Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now German!)

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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:11 am

Not much language study in the past couple of weeks! I've been having one of these phases where I'm wondering what the hell to do with my life and trying to understand whether my current job and location are right for me or I'd be happier elsewhere, or at least like to try the whole "new city" thing for a while and do it now while I'm still (relatively) young, free and single. To that end, I've been applying to jobs both here and in a few other European cities. Amongst others I'm considering Berlin and Barcelona as they have quite active technology scenes and they're places I've visited a few times and like a lot. London is also an option. I'm not keen on France or Italy as places to live and work, even if I love to visit. The other and perhaps most sensible option is to stay here and find a better job for the moment and build up experience and savings, with a view to a possible move in future and seeing what happens with Brexit and all over the next few months.

This wanderlust has also crept into my language learning, with German looking more appealing than ever. Barcelona would be nice for the Mediterranean weather and lifestyle, but Berlin appears to have more opportunities and better quality of life in many other respects and seems more suited to my interests and temperament. Plenty people do move there without knowing German, but I'd rather have at least some basics beforehand if I do decide to go down that route. German has been on my "someday" list ever since I got into the language learning thing, since I like the country and the people and the music, and while it has a reputation for being difficult it would probably be a breath of fresh air after my Greek attempts!

Not planning on jumping into it just yet; I'm focusing on work for now as well as doing more research into destinations and a bit of soul-searching to understand whether I really want to leave or it's just another "grass is greener on the other side" reaction to recent stress. It's just an idea for now, but the right opportunity could tempt me.
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Wurstmann
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby Wurstmann » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:13 am

garyb wrote:This wanderlust has also crept into my language learning, with German looking more appealing than ever.


Tu es! ;)
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:00 am

Been busy with job-searching and soul-searching. Maybe some exciting news on that soon but can't say much just yet, and it's meant very little time for languages. Greek is pretty much on ice: barely keeping up with Anki reviews never mind anything else. In Italian and Spanish I'm just about keeping up the listening and reading. I was very close to picking up a copy of MT German after my last post, but then I came back down to earth: I'm not really considering Germany for the moment, not really seen any work opportunities that excite me compared to ones here and elsewhere, but it's certainly still a future possibility and a language I'm keen on. Once I'm back into the normal routine I might get into it.

I went back to the newer Spanish exchange group the other day. The attendance was much better, with slightly more Spanish speakers than learners, although the conversation was still more in English or that annoying worst-of-both-worlds thing where each person insists on replying in the language they're learning. Again I heard more than my share of awful pronunciation. Still, I got a bit of practice and found the group very welcoming and unpretentious, and I even exchanged contact details with a Spanish guy for potential one-to-one exchanges. People were even honest and realistic about my level, telling me that my Spanish was decent and could improve a lot of I practised more and/or spent time in Spain, which matches my own assessment. Very refreshing after Italians saying I speak "perfectly" ever since I could string together a sentence.
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Thu May 09, 2019 12:43 pm

Not much to add since the last update, still very little study at the moment, except... Next week I'm off to Barcelona for a couple of nights and then Sardinia for the rest of the week!

Of course I've not really had much chance to prepare but I'm fitting in some Spanish and Italian listening whenever I can, and it should be a chance to take some of the rust off my speaking ability especially in Sardinia where I'll be meeting a couple of friends. In Barcelona I'll mostly be speaking English but I'll get a nice bit of Spanish and Catalan exposure along with the sun.
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Cenwalh
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby Cenwalh » Thu May 09, 2019 7:51 pm

garyb wrote:Not much to add since the last update, still very little study at the moment, except... Next week I'm off to Barcelona for a couple of nights and then Sardinia for the rest of the week!

Of course I've not really had much chance to prepare but I'm fitting in some Spanish and Italian listening whenever I can, and it should be a chance to take some of the rust off my speaking ability especially in Sardinia where I'll be meeting a couple of friends. In Barcelona I'll mostly be speaking English but I'll get a nice bit of Spanish and Catalan exposure along with the sun.


If you go to the right places, you could get Catalan in both, half the effort ;)
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Fri May 10, 2019 10:13 am

Cenwalh wrote:
garyb wrote:Not much to add since the last update, still very little study at the moment, except... Next week I'm off to Barcelona for a couple of nights and then Sardinia for the rest of the week!

Of course I've not really had much chance to prepare but I'm fitting in some Spanish and Italian listening whenever I can, and it should be a chance to take some of the rust off my speaking ability especially in Sardinia where I'll be meeting a couple of friends. In Barcelona I'll mostly be speaking English but I'll get a nice bit of Spanish and Catalan exposure along with the sun.


If you go to the right places, you could get Catalan in both, half the effort ;)


Funnily enough I do plan to spend a few days in Alghero/Alguer! I have heard a bit of Catalan dialect the times I was there in the past, mostly spoken by older people.
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Tue May 21, 2019 1:34 pm

Just came back from my week away yesterday. As I said it wasn't a language-focused trip at all, and it was all organised at the last minute: I had to go to Barcelona for reasons that I'll mention soon but don't want to just yet on a public forum, and added on the visit to Italy since I was in the area anyway, managed to get the week off work, and had already been hoping to return to Sardinia this month or next. Also as I said, I've hardly had any time for languages in the past couple of months, and even in the last couple of years since my big trip they've become less of a priority and I've not been in-country, so I was feeling rather out of practice. Being less focused on languages has also changed my perspective a little, which I'll get into more.

It made me think about the importance of confidence and habit. With Spanish especially, my speaking seemed far worse than it was during my last visit to Spain two years ago, but the main barrier was just that I wasn't used to speaking it anymore and needed to regain confidence. Some learners might be able to do just input then suddenly land in the country and start speaking, and again that's probably a matter of confidence more than anything else and I personally need a bit of time. After a few days I'd probably be good. And even the input has been lacking recently in my case.

People did switch to English several times, and in every case it was because of a fault in my listening comprehension: everything went smoothly in Spanish until I didn't understand a question and had to ask them to repeat, after which they decided my level wasn't up to scratch. This was always in busy and noisy bar or restaurant environments where it was hard to hear and they needed to get their job done so didn't want to waste time, so fair enough. That highlights the point that you can never practise listening enough: in conversations you can often get away with bad speaking, but bad listening is a deal-breaker.

I had resolved beforehand to not get upset about switching, especially given the nature of the trip and my lack of recent practice, and indeed I didn't mind at all when it happened. As zjones recently posted on her thread, when your life no longer revolves around learning a language you can enjoy it more and be more forgiving with yourself, and in my case also more forgiving with others who don't cooperate with my selfish desire to practise. In most cases, people change to English with the best of intentions: to help, to show respect, to get their job done more easily. Sure, in practice with someone like me they often achieve the exact opposite of all of these, but I understand that I'm in a tiny minority and I try to appreciate the gesture for what it is. I certainly have had and written about situations where people were obviously deliberately switching to be rude and insulting, but that's less common and the difference is usually clear if I look at it impartially. I have taken offence in the past when people most likely just wanted to help.

This seems like healthy maturity and change in perspective, although it can also feel like I've become more passive and less insistent as a reflection of my loss of ambition in my language learning... I suppose there's a time and a place for each attitude.

In Sardinia I spoke Italian with almost everybody, although one B&B owner was keen on English and spoke it well enough and was genuinely friendly enough that I was quite happy to indulge him. When speaking Italian with my friends there, I felt like as well as the usual little mistakes I was often getting tongue-tied and mixed up with words and pronunciation, while in customer service situations I got by fine but felt quite shy, hesitating and speaking quietly. Yet again it's just habit and confidence: I don't speak much these days so it takes a while to warm up.

I made a last-minute change of plans and spent the last two nights in Bologna before flying home. It's one of my favourite cities, and the place in Italy I've visited the most times. I was hanging around with friends and friends-of-friends the whole time, and mostly speaking English although of course I heard lots of Italian. I've known the friend I stayed with for a decade now, since before I even considered learning Italian, so we've always spoken English and changing to Italian feels a little weird. The other friends spoke English well and were very keen to do so, to practise and again out of respect, and I was happy enough especially since I just wanted to relax and have some fun. It did make situations a bit awkward at times though: when I'm "expected" to speak English it feels far harder to join in an Italian conversation. It did become more natural after the first day or so, and I'm sure if I had explained that I was keen to practise my Italian they would've been very happy to help, but to be honest I just wasn't that bothered.

The trip felt too short, especially the parts in Barcelona and Bologna. Sardinia is a little less exciting, but it's always good to see friends and chill there. I hope to visit them all again soon! I'd also happily return to other old favourites like Tuscany, Turin, and Andalusia, and there's plenty more of Italy and Spain I'd love to see. I've got bigger priorities now - I need to sort out my life first - but maybe in the summer. My enthusiasm for travel and languages is finally coming back and it's great! I'm keen to get back into my studies: keep trying to push my Italian towards that elusive C1 level, gain more knowledge and confidence in Spanish, and very slowly but surely learn some more Greek. Hopefully I'll sort everything out soon and then make some time.
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Mon May 27, 2019 10:28 am

Back to a standard media-focused update...

Finished reading Il nome della rosa. I certainly enjoyed parts of it and could tell that it was a very well-written book, but just found it a bit too much to take in between the storyline, the historical context, the literary style of Italian, and the Latin bits. I can see why an educated Italian reader would love it, but personally I was just quite happy to finally finish it and move onto something more accessible. After this and my other attempts in the last couple of years, I have to say I'm done with 20th century literary fiction for now (although there's always space for some Calvino re-reads!) and want to stick to more accessible and useful material. My choice for now is another Murakami translation, L'uccello che girava le viti del mondo (The wind-up bird chronicle) which so far is a good balance between accessibility and quality.

In terms of spoken input, I'm watching the latest series of Suburra, which is challenging at times with the Roman accents, supplemented with YouTube stuff (mostly about cooking) and the usual podcasts and modern comedy films. I might try to find a way to watch the recent TV series based on Il nome della rosa as it might be more easy-going than the book and help me appreciate the story more.

I met up with an Italian friend yesterday and the language was flowing a lot better than when I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago. Fewer mistakes, less tongue-tying, more fluency in general. As always there are too many variables to draw conclusions, but my guess would be that it's again a matter of confidence since it's a person I feel comfortable with and there weren't any additional factors to complicate things like friends-of-friends preferring English or other people hearing the conversation.

Haven't felt like finding time for other languages yet, aside from some Spanish podcasts.
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StringerBell
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby StringerBell » Mon May 27, 2019 11:55 am

garyb wrote: After this and my other attempts in the last couple of years, I have to say I'm done with 20th century literary fiction for now (although there's always space for some Calvino re-reads!) and want to stick to more accessible and useful material.


Loved reading about your experiences in Italy with Italian vs. English and your new perspective on it!

In your last post you mentioned that you weren't interested in reading literary Italian now, in favor of books that were more useful for reinforcing speaking. I don't know if you are interested at all, but on the 1st post of my log (the very bottom of the Italian resources post) I have a list of books that are written without passato remoto (many are in the style of diary entries or letters) so that they more closely represent spoken Italian. I'm also trying to not focus on literary Italian right now, since I find it counterproductive at this stage for improving my spoken Italian. If you are ever looking for some suggestions for "useful" books, you could check that list and see if anything looks appealing - and if you find something in this category that I don't know about, please let me know!
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garyb
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Re: Languages and Life: Gary's log (Italian, Spanish, bits of French, and now some Greek)

Postby garyb » Mon May 27, 2019 5:55 pm

StringerBell wrote:Loved reading about your experiences in Italy with Italian vs. English and your new perspective on it!

In your last post you mentioned that you weren't interested in reading literary Italian now, in favor of books that were more useful for reinforcing speaking. I don't know if you are interested at all, but on the 1st post of my log (the very bottom of the Italian resources post) I have a list of books that are written without passato remoto (many are in the style of diary entries or letters) so that they more closely represent spoken Italian. I'm also trying to not focus on literary Italian right now, since I find it counterproductive at this stage for improving my spoken Italian. If you are ever looking for some suggestions for "useful" books, you could check that list and see if anything looks appealing - and if you find something in this category that I don't know about, please let me know!


Thanks, I remember you posting that now but I didn't think of it, so I'll check it out! I've got no problem with passato remoto, in fact I'd be happy to improve at it for the occasional times when it would be useful in conversation, but I do prefer books with a lot of dialogue for spoken language.


Update on my somewhat mysterious post-holiday message: I went to Barcelona to interview for a job there that sounded pretty cool, with the prospect of moving there if I was successful. I just found out today that I didn't get it, which I'm sad about but that's life. I've also been rejected for a few other positions in different cities, and for the moment it looks most likely that I'll stay where I am for the short to medium term although I would certainly like to consider a similar move in future once I have a bit more experience.
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