Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Bunnychu » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:01 pm

I can empathize with your frustration. It's almost like your post was written by my past self. I saw an improvement while using Anki but I started to hate the process of reviewing words everyday. After that I started using clozed on Anki only for grammar points and it got bearable for me. I only do it once in a while to remember how to correctly use a grammar point.
Believe it or not I saw my biggest improvement in speaking after taking a break from studying. My brain, suddenly, didn't have to worry or choose from x grammar points or having to choose from x words with the same meaning. After the break what worked for me in terms of remembering vocabulary or grammar points is to choose a topic, read some articles about said topic, write down related words and grammar points and then talk about it to someone (for me it's my teacher on iTalki).
Don't worry too much and just take a break. I honestly think you'll find your enthusiasm again. :mrgreen:
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby AndyMeg » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:14 pm

I usually don't try to learn grammar rules. I may read about them and when I do I try to understand how they work, but then I move on without caring if I remember them or not. For example, I know there are "rules" for conjugating verbs in korean. Some of my classmates can recite those rules back and forth, and I actually get a bit confused when they do so. For me, remembering all of that seems too complex, but thanks to continuous expousure to the language with native material (I'm not living in Korea) I've got a feeling of what sounds right or wrong when I'm conjugating a verb.

Being able to understand something and being able to speak are a different set of skills, so it's normal if you can't speak as well as you can understand.

It's true that if you want to improve your speaking you need to practice speaking, but there are different ways to go about it.

I like to do a lot of "imitation practice" (both written and spoken) so that the patterns of the language become automatic in my brain. With imitation practice, you just focus on imitating the source material as close as possible. You don't try to understand it, not even a little, you just imitate it as it is. I'll give you some examples:

- For written imitation practice you just find samples of the kind of writing you want to practice. For example, if I wanted to practice writing comments on Youtube then I would get samples from comments on Youtube videos that I like or that I'm interested in. Then I would copy by hand a lot of those comments. While I do this activity I would probably start noticing some patterns, then I would probably start to being able to guess a whole string of words without having to read the whole comment (because patterns repeat). There should be a point when I stop noticing new patterns or when those new patterns are rare. When that happens and if I feel familiar enough with the most common patterns (and could write them without seeing them in the source material), then I can finally start to try to understand the things I don't (but it may take me weeks or months of frequent imitation practice before I reach that point. And that depends on the kind of material I'm trying to imitate. With Youtube comments it may just take some days or weeks, while with more complex writing I may need a lot more time). At that point (at the point where I could write all the common patterns without having to see the source material) I can start looking for the meaning of things and ask questions to natives or to other fellow language learners.

- Spoken imitation practice works in a similar way. You first find samples of the kind of spoken area you want to practice. For example, if I want to practice "small talk", then I would find samples in TV shows, movies, in youtube channels or anywhere else I can think of. Then I would start imitating it, paying attention to the non-verbal cues, to the intonation and prosody, to the accent, to the speed, to the general context of the situation (For example: the ones talking are friends or family? Are they at work, at home or somehwere else?, etc.). And I would try to imitate it as close as possible. And I wouldn't look at the meaning yet. The same as with writing, I would continue practicing imitation until I reach the point I'm so familiar with those patterns that I can easily utter them even if I don't know their meaning or nuances yet. At the beginning I may spend a whole day or even many days or weeks practicing just one dialogue line (this depends on many factors like, for example, the level you are at when you start doing imitation practice and how hard or easy you find to pronounce the language and imitate natives' speed), but then, as I move on and progress I should be able to practice a lot more sentences (or full dialogues) in a week or in a day. This progress means that those patterns are becoming more familiar and automatic.


For imitation practice to work, you need to do a HUGE amount of it. So you need to spend a lot of time on this activity (in the long term, not in each and every session). But, as you are just imitating and not trying to understand anything, then the energy required for this activity is lower, so you don't get as tired as with other activities (and if you do get tired you can recover faster). At the beginning you may need to take a lot of breaks, and that's perfectly normal and even expected. For example, the first day you may get tired (or bored) after just 10 minutes or less of practice. And that's OK, don't worry. Just go back to imitation practice the next day and do it until you need a rest, then stop and continue the next day. If you do this, day after day (with some ocassional rest days. For example, every Sunday as a rest day) you'll start to slowly notice improvements and your ability to spend more time in each session of imitation practice will gradually increase.

If you want to try this, I would suggest that you try to focus on this for a year. Don't worry about anything else for that year. Stop the other activities except for the ones you really enjoy and that don't burn you out. If something feels heavy and makes you procrastinate, then stop doing it while you focus on imitation practice. Make imitation practice your priority during one year and let the other activities as optional, except for frequent interaction with native material you enjoy. Continue watching TV shows or movies in the language, with or without subtitles, (or listening to music, podcasts or any other native material) but just for enjoyment and not to try to learn from them. Just focus on enjoying native material (even with the help of english subtitles or translations when you don't understand something and if it bothers you). If you are constant throughout the year, you'll notice the improvements ;)
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby rdearman » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:18 pm

I'm not going to be supportive. You can already do in 2 years what I have spent 20 years attempting to learn. You can understand what people say to you. So bollocks to quitting. Your issue isn't speaking, your issue is perfectionism. When you speak do people understand you? If yes, then double bollocks! If you understand conversation then speak to people. If they understand you then you're way better than 90% of the people who have started to learn Italian. So what if every sentence is in the present tense, if they are confused then they will say "Huh?" or the Italian equivalent and you try to say it a different way. Or if it isn't perfect ask them how you could have said it better or more naturally.

“Don't aim for perfection. Aim for 'better than yesterday'.”
― Izey Victoria Odiase


You are way better than me but here is the rub. I talk to Italians all the time, and they correct me, and I get it wrong, and they correct me again. Rinse, lather, repeat. Eventually even a thicko like me manages to get the odd sentence correct. But I mess up the next one, so... Rinse, lather, repeat.

I would kill people to for the ability to;
StringerBell wrote:easily understand almost everything that native speakers say in real life or on TV


So yeah, it is hard. Yeah, it takes a long time. Yeah, lots of time it isn't fun. But yeah, you're better than you were 2 years ago, and 2 years from now you'll be better than you are now.

But then again, if you stop, then in 2 years time I'll be way better than you. I know. I ran two marathons and although I didn't win, I passed a load of people who stopped. So I got a medal, and they didn't, because persistence trumps ability every time.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Brun Ugle » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:56 pm

I have to agree with Rdearman. If you’ve managed that in only two years without living in the country, you’re doing pretty well. I don’t think I can do much better than that and people keep telling me I’m good at languages.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby iguanamon » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:03 pm

StringerBell, we all have periods of self-doubt and we are most often our own worst critics. You asked for advice different than what you have tried already.

You've said the idea of doing FSI would be anathema to you. First off, there is no equivalent FSI/DLI course to the FSI Spanish and French courses. Second, drills are not a replacement for reading and listening/watching. They are an aid to production. In my experience, as boring as the drills can be, doing drills is what has helped me to internalize phrasing and grammar. Try to look at them as you would going to the gym or running- do a half an hour of drills as mandatory and then do whatever you want to do in the language. When I was in the Army, they made us get up at 5 am and do exercises and run. I hated it, but it made me strong and fast, and it wasn't all day, just a small part of what we did every day. Even if there is no FSI Basic equivalent for Italian, there will be Italian drills available.

I think where people get disheartened about doing them lies a lot in how they perceive the grammar drill activity to be. Myself, I looked at doing them knowing that they would help me. They also weren't the only language activity I did. I spoke, I wrote, I read, I listened. The drills were the component that tied everything together for me. They helped me to notice more, and better, what I was hearing and reading in the real world.

When my kids were learning how to swim they had to face their fear of putting their faces in the water and making it happen. Yeah, they were inelegant and clumsy at first, but practice made them better. So, what I see missing in your study routine is specific grammar practice (drills being a good way to get these concepts into the mind, if you can manage to get your mind around doing it) and speaking and writing outside of your husband and family.

You recently posted about language exchanges and I think this is a great idea. Often times it can be difficult to do this with family or a significant other due to the close relationship issues. A regular exchange/tutor sessions with someone whom you are not related can work miracles for production. They build a virtuous circle with media consumption.

Writing can be a great help as well, even without native-speaker correction. People here on the forum who write their logs in TL sometimes get feedback and sometimes they don't but every time they sit down to write in TL they have to think about what they're writing and how to say it. These days, with the internet there are various ways to check sentence construction. Learners who write their logs in TL are forced to get better at production and often do on their own, despite the lack of native-speaker correction- or maybe even because of it.

Another way to get writing practice is to take a writing course on line. I did this with a writing school in Spain. A professor and my fellow native-speaker students read my work and offered constructive criticism. I enjoyed it very much. It was useful. I wish there were similar courses for Haitian Creole and Ladino. I don't know how to search in Italian but I feel fairly certain that there will be internet based writing schools in Italy. I have also done online courses in sustainability, literature and history in Spanish and Portuguese. These courses had a writing component and a chatroom for students. Among my fellow writing course students I was the only non-native speaker of Spanish. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me help and support when I needed it.

So my advice is to continue what you are doing but also do something like seek out grammar practice drills, speak with non-family members in Italian(language exchange or tutor), do a class in Italian- either a specific online writing course for native-speakers (best option) or an online course with a writing component involved.

Whatever you do, StringerBell, I hope to continue seeing your contributions here. You are a valuable part of our community. You put your nose to the grindstone and are an exception to my general rule about monolingual beginners studying two languages simultaneously. We all have had moments of self-doubt and crises of confidence. You are not alone in this. Do what's best for you. Where you go from here is up to you. Wherever that may be, I wish you all the best. :)
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:06 pm

Thank you everyone for all the input, I very much appreciate it.

I agree that my listening comprehension is something to be proud of. However, I spent ~2,000 hours not just listening to Italian, but making sure that I looked up/asked about everything single thing I heard that I didn't understand. (I did the same thing for Polish, though it feels like I made very little progress by comparison. My comprehension is Polish is not good enough that there's anything I can do that's truly enjoyable.) It was grueling, most times frustrating, and overall not fun. But I think it worked 100x better than extensive listening would have. I think it's very likely that anyone else who did what I did in the same span of time would have equally good comprehension, if not much better.

I'm not giving up 100%, I still plan to maintain my comprehension, at least in Italian. And I'll continue with my LEP mainly because we're friends. And I'll still speak Italian when I want to communicate to in-laws or the occasional sentence pops into my head. I'm just going to stop stressing myself out about improving in this area. If speaking better happens as a by-product of not trying anymore, I'll take it! I'm not going to expect it, though.

I've been talking to my Italian LEP for about 1.5 years. It's hard to self-evaluate, and it's always possible that I'm not being objective, but in that time I honestly don't see much of an improvement in my speaking ability. I still struggle to say the same kinds of things. I don't mean complex things like how does an airplane fly :lol: but even just describing what I did during the week. There are minor improvements like I'm a little better with using correct articles now, or I occasionally throw in a new phrase. But my overall ability to explain basic things about what I've done during the week has not changed much.

iguanamon wrote:First off, there is no equivalent FSI/DLI course to the FSI Spanish and French courses.

Yes!!! No more feeling guilty about that one!

iguanamon wrote:Another way to get writing practice is to take a writing course on line. I did this with a writing school in Spain. A professor and my fellow native-speaker students read my work and offered constructive criticism. I enjoyed it very much. It was useful. I wish there were similar courses for Haitian Creole and Ladino. I don't know how to search in Italian but I feel fairly certain that there will be internet based writing schools in Italy. I have also done online courses in sustainability, literature and history in Spanish and Portuguese. These courses had a writing component and a chatroom for students.


Again, good advice, but my writing level is so low that an activity like this is way above me. I'm still struggling with writing basic "what I did today" types of sentences where verbs are conjugated properly, correct tenses are used and correct articles and prepositions are in place. If I were able to make some huge improvements in the future, then I would definitely consider doing something like this.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby rdearman » Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:11 pm

We should do a LE just so you can hear what Bad Italian really sounds like !! :lol:
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Mon Aug 26, 2019 6:11 pm

Dammit, I don't know how other people are capable of writing quick updates. I always intend to be brief and then posts like this happen! :lol:

I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with/about languages. I feel confident in my conviction that I have anti-talent with foreign language learning, and I know I will never make the kinds of improvements or gains that other people here make. Do I still want to pursue this as a hobby knowing that? I kind of do, even though it's probably not going to give me the satisfaction I was hoping for. Maybe I can accept that I'm rubbish at this but I'm going to keep doing it anyway.

ITALIAN:

LISTENING:
The one area I know I have a capacity for improvement is listening comprehension. It's taken me a lot of work, but seeing improvements as a result of my efforts is very motivating. So I'm going to continue improving this area even more, because there is always some new word or phrase or idiom to learn. My comprehension is good, but it can be better. I'm gong to continue with my Lucifer transcription project, because it's a brutal but useful exercise.

In addition, I'm going to return to what I started doing in the beginning that worked really well; anytime I hear a new or unknown thing, I'll stop to take note of it, look it up (and make some Anki flashcards, until I give up on Anki). I've been doing this with episodes of Torbidi Delitti (Swamp Murders). I long ago stopped doing this kind of thing when I reached a point where it was easy enough to watch TV extensively, but that's also the point where I stopped advancing my vocabulary acquisition.

Now, I'm including a bunch of example sentences and slight variations for each term I enter in Anki. This means that instead of making 1 card for each new word/phrase, I end up with 4 or even 6 cards. I'm finding that having multiple cards that are slightly different for each word/phrase seems to be more useful than just 1 card. It's relatively easy to do this because there are only at most 2 or 3 unknowns per episode, which then generate about 8-18 cards. I don't know if it's really a better strategy, but so far I like doing it this way.

I'm making cards for unknowns that I can easily figure out from context like the word la federa [pillowcase], which was obvious in the episode because someone had a pillowcase on their head, but I'd never be able to summon the word when speaking, nor necessarily even know the meaning if the word were in a different context. Even when I easily figure out an unknown word in context, I forget it in 2 seconds unless I start coming across it repeatedly.

SPEAKING:
Improving speaking is a lost cause, and I think I've come to terms with that. So I'm not going to spend effort trying to improve that now (or maybe ever). I can't have interesting discussions without getting stuck, causing confusion, and making a ton of mistakes, but I can communicate well enough for what I need to do, so I'm going to just accept that this is the best I can do.

WRITING:
I suck at writing, don't enjoy it at all, but I think I'm capable of doing it regularly if it's in small doses. I don't believe that I will improve without getting corrections because otherwise not only will I not know what I'm doing wrong, but I won't ever figure out how to say it right. I know writing without corrections works for other people who already have a good grammar base or who are good at absorbing what they hear and read, but I don't have much of that ability, so I need some outside intervention.

I decided to try to write 1 paragraph per day using a writing prompt One paragraph isn't much of a commitment, so I'm hoping I can be consistent with it. Instead of handwriting, this time I'm typing my responses in a Word doc, and getting corrections on a copy so that I still have the original version I wrote. My plan as of now is to try to do this everyday and after a period of time (6 months? 1 year?) compare my writing to the earlier attempts to evaluate if I'm improving at all. Maybe making minor writing improvements over time will lead to minor speaking improvements. We'll see.

I'm going to list the writing prompts I'm using, and I might occasionally post my original paragraph here (my rule is that I'm not allowed to look up anything while writing). So far, I've done:
1) What would you do if you were late for an important appointment?
2) What would you do if someone accused you of a crime you didn’t commit?

READING:
-I just ordered a 5th Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Italian because I found it used for a good price. This series is perfect for my reading level because there are few unknowns, and when they appear, it's easy to figure them out from context and the silly pictures.
-I'm listening to the audiobook in Italian of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close while reading it in English. I'd like to repeat this a few times, then see if I'm able to just read the Italian book with any kind of ease. If it works, I might start doing this as a regular thing.
-I have a shelf of books waiting for me...not going to lie, it's more fun to buy them than to read them. Maybe that's why I keep buying them. I put Dolores Claiborne on pause. I'll return to it in the future. For now, I'm going to see if something else I have is a little easier. If not, I'll stick with the other stuff I've mentioned.

LATIN & POLISH:
I'm still plugging away at Latin (I finally finished Chapter 8 today). Polish is still on hiatus. Interesting, when I log into Netflix, some random shows that I've never watched automatically start playing with a Polish lektor and subtitles. Divine intervention? :lol: The line "bez ojca" (without father) was said by someone one of these times, and now I have "bez ojca" constantly in my head. Maybe this is the strategy I need to finally learn cases?
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby garyb » Mon Aug 26, 2019 6:39 pm

I can relate too. I'm not sure whether telling my experience will be encouraging or quite the opposite, but in any case it's realistic. I've been learning Italian in my spare time for about eight years, and for the first six I was quite consistent and serious; more recently it's more on-and-off and just aiming to maintain, partly due to discouragement (with Italian and language learning in general) but mostly just other priorities in life. I can understand films and conversations very well, although I have occasional "huh?" moments with fast/regional speech or when someone asks me something without context or about a specific subject, and it's been that way for years. Yet my speaking has always lagged far behind, even at times when I've been socialising with Italians several days per week or travelling for a few months in Italy. These days I speak pretty well but very far from perfectly: I make frequent little grammar and pronunciation mistakes even with "basic" structures, I forget words and expressions, I struggle to formulate certain ideas. I've come to accept that that's just the nature of the beast: speaking is, for most people at least, simply the hardest skill, and I'll probably never reach excellence unless I spend a good amount of time in "proper" immersion - life, work, social - which I'd love to do but it just doesn't make sense given the rest of my life. I can, however, keep slowly progressing while I enjoy the benefits of the very respectable level that I've reached already. Understanding most speech and being able to converse even imperfectly opens up a whole new world. We can be our own harshest critics, although I'll add that unsympathetic native speakers can come very close and we should also not let them discourage us, even if in both cases it's easier said than done.

I obviously don't have your experience of having a long-term native-speaker partner, but I've read enough logs of those who do to recognise that it's hardly the silver bullet it might seem and it can even lead to bad habits being reinforced, especially in pronunciation.

There are accounts of people reaching advanced speaking levels in months, but I think most have some element of exaggeration (especially from those who know a similar language or two and manage to make themselves understood using a messy mixture) and/or holding themselves to lower standards. I'd never encourage exaggerating, but maybe there's something to learn about focusing on what you can do rather than what you can't do. And some might just indeed have a talent that we don't.

This change in perspective can seem like giving up on a dream, but it's also taken some weight off my shoulders and let me concentrate on more important things. Perhaps there's something to be said for focusing on our strengths, while developing our weaknesses as we can but being accepting and non-perfectionist about it.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:08 pm

thanks, garyb (and everyone else who offered encouragement, support, or commiseration).

******

I wanted to share something awesome I did during a LE today. Usually, with this LEP we just shoot the shit about whatever we did during the week, and while I really like talking to him, sometimes we run out of stuff to talk about. So I decided to introduce him to the game "Would You Rather?" (Preferiresti?) It's a very well known game in the US. I don't know if it exists in other English-speaking countries, but it doesn't in Italy. It's really simple, and you can play anytime there's a few minutes of downtime or boredom. You ask the other person to choose between two options that are good, bad or weird in different ways. The more difficult it is to choose, the better. If you search "Would You Rather?" questions, there's a million websites with lists of sample questions, or you can come up with your own on the spot based on what you know about the other person's likes and dislikes.

Some of our questions today were:
1) Would you rather never get stuck in traffic again or never have to wait on line?
2) Would you rather be perpetually thirsty and not be able to drink (but you could eat anything you want) or be perpetually hungry and not be able to eat (but you could drink anything you want?) *You wouldn't die from either option, you would just always feel the sensation of being hungry or thirsty.
3) Would you rather spend a year in prison or die one year sooner?
4) Would you rather live in an igloo near the North Pole, or a tent in the Sahara desert? (Food+water isn't an issue)
5) Would you rather live in a regular hotel room 50 weeks out of the year but then get to travel anywhere in the world for 2 weeks per year and stay in really luxurious places, or live in a regular apartment for 50 weeks out of the year but then have to camp or sleep in your car when you travel?

*This is a great game to play if you need to practice using conditional tenses.

We ended up playing this for the whole hour because it was so much fun. These are great for prompting discussion, because you can think out loud while you're trying to decide on your answer or you can ask the other person to explain why they choose their answer.
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