Clear the List – Language Goals April 19

3 months down and so it is about time for a quarterly review as our Italian honeymoon is quickly approaching. 9 weeks to go!

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Spring has finally arrived! The daffodils are out, the days are getting longer and the sun has been shining (all be it briefly).. This is my favourite time of year and I feel pumped for another month of language learning success.

“What’s the Clear the list?” I hear you say…let me explain. Clear the List is a monthly check in hosted by Lindsay from Lindsay does Languages and Shannon from Eurolinguiste where we share our language goals to stay accountable and smash them!

This time I want to take a leaf out of the business handbook and do a quarterly review. Sometimes I find it is helpful to get a longer perspective on things. It also worked perfectly as the half way point in my first goal for this year; being conversationally confident before our honeymoon.

First Quarter Review

As I expected, the start of the year was really busy and there is no let up in site. Between building my online teaching business, planning a wedding and life in general, it has been hard to fit languages in sometimes. Therefore, I am really impressed with the progress I have made. I can clearly see I have taken a few steps towards the advanced Italian level which is an amazing feeling!

Fine line between chaos and bureaucracy

When I think about the common metaphor “people will have a little angel and devil on their shoulders that will guide them between right and wrong”, I feel a little different. For me it is all about finding the fine line between utter chaos and complete bureaucracy. I am probably the most chaotic planner that I know (which drives my other half crazy!) and makes finding a suitable approach for language learning a little tricky.

At the start of the year, I went for a very regimented and specific approach. It helped me focus but didn’t allow the flexibility that I need to really enjoy the language. Then, I tried a very freestyle method which meant I often felt a little lost and procrastination crept in.

Although this sounds unproductive, it has really helped me to understand myself as a student a little better. I need to have a plan to keep me in line, with freedom in terms of resources, approach and subject, so that I can explore the language myself depending on how I felt that day, the time I was available etc. My own very personal journey.

Following my passion.

This feeling of exploration has given me a real sense of power in my language learning and reignited my passion for the language and the culture itself. I have been able to look around each day and find something that I find interesting, confusing or intriguing and work it out. Fun is a vital part in my process and doing this has meant that whenever the feeling or boredom approaches I can just switch path. Still moving forward but in a more natural way.

This is the opposite of what we were taught at school. We learnt to follow the course and there is a standard route to reaching the desired path. If I wake up in the morning and really want to read about the tourism in the Faroe Islands, then it won’t be as productive to look at food vocabulary. Finding interesting content in the language builds on my foundation and gives me the flexibility I need to reach the advanced level.

Testing new techniques and revisiting old one

During this journey I realised that my reliance on apps wasn’t going to work anymore. What I need is a toolkit I can use to solve all my language problems. One nugget of information at a time.

The main techniques I rely on are transcribing and translating. Taking the language from context, breaking it down into it’s individual elements and really trying to understand the connection between the English idea and the Italian idea. Not simply looking at word to word. This is helping me to have a deeper understanding of the way Italians formulate their ideas and how I can mimic this process when I communicate.

Flashcards – the love hate relationship continues

As part of the technique investigation I have gone back to some old favourites (or enemies) to see if I can bring them back into the fold…. flashcards!

I have always had a love hate relationship with them. The time required to make them never seems to pay off in the long run. It always feels like a massive investment with minimal reward! Then I lose interest and all that time is wasted. But I know they are useful when you use them correctly. That’s why I gave them a second, third and fourth chance… but from a different angle.

The main difficulty I have in Italian is accurate, natural sentence construction and those pesky prepositions. So, I have started finding example sentences from Context Reverso that use the new vocabulary to give me an accurate example of the correct context for each word. For each set of sentences I create two cards; English to Italian and vice versa. I try to focus on the meaning in Italian and then building an Italian sentence from English. Double whammy!

To help ease the frustrating process of making the flashcards I have been using Anki’s import feature. I make a spreadsheet with all my expressions and import it ones a week. That way, I slowly add information while I study and add the next batch the end of the week. The secondary benefit is that I’m not overloading myself with new cards. Avoiding the situation with over 2000 cards a day; which isn’t achievable.

Second Quarter Plan

It’s crunch time now! The wedding is in 10 weeks, which means I have a very limited time to improve my level…. ARRGGH! No need to panic though. That is where the plans come in to play.

Just call me Indiana Jones!

Language exploration (instead of study) is working really well and so I am going to continue with that. Watching TV and reading articles I find interesting and taking Italian lessons for general conversation to help me sound like an Italian.

Originally, I was going to focus solely on subjects related to travel, but I have realised that phrases I have learnt from watching my favourite TV series have actually come in much more useful. Little snippets of pure Italian I can bust out when the time arises. So everyone will look at me in shock and awe… or that is the plan anyway!

Let the travel prep commence

To give it a bit more of a honeymoon focus I have decided to try and do my holiday prep in Italian. Researching locations to visit, food to each and travel arrangements from Italian sources. That way I can organise our adventure and learn the specific language I will need to actually do it. And my love for food will inevitable continue with lots of detailed research into the native cuisine I will be gorging on when we arrive.

How to do it

A little structure is always good. That’s why I am aiming for daily contact with the language, weekly lessons with my tutor and as much passive input as I can get my ears on.

Daily Contact

While I have removed all the apps from my “essential” daily contact, I am now using flashcards which I will try and keep under control on a weekly basis. As the weeks go on this may become a little more difficult but I am keeping a close eye on it. I also need to find a new series to watch as The Magicians is now finished and I am missing my daily Italian fix while I eat my lunch or do the washing up.

Weekly Lessons

At the moment, I am really enjoying my lessons. Each time I speak I feel much more confident. Using new constructions I have never tried before, learning new expressions and generally getting a feeling for how to communicate effectively. One lesson a week seems to do the trick at the moment, with my current commitments, but I would like to increase it to two or three a little closer to the time. Ramp up the pressure so I am prepared for the Italian onslaught I will receive when I get off the plane.

Passive input, please!

So far this year, I’ve watched two series completely in Italian and understood around 80-90%. Enough to get stuck in. But it’s not just for fun. It’s for that magical feeling you get when you hear a new word you learnt the other day. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I heard a character in The Magicians pick up a jar of gherkins (or pickles for the Americans in the house) and say Sottaceto. “I know that one, I learnt it yesterday!”.

This might sound small but it is a really important feeling. The sense of achievement. Confirmation that all that hard work learning new vocabulary is paying off. Unlocking an extra little segment of the language that was previously unattainable. Every time it happens my motivation sky rockets. More motivation, more learning and more progress. Simple really!

Tracker Time!

I adore my trackers and so they are going to continue. An illustration a day to keep stagnation away… that’s the saying right?

With wedding plans well underway I have had to cut back a little on the tracker this month. Going old-school and using a simple Easter themed illustration to track my daily progress. Simple but effective!

And there you have it. My plan to be prepared for my first two week adventure in Italy and making the most of the beautiful experiences we will have there. What’s your plan for the second quarter of the year? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time…

Ciao for now!

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