Two years ago, – as I was planning my July wedding and finalizing details of the honeymoon to Italy that would swiftly follow – my then fiancé and I decided to undertake a shared goal: to learn Italian. We had always been avid learners, and keen to try our hands at a third language. Six months prior, we had decided that a honeymoon to Italy right after our wedding would be a dream come true. It seemed as though fate had dealt us a perfect hand: a wonderful opportunity to learn a third language that would both be helpful for us in the future, and which had a set timeline that would force us to complete our task in a reasonable time frame. I had even just recently received a gift card for Chapters for Christmas, which I promptly used to buy a Living Language Learn Italian package. We were looking forward to pre-marital (and educational!) bonding.
It didn’t happen like that.
We had all the right intentions, that I promise you, but life seemed to get in the way. There were always other things that needed to get done: shop for a house, buy a house, clean this new house, shop for household necessities and cute not-so-necessities, mark and grade papers and assignments, plan our wedding, get fit and healthy for our wedding, plan our honeymoon, etc. We just couldn’t sit down and find the time to learn this language, although we were very interested in doing so. We were able to do some of the Living Language lessons, which introduced us to the basics of Italian communication (ciao, arrivederci, donna, uomo, etc.) but we never actually reached our goal of being able to speak and understand this language appropriately.
Although our trip to Italy is now long gone, our aspirations of learning Italian have not fainted. We still want to speak, read, understand, and write in this language. This Learning Project is the perfect (which I actually mean this time) opportunity for us to engage in learning a third language properly. Therefore, my goal for this project is to be able to speak, understand, read, and write in Italian by April. I do not intend to become fluent in this language (as a French immersion teacher, I understand the implications and expectations of this term), but I do resolve to learn more than just the basics. I want to be able to read a short Italian article by April, share in a simple conversation in this language, and write a short letter correctly in Italian. How will I accomplish this goal? Here are a couple things I had in mind, after having read 22 tips for learning a foreign language:
1. Do it independently, yet still in a shared capacity with my husband. The first time around, we dedicated to learning all of the aspects of the language together. This was a mistake. We both have very different schedules, and different preferences in our learning styles. Having to go through all the aspects of the learning process together made it difficult to set out time. I will complete the tasks on my own, yet will speak about this with my husband and work with him on his goal as well. We will learn together, but at separate times and through different means. After we learn our basic knowledge of Italian words and phrases (through technology, see below), we will be able to converse together and practice our Italian speech.
2. Use technology to my advantage. Just recently, one of my students introduced me to Duolingo. This website helps people learn a language, for free! It seems to begin with just the basics, which will help me revise the few things I learned two years ago, and push me beyond the knowledge I have already acquired. It is a great place to start, before beginning my adventures in conversational Italian. It can also connect with my LinkedIn profile, sharing my progress in that regards! It keeps track of the time I spend working on Italian, which helps keep me accountable for my learning. There are plenty of other internet links that can help anyone learn a new language, detailed in the article 7 Social Networks Designed to Help You Learn a New Language. I will start there, and move beyond if needed.
3. Find help in the form of Google+. The EC&I 831 Google+ community is very helpful and constantly active. Many students have posted questions, to which many answered. Furthermore, there are many other students already who are learning another language for their learning project. This will create a community of learners with similar goals. Once I figure out how to modify the setting on my own Google+, I will be able to use it to help me achieve my goals.
4. Practice daily to achieve goals and time frames. Obviously this project is due before the end of the semester, which is April. However, to achieve my goal for this assignment, daily practice is necessary. Duolingo will aid in this regard, as it encourages daily practice. Additionally, I will review at the end of every week what I have accomplished, note this in video logs, and reflect upon my learning. Through this reflection, new goals will be set for the following week. At the end of the next week, I will rinse and repeat this cycle, to achieve my goal of learning enough Italian by the end of the semester to achieve my goals of speaking, reading, and writing in this language.
No more simple ciao and arriverderci! Italian, here I come!