On 12th April after 97 days I completed my tree on Duolingo and my owl got his Italian scarf. But this is just the beginning and you can’t learn in isolation. I don’t believe in learning one lesson by heart and then moving on to the next one. I can’t learn by rote and certainly you can’t make sense of one set of words without understanding their context. In Italian many words change not one, depending on the context.
And so I ploughed through the whole lot with a basic understanding, memorising as I went. I’ve managed to implement a lot of it and I can now read basic Italian across social media, understand most of the articles I read and I can get most of my own basic sentence construction right. Italian is now a part of every day life.
But the tree doesn’t end there. You constantly need to update and refresh. Italian is far more complicated than English. And there are far more words to learn because each word has singulars, plurals, are gender sensitive, and have various past, present and future tenses. Quite simply you need to combine Duolingo with a whole bunch of other learning techniques if you’re to master it.
There are a multitude of things you can do. If you want to get good you’ll have to spend a lot longer than a few months. In fact, unless you have a photographic memory, language learning takes a lifetime. But it’s been liberating and I intend to press on.
What I have noticed is how much more advanced my reading and writing is compared to my spoken skills. Talking to an app is one thing, doing it in the real world and with native speakers is quite another and I don’t have many opportunities for that here in Manchester.
And so I joined some language exchange groups on Facebook. I am going to be meeting Italian people. Also, I get randomly messaged by Italians hoping to improve their English so I am constantly having to think on my feet.
I am using a range of elements to improve my language and make sure every day is a new learning and practicing experience. To sum up here’s what I use every day:
- Facebook and Twitter articles and status updates – I read, write and respond
- Read a book – someone lent me an Italian book. It’s hard work but handy for dipping in
- Meet Up – I’ve just joined a language exchange group which meets in Manchester
- Whatsapp – I have Italian friends in Manchester and Venice I chat to.
- Duolingo – lesson plans are still set to ‘insane’, you never truly finish your tree
- Learnitalianpod.com – spoken lessons only, handy for not using the written word as a prompt
- Italiano Automatico – Facebook and Youtube – Alberto specialises in teaching Italian. He has slow podcasts – I drop them on to my player for the car.
- Weila Tom – Youtube – easy explanations about all aspects of the Italian language. This has been my saving grace on so many occasions when I’m struggling to understand structure and variables
- I back everything up with the vidulingua.com app for checking individual words or checking my sentences before I post to social media
- I converted all my gadgets to Italian
- Post it notes – I put them up in strategic places I look every day like my bathroom mirror – I use this mostly for words I struggle to remember – subliminal learning does work
- podclub.ch – advanced but just hearing the language is beneficial – I drop them on to my player for the car
- RadioVenezia – or any Italian radio station. Again, just hearing the language is beneficial and that this station is based in my favourite city encourages me
- Try and think in Italian, I talk to myself a lot. I try to do it in Italian and practice imaginary conversations that I would use regularly such as talking about what I do, or where I am going. It becomes second nature, believe me.
- Films with or without subtitles – my favourite is ‘Venezia, la luna e tu’ – if you watch it you’ll understand why
In a nutshell SURROUND yourself with it.