July 1st! Never a bad moment to review your study habits, assuming you have any. If not, read on.
Here in Bologna it’s extremely hot, which means my daily routine has been upended. The cardiologist-imposed minimum thirty-minute walk which I typically did mid-afternoon when I got bored sitting at the computer, now has to take place right after getting out of bed of a morning, before it gets too hot to go out.
Which means that reading the Swedish news website and news headlines in French before I rise to begin my day is no longer practical, there now being just too much to squeeze in.
It’s likely the summer heat will last at least two months, so I figured I might as well optimise things now, so as to exploit the power of daily learning habits and achievable study targets over the next sixty to seventy-five days.
It’s not as if I’ve got much else to do this year, trips abroad having been cancelled and our Italian school currently being very quiet (for obvious reasons – though we are open, and observing social-distancing, etc.)
The point about habits and targets is that they pay back big, but only over time. As my cardiologist well knew, ten years back when she nagged me into walking for half an hour each day. One walk, a week of walks, won’t make much difference, except perhaps in terms of blisters and sore knees. It’s the years, ideally decades, of daily promenades, compared with no cardiovascular health-promoting activity whatsoever, that make such a significant difference.
‘If we could give you a pill for this, we would,’ she told me, ‘but we can’t. You have to do it yourself!’
Language-learning is similar. So while I walked this morning, I listened to the news headlines in Swedish, and when they finished, for the last ten minutes or so of my way home, to France.info, which is a rolling news radio station. On my smartphone, with my bluetooth headphones.
I had to do the walking anyway, so what was there to lose? There was no one to chat to. So I effortlessly achieved a half hour of listening that I would otherwise have done later in the day while doing chores. And having done that earlier in the day, I can listen to something ELSE later, if I choose to.
Half an hour of listening while I exercise, twenty minutes more while doing the dishes or making sandwiches, for the sixty or seventy-five days of hot weather – you do the maths. We’re talking, what thirty or forty hours of listening practice? That’s got to be a half-level skills improvement just this summer, not to mention the new words learnt and the grammar refreshed and consolidated. And at zero cost!
If live radio is too difficult for you right now, we have hundreds of ebooks with audio at levels from beginner to advanced. Check out our Catalog page to select something interesting. The link to the audio is in the free sample chapter. Click it and you’ll see that the audio for the entire story is available free online, even if you don’t buy the ebook!
Unsure? Start with a really, really easy one (A1) and just listen (no need to pay for the .pdf ebook). Then up it a half-level and try again. Work your way up, half-level by half-level, until you find the point at which you can listen and get the general idea, while not necessarily understanding everything. Then listen to more stories at that same level until you feel confident enough to move up even further.
Or what about subscribing to EasyItalianNews.com, which is totally free. There are three new bulletins of audio/text for learners each week – listen to each one three times as you exercise or water the garden and you’ll have notched up 1.5 hours a week, for say ten weeks, so fifteen hours of listening practice over the summer. Without spending a cent.
It’s not just listening that this works for, of course. Over at the ‘Mini-Book Club’ page for ‘I promessi sposi’, we’ve agreed to take this extremely long novel in baby steps, rather than trying to rush it. We have the whole summer, after all. Eight hundred or so pages? My personal target is ten pages a day, so that’ll see my finish by mid-September, assuming all goes well.
‘Achievable’ is as imporant, or more important, than ‘daily’, when it comes to setting learning targets, though ideally you want to aim for both.
Targets which are not achievable are easily forgotten or abandoned after days of not meeting them. Ideally I would like to have six-pack abs (Google them) but life has taught me that my resolve is likely not up to it. So I’m settling for the more modest goal of eating one piece of fruit a day, up from a recent average of none (does wine count as fruit?? It really should.)
Set achievable targets to promote success and avoid demotivation. For EasyItalianNews.com for example, listening is an achievable target, listening three times is an achievable target, but understanding everything your hear is likely NOT an achievable target. Neither is looking up all the words you don’t know in a dictionary and then memorising them. You might find the time and energy for a few bulletins, but in the long term? Not achievable.
Reading something in Italian each day (without setting, even, a minimum number of pages) SHOULD be achievable. Make it more likely to happen by setting a time or place to do it. For example, after I’ve cooked the kids’ lunch and cleared the table, instead of rushing back to my computer with a mug of tea in hand, why not hit the sofa for a quarter hour and knock off a few pages of my daily quota of ‘I promessi sposi’? Why not indeed? That seems to be working out very nicely for me. It’s both a break, and usefully spent, so really not hard to get into the habit of doing.
July 1st 2020 could be the day you start setting goals that are easy to manage, therefore motivating, and so doable each day without guilt or stress.
And if it is, why not set a note in your diary for September 1st 2020, or October 1st 2020, to measure the progress you’ve made? And, at the same time, to readjust your routines for the coming cooler climate?
Apologies, by the way, to club members in the southern hemisphere – you haven’t been forgotten. Enjoy your cooler autumn climes!
A venerdì, allora.
Don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of this week’s new ‘easy Italian reader’ ebook, ‘I promessi sposi‘, which until Sunday night costs just £5.99 (from next week it’ll be priced at £7.99.)
And/or select study materials for your level from our Catalog, where you’ll find all of our ebooks for learning Italian listed by type and level, from the lowest level to the highest.
As with the previous ‘Classic Italian literature’ easy readers, there’s also a
‘Mini-Book Club’ page where you can share thoughts about the story and, if you’re brave enough to try the original text, enjoy the company and support of other club members while you do so.
Don’t forget to read and listen to Tuesday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, which is completely, 100%, totally free!
As is subscribing – just enter your email and we’ll send you each thrice-weekly bulletin as soon as it’s published!