I’m a little late starting today, as I’ve been out for a walk. Nothing exceptional, just a limp down to our local park, once around the lake, and back home again.
I’ve been off exercising lately, due to pain in ‘i tendine d’Achille’ (yes, both legs, otherwise it would have been ‘il tendine’), which according to this site have ‘un ruolo fondamentale per quanto concerne la meccanica della locomozione dell’essere umano’.
I messed up the ‘tendine’ on my left leg years back, running, and have had pain on and off ever since. But it’s one of those things you get used to, so it didn’t stop me exercising, as my cardiologist (and wife, and mother) said I should.
I aim for the minimum recommended dose of 150 minutes a week, but in practice tried to get in at least a thirty minute walk each day and longer at weekends, so a little over that.
The year that Roomie was living with us, I was fitter, as she liked to be out and about, so at least at weekends we’d be roaming around the neighbourhood like bored wolves, both morning and afternoon (so giving my wife some peace, and time to knit.)
But Roomie suffered from bad dreams, hourly at first, which needed active consoling or they’d prevent us from getting any kip. Picking her out of her cage one night (she weighed 13 kilos at the time) ended badly for me, with an inguinal hernia (basically a bulge in the groin where there hadn’t been one before).
No biggie, I thought, she’s worth it, at least we got to sleep, and anyway, everyone says the operation is a quick in-and-out, nothing to be bothered about.
What everyone says is nonsense, of course, so after my turn under the knife earlier this year, I was in a lot of pain, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the painkillers offered would have clashed with the other meds I take.
It took a month or two to get moving more or less normally again, by which point it was mid-summer and too hot to go out. Or stay in, for that matter.
Finally, when the cooler weather of September encouraged me to get moving regularly again, I did something to mess up the ‘tendine’ on my ‘gamba destra’ too, I don’t recall what. It could have been climbing the hill to San Luca with my wife one sweltering Saturday morning.
That made things a LOT worse, as now I was limping on both sides, but also had trouble balancing, using the stairs, and so on. You don’t want to know. Look after your ‘tendini’, ragazzi.
To cut a long story short, I’m trying to get back into the routine of walking regularly, while also trying to follow Dr Google’s good advice about letting damaged ‘tendini’ rest. Hence this morning’s painful shuffle around the lake, though it was a chance to ponder the parallels between learning Italian (or any language) and ‘exercising’.
If you think about it, there are loads, but lets start with one thing that isn’t similar, at least for native English speakers like me and probably you. While many people are exposed to language-learning at some point in their lives, for instance at school, it’s not something that most of us take very seriously.
Besides your current language-learning friends and acquaintances, how many people do you know who can speak a foreign language?
We tend to think of people from small north-European countries (Swedes, the Dutch, etc.) as naturally ‘good at languages’, but actually it’s just that they have a greater need.
The smaller the country you live in, the less likely it was (maybe it’s changed with A.I.) that imported TV programs would be dubbed into your native tongue, so exposing you to English or whatever the dominant foreign language in your part of the world is, from an early age.
So anyway, for native English speakers that tends not to be the case. Learning a language would be nice, but it’s a niche thing. Whereas we are ALL WELL ADVISED to exercise!
An article I was reading recently repeated an idea I’d heard several times before: that the effects of regular movement are more beneficial than many of the treatments medics have avilable in their tool bags (though you should, obviously, take your prescribed meds too.)
Everyone needs to exercise. Many don’t need to learn a foreign language. So that’s a big difference, at least for you and I. But beyond that, the two processes have so much in common!
Here are a few, off the top of my head:
- Lots of us try to execise regularly, many of us don’t succeed. Check the obesity rates for the country you live in. Bet they’ve increased in the last few decades… Now check how many people in your country can speak a foreign language
- We often don’t know HOW to exercise/learn a langauge. There’s lots of advice, there are lots of fads, there are lots of things you could try… But who knows what will actually work, for you? And who has the time and motivation to keep going until you find the ‘right’ way?
- At the beginning, we’re enthusiastic! We buy new kit, and show up on time. But then we figure out that progress is likely to be slow and painful and, eventually, we quit
- Here’s a positive one: if we find a community of people to exercise/learn Italian with – for example a class or app – sticking at it until the benefits start to show is easier, so success more likely
- Experience helps. If you’re, say, a former college athlete, you likely won’t find joining a ‘palestra’ too much of a challenge. For the rest of us, though… The skills and experience gained from learning one language are transferable to the next one you try. Exercise too, I assume
Bet you can think of loads more, but I’ll add a final one, perhaps the most important thing that occurred to me as I was hobbling home this morning.
‘Getting fit’, like a lot of ‘get’ expressions (getting married, getting ill, getting more expensive) suggests change, from one state to another.
Whereas the medical benefits, and the REAL challenge with exercising, come with ‘being fit’, and so leading a healthier, more active life, at least for as long as hernias and ‘tendini’ allow.
My point is that there is no finish line, no end point, no moment when you can say that’s it, I’m done, all the hard work paid off, now where’s the remote?
Learning Italian and exercising need to be maintained over time, or what’s the point? The minimum 150 minutes a week done now won’t help me in twenty years, when I’m seventy-six. To see the benefit then, I need to keep it up for decades!
You took a language course, once, at some point in the past. You did great! Passed an exam, even! You reached ‘advanced’ level!
But then, like a retired world champion boxer, you went back home and trained no more. You never read an Italian book, watched an Italian movie, or made an Italian-speaking friend to chat to regularly.
Regular readers will know, and therefore be sick of hearing – though I’ll mention it anyway – that during my painful forty-five minutes this morning I had my ‘earbuds’ in (makes me sound like a flower, I know) and was listening to the news in Swedish, which lasts about twenty-five minutes, so then in French. I try to listen to the languages I’m ‘learning, not studying’ every day.
Good habits, people. They can be hard to establish, but once they ARE habits (I’ll be chatting in Swedish for half an hour later this morning), they’re easy enough to maintain, and – over the medium to long term – pay you back for the effort expended.
E poi, like with exercise, one good habit can lead on to another. You move, so you feel better, so you feel motivated to eat better and drink less wine, and so on.
Language learning is the same.
Don’t forget Homer’s Iliade ‘easy reader’ ebook, – 25% this week!
Improve your Italian reading and listening skills with L’Iliade, our newest B1-level Italian ‘easy reader’ ebook, which this week is selling for the bargain price of £7.49 (offer ends Sunday night).
L’Iliade è un poema epico scritto in greco antico nell’VIII secolo a.C. Insieme all’Odissea è il più antico poema della storia occidentale. L’opera è tradizionalmente attribuita a Omero, ma ci sono molti dubbi.
Una lunga guerra si combatte da dieci anni fuori dalle enormi mura di Troia. Paride, un principe troiano, è responsabile: ha rapito Elena, la moglie del re di Sparta, Menelao, e i Greci sono venuti a riprendere la bellissima donna.
I Troiani difendono la propria città contro i Greci. Ettore è il più valoroso e nobile dei guerrieri troiani e tutta la città di Troia lo adora e lo stima per il suo coraggio. Ma l’eroe più forte dello schieramento greco è Achille, il figlio semi-divino di un uomo mortale e della dea Teti…
Why read the Italian version of a classic of world literature? Well, why not? Sometimes a familiar tale is reassuring when faced with the complexities of reading and listening in the language you’re learning.
Besides, you can do both! We have ‘easy reader’ versions of some of the classics of Italian literature, too!
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
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- introduction + 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
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- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
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