Driving back home this lovely spring morning, after dropping Bug at his petting zoo on the other side of town, I was half-listening to the news headlines in Swedish, while pondering – as you do – whether I could have made much more progress, in the five years or so I’ve been learning that language, were I actually to have done any STUDYING.
The answer of course is ‘almost certainly’. Take a one-month course at our Italian school in Bologna and – all things being equal – you should approve approximately one level. People who know another Latin-root language go faster, people who don’t progress less quickly. But do six months, so 500 hours in the classroom, and your Italian will be pretty good by most people’s standards.
‘My way’, that is to say not studying at all, I might be making the month’s worth of progress in a year, and it could take a decade for me to achieve what our students typically manage in an eight-month academic year, if they apply themselves.
But – I remind myself – while I’m absolutely capable of studying if I have to (I once did a part-time MBA – in Italian, which I barely knew at the time – while working full-time and parenting three young children), it requires a lot of motivation. So, when something more important comes along, it’s hard to keep up.
I’ve lost cound of the number of things I’ve tried to learn, but quit at. Most recently, playing the harmonica, which Bug’s arrival put a stop to.
Full time courses in a classroom make studying easier, to an extent, as you have no other distractions, and only have to do what the teacher tells you, then wait for the magic to happen.
(Note to a current student – three days is really not long enough to decide that the long-term course you booked isn’t working for you, so you’d like your money back please.)
Stuying full-time means giving up you life for a while. Not working, ot being with family, not learning other things, and trusting that by participating in a learning path structured by experts you will, eventually, achieve your goal.
A full time Italian course in Italy might be a great idea for many people, but comes with an ‘opportunity cost’, as well as an actual cost in money – factors which might be more or less significant depending on how busy/wealthy you are.
I’m not well-off, but anyway couldn’t have given up my work, my family, and so on. Moreover, there basically aren’t any full-time Swedish schools I could have attended, even if I’d wanted to (I looked…)
So yes, I could have studied, and I would have made more progress, but I likely would have quit fairly soon after starting, due to all the other things in my life that were greater priorities.
What I actually did with Swedish was a bit of Duolingo to get me started (a waste of time), online conversation with native speakers (hundreds of hours in total), reading and listening to ‘simplified’ news broadcasts (on which I later modelled our own EasyItalianNews.com), then radio and newspapers.
Lots of radio, daily, but since the pandemic lockdowns ended, rather less of the reading (hangs head…)
Così. I can understand some of what I hear and read. I can nod along to a conversation, and respond appropriately. I can initiate interactions with native speakers, who – once they get over their suprise – are usually pleased to chat.
Actually, that’s all rather more than I expected to achieve! Which is very satisfying, and is my response to the internal voice that whispers how much more I could have managed if…
Incidentally, in the same time frame and using the same approach, I’ve improved my spoken Italian (by hosting various Italian-speaking strays), built my French listening conversation to the point where I can follow rolling news radio shows, developed some basic Spanish reading/listening comprehension skills, and refamiliarised myself with Turkish, which I knew fairly well in the early ‘nineties but felt I had completely forgotten.
The trick – if there is one – is to substitute things you would do in your native tongue, or in other languages you know well – with the same or similar things in the language(s) you want to learn. So watching TV in Italian (for you) or Swedish (for me), rather than English.
Actually, I don’t do TV, as my Italian wife likes to watch in English. Hence the radio, which you’d think would be harder, but is actually a lot more convenient.
It’s almost always free, it’s not geo-blocked because you don’t live in the place where the language is spoken, and you can listen while doing other things, like driving.
Which is where we came in.
P.S. Homer’s Iliade ‘easy reader’ ebook, – 25%, final reminder!
Here’s a final reminder about the launch offer on L’Iliade, our newest B1-level Italian ‘easy reader’ ebook, which this week is selling for the bargain price of £7.49 (that offer ends on Sunday night).
L’Iliade è un poema epico scritto in greco antico nell’VIII secolo a.C. Insieme all’Odissea è il più antico poema della storia occidentale. L’opera è tradizionalmente attribuita a Omero, ma ci sono molti dubbi.
Una lunga guerra si combatte da dieci anni fuori dalle enormi mura di Troia. Paride, un principe troiano, è responsabile: ha rapito Elena, la moglie del re di Sparta, Menelao, e i Greci sono venuti a riprendere la bellissima donna.
I Troiani difendono la propria città contro i Greci. Ettore è il più valoroso e nobile dei guerrieri troiani e tutta la città di Troia lo adora e lo stima per il suo coraggio. Ma l’eroe più forte dello schieramento greco è Achille, il figlio semi-divino di un uomo mortale e della dea Teti…
Why read the Italian version of a classic of world literature? Well, why not? Sometimes a familiar tale is reassuring when faced with the complexities of reading and listening in the language you’re learning.
Besides, you can do both! We have ‘easy reader’ versions of some of the classics of Italian literature, too!
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- introduction + 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
Have you read/listened to Thursday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
Subscribers get the bulletins, via email, three times a week – on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so don’t have to regularly check the website…