Hope the studying is going well.
If not, if say the weather’s too hot and you’re not feeling very motivated, well why not try something different?
For example, I was at the doctor’s office this morning and had to wait for my turn. So I spent the time browsing the news in Swedish using apps on my smartphone.
As I’ve recently started with Turkish, I’ve also installed some Turkish newspaper and TV apps, but though I can understand spoken Turkish quite well, it’s much harder to read.
With that language, I’ll start slowly – just trying to understand the ‘Latest News!’ notifications that the app sends out every hour or two: “Trump did this”, “Trump did that”…
Then later I’ll start looking at the articles, but just the headlines and photo captions at first.
Eventually I’ll actually try to read an article, though without much hope of understanding more than a few words…
Have you ever tried reading an Italian newspaper?
Hard, isn’t it?
That’s one of the reasons I started publishing simplified Italian readers, because I knew that to develop the skills and experience to read in a foreign language, it’s a big help to begin with easier materials and work up gradually.
That was how I learnt to read Italian, many years ago.
Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of material for learners of Turkish and Swedish, so I have to do the best I can with ‘authentic’ texts.
Experience helps, in particular, knowing what not to do!
One tip is this: be aware that you won’t understand much at first.
Set your goal as simply ‘looking at’ the text, perhaps reading some words or lines, rather than all of an article.
If your aim is to understand the text, as you would an article in your own language, you’ll likely fail dramatically and end up feeling demotivated.
To avoid that fate, be more realistic:
“I’ll read it, KNOWING I won’t understand much. And I’ll try again tomorrow, and the next day, knowing also that it will get easier in time.”
Manage your own expectations, set easily-achievable goals, create habits!
Another useful thing to know is that understanding tends to be partial, that is to say, it comes in ‘chunks’ (if it comes at all).
Reading and listening are processes which involve piecing meaning togther so as to get as much of the picture as possible.
You may feel that you understand ‘everything’ when you read in your own language, but you probably don’t, and certainly didn’t when you were younger. You’re just used to skipping the boring bits and to mentally filling in the gaps.
When you read in your own language, ‘good enough is good enough’. Try and have the same attitute when you read in Italian, though reading a foreign language is a much more strenuous task, one which involves working out the meaning of words from context, remembering things you perhaps half knew already, and gradually, gradually improving your skills.
Put the work in and one day, perhaps years from now, you’ll be able to read Italian almost as easily as your own native tongue.
Other than the press, have you ever tried reading a novel in Italian?
If not, I’d advise choosing a genre that’s familiar to you (crime, legal, romance, horror…), something that you know you’ll enjoy, a favorite author perhaps.
Go for easy-reading rather than anything too heavy and take it one page at a time.
In fact, finishing a page, one single page, is a good goal to start with.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand much – just read your one page, then stop. You’re done!
The first novel you read in Italian might well take you more time to complete than it took the author to write, but if you’ve chosen something that INTERESTS YOU and that’s fairly light you should get through it in the end.
Reading is an easy way to diversify your studies, to learn about what’s happening in the country where the language you’re studying is spoken, and to get experience deciphering texts.
Plus, bear in mind it could take you hundreds or even thousands of hours to reach native-speaker-like reading competency in Italian, so the sooner you begin, and the more frequently you encounter texts, the better.
But what’s with all these ‘Have you ever…?’ questions today?
Funny you should ask – here’s another of our conversations with Italian native-speakers to read and listen to. The topic is ‘Hai mai…?‘ (Have you ever…?)
If you have time to do more than just that one, other recently-published materials of this type can be found on our ‘New’ page, here.
The questions from the interview, as always, are taken from our series of free conversation lessons.
And here’s the link to the conversation prompts on ‘Hai mai?’ if you’d like to practice your speaking as well as listening and reading.