Language Learning and Hello Talk

My Italian language learning has become obsessional. The better I get, the more I enjoy it. And the more I enjoy it, the more I do.

I don’t learn new things easily. I am impatient and I never learn for fun. I am practical. Everything I learn I expect to be able to use, and not when I am proficient, but from day one.  And so Italian became a part of my daily life quite literally from the first day through social media, family tree research, and trying to write my own blogs – oh and scriptwriting. I needed Italian to be able to do some of these things. So it was inevitable that its practical implications would be immediate and it was to my benefit to get good at it.

I’m now at an intermediate level apparently. Things which a month ago I could hardly comprehend, and was constantly making mistakes with, are now making sense – sentence structures, tenses. The more I learn, the more I remember. My word recall is getting better. I’m editing my scripts with Italian notes. I write my shopping list in Italian, I spend more time talking to myself and listening and reading and writing in Italian than in English. This is currently as close as I can get to full immersion. You can choose how much you want to do, and I choose to do it all. Because stopping means forgetting.

A lull in my learning, when I feel like I will never get the hang on it, usually signals a  breakthrough and a realisation that something I couldn’t get my head around, suddenly makes sense. Taking the odd online test to check my progress is helpful but I don’t worry about them too much. I took one last week, which is why I now consider myself intermediate. My obsession with grammar and reading seems to have been paying off – these were my best scores. My vocabulary, which wasn’t, I think is more down to my lack of confidence with speaking, more than anything else. When I’m put in a real life situations, I’m a rabbit caught in the headlights, which is ridiculous because I can chat away to myself all day confidently, if not proficiently. But as soon as I’m in real conversation my mind goes blank. And then I anticipate it. So I’m already setting myself up for a fall.

I still haven’t found the environment where listening and talking is easy. Language exchange groups have their place, but I find them very artificial environments. I felt more comfortable in Venice, alone and having to use my skills in real day to day situations with non English speakers, rather than sat in a pub with 30 other people all trying to improve their skills at the same time. Youtube is proving to be my best method for listening. The various scenarios, both classroom and ‘out and about’, and the option to utilise subtitles or go it alone is very helpful.

And although being corrected is useful for avoiding continuous mistakes, it damages my confidence if it happens too often. In Venice, people understood me and if they found out how long I had been learning Italian they seemed to be impressed which is a great confidence booster. Noone corrects you because they are just relieved they don’t have to use English unless they volunteer to. On Hello Talk or at exchange groups I am constantly reminded of my errors, put on the spot and scruitinised, on a sentence by sentence basis. People are looking for problems rather than just allowing you to communicate as best you can. And that’s very wearing. I already have Duolingo for that. It kills my confidence to keep trying because then I start expecting to be wrong. So I’ve ditched Hello Talk for now.

This is just one of many reasons why I am really excited to be returning to Venice again in September. Full immersion with people who just let you get on with it. I had such a great time there in May and it was the one thing that gave me the confidence to start speaking. Because I was there, doing it, and I was getting by on my half rate Italian which proved I was learning something. Not that many people in Venice are confident English speakers, despite the huge number of English speaking tourists, and I think I got by better on my half rate Italian than using English in many of the places I visited.  And I’m thankful for that.

Youtube transcription

I’ve included below the text from my last Youtube upload with one or two alterations. I realised a couple of errors after I posted this video. That’s the learning curve!! There’s also a link to the Youtube blog at the end.

Stasera sto scrivendo usando un microfono invece della mia tastiera. Questo è mio metodo nuovo di parlare. Spero che sarà aiutarmi con parlando, ma anche aiutarmi di  ricordo le parole più veloce.

La ragione è perché non sono trovando tanto opportunità di parlare con le persone al momento. Il gruppo che ugualmente incontro con ha fermata per l’estate – finché Ottobre. Questo è un problema per me perché vivo a Manchester e non in Italia. Così miei opzioni sono limitato per ora. Infatti quando sto scrivendo questo, sto parlando nel mio telefono, cui probabilmente guarda molto strano del persone.

Allora, in ogni caso questo è un metodo molto utile per me. Il vantaggio di questo metodo è che posso rivedere dopo parlo. Certo mia Italiana non è perfetto. Sto imparando italiano da 7 mesi, e ho lavorato molto duro. Per me questo è soltanto un’altro modo di imparare.

Queste giorni sono meno preoccupato del mia grammatica. Io sento che ho un buono capendo della lingua ora, così voglio soltanto gustare usando la lingua e miglioramento mia fiducia. Perché per me, mia fiducia è un grande problema, particolarmente con parlando. Ora credo che posso uso che cosa ho imparato. Mi piace di parlare, ma con le persone ancora sono nervoso perchè sono lenta con ascoltando e parlando. Credo che mia prouncia è bene (almeno il microfono pensa così!), quindi credo che il tempo e praticare sarà aiutare.

Al momento io pratico per almeno 2 ore per giorno, quotidiano, ma questo non è sempre le lezione con Duolingo, ma anche io leggo Facebook, e Twitter, e YouTube ecc.

Talking To Myself

Since Duolingo’s update I’ve lost a vital part of my Italian learning. The speaking exercises. Now, you can only do these via Google Chrome on a laptop as none of the other platforms now support the speech software and it’s disabled on Android devices.

But within that update there were also two speaking methods. The one where you repeated what you saw written in front of you in Italian and the other where you were given an English sentence that you repeated back in your target language. And it was this second one that I was just starting to get to grips with when the update was implemented. It’s also this one which hasn’t been reinstated on Chrome. But a complaint I posted via Duolingo’s discussion board turned up an interesting solution. Use the microphone function on your devices.

Because my contact with people to speak in Italian is limited on a day to day basis (I dream of full immersion) I’ve resorted to talking to myself. All the time. I describe what I’m doing, what I’m seeing, trying to speed my memory recall into real time so that as my conversation improves I am able to listen and respond faster. And of course the more I do, the better I get because brain training really does work. But it requires daily usage. And for me I’m talking at least 2 hours of lessons a day aside from all the social media I read and watch.

I have enough friends I can text and message in Italian but writing it isn’t my problem right now. It’s speaking. So instead of writing my texts I’m speaking them. And this I have discovered is the way forward for my language learning. It’s a slow process. My confidence still isn’t up to getting on Skype and chatting to strangers. I’m building up to that. But this is a happy medium. And what this also helps with is pronounciation. From what I’ve seen of my results so far, I’m doing okay. It seems to understand what I’m saying and my only real corrections seem to be punctuation which the microphone function doesn’t allow for.

So, how do you use the microphone? On your phone or tablet, when you start to type a small cog on the bottom left of your keyboard is visible. Click on that, and you’ll get options including a microphone. Still unsure. Here’s a visual. Enjoy the process and let me know if this works for you.

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Source

Back To The Abbey

The last time I was at Newstead Abbey was in March. Various commitments have conspired against me and I’ve just not been able to fit my spare days with ones when I was needed at the Abbey.

Last weekend however, I was back for a full weekend. And four days later I was back again helping behind the scenes on a costume tour and then I went armed with a ‘Hetty’ to do my bit of housework around the building. Driving all the way from Manchester means I need to fill my day there. And housework never stops at Newstead Abbey. It also means I get the run of the house when no one is there. That means it is ‘molto silenzio’ and I get to peek into all the cabinets. The atmosphere of course is quite different. That is when Newstead really comes alive.

I’ve been wanting to help out on a costume tour for some time now. The collection now housed at Newstead, which came from Nottingham Castle five years ago, rivals some of the best in the country but you wouldn’t even know it was there and tours are private affairs, prearranged with the curator. As a former costume designer myself, these rooms, off limits to most tourists and staff alike, are a haven of inspiration for me and other creatives with an interest in textiles from serious re-enactors to hobbyist embroiderers. As a resource it is second to none.

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Costumiers dream

At the weekend when my volunteering duties were done, I took myself off to the gardens as I often do, to take some photographs. The day was glorious and the shadows falling on the masonry on the old Friary frontage were just too tempting to pass up. The textures on the stone and the colours are beautiful and ooze 900 years of history. No wonder it inspired the likes of Byron and became such a labour of love for those like Colonel Wildman. It’s a place you can never grow tired of.

My photography is amateur at best but I hope you see what I see.

Enjoy.

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If I Never Saw Venice Again…

My preoccupation with Venice is a bit obsessional. But I do like a good cause – something I can get behind. Something that inspires me and I can see the results of when I make the effort. I like the rallying cry from the city. You can see, and hear, the murmer of revolution in those 900 year old wings. It is potentially an exciting time. Venice is no stranger to fighting for its liberation. So why should now be any different?

And I suppose my Venexiane ancestry only serves to fuel the fire that is my interest in preserving the city and the welfare of its indigenous population. I am well behind the need to curb tourist numbers, to ban the ‘grandi navi’ (cruise ships), even to a charge for entering the Piazza San Marco if it controls numbers and the money is properly invested back into the city for the benefit of its people.

Which is ironic because for all my bleating on about protecting Venice, every time I go there I am essentially a tourist.  I try not to be one of the mob. I try to shop at the right places, to follow the rules, to be sympathetic to the problems of the cittidini and imagine how I would feel if I lived there and I had to put up with the hoards. But I know that by agreeing with the city’s cries for help, I could be pricing myself out of ever seeing my ancestral homeland again.

Lord Byron once said of his Carabinieri dealings, as they struggled in vain to liberate Italy from the Austrians in the 1820s:

‘It is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed.’

And I concur.

 

Full Immersion

This Italian learning malarky is taking over my life. I believe in full immersion in anything that I do and I’m the kind of person that if I don’t keep at it every single day I forget things really fast.  I live in England so of course most things are English and you have to work hard to make sure you’re coming across your learner language on a regular basis.

My language exchange group has broken up for the summer, so a bunch of us have migrated over to Whatsapp. So there’s 7 conversations going on already.

I joined Hello Talk this week. I’ve steered clear of the chat apps so far because they take up so much time. But I thought I’d give this one a go. Day one and I’m already having 6 separate conversations. Ironing out my issues with getting ‘sto’ and ‘io sono’ correct (something I was doing fine with but suddenly seems to have slipped) and mastering my sentence structure is coming along nicely thanks to the vigilence of the users there but I am reminded how far I still have to go.

I am rarely corrected on Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter so I’m guessing readers are just being polite and are understanding what I’m on about. Impatience is a major personality hangup of mine. So 6 months in to my Italian language learning and I just don’t think I’m good enough. I’m also obsessed with getting the grammar right. The basic present tense is fine for holiday ‘conversazione’ but I want to write blogs and comment on important Facebook groups and get it right.

I am a perfectionist and whilst this isn’t a bad trait it can get in the way of your enjoyment of something when all you want is to talk like a native – which of course I will never be – 5 generations removed as I am from my Italian roots. The Italian blood is still obviously there but I don’t find languages easy. I gave up French as soon as I could in school and its been 27 years since I’ve tried a languge again. And here we are.

But I have the added positive trait of being one of those people that if I really want something I don’t stop until I’ve got it. I’m also slightly comforted that in the 42 years my g-g-g-grandfather (that’s bis-bis-bis-nonno to my Italian readers) lived in England he never fully mastered English.

Mia Prima Italiana blog – uh oh

Buongiorno a tutte. Quindi, io deciso che, ora mia Italiana è migliorare, che era tempo scritto alcune blogs in Italiano. Perchè ora ho stato imparare Italiano per cinque mesi. E era mia vacanza a Venezia solo due settiamane fa, che mi ha aiutato di veramente capisco la lingua e cosa voglio. E anche trovo che mia linguaggio Italiano, particolarmente parlare, non è che male. Credimi, ero sorpreso!

Mia paura di parlano scomparso quando arrivo a Venezia. Era mi solamente là con non aiuto. E molto persone a Venezia non parlano Inglese. Quindi, devo parlo Italiana. E questo era il perfetto modo per me imparare e pratica. Quindi, grazie Venezia – ti amo!

Mia problema ora che sono qui in Inghilterra è tenere parlano Italiano dove là sono tante Inglese persone e dove quasi tutto è Inglese.

Io ho Duolingo, Rai24 (radio e televisore), Youtube (WeilaTom, ItalianoAutomatico e Learn Italian with Lucrezia) ma vivere con Italiani in un posto che è totalmente Italiani è il meglio modo di imparare la linguaggio. Solo essere là significati che tu sei sempre pensiere in Italiano e parlante Italiano perchè hai non scelta. Questo è una cosa buona! Ovviamente.

E era un sopresso per me che era non difficile. Io sentato più stupido parlante Inglese che provare parlare Italiano. E quando trovi parlare Italiano le persone rispondono e loro sono molto gentile. Se fai il sforzo le persone sono felice aiuto. Per me è buono maniere provare. E anche mia vacanza era meglio per questo.

In Inglese noi chiamo questo ‘a light bulb moment’. Sono non sicura come questo traduci….ma….. ‘un lampadina momento’????? Forse.

Comunque, grazie per leggere questo – mia prima blog in Italiano.

Ciao ciao mie amicie!