Hopefully it’s about to rain in Bologna this Friday morning, which will supposedly bring lower temperatures for most of the rest of the day. It’s getting windy and the sky has turned grey, both excellent signs that something good is about to happen!
So I’m writing this while sitting in an armchair facing the front door, which is wide open, as are the kitchen windows, also the bedroom patio door, and the garage. The house will fill with mosquitoes (‘zanzare’, but I’ve sprayed myself, preventatively), the idea being to let the cooler air from the expected storm infuse the whole house, which is made of brick, wooden beams and those red ceramic roof tiles, and so has heated up like an oven over the last month or so.
An elderly neighbour has just walked past my open front door, arm in arm with her ‘badante’, both carrying umbrellas. The rain must be beginning. “Che bello, che bello!” she’s saying.
Anyway back to the clubhouse, my home from home, where it never gets too humid. One morning job there is to review any comments which members have posted overnight.
L’ho finito. Ho voluto trovare i destini dei personaggi dopo leggendo i primi trecento pagine. Grazie mille per il suo consiglio Daniel.
Super well-done to him! I’m only about an eighth of a way through, by comparison, having stalled a couple of weeks back when I was busy with the Summer Sale.
And in amongst all the spam, I found this, in reply to Wednesday’s article, from Lynne F:
I am really enjoying this history series. The very clear sound tracks are helping my listening and comprehension together with pronunciation. Then listening and reading together is improving my comprehension further. The links help to provide more detailed information for those who are interested. We have chatted before about wanting to know what happens next – well the last couple of sentences at the end of each episode certainly make me want to read on. I hope the French lesson went ok.
We don’t get a lot of (genuine) comments, so it wasn’t hard to pick those two out, but there is a theme linking them.
Mark kept reading because he wanted to know what became of the characters in Manzoni’s epic tale (“Ho voluto trovare i destini dei personaggi”), while Lynne enjoys the fact that the articles in the history series spark her curiosity, episode after episode.
Stories and series can be motivating for precisely that reason. The success of the soap operas I wasted years of my life watching as a youth, and today’s Netflix that my family idles away their spare time on, is built on ensuring that viewers care enough to keep watching.
When I was starting out with Italian, more than twenty years ago now, I bought and read all the ‘easy readers’ I could find in our local bookshop. The simplifed stories with audio were more or less the only thing that kept me interested enough to work on my embryonic Italian.
Unfortunately, the bookstore ran out of suitable options way before I had reached even a half-way decent level, so I was forced to move on to authentic books, which (like ‘I promessi sposi’) were much more of a challenge!
But given that I didn’t have anything else to read (or watch – these were the days before streaming, the early days of the Internet), I eventually got into the HABIT of reading Italian translations of American detective fiction. As a result, page by page, ‘giallo’ by ‘giallo’, I built my reading skills, vocabulary, and eventually a sprinkling of grammar.
Wanting to know what happens next is motivating.
Being motivated makes it easier to establish the habit of consuming text, or audio, ideally both.
And reading/listening regularly, daily if possible, means that the time you’re exposed to the language you want to learn quickly adds up: to tens, hundreds, one day thousands of hours!
And that, more or less, is what you need to do to master Italian, or any language. The fun, cheap way!
Add in some conversation practice, so as to activate the ‘passive’ knowledge you are gaining from reading and listening, and you are well on your way.
Really, it isn’t much harder than that. The tough part is avoiding distractions (pointless or expensive stuff that will waste your time and money), as well as adjusting to the fact that, for the first year or two probably, what you can do with the language will be limited.
But as they say about the foolishness of youth – that you’ll grow out of it – when enough time as passed, one day you will take metaphorical flight, amazing yourself at how much you’ve achieved!
Lynne asked how my first French lesson went on Wednesday. Well of course, not having spoken a word of French since I was seventeen, so three and a half decades back, it took a few minutes for my brain to tune in.
But I’ve been reading news articles in French for a year or so now (it’s not so hard, if you’re able to read Italian) and for the last couple of months I’ve been listening to the radio, too.
Which meant I could understand the teacher without much difficulty (“I’m going to speak really slowly” she announced, before rattling away at top speed for the rest of the lesson.)
And when I began to speak, the words started to come, slowly at first, but better than I’d hoped.
So good, Lynne! Thank you for asking. And I’ll be doing another lesson next week, which I’m looking forward to. In the meantime, I’ll up the tempo of my French reading and listening, in preparation.
It still hasn’t started to rain, and the wind’s dropped. That’s bad, though it is cooler.
I mentioned that my neighbourhood bookstore, back in the day, had a very limited selection of ‘easy readers’ for students of Italian?
We don’t, though. There are hundreds of ‘easy reader’ ebooks in our online store!
Check out the Catalog page, which has links to the free sample chapters. There are loads for Italian, as well as a reasonable selection for French and Spanish. And no, they’re not free, just like ‘real’ books in your local bookstore, if you still have a local bookstore, aren’t.
And of course, which brings me back to more or less where I started, there’s the new history series on the club website. Along with much more material for learning Italian, all of which is free to access.
Interest > Motivation > Habit > Learning, remember?
A lunedì, allora.