Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in all the great actions films of the 90s (and then again in the 2010s)… I’m back! It has been a long while since I have written anything and so I thought, what better way to get back in the swing of things than another month of Clear the List language goals.
If you are new to the whole Clear the List thing, and have no idea what I am talking about, then allow me to explain. Clear the List is a language learning community hosted by Lindsay (from Lindsay does Languages) and Shannon (from Eurolinguiste)where you can set monthly language goals and work together to achieve them. Everyone is there to support you, make you accountable and often share some great tips that will help you along the way.
Where have I been?
This year has been a real stinker! The last six months have really kicked my butt and I had to make the hard decision to take a step back from everything and put myself back together. I love learning languages and writing but it had started to feel like a lot of extra pressure on top of everything else and I was only really going through the motions because I felt like I “had” to rather than I “wanted” to, and that isn’t why I started this little adventure.
May now seems like a distant memory and I have managed to successfully relight my fire (no Take That sing alongs though) for writing, languages and everything else. I started with a soft launch by getting back into Instagram, practicing my Italian and meeting even more amazing language enthusiasts. Now it is time to get serious with my language learning again to finish the year on a high.
Although it has been a pretty tough time, it hasn’t all been bad. I actually made one other hard choice and left my full time job to follow my dream to become a full time English teacher, language content creator and language learner. I have been considering making a change to my career to combine with my love for languages for a long time and this all fit into place at the right time and so I took the plunge. I am pleased to say it is going really well and I am very excited about the future to be able to do even more.
That also means there will be a lot more new and exciting things coming to the brand new shiny website. Originally I planned to just give it a little freshen up and a lick of paint, and after months of hard work and long nights I have finally finished what ended up being a full remodel and rebrand. Website building will definitely not be going onto my list of top 10 activities but I am very pleased with the results.
All in all, I feel a little like the Hungry Caterpillar. It was time to enter my little chrysalis and wait a little while until I burst out, reborn and ready to take on the new challenges that life had to throw at me. I’m not quite the same as before but I am definitely just as hungry… but that isn’t going to ever change!
If you remember as far back as January, I shared my fairly ambitious goal to reach C1 by the end of this year. Now almost the whole year has flown by and, needless to say, I am not going to be C1 in the next 8 weeks. Surprisingly though, this doesn’t actually worry me anymore. I am still aiming to reach the advanced level in my second tongue, but it will take a little more time that originally expected. To be fair to my 10 month younger self, I had no way of knowing what this year had in store for me and the fact I am still talking about learning languages is a miracle so I have to take the victories where I see them.
Also over the last 2 months I have somehow managed to push my Italian through B1 into the lofty heights of the upper intermediate B2. I have been spending a lot more time learning with the sole purpose of finding my passion and desire to keep learning and have fun doing it. Even without lots of specific goals and structured plans I have achieved something in the last two months that I have been dreaming about for years now.
Originally I didn’t expect there to be much difference between B1 and B2, thinking I would feel the massive breakthrough when I reach the advanced levels. A little like I would hit a barrier and suddenly turn Italian Super Saiyan, with glowing yellow hair, and have all these new abilities. In reality life doesn’t really work like Dragonball Z, and there are some noticeable changes now I am in the higher intermediate area. The biggest of which is my speaking ability. I feel like I have a lot more fluidity (fluidità is always the most natural expression for this idea in my mind) in my speech and finding it easier to find the expression that I am looking for.
I really noticed this level up when I spoke to my Italian friend, who I hadn’t spoken to properly since the start of the year. He was amazed at how good my Italian had got and couldn’t get over how much my pronunciation and fluency had improved in such a short time. In the end I had to tell him to stop complimenting so my head was still small enough to get back out of my office….
I have decided to change my approach to these goals moving forward. In the past I have focused on four very specific goals relating to the four main areas of learning (speaking, reading, writing and listening) but I think that with my new outlook on life and languages my method also needs a little refreshing. I want to be more flexible and be able to change it up, if and when needed so I am going to focus on trying to achieve something in all the four skills as much as possible. As a minimum I want to do at least 1 thing in the language each day; anything counts.
I love reading and have actually started working my way through the neglected language books in my library (it sounds more grand that way) which has also reignited my desire to keep reading in Italian. So far I have created a pretty solid habit of using Duolingo and Clozemaster again which is working really well; with a 135 day and a 66 day streak respectively. I only use them for 5 or 10 minutes but it is a little extra exposure which is really helping. I know Duolingo is a little basic, but that is why I like it. Sometimes it is easy to forget how important the basics are and practicing them helps me feel a lot more confident when I am speaking. Clozemaster is just great for lots of new phrases and expressions.
I want to add in some more extended and varied reading into my activities and will be using La Repubblica to read some interesting articles about lots of different subjects and increase my vocabulary and exposure to the more complicated construction and grammar.
I will also be trying to finish Harry Potter (I only have a couple of chapters left) but more as a fun activity on the side lines when I can’t be bothered with everything else; which happens more often than you would expect.
Over the last few months I have added a large amount of writing into my Italian to get more practice producing natural expressions. It’s not as intense as conversation but as the purpose is still communicating in the language I feel it is helping my speaking too. I have been using the new Finite Languages website (that I was lucky enough to help test) which is a great way of getting native speaker corrections and some useful scores and information about your writing. This is a useful incentive for me as I always want to get a high score…. That competitive nature coming out again.
I find this works so much better for me than flashcards, a little like my language journal, as it is practically using the language and a lot more fun and engaging that flipping through flashcards that take me a year to make. A little exaggeration but you get my point.
I listen to the radio everyday, which is a given by now, but I am also increasing the more detailed listening study I am doing using the transcription method, by trying to write a full script for the video and the use the subtitles, with a heavy pinch of salt, to check my mistakes. This is actually what identified that my vocabulary is too small as the sounds I heard were correct but I just don’t know enough words to link them all up.
To practice this new vocabulary, and the natural Italian expressions, I am adding this to a writing review exercise where I have the English translation only and translate back. It’s a great way of highlighting common mistakes and missing vocabulary. Any video will do the trick and I am using a combination of Netflix (Limitless, Sabrina and Suburra) as well as Youtube with Giallo Zafferano and Learn Italian with Lucrezia.
This one is always a little tricky for me and I am coming to terms with the fact I won’t fit this in everyday. However, I am having more language exchanges, aiming for one lesson on italki each week and recording videos on Instagram. The more the merrier, but I won’t be too disappointed if it is a rare treat instead of a staple in my Italian language diet.
I know this isn’t one of the four main skills but it is an important part I wanted to mention. I don’t like grammar really but I am trying to fix some problems I have, which need to get lost for me to reach C1, so I am doing a little grammar specific work to match up what I know with the technical words (so I finally don’t look stupid when someone says Passato Remoto) and learning some of the complicated or new stuff I haven’t attempted before now.
I mentioned this in my last Clear the List post, that I start a language journal to revise different Italian work and make a visual record that was more fun and create than flashcards. Doing this has been a great success, personally and with everyone on Instagram, and so I am going to be continuing with it. The aim at the moment is quality over quantity. I will probably only be able to manage 1 page/spread a week but as these will be something I really need to remember it will have a massive impact on my progress.
Another little mention to The Fluent Show, where I was asked along to talk about the idea of language journals and different technicals I use to improve my language learning. Along with Kerstin from Fluent Languages and Kathryn, we had a great chat and you might find some of the tips really helpful. See… even when I am having a break I am still really busy.
A new set of goals also means a new tracker. This month I have decided to go for an autumn theme with a selection of British leaves that I have spent so long watching change colour and cover the roads and parks. As my current focus is making sure I work on the language each day, and create a strong habit, I will colour each leaf in (one for each day) as long as I do something in Italian. That can be anywhere between and hour watching and transcribing a video to 10 minutes on Clozemaster. Anything counts and the more the merrier. I hope to have a colourful completed autumn wonderland to show you next time.
All in all I am really positive for the future, excited for the challenges ahead, and have some really interesting stuff planned in the future so definitely stick around for the fun. With the new website also comes a new mailing list so I can give you even more useful content and share fun things I find on my own journey. If that sounds like something you would be interested in then sign up here. No spam, just all the good language, travel and fun stuff that you would expect from me.
So what are your language plans for November to end the year on a high? Let me know in the comments below, I always love hearing from you guys.
Ciao for now!