(Warning – this blog entry by necessity is more than 30 seconds)
Once when I was lamenting about the time and effort it took for me to learn the Italian language, my Milanese cousin Ornella reminded me that I must learn to approach it like an Italian. She compared my studies to the building of Milan’s great Gothic cathedral, the Duomo.
The Duomo of Milan is monumental, second only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is 515 feet long, 302 feet wide and 148 feet in height. There are 5 naves divided by 40 pillars with a capacity of 40,000. Inspiring and impressive, the art and altars, statues (3,400 inside and out), stained glass and reliquary of Milan’s domus Dei make it one of the greatest churches in the world. Ornella’s point was that the builders of the Duomo didn’t complete their project in a year or two. It took time. In the case of the Dumo it took more than 500 years and for most of the artists and craftsmen it was a lifetime’s work. I’m sure like me they were experiencing Information Fatigue Syndrome. The science and technologies of the time introduced new ideas and innovations that must have overwhelmed the builders of the Duomo. Managing all that information could not have been easy but they obviously found a formula for success.
The Italian language is my Duomo. It may take me a while to achieve the level of proficiency I hope for but in the meantime I’ve found 4 reasons and simple strategies for learning that motivate me both as a student and teacher.
- Knowledge brings value to your life – learning is a process that enhances the quality of your life; advocates for lifelong learning believe there are real benefits to continuous study and learning a language in particular compounds those benefits and gives you an opportunity to travel like a local
- Find a reason and interest – pursue your studies of the Italian language based on an interest. Art, architecture, history, travel, fashion, design; use your interest as a starting point with related vocabulary and grammar that will keep you engaged then branch out from there
- Collect, prioritize and process your learning – organize the information you’ve learned in a way that makes sense to you and in a way you can use it
- Practice active recall – your brain learns in many ways but needs to be stimulated; repetition with flash cards and audionyms (sound alike words) with related visual images that are familiar to the learner create a memory link. Here is an example from the Dean Vaughn Total Retention System I have used in teaching medical terminology to learn the meaning of the word root for stomach (gastr-). It sounds crazy but it works.
“Gastr-” sounds a lot like “gas truck,” which cues the learner to create the image of a gas truck in their “mind’s eye.” This image is then changed to a “gas truck with a stomach for a tank. The learner connects the illogical image of a “gas truck with a stomach for a tank” by the acoustical cue or sound-alike name for the Greek element “gastr-.”