I’m in a pensive mood today. Having got out of bed early, had a healthy breakfast, and walked for the prescribed thirty minutes – to the local park, around the lake, and back again – I got to reflecting that, despite the legions of bastard doctors, things seem to be less stressful lately.
In part that would be because, without Roomie, there are so many more hours in the day that are mine to do what I please with, though that takes some getting used to.
When I quit teaching English last June, this was what I’d had in mind – having TIME, making CHOICES, not having every minute of every hour of every day already pledged to some job or the other.
Then we got landed with a wild cub who needed twenty-four-hour-a-day supervision and stimulation, which put paid to that.
But now, here I am, no longer teaching, my days to call my own, except for all the other stuff. Have you noticed that, as we age, organising and enduring medical care seem more and more like a full-time job?
Which reminds me, NO ARTICLE ON FRIDAY, as I’ll be wasting the day, and probably night, in a hospital.
The other reason things feel less stressful, I realised, as I sat at the kitchen table (before writing this) doing our Italian school‘s ‘end-of-the-month’ banking (paying rent, salaries, and bills), is that jobs which I know well how to do become routine, even relaxing, the opposite of stressful.
I like a nice boring task sometimes, especially when I’m tired, so lacking the mental energy for something challenging. If there are no bills to pay, emails to reply to, or dishes to wash, I might balance a bank account or something, just to relax.
I used to HATE balancing bank accounts, but when you know how to approach problems, and why the job matters, it’s easier than a lot of other stuff, and brings a nice glow of satisfaction when done! Like a clean kitchen.
The last few years, I recalled, have been a series of complications – you might remember that we broke down our various activities (free content, lessons, ebooks, easy news) into separate entities, the idea being that they would be independent of each other, and so could potentially be delegated, run autonomously, or even sold on to someone with more time and resources.
Sounds like a good idea, I thought at the time, little realising it would involve YEARS OF EXTRA WORK, in particular doing things that at first seemed as if they would be impossible, or at least impossibly time-consuming or impossibly expensive. Usually for the first time, so no previous experience to rely on.
Can’t the accountants/lawyers/bank do that for you, my wife would ask, as I cursed, drowned my sorrows, or lay awake worrying. For what seemed like (and actually was) years. Hah! It’s the accountants/lawyers/bank causing the problems, I’d try to explain.
But unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to accept that even if, in theory, it is someone’s job to HELP YOU, and even if you are actually PAYING THEM to do just that, in reality what happens is that people do what they know how to do to earn their living, ideally a good plump one, and rarely more. (Doctors again…)
Which is why most people don’t do such things, my (Italian) accountant suggested. If it’s impossible in Italy, or at least impossibly-complicated and expensive – no matter that it might be normal, encouraged, profitable, and for the general good in the rest of the world – well, why do it?
Or if you do (she implied), don’t expect much help from me.
Ma è così. But it is like that. Most people do what they’re told, do things within the normal boundaries, or don’t do them at all. They choose life, instead.
Which brings us to language-learning.
Take a course, use an app, buy a book, read articles online, why not? Likely at first you’ll have little idea what’s going on.
The choice or choices you make may or may not work for you. It’s possible you’ll give up in disgust (too hard!), or you might endure, but make little progress.
Either way, it could be stressful, especially if you’ve never done anything similar before.
Apps are designed not to stress you, by the way. They keep you engaged, and reward you for time spent using them (even if you may not learn much…)
Language courses or lessons tend to be the opposite, unless the school or teacher are particularly good. Sitting in a classroom again would drive me crazy!
And listening and speaking the new language? Authentic media, and interactions with native speakers, can take you FAR BEYOND your comfort zone!
Until one sunny day, there you are, pootling around the lake in the local park with your earbuds in, wondering how come this doesn’t seem difficult any more?
Was it just a couple of years ago that I (for instance) first started listening to France.info, with its constant arguing and comic accents, and could understand next to nothing?
Yet now, listening to French rolling news is almost as easy as listening to Italian, and notably easier than Swedish, which I try much harder at, or Turkish, which I’ve known for decades.
There are two types of ‘don’t know how’, I concluded.
There’s the stressful ‘don’t know how’, which is stressful because, erm, you don’t know how.
But if you keep at whatever it is, make intelligent choices, and embrace risk, then potentially, one day, you will know how. One day you might be competent. You might even seem, to those who know you, expert.
Which is nice.
And there’s the no longer stressful ‘don’t know how’, when something you’ve never done before is just another project. You know that all these problems will pass, that you can take them one at a time, that you’ve done big things before and succeeded, so why should this be different?
If you know how to learn a language, because you’ve done it, then in all probability you’ll have no difficulty learning others. You already know how to get past the ‘don’t know how’ stage, if you see what I mean. You know that you’re capable of it, so have confidence that you’ll be able to this time, too.
Whereas if you’ve never learnt a language before, so ‘don’t know how’, well, what can I say?
Put in the time and mental energy, until one day, when you will.
Or pay someone to help you (but remember the accountants/lawyers/doctors…)
P.S. Don’t forget Tosca, just £5.99!
Here’s the usual Wednesday reminder, but also the final reminder, as I won’t be writing an article on Friday.
This week we published our ‘easy reader’ version of Puccini’s Tosca, and until Sunday night (April 30th 2023) it’s 25% discounted, so just £5.99 rather than the usual ‘easy reader’ ebook price of £7.99.
Do check out the FREE sample chapter (.pdf) before you buy a copy, though. That way, you’ll know whether the level is suitable and that the format works on the device you intend to use it on.
What’s it about?
It’s 1800. The Austrians and the French have been fighting over the Italian peninsula for most of the previous century but the French have lost a vital battle and their supporters are imprisoned or killed. One of them, Cesare, escapes and flees to a church where his aristocratic sister is influential. She’ll hide him and help him to safety. Concealing himself in a chapel, he encounters artist Mario, an old friend hired to paint the Virgin Mary. But wait, someone is coming! Cesare hides and in comes famous singer Tosca, Mario’s beautiful but jealous lover…
Begin with this ‘easy reader’ ebook before watching the actual opera, or simply use this original Italian reading/listening practice material to add a little variety to your study program.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters (based on Puccini’s Act/Scene structure) to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at pre-intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
Yesterday I read/listened to Tuesday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, and found two mistakes.
My son read one word completely wrongly, and there was another glitch that I can’t now remember.
I remarked on the quality issues to my wife, who was Netflixing (knitting and watching Netflix) on the couch.
Yes, she’d noticied the first one, but once the audio’s done, it’s done. It’s possible to delete unwanted parts (coughs, farts, the doorbell ringing), but much harder to substitute a word.
Especially when the boy’s gone out with his mates, and won’t be back until 4 a.m.
Never mind, I said, it’s FREE! And perhaps they’ll enjoy finding the mistakes (as I do).
But did you give him a kick up the arse and tell him to take more care? I did, she replied.