Learn how to learn how to learn

Learning is a process.

A long process. Oftentimes, I think we forget how long things take to complete, or how much we should know by a certain time. We expect as adults to be able to learn something rapidly; after being introduced to a language, we should be able to speak it relatively quickly. Truth is, it takes a long time.

If we are able to put in 10 hours a day, then basic fluency in the easy languages should take 48 days, and for difficult languages 72 days. Accounting for days off, this equates to two months or three months time. If you only put in 5 hours a day, it will take twice as long. Steve Kaufmann, October 19th, 2015

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not have ten hours a day to put into learning Italian. Although in a perfect world I would love to, I’m lucky when I squeeze in 30 minutes on workdays, and an hour a day on weekends. That means that basic fluency in Italian, which is said to be an easy language for English-speakers, will take much longer than I would like. Much longer than this course will last.

What should I take from this? That I shouldn’t get too get disappointed when I don’t feel as though I have improved enough or that I have learned enough. To not get disappointed when I still can’t converse without prepping in advance, or when I can’t correctly pronounce, write or translate words that I have already learned. It can be frustrating, and disappointing, but I think those  feelings are normal in all learning processes, and not simply just language learning.

I will admit, learning online can be overwhelming. I have always searched for an equivalent expression in English – and perhaps you could help me considering the one I found did not seem accurate – but online learning truly presents  l’embarras du choix. Meaning, there are simply SO many options from which to choose. I began using Duolingo, then moved on to incorporating Mango into my learning upon suggestion from my fellow language-learning peers. However, they are but two language-learning apps in a sea of so many more. I have looked into Memrise, Babbel, and Learn A Language Online as well, but they haven’t worked as well for me as the Duolingo-Mango combination. Furthermore, a simple search on Pinterest loads innumerable amounts of suggestions, articles, resources and reference pages that I just couldn’t help but pin on a board I specifically made for this project. In addition, I looked into listening to Italian this week (as I felt more comfortable with it through the Mango lessons I have completed), and came upon a multitude of resources and choices after a quick google search; 71 900 000 results in 1.05 seconds to the prompt listen to Italian (which, I realized, changes constantly). It’s crazy what the Internet can offer us in regards to our own learning! I finally decided on the BBC website, since it is a reputable source (although not directly from Italy – I would like to find one from the source, but only when I can understand mostly everything written in this language to be able to navigate the website). That being said, that website alone offers yet another multitude of links to other sites that offer Italian podcasts, tv shows, and radio shows. It feels as though it is never-ending.

So yes, it can be overwhelming. The fact that I don’t know if there is another app, or website, or podcast, or anything, that is better than the ones I am using now forces me to search every week for more resources. That time spent searching for new resources can reduce the amount of time I have to actually learn the language. In the end, I am wondering; when should I stop? When should I stop looking for new resources, and use the ones I have to build upon and manipulate for my own language learning? It’s just like when I am planning a new unit in Science, Social Studies, French, or Math. I spend hours and hours looking for new resources and ideas – ‘pinning’ ones I already have to remind me of potentially good ideas – to come back to them later and feel overwhelmed with all the options I have given myself. I have a total of 651 pins on my Teacher Board, not including the 86 other pins I have on the myriad of other teaching-related boards on my Pinterest page; and I have seen many teachers with many, many more pins than myself! I hate to ask – seeing as we are in age of information, and seeing as how I personally never want to stop learning  – but when a deadline is fast approaching, when should I stop searching for new resources and work with what I have found?

I guess it is an answer found within our own learning process. I tell my students to not always trust and use the first article that pops up after a google search (is it always Wikipedia?), but I definitely don’t want them to go through the 71 900 000 results either. Learning to critically analyse one’s process, one’s resources, and one’s needs is what needs to happen for true learning to occur.

Sometimes, learning how to learn and what to use is more daunting than actually grasping the language, or whatever you are be trying to achieve.

I am an adult; I am a grad student; and I am a teacher, with two degrees who did well in my five years of university. I have done my fair share of schooling with success; and yet, I am not ashamed to admit that I am still learning how to learn. Incorporating online content has not only broadened my horizons, offered new and exciting ways to grasp content and incorporate learning in my classroom, but it has also forced me (in a good way!) to change the way I see education, the way I understand the learning process, and the way I achieve my self-made goals.  Can one learn how to learn how to learn?

All things considered, I did make progress this week in regards to my Italian learning. Following is the conversation I had with my husband. Scripted, again, which focused this week on a grocery store scenario:



Conversation 2.png

Problems with our conversation:

  1. I think I am still over-rolling my Rs. I will have to be conscious of that and take my time with my pronunciation in the future (as indicated by Gloria on italki)
  2. We forgot a lot of articles! I think in front of all the different food items (i.e. fragole, mele, pane, panini, etc) we should have put articles but we didn’t. Thoughts?

What do you think? Please let us know your comments below! Any feedback, advice, or ideas for future conversations are well-received and greatly appreciated! 

I have also taken a picture of my ten words for this week. Once again, I focused on words and vocabulary I learned through Duolingo, which lead me to an emphasis on family. Considering not all family members wanted to be visible on a blog, I have taken the picture in such a way that their faces are barely recognizable (which also makes the words difficult to read; see translations below):


  1. Il matrimonio – Wedding
  2. Mio fratello – My brother
  3. Mia famiglia – My family
  4. Sua sorella – His sister
  5. Mio nipote – My nephew
  6. Mia nipotina – My little niece
  7. Una zia – An aunt
  8. Una nonna – A grandma
  9. Un nonno – A grandpa
  10. Un zio – An uncle

(Italian is in purple while English is in green).

I also tried to incorporate simple Italian language into my every day life. I would use simple words daily such as the days of the week, months of the year, and translations for words like hello, goodbye, husband, etc. I even changed my treadmill into Italian while working out this past week:


It helps me to see the visual of Italian words to the English translation that I already know (i.e. cool down is defaticamento in Italian). As I have read, constant practice and seeing these words consistently help them to stay in our memory, to be used whenever needed.

Finally, my goals for this week are to continue my learning process (and trying to figure out how best learn and in what conditions). As well, I hope to continue doing the same things I have been doing thus far, which have helped me along the way to develop what I already know in Italian. These include:

  1. Continuing DuoLingo (for the vocabulary)
  2. Continuing Mango (for the explanations on the why for and cultural references, which are just as important as the vocabulary)
  3. Listening to Italian radio and tv shows using BBC
  4. Continuing to use Italian words daily
  5. Translating 10 more household words next week
  6. Preparing for vlog #3!

As per usual, if you have any feedback, questions, or ideas on resources, please let me know in the comment box below! I look forward to hearing them!

Have a great week!



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3 Responses to Learn how to learn how to learn

  1. asingh2 says:

    Great reflection this week Elizabeth! I’m so impressed that you switched the language on your treadmill – changing the language on my device is scary for me, but perhaps I will use your example to see if I can change my phone over to French going forward.

    I think if you’ve found something you are comfortable using and seems to work for you then you should stop looking for more apps to use! Focus on the learning – or the progress is going to slow down.

    Also – thanks for providing the information about how long it takes to learn a language, I want to frame the quote so I can look at it when I am feeling discouraged!

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Pingback: How to Learn Online – Steps Through the Eyes of a Tech Newbie | E. Therrien

  3. Pingback: What a few months, a few apps, and some time can achieve | E. Therrien

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