Tina Learns Italian: “Islands”

So I read this really interesting ebook about “organizing” your language knowledge to actually be able to speak at the proficiency level you’re at… Instead of staring off into the distance and attempting to remember sentence structure for the verb you want to use. One of the author’s tips was about forming language “islands,” or pre-prepared monologues on a lot of different topics.

So, if someone asks you where you’re from, instead of me just saying, “I live in Oklahoma,” I could say “I live in Oklahoma. I like it. I like it because…” And then the conversation wouldn’t devolve into yes/no questions.

I liked the idea, so I decided to start writing a few islands for myself, and use them to practice speaking without notes. I’m supposed to have them memorized forwards, backwards, and sideways, so I can use them in different situations. But I made this video before the 30 day mark… so not quite there yet. 🙂 Since a lot of my iTalki teachers kept asking me why I wanted to learn Italian, etc. I made travel my first topic.

So, to recap:

  1. Think of a list of topics you’re most likely to want to talk about. (Travel, your hometown, the weather, food you like/dislike, your pets, your work, etc.)
  2. Write up a few sentences about each topic, and get it corrected by a native. (italki journal entries are perfect for this!)
  3. Memorize it. Forwards, backwards, sideways, out of order, etc.
  4. Now you know some more vocab (in context!), you’re comfortable talking about a few generic things, and you won’t get stuck giving one word answers when someone asks, “Where are you from?”

Here’s an example of one of mine! My “script” for my first “island” should be pretty close to correct, since I had some native Italians correct the grammar on iTalki.com before I memorized and recorded:



  1. Hi, Tina! I’m so glad to have found your blog (I found it yesterday via “The Iceberg Project” FB group). I am an Italian student and am eager to try the A1C challenge, thanks to your suggestion! I hadn’t heard of it previously. My husband Was born-and-raised in Milan, came to the US for college and stayed. We usually visit his family in Italy once a year, so I’m very motivated to learn Italian! I’m currently taking weekly lessons (via Skype) and subscribe to News in Slow Italian and use some of the same resources you mention, as well. Anyway, thanks so much for your blog — I’m enjoying it a lot!

    • Hi Elizabeth! I’m so glad you’re finding my blog helpful. 🙂 That was my goal when I started it. And it sounds like you’re on the right track, and that is a fantastic motivation to keep learning.

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