After the last few weeks of rain in the UK, it feels like summer is well and truly over. The nights are going to be drawing in and the cold weather is approaching, but I seriously cannot wait! I love the wind, the rain and layering up for the winter! It also means no more gardening with the wife and more study time!! Smashing those language goals…Yay!
All the schools are opening again soon and so it feels like the perfect time to get back into the swing of things. Sharing my language learning goals with Clear the List. A monthly goal sharing community hosted by Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy.
Where have I been?
It’s been a little while guys. I started the year strong and then everything went a little crazy. I got married in June. Yes, I’m officially off the market! Which meant the months leading up to it were jam packed. Full of chores that I never knew existed.
But, after months of planning and stress it all came together. The day was absolutely perfect. We had an amazing time and wish we could do it all over again. Not that we can afford that of course.
Waking up on the Sunday morning, after a night of drinking and dancing (in that order), we had a mad rush to the airport. Our flights to Italy were waiting for us.
This trip was the first time we had returned to Italy since I started learning Italian in 2013. Needless to say, I was super excited. Mainly to see whether all that time and effort had paid off, and if all the exercises, listening practice and conversation translated into real world skills. The answer was yes! We had an amazing time and I had no troubles ordering all the tastyItalian food and drink we found along the way.
Two weeks of 30+ degrees, good food and exploring the south of Italy. Naples, Sorrento, The Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Matera and Sicily. Nine different hotels in twelve days. If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, we also decided to drive. Let’s just say …It was definitely a learning experience!! ( we don’t take it easy on holidays… no sitting on beaches or by pools for us!)
Italians drive like absolute nutcases! I had heard about it before, but experiencing it first hand is a whole different ball game. Speed limits, lane markings and parking bays are only there for decoration. Nobody follows them or even notices they are there.
The whole trip was full of firsts. Our first arancini in Sicily, our first pizza in Naples and our first car crash… I’m not kidding! Two days before the end of the trip we had a small accident with a local. Everyone was fine, but it was a really scary experience. Especially as I had to resolve the entire situation completely in Italian.
I didn’t know every word, or even what I was talking about half the time, but I did it. After 6 hours of phone calls, roadside assistance and crazy taxi drivers, we had a new car. My brain has never hurt so much before, but I improved because of it. In that kind of situation you have to be flexible or you will snap. Which is a great thing for my Italian. Every cloud has a silver lining!
I’ve had a fresh lick of paint
You may also notice something else has changed a little. The website is brand new with a whole new name. “From Pillar to Posts” is now officially Discover Fluency. The new home of all things languages. Check out my announcement post for more details on the change and what to expect in the future.
I loved my little blog, but I had grown out of it. I wanted to have a space for all language learners to share their passion for languages. Not just my story. All of ours. And so, Discover Fluency was born.
All the same language loving content, on a shiny new site.
My Plan for the rest of the year
I can hardly believe that over half the year is gone now. It feels like only yesterday I was cooking a huge Christmas dinner for my whole family and setting my goals for this year. Now I am married, honeymoon is out the way and 2020 is looming. But, I’m not worried. There is still plenty of time… I hope!
When it comes to my Italian, my priorities are now going to be shifting a little. Rather than focusing on communication, I am going to be preparing for my first language exam. The dreaded CILS C1 exam.
My skills currently lie somewhere between B2 and C1. And so, I still have a long way to go to push it into the advanced bracket.
The main reason for the exam is to force me to focus on all the core skills and fix any lingering errors. Those tricky little customers that crop up all the time but I never get around to. They never seem to be a priority when they don’t hinder conversation. So, looks like it will be grammar work, writing essays and practice papers for me, just to supplement what I am already doing of course!
I also want to take the exam for another important reason. To understand my students better. I always feel like I am a better teacher when I understand their situation. As a language learner I am familiar with the hurdles they have gone through and will lie ahead. That helps me to guide them more effectively. But, I have never taken a language exam. And I want to know first hand how difficult it is. Just like those Italian drivers, there is nothing like practical experience.
How will I get there
To hit the ground running I am going to be starting with my biggest weakness; vocabulary. Until this point, I have survived by using flexibility and my limited vocabulary to make do. I don’t always know the right word but I can figure out something close enough to continue. As long as they get the idea I am happy. Moving forward that isn’t going to be enough.
For the advanced level my understanding, and production of phrases, needs to be a lot more natural. Using the right phrases in the correct context and not getting lost in complex situations. For this I need to dramatically increase my input. Then, I can activate this new vocabulary.
September language goals
So, September is all about input. Getting as much language into my brain as humanly possible. (Or inhumanly possible if I can manage it.) Then I’ll be starting the slow process of activating it so I can use it in conversation.
To do this my main focus will be on reading and listening. Reading for pure vocab and grammar structures. Listening for those natural conversation expressions you can’t find anywhere else. Writing and speaking will work in the background to support the others. While it isn’t the focus, I can’t go a month without speaking. That will only hurt me later.
5 x story per week
– I read some translated Chinese stories everyday and my favourite is also translated into Italian. So, I am going to get back into reading and binge that story (again!)
– I have deleted over half my flashcards because there were too many and half were useless. So, now I am more focused and it is actually manageable.
5 x episodes per week
– I’m going to pick a TV show on Netflix and get my binge on. I recently finished Umbrella Academy and something similar is probably on the cards.
1 x Italian podcast per week
– This will either be Nerd Corner (from Radio Lupo) or Con Nostre Parole. Something to have a listening focus that isn’t just the radio.
1 x Lyrics Training per week
– Choosing one of my current favourite songs to practice and learn the lyrics. Because who doesn’t want to sing along in the shower! Not me!
5 x Instagram posts per week
– Sticking to Instagram for my daily writing fix. I am going to try using this to activate phrases I find but no pressure.
Daily writing prompt on my vocabulary calendar
– More on that later…
1 x lesson per week
– I finally have a great Italian teacher with a regular lesson. I feel like I’m speaking to a friend who can tell me when I make a mistake. Exactly what I need! And it’s been very heard to find, so I am glad that is sorted and I can focus on learning now!
1 x Instagram video per week
– Getting over my fear of speaking by recording a video each week. Talking about something I find interesting (and hopefully that others will too…)
Flashcards everyday (because I always read them out loud!)
I read all my flashcards out loud so I count this as speaking practice too. Whether it is a production or comprehension card, I still get the muscle memory. Double whammy!
Activity Tracker and Vocabulary Calendar
For my goal tracker, I have opted for a weekly format rather than monthly. “Why?” I hear you cry. Well, it’s because I have a little more flexibility this way. I can adjust the goals as the month goes on and review it more regularly. Avoiding the tail end of the month when I know the goals need to change and I just wait until the next CTL time.
To help me stay on track, I have created an activity tracker. Where I can write down everything I am doing and record the time I spend studying. I always find the grand total at the end of the week a huge motivation. Proving to myself that little and often really adds up.
It feels good to strip the trackers back to the bare bones and focus on the process. Refining my method and then adding the visual tracker elements back in. Producing something even better that I can share with you all. Wish me luck!
So, what’s your goal this month? Let me know in the comments below. I always love to hear what you guys are up to.
Until next time!