Premise: we were talking in Turkish, so it’s absolutely possible I got the wrong end of the stick.
But anyway, she said that when she first came to Italy and had to teach herself the language, she was thrashing around trying all sorts of things, getting confused, and not making the progress she’d hoped for.
Given that this week club members have been helping me compile lots of great, free resources for learning Italian on this new page of our website, I thought my online teacher might not be the only one who has had this issue.
In the end, she decided to do just one thing, and concentrate on that.
I don’t recall what it was she chose, or if she even said, but she did mention that she’s since added EasyItalianNews.com as well.
The ‘do just one thing but do it consistently’ approach has obvious disadvantages, of course.
There are people (I myself am guilty of this) who have been through the whole of Duolingo several times before daring to poke their heads ‘outside’ the app and attempt a real, live interaction, perhaps with a tandem partner, or an online teacher.
At which point they/I wish they had done so earlier.
However, chosing one activity, one website, one course, one whatever, sure beats going in circles not knowing where to start.
Or beginning things but then getting distracted by something shinier.
Do one thing and do it consistently.
But at some point, when that one thing has become a habit, and now resides firmly within your comfort zone, try something different AS WELL.
And keep going until that, too, becomes part of your routine.
And so on and so forth, until you are a bright comet of a language-learner, streaking across the night sky and causing everyone to involuntarily look up and exclaim “WOW, Look at her/him go!”
And they will ask your secret, and you will smile wisely and say anyone could do it, without letting on that the secret is a GRADUAL AND SO NOT-OVERWHELMING ACCUMULATION OF LANGUAGE-AQUISITION-PROMOTING ACTIVITIES which have a cumulative affect over time.
Like compound interest, if you know what that is. If you don’t, you should Google why it matters.
Sometimes the accumulated habits need weeding, of course. There comes a time when DL is no longer a good use of your day (there does, there really does! Please don’t write in about this…)
Ditto for EasyItalianNews.com.
At some point, you’ll be good enough to listen to the REAL news, maybe having the radio on while you cook or do housework.
And, hush, it’s true even for the club.
I’m sure many of our regulars only read these articles for old times’ sake, having long left behind the stage when they actually needed exercises on the congiuntivo, or whatever once attracted them.
And I am happy when little birds learn to fly.
Shoo, shoo, you’re not a beginner any longer. Go catch insects, find another bird to build a nest with. Daddy doesn’t live here any more.
To an extent, I suppose, learning a language is like learning to drive.
At first, you know not what you do or where you go, you’re so busy clutching the wheel and fumbling for the gear shift.
After a while, you get to the ‘brash confidence’ stage, and so become a danger to other road users.
If we’re lucky, you’ll fail your test at this point, which’ll knock you back a little. But assuming you’re determined to succeeed, it’ll have actually done you good.
Eventually (Italians don’t usually get this far…) you’ll realise that, no matter how much you’ve already learnt, driving is an inherently dangerous activity, and one in which you’ll always be but a hair’s breadth from killing someone, or yourself.
Like safe-driving, a foreign language is something most people will never fully ‘master’, me included.
Sure, if we make the right choices early on, we get better and better for a while.
But sooner or later people tend to ‘plateau’, that’s to say, to reach the point when further investment of time and energy doesn’t bring noticeable returns.
I see this every day in my job as an English teacher. I meet adults who’ve been learning English for years, even decades, and feel they’re not going forwards as they’d like.
They pay, willingly, and I administer a ‘kick in the ass’.
For the lady who wrote in yesterday complaining that I use American English spelling: arse.
Which usually goes something like – forget the wretched grammar book, how much time are you spending reading and watching TV in English?
None? Thought so.
How do you think you’ll ever learn a language without masses and masses of examples?
You’re like a hermit in a cave, trying to learn to play a musical instrument.
You might get a few squeaks out of it, but with no context, no one to listen to, no sheet music, no role models, no peers, no teachers, and so on, how far are you going to go?
You’re on a highway to nothing, mate.
But let’s assume we’re doing the right sort of thing, rather than doing the same exercises over and over again.
There will likely come a point at which you stop tring to improve and are content with where you’ve got to.
Life is short, after all.
Or that moment might be a stimulus to rethink your approach and so force through whatever is blocking you, onwards and upwards!
Which brings me back to my online teacher and her ‘do one thing and do it consistently’ idea.
I gave up studying Italian years back, if I ever really started.
But if I were crazy enough to have another go, I’d probably focus on getting some qualifications in the language, even knowing that they’d never be of any practical use to me.
Because of the value that preparing for the exams would have in helping me focus on where I am weak (grammmar, writing…)
But ‘here endeth today’s lesson’, which has got rather longer than I’d intended.
Sorry Ann in Chicago, who hates long articles but reads them anyway to find the spelling mistakes.
It’s time to pack for my trip to Scotland!
Many thanks to Marion for her suggestions as to what to do in Glasgow. And for her husband’s recommendations regarding friendly pubs.
Oh, and if anyone would like to learn Turkish?
I know a good teacher.