Speak Italian Magically!

Relax! You can learn Italian now!

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All about Speak Italian Magically, the episodes and the method.

Can you learn Italian with FUMETTI? ;-)

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 14 Maggio 2014

You may be one of those people who believes that to learn a language you absolutely need books that teach you either  grammar, or the proper way of speaking the language… or you may be not! I can’t know whether you are one of those people or not because you are on the other side of what I am writing right now: you are reading it. But, just for a moment, imagine that you could acquire the language, by doing something that - by doing it - will let you have fun and don’t ever think that you are “working” to learn. Are you interested in this? I don’t know if you are. What I do know is that…

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Today I’d like to tell you a story of a boy who loved to read comic books so much that he was sometimes immersed in them… He started like most of us with Topolino (Mickey Mouse), Paperino (Donald Duck) and company…then he moved into l’Uomo Ragno (Spiderman), Superman and superhero comics…passing through Bonelli comics (Dylan Dog, Zagor, Martin Mystère, etc)… It was another world that for the duration of the “fumetto” allowed him to suspend disbelief, expand his fantasy and enjoy the time he spent like that . There were no computers (or at least he didn’t own one at that time),  tv was not so entertaining…but comic books were. Although in some periods of his life he stopped reading comics, from time to time he got back there in that fantasy world that allowed him to temporarily escape from the ordinary world and fly with fantasy. A thing that the boy didn’t know was that through those comic boos he learned a lot… He learned how to spell words, he learned new vocabulary, he learned so much (also) through them, that he became the man that he is today… He also learned to read them in another language…and enjoyed understanding them in a language that wasn’t his own mother tongue… By the time he managed to read comic books in a foreign language he was 26; after all he started learning that foreign language when he was 24…

Well… That grown up boy still enjoys reading comics… not so many like in the past… Sometimes he likes reading some comic books for mature readers (such as “Y the last man“), sometimes he reads Smarter Comics (http://www.smartercomics.com/), such as Think and Grow rich (by Napoleon Hill) or Influence (by  Robert Cialdini)…. And other times he likes reading il Grande Diabolik (the criminal hero that we have here in Italy and that many of my advanced students know;-)… Recently he rediscovered Zagor, a comic book that a cousin of his (ciao Aurelio!) introduced him to about 30 years ago (well… he is 38 years young now!)… and thanks to the “Collezione Storica a colori” he is reading Zagor again.

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But why am I telling you this story and why am I talking about comics today?

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that comics, especially the ones that have an audio adaptation can be used to learn a language.

When about 10 years ago I started using one of my passions to teach Italian in the school I was teaching, the director asked me:” What? You are teaching Italian through comic books? Is that even possible?”

I told him: “Look at the results”… By the time the story in the comic book was over, I had asked the students so many questions (in Italian!)…They had answered them (in Italian!)… They had retold me the story…. and they had enjoyed their time just by listening  and reading a nice and compelling story! I proceeded in this order: I let them listen first, ask questions, let them answer (of course! ;-), then listen while reading and looking at the pictures, ask other questions or let them retell me the story…

After so many years that  I’ve ALSO  been using this approach to let my students improve they listening and speaking skills, I am happy to tell you that Alma Edizioni has recently published some comic books with multimedia video (or audio if you close your eyes and just listen!)… And they are graded  according to your level!

Here you have a preview of one of them:

Habemus Papam TRAILER from Alma Edizioni on Vimeo.

I also watched a video that some Japanese students have created with  their own adaptation of the Alma Edizioni fumetti… To do that, they had to read, listen, understand and express themselves in Italian… By doing this, they had a lot of exposure to comprehensible input…

And if you still think that comic books cannot be used to learn a language, you may have forgotten what I wrote about Stephen Krashen in this article… (in Italian: http://tinyurl.com/l3p9jvm ) Do you remember what he told about the word bouillabaisse in his “The power or reading”?

To end this article I just have to tell you that, if you haven’t realized it yet, I am the boy of the story I told you a few lines before…

I still read comics… in my own language and in English… And I learn a lot, while having fun! And you? Why don’t you do it? ;-)

-Antonio

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Learn Italian a little a day…every day!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 10 Luglio 2013

Be honest with yourself, how much time a day can you spend learning Italian EVERY DAY? One hour? half an hour? Or just a few minutes a day?

And be careful, don’t immediately answer one hour a day, because maybe it’s something that you won’t be able to keep in the long run. How many little (or big) commitments do you have every day, beside your work, your school, or family maybe…that can distract you from your goal of speaking Italian very well?

When some people make a decision (like the one of speaking Italian very well, for example), they speed away at the beginning, by saying: “From today on I’ll do exercises every day”, “From today on I’ll eat less!”, “From today on…I’ll do something with Italian for one hour a day!”…

If you’re interested in what’s the right way to set goals, I’ve already written about this in Italian in another blog of mine, so I would like to write about something else today.

What can you do once you know the basics of the Italian language (maybe because you attended a course for beginners, or completed a book for beginners, such as Assimil Italian) to improve your language skills in a progressive way, even though you have a little time at your disposal?

Before answering, let me explain what phases we go through during any learning:

1) unconscious incompetence: imagine you don’t know that there’s another language to learn, you wouldn’t know anything about and you wouldn’t even be skilled at speaking Italian (that’s an extreme case); or - a more likely case - you know that the Italian language exists, but you don’t know anything about its rules and you don’t know how to use them…

2) unconscious competence: you found out that Italian as a language exists and you know you aren’t able to speak it; or you found out that there are many rules in the Italian language, but you don’t know how to use them.

3) conscious competence: you have been studying Italian for a while, but you have to think a lot before uttering any single word you have to say and you’re not sure how to say it: you’re a little slow and clumsy.

4) unconscious competence: at this point you’re master of the Italian language (Finalmente!) and you speak it correctly and without thinking about it.

If you have finished that basic course of Italian, it’s possible that you are between phase two and three, aren’t you? How can you reach (and faster) unconscious competence?

Many linguists - Stephen Krashen among them - state that mastery of a language is a process so complex that it exceeds our capacity for conscious control; so, what can you do to reach the wished unconscious mastery of the Italian language (as if it were your mother tongue)?

The simplest answer is…

“Pratica! Pratica! Pratica!”

But you can practice Italian in a pleasant way and even for a little a day!

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Below you’ll find an (incomplete) list of ways of daily improving your Italian and, keeping in mind the time at your disposal, you can devote just a few minutes a day:

1) Do you like reading? Do you know that you can read anything that you normally like, but in Italian? Or…Do you like listening? What do you like listening? Do you know that you can listen to anything that you normally like, but in Italian? Do you like watching TV shows? Watch them, but in Italian! This way you will exponentially and rapidly expand your vocabulary, by having fun… If you believe that reading or listening something directly in Italian can be frustrating (because you don’t understand anything you read or listen to - but do you remember what I think about frustration?), then you could initially choose a book with English translation, or a magazine, such as Pronto Estate 2013 [Do you know that a couple of years ago I recorded the audio of it? And it’s still here in audio and PDF], that allows you to discover Tropea and nearby and it’s written in three languages (and it’s free in the PDF version). Have you ever thought that you can just read a page a day in Italian and constantly improve? If you read one page a day, or you just listen to a little audio a day, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Can you find them, can’t you?

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2) You can put yourself in a total immersion situation where you have to speak only in Italian, because no one else speaks your language. In this case be sure that progress will be very fast, and sooner or later you will find yourself thinking in Italian or even dreaming in Italian, why not? If you live in a touristic place where Italians come and visit, you’ll just have to approach the first of them you see and talk with them, or do you believe you’re too shy to do it? ;-) Or you could leave and come in Italy on vacation (I hope this is achievable for you!), but without anyone speaking your mother tongue!

3) You can practice mental training in Italian and for this the course Awaken your Italian can help you! Its bilingual texts and mp3s will explain you how to mentally train to speak Italian very well and they’ll help you internalize the Italian language used in it. Even if there are some lessons that require even 30 minutes (especially the last one) if you have less time, you can choose to quickly reread the lesson, or listen to the questions and answer them as quickly as possible. Avoid putting yourself in a Procrustean bed!

4) You can use any other course with guided imagery in Italian. It’ll be like daydreaming in Italian, while your unconscious mind internalizes Italian and help you start and think Italian. If you don’t know where to start from and you haven’t used it already, dare I suggest my Speak Italian Magically? Lessons will last 10 to 15 minutes…and you’ll really relax into Italian!

5) After listening to a lot of Italian, you can practice shadowing and I have already written about it. This will help your tongue untie a lot - mentally and physically! For how many minutes a day do you want to practice it? It’s up to you!

6) You can have someone ask you a lot of easy questions to answer as quick as possible, so that you’ll automatize the process. Or you can answer the questions that you can find at the end of Speak Italian Magically or Awaken your Italian as fast as you can!

So..

There are a lot of things that you can do to daily improve your Italian and you just need a little time to do it…So, next time you say that you don’t have time to improve your ability to speak Italian very well, think about how long you stay in front of TV or social networks and remember about this article and about all the chances you have to do a little a day to speak Italian better and better.

Knowledge is power! Sapere è potere!;-)

-Antonio

P.s.: This article is an adaptation of another article, that I’ve written in Italian on another blog of mine. Are you ready to read it in Italian???

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Create a ritual to speak Italian very well!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 23 Giugno 2013

What mental state are you in when you learn Italian? And what mental state are you in when you speak it?
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Imagine this situation: you’re at home, sprawling either on your sofa, or on your bed, or even at your desktop table; you’re relaxed, you think how beautiful it is to learn Italian (do you?), then you start and learn it for a while. As you learn it you are at ease, perhaps you’re sipping a tasteful drink. Imagine another situation: you suddenly have to speak Italian, perhaps in an important work situation, or, in an extreme case, you need to help a person - who speaks only Italian! - who fell and you have to calm him or her, until the ambulance comes. What’s your mental state in these two situations? I guess it is a little different, isn’t it?

If, like I believe, your mental state is very different in those two situations, then probably it won’t be easy to remember words and expressions that could be useful  to help you cope with the real situation your in. What do you think about it?

In my last article I briefly talked (wrote, actually:-) about state dependent learning (apprendimento dipendente dallo stato) and how you can overcome this by adding new layers to your learning. Have you read it, haven’t you?;-)

In this article, instead, I want to talk (write, actually:-) about athletes and their rituals. Why do I want to talk about it? Go on with the reading if you’re curious to find it out.

Have you ever seen those athletes (at the TV or at the stadium) who start and do some things that from your point of view really seem bizarre? By searching the internet through Google you can find out that:

“nel rugby e nel calcio, per esempio, molti giocatori pretendono di avere sempre lo stesso posto negli spogliatoi. Per non parlare di chi vuole solo ed esclusivamente il solito numero. Ai tempi di quando giocava nell’Inter, si racconta che Bobo Vieri indossava sempre le stesse scarpette con le quali aveva segnato la domenica precedente. Che dire del grande Giovanni Trapatoni, che quando allenava la nazionale di calcio Italiana usava versare sul terreno di gioco una bottiglietta di acqua santa?”

Which in English, could be translated more or less like this:

“in rugby and in soccer, for example, many players require that they always have the same place in the changing rooms. Let alone those who only and exclusively want the same number. When Bobo Vieri worked at Inter Milan [a famous Italian soccer team], they say that he always wore the same shoes he scored with the previous Sunday. And what about the great Giovanni Trapattoni, who, while training the Italian national soccer team, used to pour on the game field the content of a holy water bottle?” (the source is here!)

What do you think? Are these rituals useful?

Whatever your opinion (and I care about your opinion - let’s make it clear!), let me tell you what’s mine.

If an athlete performed very well by following a precise ritual, then repeating it at the beginning of the next match could help him get again in the same mental state, in the mental “zone” that will allow him to perform very well. If instead, by following the ritual, he performs poorly, then - read carefully! - by repeating it, very probably he won’t be able to perform very well - maybe  because he’ll end up having what’s called a collapsing of anchors (I talked about this in Italian in another blog of mine).

If you remember what you’ve read at the beginning of this article (do you? Don’t you?:-), then you’ll agree with me that if you are able to recreate the same mental state when you learn Italian ( or even when you read it or learn it for pleasure) and when you speak it in a real situation, then you’ll have an easy life with the Italian language (and with any other thing you want to apply this principle!)

Please keep in mind that anything I said about adding new layers to the learning, still counts! So, you could generalize the learning by adding new ways of being exposed to the same material… and over and above this, you can create a ritual, or one of those that in NLP (NEURO LINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING) are called anchors (I talked about this subject in Awaken your Italian).

But… how can you create a special ritual for you to access the same mental state and then remember what you want to remember?

There are infinite ways of doing it!!!

What follow are the first three that come in my mind:-)

1) Create a new Italian identity! One of the things that I like doing while teaching Italian to my students is to create a new identity, an all Italian identity, with name, family name, city of residence or origin, address, profession and age, all in Italian! Why? For several reasons. What do you think? Why this could be useful for you, who are learning Italian and you speak it better and better? I am talking about creating a new, all Italian identity. Because, first of all, you will end up smiling every time you are called with the name Francesco (or Flavio), or Rosa (or Lavinia); and smiling (and/or better yet laughing) will already create an optimal mind state for learning and speaking. Secondly, because you will become one with a person who already speaks Italian very well. After all you would be - you are! - a person who was born and lived in Italy and Italian would be - it is! - your mother tongue! Thirdly this would help you relax when making mistakes, because it wouldn’t be Carl (or Dave), or Jen (or Johanna) - Come ti chiami? - to make them, but it would be Francesco or Rosa - or any name you have chosen for your new Italian identity;-). At the beginning it may not be easy for you to remember the details of your Italian identity, then by repeating the process it will become easier and faster. And what I suggest my students is to briefly recall this new identity of theirs in their mind, both when they’re learning the language, and when they have to speak; and another reason I do it (and so did Lozanov in his suggestopedical courses) is that this way they’ll have a little and funny ritual to access the right mental state to learn and speak Italian! Obviously in a later moment you can do another game, the game of identity integrations, but this is another story;-)

2) Your special place and when you’re at your best! Another way to create your personal ritual could be to create a mental place to access to and relax just before you learn Italian and then when you have to speak it. Of course, at the beginning it may take a while, but with practice you can become faster and faster. And what counts is that you can do it in your mind, without anyone to notice you. How can you do it? To find it out, you’ll just have to follow the second lesson of the course Awaken your Italian, titled “Il tuo posto speciale“! Another useful lesson to speak Italian very well is the one that helps you access yourself at your best! And this you can do it thanks to the third lesson of Risveglia il tuo italiano, titled “Quando sei al tuo meglio!

3) Anchor your nose to the smell of success! Alternatively…you can create a “nasal anchor“, but doing it could be slightly more difficult than the methods you have just read about above this. In a wonderful book, titled “Keep your brain alive” the authors,  Lawrence C. Katz and Manning Rubin, suggest to create an association between a specific smell and a specific place… And while thinking about this book again, it “popped” in my mind: why can’t you create an association between a specific smell and a mental state - the mental state in which you speak Italian very well? The authors also suggest to create some little jars with sponge cubes where you can pour some drops of perfumed essential oil (lemon, lavender, vanilla, etc.). Perhaps before learning and before speaking Italian very well, you could smell the same fragrance, what do you think about it? ;-)

Now, I don’t know which one of these three methods is the most practical for you, but I do think that having mental states that are easily accessible is very useful to speak Italian very well (and even for a lot of other things in life), so I strongly suggest you to create your rituals (the simplest and the quicker, the better) that allow you to make good use of your pleasant learning experience. What are you waiting for? Why don’t you put into practice one of the expedients I’ve just talked (written, actually;-) about? Or, why don’t you create a very personal one and then you let me know it? I would be very grateful! And you would have contributed to my personal growth, and what is equally important, to yours!

P.s.: this article is an adaptation of an article I published yesterday in Italian in another blog of mine, are you ready to read it in Italian?

-Antonio

Pubblicato in The course, The science behind learning Italian | Nessun commento »

Avoid the procrustean bed while learning the Italian language!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 28 Maggio 2013

Have you ever heard about Procrustes?

Il letto di Procuste dal museo virtuale di Nino Besta

This image is from il museo virtuale di Nino Besta - Visit it!
 

If so, what was his story?

If you don’t know anything about Procrustes, let me tell you about him. The legend says that he was an assassin who put his victims on his bed…The only wrong thing (beside the fact that he was an assassin;-) was that if they were too tall to fit, he would cut them so that they eventually fit! And if they were too short, he would stretch them so that his bed would fit to every person.
Well, this is what happens in the teaching world and in schools in many cases. Teachers, me too sometimes (especially in the past), and schools forget that each individual is different, with his/her own strengths and weaknesses in learning. There are people who like to watch presentations, people who like to listen to them, people who like to act them out and to move around, and even people who like to do any of the just mentioned things.
What I’ve come to realize over the years, is that, although it is a fact that people have a preferred sensory channel to learn and absorb new information and skills, they will learn and absorb contents much better if they are exposed to the same material in different ways!

We learn better in layers!

And this is what I usually do with my students, and in my books!

Let’s take Speak Italian Magically for instance. In the introduction of the course you’re suggested at least seven different ways to be exposed to the same material.

As you may know, in  Speak Italian Magically you’ll find 10 guided meditations to get you into the Italian language.

1) The first thing I suggest you to do is to listen to the audio with your eyes closed, without looking at the text. You’ll listen to the bilingual version so that you’ll be able to understand Italian from the very beginning, without the frustration of not understanding anything even if you’re an absolute beginner.

2) Then what I suggest you to do is to listen to the same audio, but while reading the text of it, so that you add a sensory channel to it (and recently I wrote about the importance of reading and listening at the same time). Meanwhile you can activate yourself because you can underline, highlight, circle words and expressions you want to focus on.

3) The next step will be to just listen to the Italian only audio with your eyes closed, so that you’ll feel happy, because you’ll understand everything you listen to in Italian without the intermediation of the English language!!! This will help you with your motivation as well! Of course, you can repeat this experience without and with the text, so that you can notice, absorb and experience more and more Italian.

4) Another thing that you can do is to look at the mind map and remember what the audio was about. Better then would be if you created your mind map. Writing words, drawing simple and easy symbols on the branches of the mind map, will help you activate both sides of your brain - the logical left side with words, and the imaginative right side with the images! (I write about Tony Buzan’s mind maps extensively in The secrets of the Italian language)

Impara l’italiano a strati

5) There are also questions to listen to and answer as fast as you can, in Italian! Answer with simple short answers at the beginning, maybe you help yourself by finding the answers in the text of the main lesson, then you’ll improve and be able to answer them without the text, faster and faster!

6) Then you can add other layers. One is the shadowing, the speak in chorus phase, which can be a challenge, and also a nice way for you to train your ability to speak the Italian language! And you can do it in different ways as well: with the text and the audio, without the text, while doing something else…It’s up to you! Personalize your learning experience!

7)  Another layer that I usually create for my students (during lessons) is a transformation exercise which helps them absorb grammar in an indirect way. They’ll transform a text, for example, from the second person (tu), to the first (or other persons) with all the grammar consequences that this has for the text structure!

Why do you need all these layers? Because they will expose you to comprehensible input and they will also help you avoid what is called state dependent learning. If you learn something and you are exposed to it just when you are relaxed, it would be difficult to use what you learned in a relaxed state in another context - when there could be a bit of stress involved. The fact that you activate yourself, by answering questions, by shadowing the audio, by underlining and circling the text, will help your brain generalize the learning content and make it readily available for you in different contexts!

So today I’ve been writing about this, which is what I consider to be useful in learning languages… and anything else! For example, if you want to learn a new skill at a very deep level, just add as many layers as you can to your learning, so that you’ll end up having a deeper learning experience!

Of course the layers that I suggested here and in Speak Italian Magically are just some of the many you can come up with! Avoid putting yourself in a Procrustean bed, while learning and speaking Italian very well! Personalize your learning experience! Buon divertimento!

-Antonio

Pubblicato in The course | 2 Commenti »

Do you believe you can speak Italian like a mother-tongue speaker?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 6 Maggio 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about beliefs (you can still read it here). I have recently translated into Italian the quotation I started that article with…Here it is!

“Iniziamo la nostra vita con il mondo che si presenta così com’è. Qualcuno - i nostri genitori, insegnanti, analisti - ci ipnotizzano a vedere il mondo e a costruirlo nel modo ‘giusto’. Questi etichettano il mondo, gli danno dei nomi  e danno voce agli esseri e agli eventi  in esso, così che dopo non possiamo leggere il mondo in nessun altro linguaggio o sentirlo che ci dice altre cose.
Il compito è quello di spezzare l’incantesimo ipnotico, così che noi possiamo diventare udenti [undeaf] vedenti [unblind] e  multilingue, permettendo così al mondo di parlarci con nuove voci e scrivere tutto il suo possibile significato nel libro della nostra esistenza. Fa’ attenzione alla tua scelta degli ipnotisti.

The original English text was:

“We begin life with the world presenting itself to us as it is. Someone - our parents, teachers, analysts - hypnotise us to see the world and construe it in the ‘right’ way. These others label the world, attach names and give voices to the beings and events in it, so that thereafter, we cannot read the world in any other language or hear it saying other things to us. The task is to break the hypnotic spell, so that we become undeaf, unblind, and multilingual, thereby letting the world speak to us in new voices and write all its possible meanings in the book of our existence. Be careful in your choice of hypnotists.

The excerpt was written by Sidney Jourard.

Sometimes we believe - me too - that some things should be in a certain way and that they can’t ever change, or be different. The day before yesterday, a dear friend of mine told me that she’s slow in learning languages and that it’ll take a lot of time for her to learn the new language she’s approaching, the same way it was in the past for English (that she’s been learning for a long time). After hearing that, some ideas came to my mind and I am writing about them below, but first, let me ask you… And you? Do you believe you can speak Italian very well and in the shortest time?

Besides, do you believe you can speak Italian like a mother-tongue speaker? Probably right now you may be thinking that it’s impossible, because… you’re not a child anymore, because you have no time, or a billion other justifications (or excuses?), that can be more or less valid. Whatever your answer, positive or negative, you have given an answer based on your beliefs. If you have read the above excerpt by Sidney Jourard well enough, you may agree with me that perhaps what we believe in, may depend on someone else - our parents, teachers, analysts, or the people that are beside us in everyday life or who were with us during our childhood - who have “hypnotized” us into believing that we have limits, that something is possible and something else is not.

Henry Ford used to say: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right!” If you believe that a thing is possible, then you will do everything in your power to make sure it becomes your reality; if you instead believe that a thing is not at all possible, perhaps you won’t even take that little step that can help you make your dream come true, maybe the dream of speaking Italian very well. And the thing you may not be aware of is that the beliefs behind your actions, may depend on something external and not on yourself.

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Human history is replete of facts, objects, actions that right before they were done, were believed to be impossible and then they became reality. Take for example the Wright brothers, two bicycle sellers who defying the gravity law invented the airplane. If they didn’t believe that flying was possible, probably on 17th December 1903 Wilbur Wright wouldn’t fly and history would be different. But they believed in it and made their dream come true. If they hadn’t believed, do you think they would do it anyway?

Think for a moment of everything we use in our everyday life: tablet, iphone (I don’t use it yet;-), pc, ecc. What we believed impossible (or science fiction) about 10 or 15 years ago is today’s reality. Many more things are possible. But why are they possible? Perhaps because someone believed in it. Someone was firmly convinced that it was possible to invent everything we use nowadays and acted so that it became reality. It wasn’t enough for him (or her) just to believe it, he (or she) also took some little, constant and  inexorable step toward  his (or her) dream - and you can do it with the Italian language too!

As I write, I’ve remembered another example, more related to the world of learning foreign languages. Do you know that until not so long ago someone believed that it was impossible to learn a language and speak it like a mother-tongue speaker, especially after a certain age? It was called critical period, after that it wasn’t possible to acquire a language and speak it like a mother-tongue speaker, especially as far as pronunciation is concerned. You’ll just have to search on the web to find about Luca Lampariello, who started to learn several (!) languages after a certain age and in many of them he is at a level which is comparable to that of a mother-tongue speaker. His method has nothing of a miracle, but it consists of a constant practice for about 2 years on every language he learns (I don’t know exactly how many of them he speaks today: perhaps 10 or more).

There’s then a guy who goes under the name of Katsumoto who believed it was possible to learn Japanese and speak it at a mother-tongue level in a relatively short time. He learned Japanese in 18 months, by having fun.  In June 2004, at the  age of 21, he started learning Japanese. By September 2005, he had learned enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese. And he did all that without ever being in Japan. Only in October 2005 he got a job  in Tokyo.

On his website he writes:

“I didn’t take classes (except for a high-level “newspaper reading” class…which merely confirmed that classes, um, suck); I didn’t read textbooks and I had never lived in Japan.”

Which in Italian could be translated into this (more or less):

“Non ho seguito nessun corso (a parte un corso di livello alto di lettura dei quotidiani…che mi ha semplicemente confermato che i corsi [di lingua], ehm, fanno schifo; non ho letto libri di testo e non avevo mai vissuto in Giappone.”

But how did he manage to learn Japanese at that very high level and in such a short time?

His “method” was to immerse himself in everything japanese and for all the time he could, both consciously and unconsciously (he also practised passive listening): he calls it All Japanese All The Time (AJATT).

Getting curious because of his results, I went and read his website so that I could understand more of what he did.

And do you want to know what’s the first thing he did when he started to learn Japanese?

He worked on his beliefs and suggests everyone wanting to do the same, to believe some fundamental things, that I have adapted for you to help you change your beliefs about your ability to speak Italian:

Believe you can learn Italian – Credi che puoi imparare l’italiano
Believe you will learn Italian – Credi che imparerai l’italiano
Believe it is your destiny to learn Italian – Credi che imparare l’italiano sia il tuo destino
Believe you already know Italian – Credi di sapere già l’italiano
Believe you are a native speaker of Italian – Credi di essere un parlante nativo della lingua italiana

Do you know what’s the second most important thing in his method?

Find out what’s fun for you. Think of what you like, and what you’re into. The books and TV shows and movies you like, the types of music you like – these shall be your learning materials.”

Which in Italian sounds more or less like this:

Scopri ciò che è divertente per te. Pensa a ciò che ti piace e a quello  che ti appassiona. I libri, i programmi tv e i film che ti piacciono, i tipi di musica che ti piacciono – questi saranno il tuo materiale di apprendimento.

Wow, even today I have written a lot, so let me conclude by saying to you - to myself (and that dear friend of mine getting near a new foreign language)…

Enough with limits, both self-imposed and imposed by others. Begin to believe that it’s possible to speak Italian very well, that it is your birthright…and the rest will come, one step at a time!

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

What if you think you’re stuck with the learning of Italian?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 20 Aprile 2013

child-learning1.JPGYou’ve been listening to a lot of Italian, you’ve read a lot of Italian, you are now starting to understand what  is being said to you in Italian…But when are you going to speak Italian with confidence? And how can you accelerate your process toward fluency?

Before answering those questions, let me guide you to your past, remote or recent, when you were a little child (like my son in the picture on the left:-) and you didn’t speak anything. You didn’t understand anything of what was being said to you.

After some time, more or less, depending on how stimulating was your environment and on other factors, you began to understand what your parents - or whoever was taking care of you - was telling you. At the beginning you started to understand because of the gestures, because of the tone of the voice of your caretakers. Then you started to understand some words. So you realized what your mummy was meaning while saying “pappa” (the word usually meaning food for babies), maybe because you associated it with the things that were around when your were going to have “pappa“: your mummy (your dad, or whoever was taking care of you) had always a spoon, you were wearing “un bavaglino“, you were sitting on “un seggiolone” and you were fed with “la pappa“. And finally when your mother was saying “è ora di mangiare la pappa” you realised what “pappa” meant.

And this process went on and on until you managed to understand a lot of more words. After a while during this process you started to utter some little words, such as “mamma”….”papà” and then syllables of other words, which soon became complete words and little sentences wit a proper meaning. And before you realized it, you were speaking your mother tongue and you reached fluency in it. If you were a child, like I was too, it may have taken 4 or 5 years to do it: you were speaking your mother tongue without having studied anything about grammar. Because, I guess you started with grammar only when you went to school, didn’t you?
While reading the text of this page on your device- pc, phone or tablet - you’re an adult now and you may not want to spend all that time (4 or 5 years to reach fluency!), but please follow my line or reasoning.
Focus on the process you went through while learning your mother tongue.

  1. You were immersed in the language;
  2. You started to understand what was being said to you;
  3. Then you started speaking and
  4. In the end you worked on grammar.

 So what, Antonio?, you may be saying.

Well, over the years I have been reminding myself and my students  - especially the ones who tell me that they began to understand the language but they don’t speak it yet - that grammar has to come later in the process. And that if they stick with what they have been doing, they can - and you can - move on with the process towards fluency in the Italian language.
Of course, there are ways to accelerate the process and I am convinced of the fact that adults can learn faster than children if they just let go of their fear of making mistakes and stick with a method that involves all of their brain.

So, you can reach fluency faster than a child, in less time. But how?

One of the key points is to involve all of your brain while learning. Learning on your whole brain is possible if you use a multisensory approach and multi-stimuli approach. Anyway, if you reached the point where you understand a lot of what is being said to you, I guess it’s time to speak! And how can you speak the language?

At least in three ways, two that you can practise on your own and one with at least another person. Which one do you prefer?

  1. Practising shadowing (which will help you train your tongue, your ears and all of your brain if you practise it while moving your body too)
  2. Answer easy questions as fast as you can! (And you can do this with a recorded mp3 too)
  3. In a conversation with a mother tongue speaker, maybe with a friend of yours (you can meet him or her through the internet too);

Of course I could elaborate on these points, but I guess I’ve been writing a lot today, so let me go and check if my son needs me;-)

Grazie mille for reading so far and I wish you “in bocca al lupo con il tuo italiano!“(=which has mostly the same meaning of break your leg or good luck, even though literally means: in the mouth of the wolf;-)

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Who would you like to learn Italian from? Learn it from the best ones!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 14 Febbraio 2013

In my previous post I briefly told you how being an actor can help you speak better Italian and how in the fourth lesson of Awaken your Italian you’re invited to choose and enter into a role model for the Italian language. Today I want to give you some other hints about the principles that lesson is based on. But let’s start with a mind map:-)

Impara dai migliori

Who are the people you see in the above drawing? For now let me tell you that they are some people who speak (or spoke) Italian very well… And you? Do you want to speak Italian very well, do you? To discover who these people are, read this article till the end and have fun by answering the following questions.

How have you learned to do everything you are able to do nowadays? For example, how have you learned to ride a bike? Maybe someone helped you out with that… perhaps at the beginning you used trainer wheels, then you didn’t and after falling some times, you finally were able to enjoy your bike. But even before you rode it yourself, you may have watched others who already had been doing it for a while. Think about it again. How did it go for you?

And what about all other things that you are able to do? Can you think about another skill that you mastered? How did you do it?
Sometimes you may have learned by trials and errors; perhaps in some other cases, before applying a new skill, you spent more or less time by watching and observing another person who was already good at doing what you wanted to learn. Between the two methods ( that with trials and that of observing another person who is already good), which do you think is the fastest?

Whatever your answer, you should know that many authors, who have worked with accelerated learning, have reached the conclusion that it is very useful that first you observe another person and then put yourself at doing personally what you want to learn. So, if at beginning you observe and listen, or spend some time with another person who’s already good at doing what you want to learn, you can learn to do something in  shorter time. Consequently, you could learn Italian much faster also by watching, observing and listening to a native speaker of Italian.

A little note: nowadays, thanks to internet it is possible to spend time with some excellent role models in a virtual way; has it occurred to you?

The same authors endorsing this approach have said that you can make your learning curve even quicker. How? After watching for a while the person whose skills you want to learn, you can start and use your imagination. Thus, you could see with your mind eyes (and not only) what your role model does. Then, after a while you could push yourself even further and imagine that you “enter” into your special role model and see what he or she sees through his or her eyes, listen to what he listens to through his or her ears and feel the feelings that he or she feels through his or her body. And you can find these ideas applied in the fourth lesson of Awaken your Italian, where you can learn from the best ones: from those persons who speak Italian very well, because they were born and bread in Italy and Italian is their mother-tongue.

If all this looks funny (or exaggerated), consider it like a game! Perhaps imagine you are a child again, one who has fun to learn new things day after day and this modeling technique will be very fun!

If instead you consider yourself too serious or too rational to do this kind of exercises and you want scientific proofs that this can work, I can invite you to read the last pages of Awaken your Italian, (those about the science behind the method), where I cite several authors and research proving the usefulness of guided imagery. If you dont’t have the book in hand’s reach or you haven’t bought it yet, I can remind you of an exciting study, by Elisa Tartaglia of the Laboratory of Psychophysics at Switzerland’s Ecole Politechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) confirms that: “perceptual learning – learning by repeated exposure to a stimulus – can occur by mental imagery as much as by the real things. The results suggests that thinking about something over and over again could actually be as good as doing it.”

Well, you just have to try all that, don’t you think?

And I just have to tell you who the people (in my childlike version)  in the mind map are :-)  Monnalisa, Roberto Benigni, Valentino Rossi, Leonardo da Vinci and Maria Montessori. Have you heard of them? Google them out;-) These are just some possible role model for the Italian language among about 61 millions (source: Wikipedia) who speak Italian as a native language. Which one would you choose? Like whom would like to speak Italian?

Pubblicato in The course | 1 Commento »

If you were an Italian native speaker, how would you speak it?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 3 Febbraio 2013

Have you ever thought of being an actor (or an actress)? If so, what kind of actor or actress would you be? What kind of movies or theatrical roles would work in? What roles would you like to play? If you are already an actor or an actress, what do you feel while playing another person? How do you feel when you are another person?

At this point you may wonder how come I ask you all these questions and also what I know about the actor profession. I immediately answer that I know very little about it, apart from the yearly course I attended some time ago at the cultural association named Laboart in Tropea, where the very skillful Mariagrazia Teramo taught me the first elements of this art. Being a professional actor has never interested me, but it is my opinion that there’s a lot to learn from being able to be an actor, so I saw that as a pleasant hobby that allowed me to learn many things that I could also use in other fields of my life (also professional). Besides, it gave me the little satisfaction to play Alberto Sordi (a great Italian actor) in a little role. That show was filmed and you can watch it below;-) I am the one throwing himself on the floor after finding unpleasant news:-) (from the minute 7’59 to 12’28)

Now, do you think that being able to be an actor can be useful to learn a foreign langugage and even to speak Italian very well? What do you think about it?

One of the very first things that you need to learn in an acting course (apart from a multitude of many other things that I wouldn’t be able to write here, but you can ask Mariagrazia about) is that you need to experience what you act upon. That means that it’s not enough to repeat lines by heart, but it’s important that they are real for the actor as well as for the audience. And to do it, you need to use all your senses. How? Follow me for a while, answer the following questions and you’ll find it out.

Imagine you have a beautiful arancia (orange) of a vivid color in front of you.

What is its shape like? Is it spheric or a little bit squashed?

By touching it, what is its consistency like? Is it smooth or rough?

Peel it. Is there any noise when you peel it?

What fragrance does it have? Do you like it?

Taste it. What taste does it have? Do you like it? Is it acidolous or sweet?

Can you say “arancia” aloud?

If you read the sensory questions I have just asked you and you answered as if you really had a real orange in front of you, then is it probable that your salivation has increased… Or not? If your answer is no, try again by slowly rereading the above questions and give youself time to have the orange in front of your eyes, your nose, your ears, in your hands and in your mouth.

What we’ve just done is a basic visualization technique with all the 5 senses, called synesthesia, reinforced by saying aloud the word (ARANCIA!).

You can read also about this technique on the secrets of the Italian language, the bilingual book that I also read aloud in Italian (you can listen to it for free on the podcast).

Stella AdlerStella Adler, a famous acting teacher (she also had Marlon Brando as her pupil) said that:“Ninety-nine percent of what you see and use on the stage comes from imagination. […] Every situation you find yourself in will be an imaginary one. […] You must see something in your head vividly and accurately before you can describe it. Only then you can give it back and make your partner or the audience experience what you have seen”. If her book (The art of acting) would be translated into Italian, you would find something like that written in it: “Il 99% di quello che vedi e usi sul palcoscenico viene dall’immaginazione. […] Ogni situazione in cui ti trovi sarà immaginaria. […] Devi vedere qualcosa nella tua testa vividamente e accuratamente prima che tu possa descriverla. Solo allora puoi restituirla e far provare al tuo partner o al pubblico quello che hai visto”.

How can what you’ve so far read can be useful in your path to speak Italian very well?

In several ways.

The first is that to fix in your mind some italian words, you could use more of your senses and avoid what many people do, that is to repeat without any sensory and emotional involvment long lists of vocabulary. Jus like some do, while repeating something like that:

house, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casahouse, casa, etc.

Why don’t you see in front of your eys a beautiful house, perhaps your dream house (What colors are there?), hear the noises and listen to the sounds of this house (is there any radio playing? Is there any child screaming?), put your hands on it (are the walls rough?), smell the perfume of it (what do they cook in this house?), or even taste it (is it made of marzipan, like the one of Hänsel and Gretel?) and then pronounce aloud the word CASA!

I do think that would be more fun, as well as effective…What do you think about it?

The second way is that you could change your attitude towards the Italian language and perhaps you could begin to play the role of a native Italian speaker. Why not? I know that this can have advantages as well as disadvantages, but I’ll talk about it in another post. For now, I ask you: do you remember that in the fourth lesson of Awaken your Italian you can enter into an Italian mothertongue speaker as well as taking him or her as your model for the Italian language? And how? If you already know Italian, you can listen to it for free in the episode no. 9 of the podcast

podcast

where I read with my Italian voice the texts that you can find in the book. Buon divertimento!

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Willst du Italienisch im Handumdrehen lernen?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 15 Dicembre 2012

What language is the title of this post in?

Well, actually, it’s in German! And I’ve never posted anything in German on this blog for several reasons!

First, because at the moment my German is a bit at a lower level than my English; second, because I would love to use this blog to practise my English as well as to convey interesting and updated content about what I am doing at the moment.

And what am I up right now?

I am very happy to tell you that I have been working to the German Edition of Speak Italian Magically and thanks to Claudia Petschull, a dear German student of mine, the project has come to light;-)

Whether you speak German or not, allow me to post a preview for Italienisch lernen im Handumdrehen!

italienisch-lernen-im-handumdrehen-web.jpg

 http://issuu.com/splendy76/docs/italienisch-lernen-im-handumdrehen-vorschau?mode=window&viewMode=doublePage

Überleg dir, wie es wäre, wenn du auf einmal italienisch sprechen könntest - im Handumdrehen!
Du liest das hier - das bedeutet ja, dass du wirklich italienisch sprechen möchtest. Jetzt stell dir vor, du könntest es schon, auf einmal, und ganz fließend! Wie würde sich das wohl anfühlen? Wie würdest du dich fühlen? Aufgeregt? Glücklich? Na klar, beides!

Was wäre, wenn dir das Lernen selbst schon richtig Spaß machen würde? Wäre das nicht klasse?

Mit Italienisch lernen im Handumdrehen wirst du:
* durch Italien reisen und einige seiner schönsten Städte kennen lernen
* dich entspannt zurücklehnen und dir dabei mühelos neue italienische Worte und Redewendungen des Alltags einprägen
* zehn spannende Erlebnisreisen nach Italien und in die italienische Sprache unternehmen, bei denen es eine Hauptperson gibt: DICH!
* anfangen, auf italienisch zu denken
* dein Italienisch auffrischen, was du vielleicht früher eimal gelernt hast

Italienisch lernen im Handumdrehen bietet dir:

* Methoden für beschleunigtes Lernen, zum schnelleren Aufnehmen der Sprache
* Kein stures Auswendiglernen
* 20 Gratis Audio-Dateien, passend zu den Lektionen: jede Lektion einmal zweisprachig und einmal nur italienisch.
* Die italienischen Texte sind vom Autor selbst in authentischem Italienisch gesprochen

Pubblicato in Promotional, The course | Nessun commento »

Improve your Italian with frustration!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 4 Giugno 2012

Immagine da 123rfWhat can you do to improve your Italian? Cosa puoi fare per migliorare il tuo italiano?
What do you think? If you just take your time to ponder the above question, what would you answer?
If I ask this to some of my students, they would answer that they should come to Italy and spend their whole time here in Italy, so that they could be immersed in the language. Others think that they should do something fun in Italian. Others think that they should start and think in ItalianAnd you what do you think you need to do in order to improve your Italian?
What’s my take on this?

Every time we learn something we have some frustration in the learning process and  that’s part of it. When we feel frustrated about a thing we want to learn we have at least two choices. Do you know what they are? As in general with every occurrence in our life, we have the opportunity to fight or…flight. That’s a natural response that we usually have. We could get discouraged at the first difficulty or we could fight to “overcome the moment” (superare il momento). Sometimes when we get frustrated in doing or learning something, that’s the moment when we need to persevere, because if we do it, we’ll realize that the learning will occur. If we just give up, we could end up installing in ourselves the belief that we may not be able to do it. And it’s all about beliefs, if we don’t believe we can do a thing, we wouldn’t even try to make it possible. So, in my opinion, when we get frustrated we have the opportunity to go for a third choice: increase the frustration! Mmmmhhhhh….You may think: what do you mean,  Antonio?

One of my favorite authors, Ed Strachar, says that if we add some overwhelming activity in our learning, then when we go and do the task in the real situation, we’ll end up by finding it very easy! But, what about immersion, what has frustration to do with immersion? If you are in a foreign Country, if you are in Italy and in a city where no one speaks your mother tongue, you are in that situation where you NEED to speak Italian, and you can choose to “fight” (to make every effort to understand what Italians with their gestures are telling you;-), or to flight (to fly back home).

Mmmmmmhhhh…Do you need to come over here to be immersed in the Italian language? Not really, thanks to mp3 readers and internet! You can create your Italian environment at your home, wherever you are and you can have FUN (which is the second most common answers I get to the question I asked at the beginning of this post) in doing this!

How could you increase the useful frustration in order to learn Italian faster? Well, you know that Italians speak Italian fast…What if they spoke even faster? Would you understand them? Well, that’s a fun challenge, isn’t it? It could bring the kind of positive frustration you need in order to be able to easily understand real time spoken Italian. Because if you start and work with faster spoken Italian, you’ll get to a point where you’ll start to understand that faster Italian and when you’ll be exposed to real time Italian, you’ll find it so easy, that you will think: “What on earth has happened? I totally understand it and I don’t even have to translate it in my mother tongue…I think in Italian!” (which is the third most common answer I get to the question at the beginning of this post)

At this point you may be asking yourself, that’s a good idea, but how can I manage to listen to faster-than-normal Italian? If you are reading this blog, you have a PC, or a tablet, haven’t you?
If you have a PC, there’s a free resource used by musicians who want to improve their skills. It’s Best Practice (Google for it). If you have an android device, there’s a free app that works wonder on your audio files, its name is Audio Speed Changer (you can find it on the Play store). And if you have an Ipad or an Iphone, I do think that there’s a free app too. Just check on the App store;-)

Mmmmhhh…so may ideas flowing when I put myself in front of the Word Processor;-)…That’s all for today, let me know what you think about it and enjoy learning Italian, maybe adding a bit of mental training to it;-)

Pubblicato in The course | 2 Commenti »

 

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