How to study productively.

We’re all stuck in at home these days (well the majority of us). Whether you are stuck at home due to this crazy, global pandemic, or you have chosen to study at home, studying languages at home can be difficult. It is hard to find motivation. It is hard to know how to study. It is hard to find resources to study from. All of these things can stop you from being your most productive self. 

Learning a language at home and doing it completely by yourself though can give you an immense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. ‘I did that. I learned Italian, completely by myself!’ Going through this journey alone has left me in awe most of the time. Every time I learn a new grammar tense, or realise ‘Oh wait.. I understand this’ leaves me wanting to learn more and more. I love it. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading an article in Italian and realising that suddenly you do not need to translate any of it. 

So what crazy secrets have I got to share? 

Well, none. 

Anyone can learn a language at home. There are so many resources out there these days to aid you in this challenge. 

What I can give you are some tips on how to get yourself in the right frame of mind to study languages at home.

How to focus when you have a million things going on? 

  • Plan, plan and plan. 

Planning out my studying routine helps me keep focused and motivated. I personally use two apps for this. First things first, I like to make to-do lists. I use the minimalist app that can be found on the apple store. This clean and simple design is both user friendly, and pleasant to look at. The concept is simple, you write your tasks and then swipe right on them when you complete them. I start out by listing everything I want to achieve on that day. Even things that are not study-related, such as ‘pick up prescription’. The app allows me to prioritise tasks which is great. 

Another app I use when I want even more structure in my day is a calendar app. I use Timepage for this. This one I use to block out specific times for different areas I want to study. Such as 2pm – 3pm – grammar. I don’t always use this app, but I find if I give myself too much fluidity in my schedule I end up watching youtube videos instead of focused study. 

  • Create your own sanctuary. 

A study sanctuary of course. When I was doing my undergraduate degree I used to use a laptop on my bed. This is possibly the worst idea I have ever had. A bed should be used for sleeping and private couple time only.

Having a dedicated space where you study from is absolutely vital for me. And you need to give yourself enough room to do it. I actually do not have enough room in my current set-up. I have to move my keyboard out of the way when I want to use my Ipad to study. This creates another task to do first. Clearing out space before you can study means that on days when you are less motivated, you will come up with excuses. Just like not having everything you need in reach will. So make sure you have a dedicated study place and everything you require to study set out. 

  • The Pomodoro technique. 

Have you heard of this? This is a great technique, created by someone called Francesco Cirillo in the ’80s. Basically, it involves setting out blocks of studying time, separated by short and long breaks. You set a timer (say for 25 minutes) after the timer is finished you take a short break (say 5 mins). When four sessions have passed you take a longer break (30 mins). 

I use focus keeper to aid me with this. I use the short breaks to go and grab a coffee, take a toilet break etc. Then the longer breaks I will make sure I am actively resting. This really helps me keep focused. I know I have only a short period to study so I will try to use my time more effectively. The shorter breaks mean I do not get distracted doing other activities. 

  • Cut out distractions

This is probably one of the biggest problems – distractions. Getting rid of all of the distractions helps so much. So put your phone or tablet into airplane mode. Tell your family members not to disturb you. Unplug the house phone etc. Anything you can do to get rid of them is great. If you have kids this is probably really tough. I do not have any, so I can’t really imagine the struggles. But if you can find a way to keep them distracted even just for half an hour – you can get a lot done in just 30 minutes when your really focused. You know, one of the biggest distractions for me is my cat. Shes so soft and fluffy and every time she comes in I just want to go and give her a cuddle.

Look at the little fluff ball! How can you resist that? Damn it Midnight. So if your like me, and get distracted very easily by fluffy things, then kick them out!

  • Review

Now you’ve got your space set up, you got rid of all distractions, you set your timer and you managed to achieve a focus, studying session, its time to review. Make sure you review what you have been through. I try to do this at the end of each day, and I will also recap at the start of the next day. This just renews the content in my mind and enforces it. If I didn’t review it, I would be likely to forget it. I usually will do my end of the day review tucked up in bed, and read through my notes as if I was just reading a book at the end of the day. I do nothing but read. I don’t highlight anything, I don’t make notes. And in the morning, I will quickly read over the study content from the day before, and if I am still struggling with some aspects of it, I will add it back to my to-do list for that day.

How do you guys study? Have you got any additional tips you could share? Please leave a comment if you do.

Conditional Present

There are two conditional tenses in Italian – Conditional Present and Past Conditional. Both of these tenses are verbal modes that can be used to describe situations or actions that are conditioned by other actions or situations.
The conditional present tense is used to express wishes either in the present or future tense, as well as to give advice or express opinions in a less direct way. It can also be used to ask for something politely. In English this would be created by using would + verb.
I would go to the party but I have to go to work – (Io) andrei alla festa ma devo lavorare.

Regular verbs:

To conjugate a verb such as scrivere – to write, you would remove the -ere ending and replacing with the conjugation from the column -ERE-. For example, for I (IO) this would be scriverei. For parlare – to speak it would be parlerei.

Irregular verbs – without an E:

Other verbs that follow this same pattern are: potere, dovere, sapere, vedere and cadere.

Irregular verbs – with a double R:

Irregular verbs that do not fall into the above categories:

The imperative

Using the imperative in Italian allows us to either;

Give a command or an order, scold or reprimand a person or to ask somebody to do something.

To form the imperative of regular verbs you replace the infinite endings (-are, -ere, -ire) with the endings listed below.

-ARE

Tu -a

Lui/lei/Lei – i

Noi – iamo

Voi – ate

Loro – ino

-ERE

Tu – i

Lui/lei/Lei – a

Noi – iamo

Voi – ete

Loro – ano

-IRE

Tu – i

Lui/lei/Lei – a

Noi – iamo

Voi – ite

Loro – ano

When forming irregular verbs there is no rule to follow, so these need to be simply learned off by heart. The following are examples of the formation of some irregular verbs.

ESSERE

Tu sii

Lui/lei/Lei – sia

Noi – siamo

Voi – siate

Loro – siano

AVERE

Tu – abbi

Lui/lei/Lei – abbia

Noi – abbiamo

Voi – abbiate

Loro – abbiano

DIRE

Tu – di’/dì

Lui/lei/Lei – dica

Noi – diciamo

Voi – dite

Loro – dicono

FARE

Tu – fa’/fai

Lui/lei/Lei – faccia

Noi – facciamo

Voi – fate

Loro – facciano

STARE

Tu – sta’/stai

Lui/lei/Lei – stia

Noi – stiamo

Voi – state

Loro – stiano

SAPERE

Tu – sappi

Lui/lei/Lei – sappia

Noi – sappiamo

Voi – sappiate

Loro – sappiano

ANDARE

Tu – va’/vai

Lui/lei/Lei – vada

Noi – andiamo

Voi – andate

Loro – vadano

DARE

Tu – da’/dai

Lui/lei/Lei – dia

Noi – diamo

Voi – date

Loro – diano

And finally if you want to use the imperative with tonic/atonic personal pronouns then they must be combined with the imperative. An example of this would be mangia la frutta -> mangiala (eat it).

I verbi servili

The four modal verbs or verbi servili – Potere, volere, dovere and sapere (when it expresses an ability), are some of the most commonly used verbs in Italian, and are also all irregular verbs so it is important to learn them. Modal verbs are used to indicate an ability, obligation, a desire or a permission to do something and are usually followed by a verb in the infinitive tense.

Non posso andare al cinema – I can not go to the cinema.

Oggi devo studiare l’italiano – I have to study Italian today.

Voglio leggere questo libro – I want to read this book.

So nuotare ma non posso nuotare oggi – I can swim (I know how to swim) but I can’t swim today.

Conjugating modal verbs (Present tense)

POTERE

io posso

tu puoi

lui/lei/Lei può

noi possiamo

voi potete

loro possono

DOVERE

io devo

tu devi

lui/lei/Lei deve

noi dobbiamo

voi dovete

loro devono

VOLERE

io voglio

tu vuoi

lui/lei/Lei vuole

noi vogliamo

voi volete

loro vogliono

SAPERE

io so

tu sai

lui/lei/Lei sa

noi sappiamo

voi sapete

loro sanno

Modal verbs and compound tenses

Compound tenses are tenses such as passato prossimo and trapassato prossimo. When using modal verbs with these tenses you need to understand what auxiliary to use with them. Usually this would follow the same rule as you would follow if using the verb in the infinitive form (avere or essere).

Example using passato prossimo:

Ho potuto parlare francese con lui – I was able to speak French with him.

Sono potuto andare al cinema – I was able to go to the cinema.

Ho voluto prendere il treno per Milano – I had to take the train to Milan.

Non ha saputo nuotare – I didn’t know how to swim.

Sono dovuta andare al supermercato – I had to go to the supermarket.

Ha dovuto salvare il gatto – He had to save the cat.