The Top 5 Reasons (Excuses) I Don’t Study My Italian Like I Should or
Dante Lead Me from the Inferno of the Conjugated Verb to the Paradiso of a Native Speaker
I confess I don’t spend as much time as I should studying my Italian and these are My Top 5 Excuses.
5. I Have Too Many Italian Language Books
After years of study I have collected a library of Italian language books. With so many I have a hard time deciding which one to focus on.
4. I Want to Know the Reason for the Rules
There’s really no reason why Italians speak like they do. Sometimes there are illogical rules for learning a language and it does no good trying to analyze them. Accept the idiosyncrasies of Italian grammar and syntax and move ahead. Retaining over them is counterproductive to learning any language.
3. Complacency or a Feeling of Quiet Pleasure or Security
I’ve been studying Italian for some time and although I started later in life I’ve been able
to master the language to an upper intermediate level. I manage to make my way around
Italy saying sono perso (I am lost) and getting directions without too much trouble. In fact my Italian family and friends tell me that my “Italian is very good” meaning that I speak in more than the present tense. I don’t define myself as fluent to do so would mean that I have a command of the language as I well as I do English. I take comfort in the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a universally agreed-upon definition of fluency. Depending on your source it is described as anything from being able to order food to the language ability of a native speaker. I am beyond a novice and although I still need to tote a my pocket dictionary around, I can survive in an immersion situation i.e order food, give and receive directions, take a taxi and drive in Italy, make reservations and pay off a parking ticket.
2. Not Enough Time
I never seem to have enough time to study. A pathetic excuse because studying a language today has never be easier. Smart phone apps and internet connectivity make learning a language accessible to everyone any time, any place with as much or as little effort as you want.
1. I Spend Far Too Much Time Making Excuses for Not Studying My Italian
I need to forget about the reasons why I don’t study as much as I should and use the time spent making excuses learning one new word a day in a stimulating way like
- using a new word in a sentence
- looking for grammatical variations of the word
- associate the word with other things
You may not be able to learn as much as you want or hoped for but whatever you learned is more than you knew before.
(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-.”
I love studying the Italian language. It is so descriptive, like the Italian word for snowflake “fiocco di neve” meaning ribbon of snow. It kind of takes the edge off last night’s forecast for 3- 5 inches when you picture snow following in ribbons of white rather than something to shovel.
That got me thinking about Italian words pertaining to winter so I decided to review my winter vocabulary and then mi metto la mia sciarpa e vado a fuori giocare nelle neve allora vengo indietro per un tazzo di cioccolato caldo*
* Oh no my Italian teacher is sure to find mistakes while my cousins in Italy smile as I continue my unending quest to learn Italian.