Thanks to Conny, Patricia, Eva, Maureen, Greet, Jean, Steven, Angela, Elspeth, Maria, Judith, Christopher, Julie & Allison who wrote to me with an answer for Monday’s ‘Which city?’ exercise.
The answer, I’m assured by almost everyone, is Padova.
OK, so today, what do I have for you??
In a word…
I want to get more of you reading in Italian.
Now, there’s an obvious commercial imperative to this, but ‘lasica stare’ my baser motives for a moment.
Let me tell you about a student I was teaching yesterday.
This was an individual lesson, at a company where I teach English.
Now, it’s been my experience that most people are fairly similar in their ability to learn languages.
It’s rare to meet anyone who just can’t learn.
Most people get there in the end, if they stick at it, if motivational issues don’t defeat them first.
Similarly, in over 25 years of teaching, I’ve met maybe two or three people who were exceptionally able.
By which I mean surprisingly talented, way above the expected level, with no obvious explanation that I could identify.
Very, very rarely, someone with no bilingual family, no signficant previous experience with other langauges, no pushy parent providing all the resources and opportunties, manages to just excel, beyond everyone’s expectations.
People who are at the extreme ends of the ‘language-learning ability’ bell curve, or just off the scale entirely, are unsurprisingly rare.
But this guy, aged around 50, who works with numbers rather than language, and speaks no other foreign tongue, is just sucking it in!
We sit and chat for an hour a week, mostly about the state of the world.
After the lesson, I send him a few notes on his mistakes and any new words that have come up.
At home he might read an article from the Economist now and again, but doesn’t appear to be doing anything much else.
He comes into contact with English in his job, but not that intensively.
Insomma, he’s just ‘good’.
Yesterday, our conversation turned to the up-coming Christmas holidays, and what his plans were.
He has a pile of novels beside his bed which he’s bought (from bookshops) over the past few months but hasn’t had the time to read.
We talked about which authors he likes. Mainly crime, apparently. Italian writers, but also U.S. and British detectives.
It turns our we’ve read a lot of the same things.
So I told him how I’d learnt Italian by reading trashy crime novels, mostly the same writers I used to read before I came to Italy, but in translation.
Over the years I’d read most of Michael Connelly, all the new John Grisham’s, and so on.
The translations were cheaper than the originals, and having a new family and no permanent job, I’d not had time to take a formal Italian course.
But this way of learning had worked well for me.
So, “Do you read in English?”, I asked.
Absolutely not, was his answer.
Think about that.
Leaving aside his reasons, particular abilities or lack thereof, just think:
If he had started reading crime fiction in English way back in the day, when I did (we’re a similar age), what would his level in English be like now?
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
But if you think it through, it’s obvious that achieving language competences (actually being able to speak, understand, write and read a foreign language) is likely to be the result of years and years of actually using the language on a regular basis.
And if you don’t live or work in an Italian-language community, reading and listening (T.V. etc.) can stand in for, simulate, the experience of being in the country itself.
Build an Italian reading habit, and your’re creating a parallel community in your head, one in which Italian is the lingua franca.
It may not be ‘real’, but it’s sure better than doing nothing.
OK, so let’s try a little experiment.
Today I have three text-based exercises.
The purpose is to get you reading in Italian, and reflecting on the experience and on your reactions to it.
Have a go at these three exercises.
OK, done those?
Now ask yourself: how comfortable do you feel working with Italian texts?
If the answer is ‘quite’, then good for you!
You can stop reading now.
But if the answer is ‘not very’, do you think practice would help?
Imagine yourself reading a page or two every day for a few weeks.
Then upping it to a chapter a day.
Then a book a week.
Now, fast-forward a year: do you think you’d be more comfortable with Italian texts?
And assuming you did feel more comfortable reading in Italian, what doors do you think that would open for you?
Would you start reading an Italian newspaper?
Would you be attempting a novel in the original language?
Or simply feel more confident in your continued study of the language?
Happier with the grammar, knowing more vocabulary?
You knew this was coming…
BEFORE diving into an original novel or the Italian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, a little warming up is advisable.
‘Easy readers’ are simplified stories with audio that are intended to work like the training wheels on a child’s bike.
The idea is to get you some initial experience and so boost your confidence.
Think of them as a staircase, taking you up, step by step, to a door which opens on the floor above you.
Without the steps, getting through that door (reading authentic Italian) would be hard, right?
But WITH the steps, you just take it slowly and easily, only moving up when you’re ready.
With a nice gentle staircase, even your granny could get up there.
Take a look at the easy readers in the Italian section of our new online shop, easyreaders.org.
You’ll find over forty titles, spread over six different level bands from A1 (elementary) to B2 (upper-intermediate).
Take a look at something for your level.
Download the free sample chapter.
Listen to the audio, while following the text with your finger.
If it’s too hard, go down a level.
If it’s unchallenging, go up one.
Find a starting point that feels comfortable for you.
Remember, this has cost you zero, so far.
In any case…
DON’T BUY ANYTHING TODAY!
Because very soon, probably Friday, I’ll have an irresistable new offer for you.
We’re talking ‘bundles’ of three easy readers at your level, at a discounted price.
Three readers should take you a couple of weeks, maybe a month.
After which time, you’ll be ready to move up a level, and get the next (discounted) bundle.
The idea is to get you reading regularly.
The purpose is for you to build your Italian in this natural, enjoyable (and cheap) way over time.
Day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year.
As I did.