I get a lot of emails from club members.
Fortunately, I once invested a few pennies in a second-hand ‘teach yourself touch-typing’ book, so replying isn’t that onerous…
In fact it can be interesting, and a pleasant distraction from ‘real’ work.
Below are some emails that came in after Wednesday’s article ‘Listening Comprehension, Lesson #1, Manage Your Expectations‘, along with my replies.
You’re welcome to comment if you have something to add.
To do that, just click through to the article on our website and scroll down to the end to have your say: https://onlineitalianclub.com/a-peep-in-the-postbag/
If you’ve commented before, your comment should be visible immediately. If not, the first time only, I will manually moderate it, to check for spammy links and suchlike.
I found that just listening doesn’t help either. What I’ve done is listen to material I can also read. So for example, I listen to intermediate short stories by Olly on audio books and then I read it aloud and listen again. My comprehension increases. I do the same with news in slow Italian. Listen and read first time and then just listen. Great for vocabulary building as well.
Graded material and slow audio is useful for the reasons you describe, Lisa.
But how valid is it in preparing for ‘real-life’ listening?
Real people don’t speak slowly and there’s no transcript.
Think about it. You’re training yourself for a situation that only exists in a classroom.
The fact that ‘just listening’ hasn’t helped you is for the reasons I described in my article. You have unhelpful expecations and/or haven’t done enough of it.
It’s helped me tremendously!!! I couldn’t even tell you why or how exactly. But I think most people get stumped with the listening comprehension and make that the last skill to accomplish in a foreign language acquisition. But if you think about it, as a child you first learn to comprehend spoken language, then you learn to speak, then read and last skill is writing. In teaching foreign languages, it’s often reversed. For me it’s been very helpful, so I offer it as a suggestion. It has translated into a real life skill. I’ve seen a real jump in my comprehension. Maybe it doesn’t work for you.
I read with interest your suggestions regarding “listening”.
At this point in my studies… I know that my reading comprehension has significantly improved, and I would say that my listening skills are getting better. I can write in italian but it takes me some time… my big problem is speaking… I get brain freeze, tongue tied, you name it….
What suggestions do you have?
I have been taking an in person class for about 18 weeks every year for about 4 years now. I read your posts, listen faithfully to easy italian news.com, use your online italian website, I did an online italian course last summer, which involved a lot of reading and listening… essentially I try to do something almost every day in Italian.
Still I feel like a real dope when I need to speak… HELP!
I’ve just completed my 101st hour of online Swedish conversation lessons, Annalinda.
I started at more or less zero. Now I can mostly get across my ideas. Maybe not well, or fluently, but I can communicate. If I had to live or work in Sweden, I’d survive, and from this basis, improve quickly.
But it’s taken me a year and cost perhaps a couple of thousand pounds…
Individual lessons focusing on conversation are a good solution. If you already have a reasonable knowledge of the language, you should notice a difference after a few hours, and a significant difference after 10-30 hours.
If you try it, insist that you DON’T want to study grammar, texts, etc. Focus on speaking.
Good morning, Daniel!
Thought I would see what you thought of exactly my situation. In 1979 I spent one semester of college studying beginning Italian. In spring 1980 I was blessed to be able to spend a semester in Florence, studying Art History. We lived with Italian families and also had intensive classes. At the end of that time I felt conversationally fluent, or mostly anyway. However, fast forward to 2019 and a 59-year-old woman, working full time, with a husband. Should I be studying as if I never heard or read any Italian, or should I be starting out further ahead. BTW, I still have both my first and second level Italian books, as well as a comic book in Italian, plus my trusty English to Italian dictionary (which I took to dinner with me for many weeks in Florence).
No hurry but wondering what your thoughts might be on this.
If you have the time and money, take some online lessons and let the teacher guide you. If you don’t like the teacher’s advice, or the teacher, switch until you find one that works better for you.
Assuming you are not ready for the above, I’d start listening and reading to EasyItalianNews.com (see the advice on how here: https://easyitaliannews.com/how-to-use-easyitaliannews-com/ ) with the intention of reactivating what you used to know. That’s usually a fairly rapid process.
In parallel, or later, follow up the ‘easy listening’ with targeted self-study (whatever you think needs fixing, supplementing), then branch out into authentic materials as well.
As I said in the post, it’s a question of putting in the hours. Find one useful thing that you don’t mind doing regularly, later add something else, and keep expanding and improving what you’re doing. Evaluate your progress now and then and adjust your ‘portfoglio’ of study activities accordingly.
Hope that helps!
Thank you – you are very gracious to take the time to help folks you will never meet! 😊 Don’t have the money right now for lessons, but I can certainly follow your advice on listening, listening, listening!
I’ll keep you posted, and thanks again!
Good article Daniel. My only additional thought is to encourage the re reading and re listening to wring every last bit of info out. I get value by re reading elementary books. ( not just the smug factor) but seeing what I learnt actually in use. Unfortunately I spent way too long learning grammar and neglected the essential components of language learning ie speaking and reading. Now playing catch-up!!
Yes, but ‘wringing every last bit of info out’ is the opposite of normal reading/listening behaviour, don’t you think?
‘Efficient’ reading means focusing on the main points, and going into the details and subsidiary information only if/when necessary.
Trump said this at the border, yada yada, next article!
My husband and I thank you very much for your words of wisdom. We have probably wasted a lot of time learning Italian grammar and are suffering the consequences. We take your words to heart and will try to listen more.
Wise words of your own, Delphine.
Find something that you can bear to listen to and do it regularly. You’ll get there in time!
Daniel – Just a note to tell you how much I appreciate this blog. I have been to Italy several times (esp when I was with the Canadian Forces stationed in Germany 1986-90) I grew up in Ontario – Canada and we had a few Sicilian families in the neighborhood – so I have been studying Italian on-and-off for more than forty years. Still not being able to use it on any steady or consistent basis causes severe lapses in memory. The teaching system you use, especially with the various levels of learning, is perfect for me. I recently bought one of your Workout on-line booklets which has helped as well. I will be making another trip to Italy in April (could be my last one given my age) so I hope you can keep this website going. Again, thanks so much and Felice Anno Nuovo.
By the way – you often start your daily letter with ‘Buondi’ – I am not familiar with that, although I could venture a guess. Can you explain it ?
Nice to hear from you, Jeff. Forty years is a long time to study a language, but it’s not that rare. In fact, for anyone who doesn’t live in the country where the language is spoken (as I do, and so don’t bother…), it’s a more or less lifelong process. I’ve been learning Turkish on and off since 1991, for example.
I’m happy you like the website. It’s been in development since 2012, and some of the materials date back before that, so there are no plans to close it down. And writing the articles is a good way to avoid other sorts of work!
Buondì means Good Day, of course. It’s an age-old greeting, dì being a synonym of ‘giorno’ (day). Buondì is also the name of a popular snack – something like a Twinkie, perhaps, though I’ve never had either. The bank clerk in our local branch in Bologna always uses the term, as do many others around here. Italian has a lot of regional variations – it’s a little subversive, really.
It’s fun to be the impetus for one of your emails (of course, now I realize you’ve probably had that question 1000x by now =).
I REALLY REALLY appreciated what you said about not wasting time on grammar. That’s EXACTLY what I’ve been doing. And, thanks to you, I’m done (at least for a good while). Listening to radio, etc. and practicing speaking with Annarita, that’s what I’m doing!
You can always come back to grammar when your comprehension skills are better. Once you have more confidence with text, and more vocabulary, which is the likely result, you’ll find the grammar fits much more naturally into place anyhow… That’s my plan with Swedish.