Today’s tidied-up page from the vocabulary section of the club website is ‘Giorni / Days‘, a classic beginner topic!
If you actually ARE a beginner, take this as your cue to learn these seven words.
The hardest part about memorizing a set of vocabulary such as days, months, numbers, or anything that will inevitably be useful, is deciding to actually sit down and do it.
Once you’ve made up your mind to try, it’s just a matter of a few minutes effort, plus periodic reviews afterwards to consolidate and fill in any gaps.
If you’re no longer a beginner (congrats!), why not spend a moment thinking back to when you were, and reflect on how far you’ve come since?
It was only a couple of months ago that I was learning the days of the week (in Swedish) myself.
But hah, that now seems like child’s play!
I remember scratching my head over the days, the numbers (months are easy in Swedish) and various other beginner-level lexical sets.
Honestly, I am just terrible at memorising stuff, perhaps because I’ve always been too lazy.
But there comes a time when you just have to do it.
With Italian, it’s when you realise you’ll never be able to say ANYTHING until you can conjugate the most common irregular verbs:
io vado, tu vai, lui/lei va, noi andiamo, voi andate, loro vanno
I remember learning that on the top deck of one of London’s famous red buses, on my way home from a casual teaching job back in 1997, just a few months after falling for a pretty Italian girl and realising that irregular verbs were going to be as unavoidable as marriage and children.
The problem with memorizing vocabulary is what comes AFTER the beginner level.
So many words, so little time, as they say.
Think back to school. Perhaps you studied chemistry for a while.
Remember the periodic table of elements?
(They’ve doubtless added a few to it, since we were kids, eh?)
I guess memorising the periodic table would have been an impressive party trick.
Especially if you could do, not just the names and the symbols, but the atomic weights and so on, too.
And it would have been even more impressive if you knew which ones were, for example, metals, and what their individual characteristics were.
Sodium and lithium – boom!
That was fun.
But none of us bothered. Youtube didn’t exist in those days (check out this song…)
And there was so much else to do at the time!
Who knew what, of all the rubbish we had to study at school, would ever come in useful?
The same is true for languages.
This morning I had an online Swedish lesson and spent the whole time talking to my teacher about my work (the running a language school part) and the various associated problems:
- too much competition
- finding the right employees
- weak margins
- high taxes!
The words that I need to moan about my job are specific to me, to my situation, and to what I want to talk about right now.
You could learn them too, but you might never need them.
The point is that, once you’re past beginner-level, text books and courses become increasingly unable to predict what you will need.
You’ve probably noticed that, when studying languages, there’s a risk you’ll waste valuable time on irrelevant details.
While NOT actually learning the useful stuff.
We had the right idea when we were kids learning French.
We had no need of a teacher or a book to identify potentially-useful French phrases such as ‘Merde!’ and ‘Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?‘
There. are. a. lot. of. words. out. there.
Many of them are complicated, have multiple meanings, weird grammar or are only used in a certain register.
By all means memorize introductory lists on topics of interest.
But sooner or later, you’ll find yourself having to listen to real language use, and needing to respond appropriately, and in real time!
It’s a shocking moment for many. It certainly was for me.
I studied Swedish for months before I even attempted a conversation. What a waste of time that was!
Hurling yourself in at the deep end of the pool is a well-known, if risky, shortcut to learning to survive in the water.
So it is with language.
Study lists of words to your heart’s content. Just don’t expect that it will (necessarily) be of eventual use.
Sooner or later you have to get out of the kiddie pool and walk across to where the adults are.
There won’t be any inflatable aids.
It’s sink or swim.
But if you’re taking up surfing?
Practice in a pool beforehand is probably advisable…
Oh, and by the way?
It’s the actual practice, the speaking and listening, reading and writing, that gives you information regarding ‘frequency’, that is to say, which words and grammar are common, and so essential.
Heard of the eighty-twenty rule?
“…for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes…”
You don’t need to know ALL of a foreign language.
If you think about it, you’ll realise that you certainly don’t know all of your OWN language.
What you need to learn in Italian are the words and structures that are truly useful to get you where you need to go.
And where can you find such a list to memorize?
Sorry, but you can’t.
What you’ll need is unique to you.
You have to discover it for yourself!
The online lessons are working out well for me. If your budget can stretch to them, they’re certainly worth a try.
A lunedì, allora.
Buon fine settimana.
Here’s a final reminder about our newest Italian easy reader ‘2 giugno 1946‘, on offer this week at just £5.99, that’s 25% off the usual easy reader ebook price.