A quickie today, as I have lots of stuff to get through, including a Spanish conversation lesson mid-afternoon, before which I’ll try to find some time to listen to Spanish radio and glance through El Pais, to ‘tune in’ my ageing and sleep-deprived brain.
“How to choose activities/materials that complement and reinforce each other” is a topic I have on my ‘write about’ list, so here goes. Should be an easy one…
Suppose you want to improve your listening, so decide to have a go at live radio, picking one or more of the channels on the RaiPlayRadio.it page?
Or suppose you’d like to build your reading skills, scanning the news headlines on RaiNews.it?
Both are free, both are useful, doing either one regularly would really help your Italian.
But doing BOTH, in a logical sequence, would be even better!
This is what I do for my Swedish, French and Spanish (not Turkish, because I STILL haven’t learnt to read Turkish…) It works really, really well.
For example, I read this morning on the Swedish TV and radio news website (there are no good, free Swedish newspaper apps) that Israel had overnight been attaching Gaza with both air and ground forces. In the process, just by using my noddle, not a dictionary, I learnt the word for ground forces: marktrupper. In the context, it was unmistakable. And I’d seen ‘mark’ for ‘land’ elsewhere.
Later, in the car on the way back from taking our youngest to nursery, I listened to the Swedish radio selection of news extracts that I always try to squeeze in. That covered the same story, along with plenty of other exciting and not so exciting developments that had occurred since yesterday.
From the radio I learnt that what I had previously read was now being denied – marktrupper had not actually attacked Gaza but were preparing to. Which version is correct? No idea!
But think of the LEARNING SYNERGY involved here: I got an idea of the story and some key vocab from scanning the website text, then later heard a radio news report on the same topic. Did I understand everything I read/heard? Not at all.
But I got enough from the radio news extract to spot the difference between that and the text I’d glanced at, and certainly enough for what I was doing to feel like a fairly natural activitity (listening to the news on the radio while driving my car) rather than ‘studying’.
Overlapping, mutually-reinforcing, authentic sources of the language you’re learning, which emphasise different skill areas, which are inherently interesting, which are free, which can be looked at or listened to in moments when you’re not otherwise doing anything useful (waiting around, driving, cooking, cleaning up), and above all, which are habit-forming, equal a HUGE learning opportunity!
I’ve been reading and listening to Swedish for 3-4 years, which hasn’t involved much effort at all, other than the initial attempts to create the habit, and has resulted in a significant improvement in my level in that language (I’d say I’m a B1-B2 now), an outcome which can’t otherwise be accounted for by courses, ‘study’ or travel to the country itself.
I do this, or try to, for muliple languages each day, and not because I’m some sort of linguistic Stakhanovite but because I enjoy it, because it passes the time, because it’s free, and because I can see noticable benefits from doing so.
But you know what?
I don’t know anyone else – no one at all, not my students, not my colleagues, not my (all bilingual or multilingual) family, not club members – that does this.
People will tell me they tried once, didn’t understand, so didn’t try again (text, audio – same excuse).
I say, well use learner materials, like our free bulletins of ‘easy’ Italian news (‘easy’ because unlike with ‘real’ news, there’s a transcript).
Or use ‘graded’ materials (designed for your specific level) like the ones on the club website, or the ‘easy reader’ ebooks in our online shop.
But no – the response is always the same nonsense, something like: “I’m going to learn all the grammar first, and THEN I’ll read and listen”, “I need to memorise a lot more words so that I don’t have to be always looking things up in the dictionary” (just don’t), or even “I want to finish my app, first. I have a 200 day ‘streak’, you know!”
Regular skills practice (reading and listening) means loads and loads of examples of the most frequent grammar structures. Even if you don’t ‘study’, you CAN’T HELP but learn them, given enough exposure.
Ditto with the vocabulary: marktruppen, remember? I learnt it effortlessly, and so did you!
Skills practice that complements other skills practice is even better – read something and talk about it with your conversation partner if you have one, or vice versa.
If you can’t afford or don’t have access to a native speaker to speak with, the radio is full of them. Read, then listen to the radio. Or the other way around.
It’s obvious, once you’ve figured it out.