And another one bites the dust! Even though February is the shortest month of the year, I was still a little surprised how quickly it has flown by. I was still as busy as January but I managed to get a much better routine for my studies. I am still terrified of the C1 exam that I’m going to take at the end of the year, but I know I just need to get my head down, hit the books and put the time and energy in to reap the rewards. You only get out what you put in, they always say…
With a few less days in the month, a week of illness and a crazy schedule it was already going to be a challenge to keep everything on track this month. However, I am staying positive about it because it has only been 8 weeks since I set myself the challenge and have plenty of time ahead. I am also starting to see improvement in my Italian, even if only minor. All those small victories will add up and result in something great… or that is the plan anyway!
My general approach has been a little hit and miss. Some days I am doing all kinds of fun activities like watching the news, listening to podcasts and reading short stories. Others I wouldn’t be able to fit anything in. Part of this is due to the time I had a available but it was also due to the vagueness of my goals. If you’ve seen my February Language Goals then you will probably agree my goals are a little woolly. Read something, write something and speak a bit… no specific objectives which has meant it is hard to judge whether I am actually making any progress.
That being said I have found a few things working really well for me:
- Italian short stories – A fantastic little book for improving vocabulary and reading short texts. The chapters are short and the little comprehension questions and vocabulary section at the end of each chapter are just amazing. You can check your understanding of the text and have quality definitions supplied for the keywords.
- Languagediarychallenge (From Joy of Languages) – I love using Instagram and have used it for practicing my writing for a long time but the language diary challenge is a great way to keep me motivated and find others that are wanting to develop their language skills too.
- Rai News 24 App – I have always loved the Rai TV content for practicing Italian and found they have a news app. It is brilliant! You can listen live (most of the time) or watch short clips from the day. A great way to practice listening skills.
Now onto my plans for this month…
I have been taking a long hard look at my language goals and trying to decide how I can make them SMARTer. At the moment my goals are a bit more ART (Achievable, Realistic and Time restricted) than SMART. They just aren’t Specific enough or Measurable in any way, which I think is the main reason for my recent frustration. The way I have chosen to tackle this is by choosing a specific task for each of the four key language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) that I want to be able to complete by the end of the month. Then I will use smaller micro goals to give me the tools I am currently missing to achieve them. This will make it a lot easier to measure how quickly I am working towards my goals and also easier to decide what to do next.
I recently listened to a great podcast from Kerstin at Fluent Languages that talks all about how to push past the intermediate plateau towards becoming an advanced speaker in the language you are learning. There are tons of great tips there but one of the main things that I took from it was that counting time for an intermediate learner won’t really help motivate you, but choosing rewards at regular intervals will help to keep motivation and a sense of excitement from being able to do something new; which is why I have chosen a task I haven’t been able to do yet so I there will be no doubt in my mind of the improvements I am making.
Here are the goals I have chosen:
Reading – Finish Harry Potter
Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale was the first Italian book I ever bought and I still haven’t finished it yet, which is just not good enough in my books (pun intended!). So this month I am going to set myself the ambitious challenge of finishing the whole book. With a total of 300 pages it will mean reading an average of 10 pages a day which is quite a big ask, but I think I will have to allow for less pages in the week by sitting and doing some solid reading at the weekend. When possible I am also going to try and note down new words and phrases to add into my flashcards to actively learn some new vocabulary.
Writing – Write Clear the List April in Italian
Wow! I know what you are thinking, and yes I am crazy. I do small bits of writing each day, talking to Italian friends and writing comments for Instagram, but I do very little extended writing and really struggle using the natural expressions that I use when writing in English. I really want to get to the stage that I can confidently write in Italian without the need for hordes of corrections. To prepare for this I am going to do a small piece of writing each day, like a diary, and post on Lang 8 to get native speaker corrections. So, I am hoping to share my first bilingual language goals with you all for April.
Listening – Understand a weather report first time
Watching Italian TV is tough! The speed of conversations, the accents and general vocabulary that use is all a bit too much for my little brain to handle. That is why I want to be a lot more specific with the type of video I want to be watching this month. That way I can focus on learning the specific vocabulary related to that subject and try to understand what is being said on the first watch. The reason I have chose the weather is simple really, it is one of the most common topics of conversation in English and so I want to be able to tell everyone in Italy about how terrible the English weather is. My current favourite phrase to describe the weather is Fa freddo un cane! (It’s freezing!). I have even had a lot of compliments from my Italian friends about using it as well; they were very impressed.
To learn all this vocabulary I will be transcribing the short weather clips on Rai News 24 and recording all the new phrases in my flashcards to memorise. Each time I will then hopefully have less and less unknown phrases until the whole conversation makes sense. I am not aiming for 100% comprehension but enough to be able to have a good understanding of the full report. If this technique works to reduce the lack of knowledge that is restricting my listening comprehension I will be trying it again with another theme next month.
Speaking – Record a 5 minute unscripted video
All language learners will tell you that speaking is the most difficult part of any language, especially for an introvert. Which is why I am putting so much focus on it. Over the last few months I have tried to record more videos on Instagram and I have been very pleased with the results. I feel more confident speaking for extended periods of time about different subjects. The main problem is that all of these have been scripted, so I am memorising a piece of text I have written and then presenting it in a fluid way. This is great to teach my mouth and brain to play Italian for a few minutes uninterrupted, but isn’t the best practice for natural conversation. To tackle this I am going to be recording videos of myself speaking each day, about different subjects, as well as talking to my language partners on Tandem (mainly with audio notes) to practice this element of spontaneous conversation. Then at the end of the month I want to record a short video where I speak continuously about my progress in the month and my general thoughts and feelings without any preparation other than some bullet points on talking points. I know it is going to be really hard, especially to remove all the hesitation, but I am looking forward to the challenge.
My Language Tracker
As always I have designed a tracker for my language goals that I can highlight each day as a visual representation of the work I have completed. This time I have gone with a spring theme of daffodils and flowers. It isn’t spring in England without daffodils so I wanted to share this with everyone. I am really enjoying making the themed designs for each month to keep things interesting. I have a really nice idea for April that I think you will really enjoy. What do you guys think of this tracker?
And that is it! Four very specific and measurable goals that will give me a much clearer target to aim at this month and hopefully boost my learning. What are your plans this month? Let me know in the comments below.
Ciao for now!