Happy Easter everyone! How time flies when you are having fun, and I have had a lot of fun this month. As my free time seems to be getting less and less, I am taking more pleasure in the little victories and finding those small moments everyday to put a smile on my face. What’s the point of working so hard all the time if you aren’t going to enjoy yourself. You only get one life so you have to make it worth living in your own way. For me it is to learn languages and so here I am again to share my thoughts with you for the month past and the month ahead.
Just in case we have any new readers here (welcome to you all!), I take time each month to share my language goals in the aim to motivate myself and others to learn more, have fun and ultimately feel that sense of achievement in everything we are doing. The Clear the List event is hosted by Shannon at Eurolinguiste and Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages. Head over to their pages and share the love and join the party.
I have been a very busy boy these last few months, so it has been a real test of my resolve to stay motivated and find new ways to fit everything in. While I haven’t always achieved everything I planned to, I am feeling even more inspired to keep working hard and dedicating myself to all the things I want to do. Writing on this blog, learning languages, sharing my journey on Instagram, spending time with those close to me and also finding time to sleep at some point. It isn’t going to be easy but I know that I can do anything I set my mind to and so I need to keep positive and I will cross that finish line come hell or high water.
Surfing along that positive wave, I am happy to report I have made some good progress this much. I didn’t study everyday, but when I did it was really productive. Quality over quantity I always say.
My very ambitious reading goal was to finish Harry Potter. Well, that didn’t happen. I actually only managed 6 out of 13 chapters. That might sound like a failure but it really isn’t. Considering I have had this book for around 5 years and never made it past chapter 2, when you think that in one month I have tripled that result, I can’t help but be elated. The idea behind this goal was to increase the amount of natural Italian texts I was including in my routine. While I couldn’t understand every word, I learnt a lot of new phrases from the context, or from my encyclopedic knowledge of the original text, which has meant that I am already reaping the rewards without having to sit down and do any particularly hard study. Sitting in bed at night with my reading light and enjoying one of my favourite stories in a new language is one of my favourite ways of learning. Fun, simple and easy. It can’t always be like that but I really like it when it works out that way.
While watching lots of Italian weather reports I came to an amazing realisation that has helped my listening comprehension to move on leaps and bounds. For the longest time I felt that my listening skills were the weakest because I hadn’t spent enough time focusing on it. But that wasn’t the case. When I transcribed the texts I could hear all the sounds correctly but I couldn’t associate them with words or phrases I knew. This clearly meant that my problem wasn’t a lack or audio comprehension, but more a lack of appropriate vocabulary that allows me to understand the full meaning. Once I spent a little time learning the common phrases used in these reports it instantly became easiest to understand the whole video without lots of repetition. I can now watch a weather report and understand the general meaning on the first watch, which is exactly what I set out to achieve this month. Success!
While I had great success with listening and reading, I can’t say the same for writing and speaking. Although I did do some more diary writing and speaking to my Italian language buddies, there was a lot less focus on this over the month as a whole. The main reason was due to time. It takes a lot longer to sit down and do some dedicated writing or organise a skype call than it does to watch a 3 minute weather report or pick up a book and read a few pages. It isn’t all bad new though. I had a great skype call with my Italian friend where we spent a few hours discussing different English and Italian idioms in a mixture of both languages; which was really fun.
April is definitely going to be a month to boost my Italian. If for no other reason that we are going to Genova (Genoa) for my birthday at the end of the month. I am incredibly excited for many reasons. Good weather, amazing food, boat trips along the coast, and last but by no means least, the chance to use my Italian with native speakers for five whole days. I seriously can’t wait. As part of my usual trip preparations my language studies will also have a holiday theme.
When we visited Germany last year I learnt two important lessons. First was that to get the most out of a holiday in a different country I need to get creative with the language I do know. I can’t stop the conversation every time I don’t know a word or worst still, revert to English. I just have to bite the bullet and figure out a way around the situation. The best way of doing this is to use all the words I know to keep the conversation moving. I will make mistakes, I will use the wrong words, I may use 50 words when 5 would be enough, but as long as I am understood I have succeeded. It is all about communication after all.
The second lesson was that I need to spend time revision vocabulary that will be useful for the trip. When I went to Bavaria I spent hours learning how to build the language and express my ideas, which was great for conversation, but didn’t really help me when we were sitting in a restaurant and I didn’t know what half the ingredients were on the menu. As with all language learning I need to learn the information I personally need to know and from my experience I know this will be most related to food, restaurants, direction, shopping and general exploration. These are all the things I enjoy doing on holiday and so it makes sense to have that language clear in my head for when we leave.
With those two points in mind I have set myself some very simple, but useful, goals for the coming 19 days until we leave… but who’s counting?
Not much change here really. I am going to be continuing with Harry Potter to try and make it further through the book. Ideally I would like to revisit the first couple of chapters and study the phrases I didn’t understand but I think i will leave this for when I have finished the book and have more time on my hands. Holiday prep is the priority but it is always good to have a fun bit of reading to turn to at the end of the busy day.
For writing this month I am going to keep it very simple, as part of the Language Diary Challenge on Instagram from Joy of Languages. Post a picture and write a message in English and Italian each day. Over the last few weeks I haven’t been on Instagram much but I am going to start fresh and try my best. I won’t be able to do it everyday but every day that I can fit it in is a victory. I am sure I will have lots of amazing pictures and messages to share while we are away so I won’t be lacking for inspiration for my writing at the very least.
Whenever I have learnt a language for travel, at any level, I have always found podcasts to be the most useful resource for me. They are tailor made for common travel situations so the vocabulary and phrases they use are always very appropriate. A little added bonus is that all the audio content helps prepare myself for the machine gun Italian that will be waiting from me as soon as we land. The podcast I have chosen is Coffee Break Italian. I had great success with the French and German versions and hope this revision will help to improve my active travel vocabulary. I think I will skip the very beginning of the course, given my current level, and focus more on the real life conversation section they do later in each module.
As another tool to prepare for Italian conversations I want to have more Italian conversations. While this isn’t exactly rocket science, it is the most practical solution to ensure that I am conversation ready before we leave. With a combination of tandem language partners, skype calls with my Italian friend and recording videos of new phrases I have learnt from podcasts, I hope to feel a lot more confident in my abilities. I want to do my best to avoid the common first day nerves where I revert to English for fear of sounding like an idiot. With only five days I want to make every second count and grab any opportunity with both hands. Whether they want to speak to me or not.
As you all know I love making a visual tracker for my language achievements and this month I have chosen another seasonal representation of my hard work. Taking inspiration from the common phrase “April Showers” each raindrop will represent one day and the amount of water that fills each day will show how many goals I have achieved. A full drop and all four goals have been tackled that day. A simple method to keep me on track. What do you guys think of this month’s tracker? Don’t forget to share your trackers on Instagram with #p2ptrackerchallenge so everyone can see your handy work.
And that is all he wrote. Goals set, flights booked and excitement at its highest level yet. I can’t wait to enjoy la bella vita (The beautiful life) for a short time, and on my birthday to boot. Feeling very lucky this month.
What are your plans for April? I would love to hear from you all in the comments below. Best of luck in advance and I will see you here this time next month for another update.
Ciao for now