Yesterday evening we went to a party, the end-of-year event for a local association which we’ve been part of for a few years.
It was nice to see everyone again, there was food (not that much) and cool wine (enough), so the evening passed quickly.
It’s suddenly got really hot in Bologna – it’ll be 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) today, so socialising outside in the evenings is the best option. Fortunately there seem to be fewer bothersome mosquitoes (zanzare in italiano) this year.
So anyway, as tends to happen when we socialise, I ended up in conversation with an Italian woman of about my age who needs English for her job but is feeling insecure about it. She used to do one-to-ones with a native speaker, apparently, but he got a proper job, so that was the end of that.
Since then she’s been feeling guilty for not keeping up her language-learning, and of course, has been half-heartedly looking out for another solution…
I quit teaching last summer, and don’t miss it. Our language school in Bologna, which started out in 2005 as an English schoool for Italian students, now only teaches Italian to foreigners, which suits me very well. I just sign the cheques and do the marketing, rather than having to plan lessons and show up at regular times.
Running small businesses is like that, I’ve found. What might have started out as a sure thing turns out to be anything but, but hopefully the skills acquired and experience gained are transferable to some other project. And so it turned out.
I said that I was sorry but I couldn’t or wouldn’t step in to replace the lost teacher. But I wondered why she needed to practice speaking English anyway, given that she could do that at work?
It doesn’t come when she needs it, apparently. It doesn’t feel right.
I expect plenty of you know the feeling. Until I started wrangling Roomie last year, I virtually never spoke Italian, so often felt tongue-tied.
Did she, I asked, do any listening practice?
Beh, she watched films in the original language, but rarely. Never these days, actually. There isn’t time, and it feels too much like work.
I get conversations like this all the time. People who want to keep up their language skills, to the point where they’ll feel confident using the foreign tongue when the moment arises, but don’t, EVER, participate as listeners in the community of people who use the language they’re learning for their daily communication needs.
What’s the point of learning a foreign language if you don’t plan to follow the conversations that people have in it?
I advise people all the time, in my articles, I explained, to do more listening and reading in their foreign language, and let the speaking worry about itself. If you’re used to listening to your foreign language, when the time comes to say something, it’s likely that you’ll be able to.
No one pays much attention, but that’s what I do myself, and I’ve found it works rather well!
Ah, but there’s no time, people say. So I suggest listening while doing other things – exercising, household chores, etc. That’s what I do, and I’ve found it works rather well!
Or swopping some meaningless thing that you spend time doing in your own language, such as watching Netflix series, for some similar but more profitable activity in the foreign language. That’s what I do, and I’ve found it works rather well!
Don’t think of it as studying – I suggested – think of it as doing stuff in the language you’re learning instead of in your native tongue. That way, no extra time is involved, and once you get used to it, not much more effort, either.
She nodded politely at my wise advice, but experience suggests she won’t follow it.
Far easier to find a teacher or a group to do the occasional practice chat with than to experiment a little with your learning approach, with the aim of finding your place in the community that uses the language you want to improve, then participating regularly.
I used to listen to the BBC World Service when I was first in Italy. On crackly shortwave radio. It was the only option in the days before streaming and video on demand.
Then I realised I was doing myself no favours, so went cold-turkey with English-language radio and began looking for alternatives.
I haven’t looked back.
P.S. ‘A Cagliari ci sono i fenicotteri’ (A1-A2), £5.99 this week
Don’t forget this week’s new Italian ‘easy reader’ ebook, A Cagliari ci sono i fenicotteri, which, until Sunday 25th June 2023, costs just £5.99!
Twelve-year-old Gianna wakes up in Sardinia’s beautiful seaside capital for the last time. Today her family is moving to Milan, where her mum will take an important new job. They’ll live in a larger flat! Gianna will go to a new school! She’ll make new friends! But she’s leaving behind the city she loves, where she’s lived her whole life…
- .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
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- 5 grammar/comprehension exercises
- brief Italian/English glossaries of ‘difficult’ terms
- Suitable for students at any level
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Check the FREE sample chapter to verify that the level is appropriate for you, and that the format is suitable for the device you wish to use it on. The sample chapter contains a link to the online audio FOR THE WHOLE STORY. Too easy? Check out our Catalog to find materials which are better suited to your current level.
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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?
Also don’t forget to read/listen to Tuesday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news.
Subscribers should have received the bulletin via email yesterday (everyone else can view it on the website.)
Subscribing is FREE, too.
Subscribers get each thrice-weekly bulletin emailed directly to them, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Which is a fantastic way to improve your Italian, and/or to keep what you’ve already learned fresh in your mind.
It’s also a lot cheaper than hiring a teacher to practice with…