7 Steps for Your Language Learning Foundation

As I mentioned in my #Add1Challenge Recap, I had quite a few resources I used to learn. I also had a schedule that I (mostly) stuck to. I’m now halfway through 2016 and I’m ignoring my self-imposed deadline of being conversationally fluent in a year with determination, just attempting to keep up my study schedule and methods without overwhelming myself.

Not overwhelming yourself is key. 

So, in an attempt to keep everything for myself organized, and to help others who may be learning a language, I’m laying out the steps to start – and continue – learning.

1. Set a Schedule.

My study schedule is 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Manageable. It doesn’t have to be one 30 minute chunk of time, either. I usually end up studying for two 15-minute periods each day, with some other fun activities (like listening to music) thrown in.

2. Find a Tutor.

I use italki.com. This is the single best resource I have found for learning almost any language. I use a combination of official teachers, who can cost up to $20 per hour, and unofficial language tutors, who can cost as little as $5 per hour. Official teachers usually bring their own teaching material and have some sort of curriculum they will lead you through. Language tutors are great for practicing speaking with someone who knows how to speak slowly and clearly.

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Hello, motivation.

3. Get a grammar book.

I just use one, Italian: A Self-Teaching Guide, recommended to me by one of my italki tutors. I skip most of the boring exercises. But what’s really helpful is to read the explanations of grammar, memorize the vocabulary, and learn the dialogues. I go over the dialogues in each chapter multiple times. This same italki tutor will roleplay the dialogue theme with me after I’ve learned it on my own, which often introduces more new vocabulary and grammatical structures.

4. Review vocabulary with flashcards.

I use a combination of Memrise and physical flashcards. Physical flashcards are for the concepts that just don’t seem to stick in my brain no matter how many times a tutor corrects me or I see it on Memrise. Something about writing it down and holding the flashcards triggers my memory for the tough concepts. I know a lot of other language learners who prefer Anki to Memrise, but after trying both I prefer Memrise.

5. Read.

I have Olly Richards’ Italian Short Stories for Beginners in both paperback and audiobook format. The stories start out simple and get more difficult as you keep reading. I also have a few other beginner stories and children’s stories. As soon as I feel confident enough in my reading comprehension, I’m going to start reading Harry Potter in Italian. I have the first two paperbacks waiting in my “to be read” pile.

There are also plenty of other reading resources, sorted by language level, out there on the interwebs. They’re usually just a search away!

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Speaking the language makes traveling even more rewarding! At least it does for me.

6. Listen.

I have my Italian Spotify playlist that I listen to as often as possible. Looking up lyrics and practicing singing along (where no one else can hear me) is really helpful for accent and pronunciation.

7. Have fun.

One of the biggest enemies of language learning is boredom. I’ve experienced it, and I’ve heard of others experiencing it. Which is why, although I try my hardest to stick to the few main resources that will help me the most, I have a list of other resources I rotate through to keep from getting bored. Of course, listening to my playlist is fun. But I also occasionally make my way over to Youtube for some Peppa Pig in Italian, or I’ll look up vocabulary for horse anatomy (which was actually useful when I was talking about horses with my AirBnB host!).

And repeat!

After 3 months of this schedule, I was able to have a 30 minute conversation completely in Italian for the Add1Challenge. I think that’s a pretty good foundation in Italian, don’t you?

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