Ah, yes. This is why vacations are so nice. Christmas eve was small, warm and cozy. Whereas after our Christmas day mass, we indulged in never ending plates of food surrounded by dozens upon dozens of relatives… followed by today's complete quiet.
So, having an entire day just to myself, I unpacked my old boxes of books. Opening my Italian literature books brought back memories that made me giggle.
You see, I grew up bilingual, and I've always been exposed to many languages, but I felt I could never learn a 3rd - much less a 4th - language. Believing it couldn't be done, I put it off. In college, a multi-lingual professor convinced me otherwise. Believing I could lean more languages changed my entire outlook.
It now seemed so natural! If she can do it, I can do it.
Going for something because you want it, and believing you can have it, gives you the mental clarity to find a way to get there... fast. So, I studied my 3rd and 4th language simultaneously. I was determined to make things easier and fun, and I advanced well ahead of the class thanks to a couple tricks I tried. A few of them worked well, others didn't.
Yes, learning a new language is very mathematical to me. Grammar rules are formulas. But I can handle them with a fun attitude. How?
If anyone wants to learn a new language (fast), I recommend translating scenes from movies you love, and new songs that move you. Turn on the Italian subtitles to the Italian movie and translate w.o.r.d - f.o.r - w.o.r.d. Pause every second to write the lyrics or dialogue in your own handwriting, translate them with a different pen color. What does the word mean? Why is it written this way? How is it placed compared to other words? Prepositions. Pay attention to the prepositions, they are crucial.
At first, it seems like a slow process, but you will actually save months leaning over textbooks. Many questions will arise, and you will need to refer to your grammar books and dictionaries for answers. Discovering each answer will set off internal sirens and blinking lights. Those "a-ha" moments will make a new language stick. Grammar is still a must, but it can be learned passively. This helps reinforce the rules.
Anyone who has tried to learn a new language will quickly find that there are 3 very different areas that must be learned:
- Spoken language (pronunciation and flow)
- Hearing comprehension (understanding what others say to you)
- Written language (being able to read and write a new language)
Once you understand a movie scene or a song, watch or listen to it over and over and over while you read your notes. Repetition will reinforce: vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, and hearing comprehension of super fast speech.
When you enjoy something, it becomes easy to dive into it for many hours a day, every day. I call it "controlled immersion", because I felt immersed in the new language, but I chose and knew the words that were bombarding me, over and over.
This technique helped me skip a year and a half of lessons. From college level 1 I skipped straight to level 9 and then transferred to an Italian university. Oh, it did wonders for me. I should have stuck with this for a bit longer before jumping into literature.
Hmm, I could never have imagined that 6 years later I would be earning a living translating Italian into English. I could have done this earlier, too. But, again, I didn't think this was possible.
Eugene Ware says it best: "All glory comes from daring to begin." …and knowing it can be done.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.