Friday’s post ‘It’s time to add a new element to your Italian study plan‘ was really long.
This one will be shorter, promise!
One reason is that I’m rather behind with my usual tasks, after having spent most of Sunday afternoon having a go at SWEDISH.
The idea was to show that it’s possible to learn a language by reading and listening.
I have to say, I’d have preferred to be studying one of the other languages in Friday’s list, but a deal is a deal. Some of you wrote in with your votes, and Swedish was the winner.
So I decided to start by managing my expectations.
This was a new language for me.
I knew nothing at all about Swedish and, rather than following a nice, structured beginner’s course, I was going to have a try at learning it by reading and listening.
Hence my first task was to set an achievable target.
Obviously NOT to understand every element of Swedish grammar.
Nor to learn ALL of the new words I’d encounter.
That would be unrealistic and depressing, even masochistic!
Nope, my objective was just to read/listen to the whole story (nine very short chapters).
Start, get to the end, and let my brain get from it what it could.
Without forcing myself to memorise stuff or spending hours looking things up in dictionaries.
How would it be possible to understand a text in an unknown foreign language?
Well, here at least, I had an advantage.
Restaurangen is a ‘localisation’ of a story I wrote myself.
We’ve had it translated into a number of languages (you can find the Italian version, absolutely free, here.)
The idea was, knowing more or less the story, I would get through the ebook one way or another, picking up what I could.
You could mimic this approach by getting an Italian / English parallel text and reading the English version first.
So, after I’d washed the dishes from Sunday lunch, I was ready.
Bring on the Swedish!
(If you’re curious to see the material I was going to use, here’s the link to the free sample chapter.)
I reminded myself: my first objective was to read/listen to the whole text, all the way through, without stopping to panic or ponder.
It quickly became clear, though, that our recording was quite fast.
Almost immediately, I lost track and had to replay each chapter several times.
With practice I got control of the various buttons on the Soundcloud interface, while managing to view the .pdf on my screen.
This was not perfect. It would have been a good idea to print it out.
But life’s too short, and getting through the story this way was, if nothing else, rapid.
Reading and listening at the same time, I realised that pronunciation was going to be a challenge.
Swedish doesn’t appear to sound anything like the way it’s written!
Still, that was useful to know.
Once I’d done all nine chapters, I was ready for phase two.
I went back to the beginning and started to read at my own pace, without the audio. Same objective: get to the end.
At the bottom of Chapter One, I noticed the Swedish/English glossary (oops!)
The glossaries are short but helpful. Having translations of even two or three of the many unknown words helped me orientate myself in the narrative.
The exercises were useful too.
I didn’t actually DO them, but I looked at them.
They provided a chance to focus, and the possibility of feedback on how much I could understand.
I read on: Chapters Two, Three, Four and Five.
By around three p.m. the wine I’d had with lunch meant that it was time for a break.
So I sat in an armchair and dozed off, to the reassuring electronic sounds of my son playing a violent video game.
Waking, I put the kettle on for a cup of tea and started reading again.
I was able to finish the story fairly quickly, having reached the obvious conclusion that reading the glossary FIRST would speed things up.
Reaching the end of Chapter Nine for the second time, all that was now left was phase three – go back to the beginning once again and repeat the approach I’d started with – reading and listening at the same time.
For a language that I knew better, phase three would be just listening – no text.
But I wouldn’t have had a hope with Swedish, so phase three was a repeat of phase one.
This time, though, I got more from the text.
I still needed to play each chapter repeatedly to be able to match what I was hearing to the printed words on the page.
But time passed quickly.
I spent around an hour on this final stage.
I won’t say I was having fun, but it didn’t feel like ‘work’ either.
It was strangely engaging.
As I read/listened, some of the words which had previously just been jumbles of letters and blurs of sound began to be more recognizable.
By six p.m. I was done.
It was time to open a beer!
Setting an achievable objective (getting to the end) was a good strategy.
And knowing in advance that I would understand little helped a lot.
Studies show that more effective language learners are ‘tolerant of ambiguity’ – that is to say, they don’t get stressed when they can’t understand something.
While I wouldn’t claim to be an effective language learner, I am certainly ‘tolerant of ambiguity’.
You have to be, living in Italy…
So, did I actually learn anything?
The pronunciation I’ve already mentioned – ‘sh’ written with a ‘k’, as in the Swedish word for ‘meat’.
Pronouns like ‘jag’, ‘han’ for male, and ‘hon’ for female (that last one’s easy to remember!)
Some possessive adjectives were understandable, and some verbs too, especially simple ones like ‘is/are’ and ‘go’.
Conjunctions and the like were confusing.
Knowing the words for ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘if’ and ‘or’ would have been a big help.
I made a mental note that they might be worth looking up in the dictionary…
One thing that really stood out was the way negation was used – one particular word seemed to mean ‘not’ or ‘isn’t’.
It was easy to read and hear, and made sense!
Another easy one was ‘can’, which sounded the same as in English or German.
Much as you’d expect, it seemed to preceed other verbs, just as ‘volere’ does in Italian.
So, what next?
I’ll have another go at this same story at some point this week to consolidate what I’ve learnt.
But this time, I’m going to print it.
I’ll annotate the pages with the things I’ve understood and want to remember, while still ignoring the rest.
I’ll listen again, of course, and if all goes well, I might have a go at listening WITHOUT the text.
I don’t expect to understand much.
But getting used to that feeling is helpful in itself.
And after that?
We have a second Swedish easy reader (waiting to be published.)
And this one I didn’t write myself, though I have read the Italian version several times.
So if I have time, and if I’m still interested, I might try that one too.
Demand for our new ‘bundles’ of ebooks was way beyond my expectations!
It’s great to see so many of you planning to make reading and listening a regular part of your Italian study program.
Way to go!
Remember though, it’s not enough to just BUY the ebooks.
You actually have to read/listen to them, too!
But take it slow, don’t worry about the bits you don’t understand, just aim to get to the end.
Just as I explained above.
Finish the book, and on to the next one!
(Do write to tell me how you get on…)
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level A1
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level A1/2
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level A2
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level A2/B1
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level B1
- Three-For-Two Italian Easy Readers Bundle – Level B1/2
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