs high-energy aerobics classes. They have two children, one of which, the daughter, is also very fit and sporty. So imagine the frustration, as they, their neighbours, their city, and in fact, the whole of Italy is now locked down, unable to go to the gym and lift weights, take an exercise class, or run in the park.
Home workouts, though, are still an option! So we’ll sit on our porch of an afternoon, enjoying a little sunshine and fresh air, entertained by grunts or pacey workout music from the other side of the fence. Good for them, I say, though I won’t be following their healthy example (instead, we wait until it’s dark and take a walk around the block, a transgression that feels amazingly good after a day stuck in the house!)
Beh, anyway, you can see where this is going, I’m sure. Here’s how you can use your extra time at home to build your Italian muscles, so to speak:
Lockdown Italian Workout
To warm up, read/listen to the bulletins of ‘easy’ Italian news at EasyItalianNews.com. Don’t worry about actually understanding what you’re reading/hearing – you’re just doing this to tune in, to get your brain in the right place for what’s to come (before you begin, read the instructions on how to use the website here).
To build strength, browse one or two news stories on http://www.rainews.it/, the idea being to find out what’s going on, what conversations people are having in Italy, which could be very different (or the same) as what’s being talked about where you are. No dictionaries in the gym, please! Put it away! Building strength means using your mental muscles, WITHOUT artificial aids.
To work on endurance, some cardio! Listen, for as long as you can keep it up without collapsing in a sweaty heap, to live Italian radio, for example, https://www.raiplayradio.it/ (there’s also a free app called ‘RaiPlay Radio’, which you’ll find in the Android and probably Apple app stores).
In fact, why not have your smartphone, tablet or computer tuned in the whole day? Listen while you’re doing other things, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, or just sitting there going quietly crazy. If you have bluetooth headphones, you can keep your smartphone in your apron pocket streaming live Italian radio as you go about your chores, with no cables to get tangled up in.
Don’t understand much of what’s going on at first? That’s because you’re the ten-stone weakling, with flabby arms and unfashionable sneakers on her first day at the gym. Keep showing up, though, and in a month or two you’ll be one of those toned goddesses intimidating the newbies.
To cool down after your exertions, what about a nice story or film? The other night, Stefi and I watched our first ever film in Spanish, with Spanish subtitles. All the way through! It was ‘El hoyo’, on Netflix, and I strongly recommend it!
Films too scary? Then you could download an ‘easy reader’ at a suitable level from our online shop. There’s a FREE ‘easy reader’ and a FREE ‘parallel text’, so you can get an idea of the format and type of material without buying anything. Slump in your favorite chair and relax your mental muscles gradually with the .pdf ebooks (or print them, if you must.)
And that’s the end of today’s workout. You should, by this point, be tired but pleased with yourself! But did you notice there was no grammar? There’s a reason for that.
What you did, or will do, is a ‘skills’ workout. Now everyone knows how to read a grammar explanation and maybe do an exercise or two. Of course they do – it’s how we learnt at school. And most of us are familiar with the sensation of subsequently not understanding a word of what’s said to us in the language we’re supposedly learning, DESPITE having studied the grammar, lexical set, or whatever.
Invariably, the problem is too much theory and not enough practice.
If you want to be a weight-lifter, and so have muscles like Guido’s (or his wife and daughter, for that matter), you’re going to have to put the work in. It’s no good just sitting at home READING about having the sort of body that the whole beach will admire – you have to actually pump the iron, feel the burn, break through the pain barrier!
Aim for ninety percent practice, ten percent theory (for which there’s masses of free stuff on the club website, or our ‘Italian Workout’ series of self-study workbooks) and you won’t go far wrong. Most people do the opposite, then complain that the metaphorical ‘six-pack’ is slow to appear.
And speaking? THAT’s a skill, you point out.
Indeed it is, though speaking is a lot harder to incorporate in a free workout like the one above. Personally, I do three online conversation sessions each week, one for each of the languages I’m learning, excluding French (if there are any French teachers out there who’d like a new online student, do get in touch!)
The half-hour or hour spent interacting with my teacher, or conversation parter, is a different kind of workout – I think of it more like a martial arts session, or something like that. In a fight, you have to react quickly, there’s constant change, which you might not be able to control. Success or failure is immediately obvious, and embarassment is a possibility. But the feeling, when you ‘win’, makes it worth the risk!
There are sites out there that offer conversation exchanges, if you can be bothered to seek them out. But for those with cash, a quicker and more reliable way to incorporate live one-on-one action (sorry, that’s more of a porn metaphor) into your Italian learning, paying a professional (!) is an obvious choice.
Since Thursday last week we’ve sold ninety-seven packs of ten thirty-minute Skype lessons (to about eighty students, some exercise addicts bought several), at a discounted price of just £12 per 30-minute lesson (£150 for 10 lessons, less 20% with coupon code Spring-Sale-2020 comes to £120, so £12 per lesson). And we expect to sell many more, as a lot of our regulars will leave it until the very last minute, next Sunday night.
But paid-for or free, and this is contra-logical I know, the actual speaking part is not, in my humble opinion, a top priority (when is why I haven’t got around to taking French lessons yet). If you can UNDERSTAND what you hear, and are following the conversation (online, on radio, on TV) in the community of language users that you plan at some point to join, then you are preparing yourself very effectively for eventually joining in.
Put listening, rather than speaking, first and you’ll have mental muscles and endurance to participate when the time does, one day, come. Do it the other way around, on the other hand, so study the grammar, the words, practice expressing your thoughts BUT IGNORE THE LISTENING/READING, and you’ll find your future conversations with Italian speakers don’t last much longer than a sentence or two. You’ll initiate a conversation, but be unable to understand what is said back to you. That’s not a good look…
So there you go, your ‘Lockdown Italian Skills Workout’, mostly reading and listening, and mostly free.
I hope it keeps you safe and sane at home in these uncertain times, building your beach body for when the world is right once more and you’ll be able to show off to lesser mortals (and come and visit us in Italy!)
- Coupon code Spring-Sale-2020 will save you 20% on everything, IF you remember to copy and paste it into your shopping cart
- The ‘Spring Sale’ promotion ends at midnight on Sunday 29th of March 2020. The next equivalent offer won’t be until July, so stock up!
- There’s no minimum or maxium spend, and you can use the coupon as often as you wish while the offer lasts
- Coupon code Spring-Sale-2020 is good also for items which are already discounted, such as ebook multipacks or packs of online Italian lesson credits
- Pay via Amazon, Paypal (they process credit cards for us – you don’t need an account) or bank transfer (not advised unless you have a UK bank account)