You may remember some months ago I posted enthusiastically about teaching myself Italian with the help of a couple of friends and some online resources. Here’s the result:
I studied. I tried. I failed.
I can’t teach myself Italian. Sure, I’ve picked up a few words and phrases – and probably enough to keep out of trouble when I finally make it to Italy – but I can’t say I’ve really learned or understood anything about the language.
I came across a number of specific difficulties. I may have been able to solve them if I’d put in more effort or creativity but that’s just hard work. I’d reather direct my energies at the language itself than at correcting my learning environment. I’ll list just three and of these the last is probably the most important to my mind.
Finding Appropriate Resources: All the language recources you’ll find are either above or below your level of language competency. Those which are below may re-inforce what you already know but do not enhance your understanding. Those above your level need explanation which is not there.
Finding Time: This is always going to be difficult and – let’s face it – the easiest to solve. Set aside, say, an hour a day for language study in a strict schedule and make sure others in your life know that your schedule cannot and will not be broken. If I’d tried hard, I could have fixed this but life intervenes at times and re-establishing the routine proved too tough.
Making Mistakes: Since there’s no one to correct you, you can never be sure whether you’ve gotten it right. While you may be technically correct according to whatever exercise you are following, your answer may be completely and disastrously wrong according to how the language is actually spoken. This is not so much the difference between formal and everyday language as the difference between a native speaker’s understanding of the grammar and the mental gymnastics of translating between concepts in your own language and those of Italian. Hard experience learning and speaking French has driven this point home on numerous occasions.
You need a language teacher until you reach a certain level of competence, after which you can learn more effectively through your own interactions with language speakers.
Now I need to find time and a good Italian language school in Brisbane. Any ideas?