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How To Learn Italian – Tip Number Six

Piacere Mio

This week’s How To Learn Italian Tip will ensure the time you spend learning Italian will produce results.

Learning a language is a little like learning to read music in some respects, as once you get to a certain level – a high degree of fluency and good comprehension, things become much easier, even if progress becomes more difficult to determine.

As with learning music, those who can may remember that one day something clicked and reading music became easy. Your progress at learning Italian relates to the amount of effort you put in. The effort diminishes over time as your ability to understand and to speak Italian fluently becomes higher. However, even if you do attain a high level of fluency, if you don’t speak Italian regularly, your knowledge will ‘decay’.

Incidentally, I was able to read music, and I still can to an extent, but I am very rusty as I do not play a music instrument seriously now. I do have a guitar, but only strum it without music in front of me.

How can you get to the ‘reading music’ stage?

How To Learn Italian Tip Number 6

6. Little and often

At the start of your Italian studies, bursting with enthusiasm and the desire to get up to speed quickly, you spend a good few hours ploughing through Italian course texts, referring to dictionaries, and dedicating time to that Teach Yourself Italian CD/DVD course you bought for your computer.

Enthusiasm, though has a habit of slowly petering out and the loss of the element of fun risks turning the whole process of learning Italian into not much more than a chore. As the novelty starts to wear off – and it will, what started as a daily learning process becomes a weekly or monthly delve into the world of Italian. This is where the problems start.

As soon as you stop studying, you start forgetting. Take too much of a break from your Italian studies, and you risk ending up forgetting so much that you may fall back to square one, or very near it.

The stop-start approach leads to frustration too; not the kind of frustration which can come from making progress as mentioned in How To Learn Italian Tip Number 1 – but the genuine article. To be honest, once this happens, you may as well give up and go devote the time to something more productive.

How can you avoid landing in a kind of linguistic dead end?

The answer is quite straightforward – to ensure you continue to make progress, you need keep studying – especially if you are not in Italy and not using Italian in connection with your work.

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

By ‘study’, I don’t necessarily mean spending three or four hours studying Italian (great if you can!), but around half an hour or so a day. This will keep your knowledge of Italian fresh, consolidate it, and ensure you make progress. Remember that as soon as you stop doing something, you will enter a regression phase, and all that valuable time you’ve dedicated to learning Italian will be wasted.

What Should You Do?

A mix of things. Language at its most basic is words and comprehension. You need to know the words, how to use them, and how to understand them.

Here are a few suggestions which you can alternate to achieve a good balance which will help develop your speaking and comprehension skills:

  • Read an article from an Italian website on a subject of interest to you. If you like cooking, read about cooking. If you like motorbikes, read about motorcycles. Etc, etc. You will find subjects which interest you less of a challenge.
  • Watch a television programme or film  – without subtitles. Pick a film you know already to start with. Action films are quite effective, in that your grey matter seems to find it easier to connect actions to discourse. Don’t watch a whole 1 hour 30 minutes of a film in one go, divide it up into half hour chunks using the ‘scene’ selection function of your DVD player. Don’t attempt to understand everything – you probably won’t, but do not worry about this – you will absorb more than you think. Just sit in front of the telly and let the film wash over you.
  • Spend some time learning some verbs – start with the infinitives, and then look at the different conjugations for each tense.
  • Dig out that grammar book and look at articles (il la le etc) (fiddly in Italian), adjectives, and question words.
  • Spend half an hour a week chatting on Skype (Tip: you can use services like Live Mocha to find people who are willing to talk to you via Skype.)
  • Think about how you would do the following in Italian: ask for a coffee, order food in a restaurant, buy a red button, order some ham in a shop, buy a train ticket, explain a theft to the police, rent a car etc. etc. Write down the conversations between you and another person. If you come to a dead end, get out your Italian course book.

To measure your progress, if you are not following a course, dig out a teach yourself Italian book and see if you can do the exercises in each lesson. Or do the same with that DVD course you invested in. If you cannot do the exercises: study that aspect of Italian more.

Are you Doing an Italian Course?

If you are attending Italian lessons with a ‘real’ teacher, don’t do nothing between one lesson and the next. Do something.

Follow this advice and you will make progress.

Happy learning!

What do you do to ensure your knowledge of Italian grows and sticks? Assuming of course, that you are not in Italy and speaking Italian every day!

Looking for an Italian Course?

The Pimsleaur approach to learning Italian seems to be widely appreciated. Find more on Pimsleaur courses, and read comments on this Italian course by going to Amazon.com here:
Pimsleaur Italian Level 1 Course

Italian Level 2, Second Edition: Compehensive Compact Discs

Italian Level 3, Comprehensive: Learn to Speak and Understand Italian with Pimsleur Language Programs

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