(DO NOT USE A DICTIONARY WHILE READING THIS)
Imagine you’re new in the world.
Sure, you’ve been you as long as you can remember, though the concept doesn’t mean a lot yet.
But the context has recently changed. Now you’re you some place different.
The main things that interest you right now are stomach and bowel pains (bad), and hunger pangs (also bad, but promising good.)
Pain makes you cry aloud, and sometimes that helps.
Pangs make you instinctively raise your head, open your mouth as wide as you can, and turn wildly from side to side, until you locate something to suck on.
On a typical day, you don’t open your eyes much. It’s bright out there, you can’t focus anyway, and wouldn’t know what things were even if you could see them clearly.
Though the other day, during a brief eye-opening phase, you noticed the bright purple and yellow of what readers might know to be a plastic packet containing diapers. And stared at that for a bit. Colors!
There’s a lot of sound around you. The occasional, unexpected bang, which makes you start, and the much more frequent, almost constant sound of voices. Not that you know that that’s what they are.
The voices you begin to associate with other sensations, such as smells, movements, and touch (perfume, prickly whiskers, cuddles, strokes, cold wipes…)
Back to the pangs for a moment. They seem to come regularly, every three hours, day and night.
Sometimes, mid-frantic-mouth-open-head-thrashing, one of the familiar voices adopts a different rhythm, something you’ve heard before.
Were you not so new, you’d recognise it as a song, something like this:
BiberON, biberON, biberON, biberON,
biberON, biberON, biberON, biberON.
And then you find something to suck on, which feels good. The pangs subside.
On another occasion with pangs, you hear something like:
Blah, blah, blah, blah, biberON?
Your ears prick up.
Eyes still closed, you open your mouth and start turning your head – this way and that – stretching your neck up and down, instinctively searching for something.
Learning a foreign language to the point you know it as well as your native-tongue takes a long time.
Perhaps as long as your life so far.
Explanations might help a little, though perhaps with just a few percent of what you will eventually know.
Context, on the other hand, is almost EVERYTHING.
Just an aside: why would you bother to learn an Italian word or phrase that you never heard, read, spoke or wrote in any conceivable context?
No reason to learn the vocabulary and register of the Italian Codice della strada (Highway Code) if you already have a driving permit.
Just ignore it and drive aggressively and stupidly, like everyone else.
Whereas if you – poor unfortunate – have to take a driving exam here in Italy, then… context!
Start by applying for a ‘foglio rosa’, and when you have that you can sign up for a ‘scuola guida’, and you’ll be on your way.
I see this with bilingual people (i.e. my wife and kids) all the time – they appear to speak each language ‘fluently’, but actually they have huge gaps, corresponding to the things they learnt to do or say in one language but not the other.
They might, for instance, have learnt to drive there not here, or here not there, and so know the language and culture of driving for only one of their native tongues. That can happen with foreign languages, too. I know how to sail in Italian, for instance, not English.
Pangs gone. Now pain!
Blah, blah, blah (sympathetic tone), ruttino? (Sensations of being lifted and having your back patted, repeatedly.)
Pain’s gone. But now little spasms…
Blah, blah, blah (sympathetic tone), singhiozzi?
Biberon, foglio rosa, scuola guida, ruttino, singhiozzi.
Even if you’re not new around here, those words are likely unfamiliar.
But if presented in CONTEXT, they should be easy enough to learn, which is why I didn’t translate them or offer links.
If you don’t see/hear them again very soon, they’ll be gone, and a good thing too!
But if something is important, your brain will retain it, and associate elements of meaning to it.
What’s important depends on your situation, of course, and the context of the phonetic patterns, words and structures you come across.
Everyone who studied a foreign language at school knows that cuss words are easy to learn.
Now then class, take a look at today’s P.S.
Click the link to EasyItalianNews.com.
Pretend you’re new around here, and don’t know enough to consult a dictionary.
Imagine you have no pre-conceived ideas about learning a foreign language.
Play the audio and read the text, all the way through, until it ends.
It’ll take you about ten minutes, and cost you nothing.
Listen to the audio again, this time with your eyes closed.
Pretend you’re Bug, if you like. Snuggle up to something, or someone.
Now listen a third time, with the text again, as you did before.
No dictionaries, no checking!
I bet my life you’ll have learnt something.
And if not (which I really don’t believe), I’ll be dead and you’ll at least have been practising reading and listening to Italian.
Do that BEFORE you try to speak or write, and your brain will be tuned in, so the speaking will come more easily.
Context + Time = Familiarity & Competence
Did you read/listen to Thursday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
There’ll be another bulletin tomorrow (Saturday).
Subscribers get each bulletin, via email, as soon as it’s published, so don’t have to remember to look at the EasyItalianNews.com website.
Subscribing is free.