Italian + Polish with comprehensible input

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StringerBell
Blue Belt
Posts: 771
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:30 am
Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
Polish : on hiatus
Latin: beginner
x 2013

Italian + Polish with comprehensible input

Postby StringerBell » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:18 pm

I decided to amend this first post to include a description of how I've been learning Polish from zero in a fun way without textbooks or courses. Details about what I've been doing can be found in later posts.

Stage 1: Complete Beginner
-100 Daily Polish Stories from RealPolish.pl
-LingQ is a good source of beginner and intermediate material (text with audio). Some RealPolish material is available there.
(Lots of listening+reading, listening, occasional dictation practice & shadowing).
*NO FLASHCARDS, NO EFFORT AT MEMORIZATION. Just repeated exposure to basic vocabulary in context.

Stage 2: Advanced Beginner
-365 Daily Polish Listening
(Can create parallel text using PDFs to aid comprehension)

Stage 2.5: Advanced Beginner/Lower Intermediate
-Continue 365 Daily Polish Listening (podcasts with transcriptions)
-Begin some grammatical investigations/treasure hunts.
-Children’s books (without chapters)
Currently there are several Polish/English duel children’s books on Amazon, and several of them are free. One good one is Boxer and Brandon.
-YT videos (such as the ones on the channel Nieprzeciętne Życie).
-Children’s TV shows (such as Peppa Pig, aka: Świnka Peppa)
-Start to practice speaking with language exchange partner or tutor.
-Occasionally read through some grammar rules out of curiosity, don't try to memorize anything (case endings, verb aspects)
-Children’s books with chapters
(such as Nowe Przygody Mikolajka, Dzieci z Bullerbyn)

*In this stage, it can be very effective to combine some advanced material (geared toward adults) with some easier (children’s) material. The fact that I'm an adult means I can't solely use children's material, because eventually it will just get too boring. However, after working with more challenging "adult" material, my brain really appreciates dealing with the simpler language that is found in children's material. The good thing about the RealPolish material is that it is geared for adults but uses more simplified language in the beginning, and progressively gets slightly more challenging.

Stage 3: Intermediate
-Read YA books
YA series: “Jeżycjady” by Malgorzata Musierowicz
-RealPolish VIP club
-Watch TV shows such as Tom i Kasia, Rodzinka.pl
-Read on some Polish forums (whatever topics interest you).
-Occasionally read through particular grammar rules, possibly try to practice with them a little (case endings, verb aspects)
-Continue speaking with language exchange partner/tutor

**************************************************************************

Here is the original beginning of this log:

I guess I'm a false beginner with both Italian and Polish. I've been trying - and failing - to learn some kind of language for most of my life, and it's only been this past year that I think I've finally figured the language learning thing out; what works for me, what doesn't, how to deal with plateaus, how to deal with frustration, how to focus on enjoying the ride instead of focusing on the destination.

I've been married to an Italian (though we live in the US) for about 10 years. The first 9 of those years I was in a crappy cycle of trying to learn some Italian, making a little progress, then getting frustrated and giving up until the next year when it was time to go to Italy to visit family. Learn a little more, forget it all again, repeat. Add in a huge dose of feeling incompetent and truly believing I was incapable of learning a foreign language.

Similarly, with Polish, about 12 years ago I went to Poland for 2 months for a language immersion. I'd taken one class before going, tried memorizing vocabulary with flashcards and word lists, but there were zero resources online (unlike now) and I really didn't know what the hell I was doing. Learned enough to travel to middle of nowhere places where no English was spoken. My listening comprehension was almost zero, and my speaking ability was really a minimal survival level...the little I knew I immediately forgot as soon as I left Poland. I decided I sucked at languages, Polish was too hard, I'd never be able to learn it.

Then last summer something changed. During my last trip to Italy, I spontaneously starting talking in Italian after 2 years of not saying a word or even thinking about Italian. Somehow, the things locked in the recesses of my brain hidden under cobwebs started emerging. I started picking up new words, I was able to communicate with in-laws (who speak no English) in a broken Italian with some charades and online dictionary help, but nonetheless I was communicating.

During this last trip I also started watching some videos from Italy Made Easy (a really awesome channel on youtube and website; I really recommend it for beginners). Picked up some phrases here and there, started to improve my listening comprehension a bit. When the trip in Italy was over, I decided to stay in contact with the language to at least avoid forgetting what I'd learned so the next trip I'd at least be able to have a higher starting point.

But instead of treading water, I started making huge improvements; I devoured native content. 2-3 hours per day I spent watching youtube videos in Italian, then eventually TV series dubbed in Italian and podcasts. My listening comprehension skyrocketed. A few months ago, friends from Italy visited us the in the US for a week; I understood EVERYTHING they said and for the first time ever I didn't need my husband to translate a single thing.

There's more to the story, but I think this is a long enough first post. I'll continue in the next one.
Last edited by StringerBell on Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:38 pm, edited 22 times in total.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

StringerBell
Blue Belt
Posts: 771
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:30 am
Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
Polish : on hiatus
Latin: beginner
x 2013

Re: My first year of Italian + Polish

Postby StringerBell » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:02 pm

So after spending tons of time listening and watching to Italian and realizing that I was actually improving my listening comprehension, I decided that I wanted to prevent myself from throwing in the towel and losing all my progress and time invested. Since there was a good chance that I'd get frustrated at some point, declare that I couldn't learn the language and give up, I found a language exchange partner to talk to once every week. Half in Italian, half in English.

It might seem strange to have a language partner when my spouse speaks Italian...can't I just practice with him? Having a spouse who speaks the language you're trying to learn is both a blessing and a curse; because we live in the US and his level of English is extremely high (at this point I'd classify him on the level of a native speaker...in fact, he's actually better than most native English speakers I know since he also has a strong knowledge of English grammar, which most of us natives don't; he even explains English grammar points to me sometimes!) So speaking English when we're together is just too easy. He's always been super supportive of me, but I'm sure it was not the most fun for him to speak really slowly in a simplified way to me when he just wants to tell me something quickly. Now that my level is much higher, he can pretty much say whatever he wants at normal speed, so it's much easier for us to talk in Italian. Even still, I have to sometimes force myself to use Italian because English is so easy.

It's a really good thing that I did find a great language exchange partner because there were a few close calls where I felt really disappointed in my slow progress (or lack thereof) and I probably would have quit had I not known in the back of my head that I had a Skype chat scheduled for that week. So when I felt like that, I decided to just keep listening and watching and reading in Italian and eventually my brain would start cooperating.

My philosophy has been consistent exposure (massive comprehensible input) regardless of how I feel about my progress. I make good use of all my dead time. When I'm in the bathroom brushing my teeth, washing dishes, cooking, in the car commuting, in a doctor's waiting room... anytime I've got at least 5 minutes I'm listening to an Italian (or Polish) podcast. When I need some down time in the evening, I'm watching TV shows dubbed in Italian (I watch the episode first in Italian with English subtitles, then a second time in Italian with no subtitles). This way watching TV doesn't feel like a waste of time.

In the past few months I've been making more of an effort to speak more. I find myself responding to my husband in Italian much more often, but I know I can do more. I've been toying with the idea of doing something like a day or two with no English, but I haven't pulled the trigger on that yet. I've done a little writing...that's something that I know I should be doing more, because it's my weakness. Maybe when I finish my current reading articles/blogs challenge I'll create a mini-writing challenge for myself. Not looking forward to it, but the things that I avoid are usually the things that will benefit me the most, so I'll try to be positive about it.

Ultimately, I want my language learning to be as pleasant and enjoyable as possible...I tried SRS flashcards with Anki but it was a big failure for me because I hated it. It felt like a punishment. I used to use flashcards all the time when I was in school, I know they are really effective, but I just don't want to do it. And I don't want to turn Italian or Polish into something I dread so for now, no Anki. Maybe I'll revisit it in the future if I can find a way to not be bored to tears with it.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

StringerBell
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Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
Polish : on hiatus
Latin: beginner
x 2013

Re: My first year of Italian + Polish

Postby StringerBell » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:37 pm

So now, maybe a little more about Polish.

Well, after that immersion trip to Poland I immediately forgot everything. Just the thought of trying to go back to memorizing grammar rules gave me a headache. I didn't know anything about how to learn a language, my only experience was years of school French which were basically completely useless. There wasn't the plethora of information online, youtube wasn't even really a thing at that point (at least I don't remember it existing or having a huge presence, maybe I was just oblivious?)

Then, this year when I started seeing some progress with Italian and I started to understand more about how to learn languages using comprehensible input, I decided I wanted to give Polish one last try. It took me a long time to pull the trigger, because I knew it would be a huge investment in terms of time and energy and focus. And learning 2 languages at once, am I crazy? I argued with myself about how it didn't make sense, but I felt an overwhelming need to prove to myself that after all that frustration and failure I could learn Polish. Ultimately, I just really wanted it so much that it permeated my thoughts every day.

In January of this year, I decided to go for it. Here's what I'm doing:

-Aim for 3 hours per day of language exposure in one year. (~1100 hours) Reading, listening, watching videos, practicing pronunciation, anything. My routine isn't structured, I focus on whatever I'm particularly in the mood to do at the moment. I chose the # of hours because in a video, Steve Kaufman said that it took him about 3 years of 1 hour/day exposure to Russian before he felt like he was starting to really "get it". I figured this would be a good goal to aim for, but it's really arbitrary.

-No grammar. At least, not in the beginning. I already had a miserable experience trying to learn the grammar straight out of the gate, and that didn't work. I wanted to see if I could pick up the grammar in a more natural way, rather than trying to memorize rules before I even had enough vocabulary to apply those rules to.

-No stress, no pressure on myself to speak. I guess this is the famous "quiet period". When I want to speak, I do, must mostly I just try to "bathe my brain" (in the words of Steve Kaufman) in Polish so that I can gradually get used to it. At this point, my receptive Polish is quite good (though I still have a long way to go). During my last trip to see family, I was shocked that I understood EVERYTHING they said to each other in Polish. I also watched a half hour news program, and I understood 90%+ of what they said. I was not expecting that at all, maybe it was a fluke. I can speak in a word salad kind of way...I know at some point I will need to start talking, but I want to wait until my passive vocabulary is a little higher so that it will be easier to converse with a language exchange partner.

-No making any decisions about giving up or drastically changing my program until I reach 1100 hours. The reason for this is to avoid hitting some plateau and thinking, "I'll never get better than this, what's the point? Just give up!" I figure that after having devoted 1100 hours, not only will I see real improvement, but it will be harder to quit knowing how much time I've already invested.

I am now in the process of doing a lot of self-created grammar investigations...when I notice patterns with prepositions, case endings, anything really, I start keeping track of them and then try to determine what the rule is by analyzing the patterns. I've made some really big discoveries (grammar-wise) doing this, and it feels like it's really starting to make a big difference in my grammar understanding. Exploring grammar like this feels really fun - I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

Morgana
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Postby Morgana » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:36 am

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Last edited by Morgana on Sun Apr 07, 2019 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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StringerBell
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Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
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Re: My first year of Italian + Polish

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:54 pm

Morgana wrote:What were some of the things you did at the start of this year of 1100 hours to break into the language again?


Hi Morgana - my search for Polish resources on youtube led me to a video series called "Learn Polish for beginners" on Mr.RealPolish's channel. I'm including a link to the first video so you (or anyone else) can see how it is. Even if you're not learning Polish, just watching for a few minutes I think is a good introduction to what comprehensible input can look like for a total beginner who doesn't even know a single word.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23J1bGX ... 6634148B72

So the very first thing I did was to watch all the videos in this beginner series - they are super short (like 1 minute each). Sometimes I'd watch the same video 10 times before going on to the next one, sometimes I'd watch a batch of 5 or 10 and then rewatch the batch again in a cycle. I didn't write anything down, I didn't try to remember anything. I initially spent about 30 minutes a day with these videos (this was when I was trying to figure out if I should even go full steam ahead with this Polish thing, because I didn't believe I could do it).

I discovered that I was really looking forward to my "Polish time". Even though the videos are pretty low quality, I found them to be really relaxing. And almost immediately I was remembering words without flashcards, memorization, or anything that required effort. This little taste of success made me feel like learning this language in this way was doable.

After I watched this little video series as many times as possible, I decided that I really liked Mr.RealPolish's approach and I bought his his first learning pack called "100 Daily Polish Stories". These are like graded stories for beginners. Each one is about 10-12 sentences long, and rather than being true "stories" they are like snapshots of daily life. One is about a guy who calls his sister to chat about the fact he's got a new job and a new girlfriend, another is about someone who buys a fast car and gets pulled over by the cops for speeding. Each story has a PDF with the text and an audio file of Piotr (who is Mr.RealPolish) reading each story from 2 points of view (1st person singular "I/we" and 3rd person "he/she/they")

He also made up a really simple question and answer segment for each story, which came to be my favorite part of each story. Each story also had an English "glossary" to the left with English definitions of most words, so that as I was reading along, I could instantly look at the meaning of a word without having to waste time using a dictionary.

So I listened to these stories repeatedly - 10, 20, 50 times. I'd listen to one 10 times, then come back to it the next day, the next week. Even now that I'm listening to much more advanced stuff, I still occasionally revisit these easy stories because I find them so relaxing and I know them so well that even if I'm not 100% listening, I can still follow them.

After listening +reading simultaneously, I'd then just listen with no text. Eventually this became easier and easier, and doing this I think helped my listening comprehension. Now I do both L+R and just L of the same stuff on a regular basis.

After a few months of this process with the Daily Polish Stories, I moved on to his 365 Polish Stories which are for intermediate learners and definitely more advanced. Since this pack of audio/text came with only Polish text (no English definitions), I copied and pasted the Polish text from the PDF into a Word document and used my color-coding technique (Below is a screenshot example of this)

At first it looked like:
1.png
1.png (113.1 KiB) Viewed 1131 times


Now it looks like:
2.png
2.png (133.47 KiB) Viewed 1131 times


Now that I'm further along, I'm doing a lot of other stuff, but I think that gives a pretty good description of how I got started. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Last edited by StringerBell on Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

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Mooby
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Re: My first year of Italian + Polish

Postby Mooby » Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:20 pm

I'm glad you've been using RealPolish - it's been a big help. Piotr's speech is clear and unhurried, and there's a good range of things to listen to (many of them free).
There's also http://polskiepodcasty.pl/

Pozdrawiam!
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StringerBell
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Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
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x 2013

Re: My first year of Italian + Polish

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:02 pm

Mooby wrote:There's also http://polskiepodcasty.pl/


Dziękuję, Mooby! I've just bookmarked that website and found a podcast about association fallacy. I'm not sure if I can listen to a podcast without any text, but I'll give it a try...if it's too far above my skill level, I'll return to it in the future.
Last edited by StringerBell on Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

StringerBell
Blue Belt
Posts: 771
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:30 am
Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
Polish : on hiatus
Latin: beginner
x 2013

Re: Italian + Polish with comprehensible input

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:23 pm

I have a Polish translation of one of my favorite novels, The Glass Castle, as well as the matching audiobook. I bought them from Empik.pl (they have an outstanding selection of Polish audio+ebooks). I've been using my color-coding method and so far I'm about 3 chapters in. It's very slow going, and in fact I've put it on the back burner for now. I'm excited to return to it in the near future, but I think I need to focus on reading some simpler children/young adult stuff first. I still have a good 1/3 left of the 365 Polish stories pack, so I'm not in danger of running out of material.

Because I'm totally self-directed and I'm not using any learning books, it's up to me to figure out exactly what to do, and how to get the most out of the resources I have. I feeling a little weird sometimes, because it seems like everyone on this forum is or has been using some kind of language learning textbook; everyone is always talking about doing lessons. Maybe I would have had more success with an approach like this...I don't know. Somehow the idea of sitting down with a textbook doing lessons sounds dreadful and I think I would have been instantly turned off to language learning if I'd started off like that.

I've also been watching the Easy Polish series of videos on youtube, mainly as a way to slowly get myself adjusted to the fast pace of spoken Polish. I don't watch them every day, maybe 3-5 times per week, for about 1/2 hour each time. Sometimes I watch the same video 3-5x in a row, sometimes I watch a few different ones then cycle back to watch them again in the same session. Occasionally I rewatch some that I saw weeks ago. At first I couldn't keep up with the spoken dialogue and had to rely on the subtitles, but I'm noticing now that I'm needing the subs less and less.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10

aaleks
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Re: Italian + Polish with comprehensible input

Postby aaleks » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:10 pm

StringerBell wrote:Because I'm totally self-directed and I'm not using any learning books, it's up to me to figure out exactly what to do, and how to get the most out of the resources I have. I feeling a little weird sometimes, because it seems like everyone on this forum is or has been using some kind of language learning textbook; everyone is always talking about doing lessons. Maybe I would have had more success with an approach like this...I don't know. Somehow the idea of sitting down with a textbook doing lessons sounds dreadful and I think I would have been instantly turned off to language learning if I'd started off like that.


Even though I have mentioned using textbooks for English, and now for Italian, that wasn't and isn't about doing lessons. I'm reading my Italian textbook as a book, skipping the exercise parts.
When I tried to learn English the first time I was using a textbook but that attempt didn't last long (and it was in the early 2000's). During my current attempt there were a couple of weeks (more like weekends) when I was really doing something like grammar drilling (after learning English for about 4 years). Looking back I don't think that it really helped me. There was time when I thought that maybe had I been studying English in the "proper textbook" way I would've had better command of the language but now I doubt that. I think that everyone has the right, so to speak, to choose their own best approach to learning grammar. Drilling isn't the only option, IMO. And I really like your treasure-hunt approach :)
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StringerBell
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Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
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x 2013

Re: Italian + Polish with comprehensible input

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:09 pm

aaleks wrote:I really like your treasure-hunt approach :)


Thanks! :D

BTW, aaleks, your written English is really excellent...I can't really imagine myself having such a good level of written Italian or Polish. Is there anything in particular you think made the biggest difference for you since you said that you don't believe those textbook exercises did much?

My doubts that I should have/should be using some kind of textbook are mainly because now there are certain grammar points that I'm struggling with a bit and the idea that doing some exercises in a textbook could clarify everything feels really appealing. But I'm sure it wouldn't wouldn't be that simple. Right now one of my biggest sticking points are those damn article/preposition combos. They're slippery devils. I'm hoping that devoting more time to reading will help with that, because since I can't really hear these articles when I'm watching shows it's like I'm never exposed to them, and I think that's part of the problem. My auditory processing+memory is really sub par.

I did sign up for a free Italian course through edX.org. that starts this weekend. It's an "Italian AP" course aimed at people who have taken a few semesters of college Italian or a few years of high school Italian. I really have no idea what my actual level of Italian is...in some areas I think I am very advanced and in others I feel like I struggle a lot. I've now put in a full year of Italian exposure every single day for an average of 2 hours per day. I don't know what to expect from this self-directed course since I've never taken anything through edX before. I'm hoping maybe it will help to fill in some gaps...or just give me some new things to focus on.
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 2 / 10


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