An email from a club member last week ended with a request: “Please reassure me!”
Well, I’ll try.
But first, a quick reminder about this week’s super-advanced (C2-level) ‘easy Italian reader’ ebook.
Bcause, as always, the club has bills to pay.
La carriera – dietro le quinte del Palio di Siena is a fictional account of behind-the-scenes goings on at the Siena Palio, Italy’s most famous urban horse race.
If you’re a confident reader and tolerant of there being lots of words and expressions you won’t know, you should find La carriera – dietro le quinte del Palio di Siena to be well-worth £5.99.
But check out the free sample chapter (.pdf) anyway, to get an idea of the level, length and format of the ebook.
Now, where was I?
Martin emailed me to say:
I do read (most) of your emails and often find them reassuring and supportive – thank you. I am trying to follow your guidance to listen to media as often as possible. I listen to Italian radio, podcasts, films etc; but I am finding it a bit demoralising. It is tough. Some words do leap out so my brain is hearing something, but I comprehend very little. I find I have to concentrate intently and can’t multitask – I hear a word and whilst trying to remember what it means another 20/30 words have whizzed by unheard L. I presume understanding will only come when I increase my Italian vocabulary? Please reassure me!
Reading it again now, I’m struck by the word ‘demoralising’, which of course goes right to the heart of the matter.
I wonder what the opposite is? Not ‘moralising’, obviously. ‘Motivating’ perhaps.
OK, let’s assume that Martin felt exactly the opposite, that he found the whole process of not-understanding most of what he was listening to stimulating, that it cheered him up significantly, not getting anything of what he heard really made his day!!
Were that the case, obviously, then learning foreign languages would be easy, even addictive. We could devote hours a day to it, without undue effort, without worrying that we were doing the wrong thing, that we were wasting our time, that we would never get there… We’d be just having so much fun!
But of course, then everyone would be doing it, too. Learning Italian, or another foreign language, would be as easy and natural as, say, eating lunch or binge-watching the latest Netflix series in your own language.
But many people do feel like Martin does, at least for a while. They’re not having fun, they’re DE-moralised or -motivated, rather than the opposite.
Me too sometimes, with my own language-learning. It goes with the territory, I’d say. There are inevitably going to be ups and downs on the journey. Beginning a new language is always a high point. After that it tends to get harder before it gets easier.
I think of it as being like working as a sales representative: you have to keep trying to sell your product or service, knowing that you’ll get a ‘no’ as often as a ‘yes’. It’s part of the job, they say.
Bisogna essere (you need to be) resilient to sell successfully. You can’t let yourself be put off, or you’re in the wrong job!
But I digress. Actually I replied:
Jan 15, 2020, 1:15 PM (7 days ago)
1.) you try different types of content. On the radio, for example, there are different programs on different channels. Lots of sport at weekends, music in the evenings, news at the top of the hour. Some of it will be more familiar, some will me more appropriate for listening to when you’re doing other things and can’t concentrate.
2.) and this is the more important one… Redefine your definition of success from ‘understanding’ to ‘listening for a certain period of time’, i.e. half an hour. Understanding is a spectrum, and with a foreign language you’re beginning, and may remain, at one extreme end of it. However, moving along the spectrum will only happen if you put in the hours, and if you focus on ‘understanding’, and so become demotivated, that won’t happen. So just focus on listening, for a minimum period of time, and on making a habit of it. With time the content will become familiar, with more time it’ll be easier to understand, and eventually you’ll be able to get enough of it to make it more like listening in English.
Hope that helps!
The key takeaways, I think, are:
- Understanding is a spectrum running from ‘nothing’ to ‘everything’
- You have to put in the hours to gradually move along it
- Which means you’ll start by spending plenty of time ‘not understanding’
- So redefine success as ‘listening for a certain period of time’
- Focus on creating the habit of listening, not on understanding what you hear
- With time, that’ll come
It’s absolutely normal not to understand everything (anything?) you read or hear in a language in which your competences are nearer one end of the spectrum than the other.
The ‘trick’, if there is one, is to find something in that situation which is -moralising, -motivating, rather than the opposite.
One thing that helps with that?
Listen to something in a language you’ve never studied at all!
For example, I was enjoying an enviromental documentary on Swedish radio, which contained interviews with people connected with a massive German coal-burning power station, in German, obviously.
I knew the interviewees were speaking German, but only got a word or two, and only then by guessing wildly.
So when the ‘programleader’ translated into Swedish, I was like, Ah, that’s what they were saying!
Which made me realise just how much I COULD understand of Swedish, after approximately two years of daily practice.
Enough to follow, more or less, not everything, sometimes not anything, sometimes effortlessly. But I understand SO much more Swedish than a.) German, and b.) I did when I began.
The same thing happened just now – I’m listening to the Swedish radio morning news program as I write and they played a clip of a Chinese government spokesman announcing the latest mutuations in the virus that might kill us all (so why worry?).
It sounded like Chinese, but beyond that, zero, which is exactly what I’d have expected to understand.
Compare my Chinese with my Swedish and, wow, I have superpowers!
THAT’s how I motivate myself.
I look back at how far I’ve come, not in detail at what I can’t do, or ahead at how much there still is to learn.
Have you listened to and read Tuesday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
Many people already have.
F.O.M.O., or for the puntuation-challenged, FOMO, sounds like a character from Lord of the Rings but in fact stands for ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. Google tells me that the expression refers to the “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere”.
Thousands of people are using EasyItalianNews.com to improve their reading and listening skills, to consolidate the grammar they’ve studied, to learn new words, or perhaps just because they enjoy it and it’s become part of their daily routine.
If you’re not, then FOMO!
EasyItalianNews.com is worth a look, or if you’ve already looked but not made it part of your study routine, it’s worth another look, and worth persisting with.
Time, remember? It’s the magic ingredient.
Subscribe and we’ll email you three bulletins a week.
There’s no obligation, unsubscribe whenever you wish. Though actually, DON’T!
Just read and listen to each edition, keep at it for a few months, and watch your confidence soar.
A mercoledì, allora.