I’m going to keep this very brief, as I have the usual other Friday things to do, but also something new, which is exciting!
For several years, the only language-learning materials I’ve paid for out of my own, very modest, pocket have been subscriptions to two newspapers, Le Monde (French) and El Paìs (Spanish), the idea being that if I could just read an article a day from each, I’d be gradually improving my knowledge of the language while hardly noticing the time and effort involved.
In quieter days, it worked well, but since we’ve had Roomie sharing our room (hence the pseudonym) and our lives, there haven’t been enough hours in the day. Something had to give. Unfortunately, that something was me reading French and Spanish.
I’ve continued to listen to Swedish daily, and often French too, though more rarely Spanish or Turkish as I’ve never found radio stations that suited me in those languages.
Plus, listening can be done while doing other things: walking, washing the dishes, hanging the washing, and so on. That’s not the case with reading. I used to read on the bus taking me to my lessons, but now I’ve quit teaching I mostly drive, if only to the kindergarten and back.
One of my French must-dos used to be to flick through one of Le Monde’s spin-off apps on my smartphone. ‘La Matinale actualité du Monde‘, which is available for Android and Apple devices, offers a selection of articles from the full version of the newspaper.
You click the ones that interest you, based on the headline, an image, and a brief description, and your selection is saved, so that you can come back later (or more likely not) to read the full articles. I’m not sure if it’s free, or just included in my subscription, but if you’re learning French, why not download the app and check it out?
Incidentally, I also have a subscription to The Economist, which for years has offered an audio recording of its articles.
Back in the day, when I was teaching English, I’d often recommend The Economist to Italian students who I knew could afford it (top managers and the like), lazy lot that they were. They were always lamenting that they needed to improve their English, but did nothing other than occasional bursts of reviewing grammar that they’d failed to learn at school, and certainly never put the work in to develop the good habits that would lead to their desired outcome.
“At LEAST read and listen to one article each day” I would tell them, but no, I was, almost without exception, wasting my breath.
So anyway, back to La Matinale, and this morning in bed when, because of the exceptional circumstance of Roomie not waking up at the usual time, which has never happened in the eight months she’s been with us, I had a chance to look at the notifications on my smartphone, including news from the app.
And what news! They’ve introduced audio recordings, for all their suggested articles!!
Perfetto. So besides listening to French radio during my daily constitutional, I now have another opportunity to follow my own advice, listening to AND reading French, perhaps of an afternoon, while Roomie is engaged with Masha e Orso.
Before you ask, no, this material isn’t designed for learners. The texts are not simplified and the audio is read at a brisk pace, unlike our very own EasyItalianNews.com.
Nevertheless, I’m convinced it’ll be the missing link in my learning, so to speak. Reading AND listening is my top tip, which is why I paid for years out of my own pocket to produce EasyItalianNews.com (it now, more or less, breaks even, thanks to donations from kind readers).
The trick, or one of them, is not to worry about understanding, which seems counter-intuitive but really is the key to the whole thing. You simply listen, you follow the text, with your finger if necessary, you have the sole objective of keeping at it until the end of the article, or articles.
After that you can, if you so desire, go back and read the text at your own pace, without the audio to hurry things up, with a view to figuring out what you just read/listened to.
Though not, please, looking up all the words you don’t know in the dictionary, which is self-sabotaging.
Keener students, or those with time to kill, can listen again, this time without the text, which offers huge benefits, if done daily for a few months.
Summary: read/listen together, for as long as you have something to read/listen to.
Don’t fret about understanding, just aim to get to the end, e basta.
Then do the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after, and let time sort all that input into some kind of order in your head.
So that’s Fridays top tip, and what I’ll be doing for my own language-learning later in the day.
Listen to it today, as there’ll be another FREE bulletin tomorrow, and another on Tuesday.