I get lots of emails from OnlineItalianClub.com members, much of it complimentary: “Great site!”, “Thanks so much for your wonderful emails”, and so on.
One rather rude lady this week told me to please shut up about learning Swedish as no one was interested.
An hour later, someone from Sweden wrote to wish me a good holiday and warn me about his language’s dialects.
A lot of the emails are of the “How do I use your site?” variety.
That’s not an easy question to answer.
How to walk a thousand miles?
If you haven’t started yet, take a step.
Then take another.
Or if you’ve already walked five hundred miles, just keep going – walk another five hundred and you’re done.
Except with language-learning, the question isn’t so much “How?” as “Why?”
If you’re an absolute beginner and have no idea where to begin, perhaps having never studied a foreign language before, some simple instructions could be useful:
- Click on this page
- Do the exercise
- Go back to this index
- Click the link to the next exercise
- Now click here to do some listening
- Look up unknown words in an online dictionary
However, just as you can be a virgin for decades but then become a former-virgin in flash, it only takes a short course or a few weeks of self-study to lose your ‘complete beginner’ status.
Each lesson you study, each exercise you do, will increase your awareness of what the possibilities are, and your knowledge of the path ahead.
Different people have different ways of learning.
And different preferences, likes and dislikes.
And different strengths and weaknesses.
And different objectives.
I, for example, can’t abide doing boring exercises and memorising stuff.
Italian teachers, take your pronouns and stick them where the sun don’t shine!
(That was for Julie, who’s been studying them at our school this morning…)
But I AM into listening to the TV news and generally perusing the press in the language I’m learning.
There just isn’t one way to learn a language that will work for everyone.
No single method, website, app, ebook or teacher has all the answers.
The best way to answer the “How?” question, if you ask me, is to think about “Why?”
If you’re goal is to interact naturally with native speakers, then you’ll need a little grammar, lots of vocabulary, and hundreds of hours of speaking and listening practice.
If you want to live in the country, maybe get a job there, or translate and interpret Italian into your own language, then you’ll need an expert knowledge and probably some sort of high-level qualification.
Which will, of course, take much longer.
But if you’re just learning Italian as a hobby, for personal satisfaction, or to pass the time?
Then focus on whatever it is that works best for you, and ignore the rest.
Instructions for the use of OnlineItalianClub.com
- Find something at your level
- Do it
- Find something else at your level, ideally with a different focus
- Do that
- When the material starts getting easy, start the next level
- Or if it’s too hard, drop down a level (there’s no shame in it…)
- IN THE EVENT OF BOREDOM, find something different, fast
- Re-evaluate your approach, goals and progress regularly
- Adjust course as necessary
OnlineItalianClub.com should have enough material to get you from zero to the point when you’re not taking baby steps any more (and so can get out there and make your own way!)
But if it doesn’t work for you, go try Duolingo.com instead – it worked really well for me with the Swedish!
Come back to us when you get fed up with being hassled by an owl.
Whichever site you use, start reading and listening to authentic Italian as soon as you can.
Take lessons, if you can afford it, as it’s much harder to build your speaking and listening skills without them.
And that’s it.
Just click something.
See what’s out there.
Make other, better decisions.
Don’t stop (ever…)