So I have been learning Italian for around about two years now. This has been intermittent, and the majority of them two years I have not been learning on a regular basis. I did attend a summer school at a University last year which helped me improve so much. It gave me more confidence to speak the language with others, and I felt like I went from not knowing anything (except random vocabulary that I have no use for) to being able to hold a very basic conversation after this.
However, I didn’t seem to be progressing much in my Italian. I was learning more and more vocabulary but finding it increasingly difficult to string together words to hold more than a basic conversation.
Part of the reason for this is that I was directly trying to translate Italian to English and vice versus. If you know anything about Italian sentence structure, you would certainly know that this is not the best thing to do.
“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.”Flora Lewis.
So what has changed?
Well I have decided to sit the CELI 3 exam in November. For those that don’t know, CELI 3 is a qualification offered by the Università per Stranieri di Perugia. It is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research as well as by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CELI 3 is the third level of examination which is around the B2 level. B2 is the level that you need for citizenship, so I figured it was a good level to aim at to be able to live and work in Italy with ease.
These are the current CEFR (Common European Framework of reference for Languages) levels:
A1: Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
A2: Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
B1: Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
B2: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
C1: Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing a controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2: Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
I am aiming to sit this exam in November. I haven’t booked anything for it yet, but it is May now and this gives me roughly 6 months to prepare for this. As well as preparing for this I will also be working a full time job and preparing to move to a new country, apartment hunting, registering myself as a resident, opening bank accounts, finding a new job and a whole load of other stuff. This means that for the next six months, I really need to organise my time well.
By the way, my partner purchased the book in the image above for me so thank you Alberto. I will be using it to prepare for the exam closer to the date.
So how am I going to do it?
First of all I looked at this blog. This blog was from a guy who has successfully sat his CILS exam at C2 level, which of course is much higher than the level I am intending to sit. However, his method of studying has definitely inspired me. I also watched a load of videos on Youtube from other language learners, and Polyglots on how they all learned to study languages. With these in mind I came up with a weekly schedule to follow.
This involves reviewing vocabulary 3 days a week, performing listening practises 6 days a week, practising verb conjugations twice a week, written exercises 3 times a week, watching videos on Youtube from a popular Italian Tutor called Lucrezia . These will be split across six days a week, leaving a full day to review everything I have learned that week. As well as this I will be watching vlogs in Italian, watching TV shows and films in Italian, reading books and articles in Italian and speaking on a regular basis with my Italian partner, Alberto.
Flashcards and Anki.
To review vocabulary I have made use of a technique described by Brian in the blog I linked above. This is using flashcards.
The flashcards I have started making by getting a list of the 1000 most common words used in Italian. I read somewhere that learning the 1000 most common words in Italian means that you will be able to understand 76% of literature and 87% of spoken Italian. So this seemed like a good place to start. I will also include in my flashcards phrases and words that I come across that I do not know.
I used Ankiapp rather than Anki for one main reason. Basically, I downloaded the wrong app. And I had already started writing my flashcards. I know you can download these and then transfer to Anki, however, I was now comfortable with this app and I liked the way it worked. I got the premium version which did cost me £23 for lifetime access. This enables me to use this app on both my PC, my iPad and my iphone, and to sync them together. I love the way this app works. You get to pick out of four options ‘Fail, Hard, Good and Easy’. These determine how often these cards then come up. Any you fail on will come up more often. This means that you are repeatedly being shown words you do not know so well. You also have an option to add tags. I did this for example for verbs. So if I wanted to study verbs one day, I can just use cards with this tag.
I have been adding around about 40 odd cards a day to the deck at the moment, and I can usually get all of these to an A grade within around 1 hour. So this seems like a good pace for me at the moment. I do not want to spend more than 1 hour a day on flashcards right now. Maybe closer to my November deadline I may devote more time to it.
Online Italian Club.
Another resource which I have been using is the Online Italian Club. This is a free resource and has content on it for every level. You can select the level you want to learn at and it will only show you content specific to that level.
I have been using this mostly for listening exercises, but I will use it more, and will try out all of the different features soon. This is a new resource I have only found out about this week so I haven’t had much of an opportunity to explore it yet. But so far it has been brilliant. It is completely free and you do not need to sign up for membership, although they do have an option to sign up to what seems to be a mail list.
Reading short stories.
Recently I have been reading some short stories from the Letture Italiano Facile series such as the following Pasta per due. This book is at a beginners level – Livello 1 and is A1, containing 500 words, so I was able to read this comfortably and enjoy it as a way to relax. It was not a strain for me to read this book at all, and I found it very amusing. The book also has some handy features, like it explains some popular card games, as well as having a large exercise section in the back of the book. I also have bought another one called ‘Amore in paradiso’ which is at livello 2 – A1/A2 and is 1000 words.
As well as these, I have several books on my kindle containing various short stories that range in levels, from easier to more difficult as you progress through the book.
Watching films, TV shows and videos on YouTube.
I have been watching TV shows on Netflix for a while now in Italian with English subtitles. I am not yet comfortable with being able to watch a show without any English subtitles. However, I have recently started watching some youtube videos from Italian youtubers without any subtitles at all.
As I have recently started to do this, I haven’t got a very long list of channels I follow but I will do a post on this at a later date, with some recommendations.