Speak Italian Magically!

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    • A story, many stories at the Polyglot Gathering 2016 16 maggio 2016
      If you want to read this article in Italian, go here: https://goo.gl/Xc5Mo4 As you are reading the following text, from any device you’re doing it, and regardless of your background, I invite you to do a little experiment with me. Imagine for a moment that you are in a beautiful place. What is it? Think about it [...]
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What if you listen to, read and speak Italian at the same time?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 28 aprile 2013

lettura ascoltoI have to admit it, I read more non fiction than fiction books…but what counts is that I read, someone would say. Recently I have “read” a special book. Its title is Lettura+Ascolto[Reading+Listening], by Maurizio Falghera.

Why is it a special book? Well, because it’s a book to read and listen to at the same time, just like most of my books.

What do you need reading and listening at the same time for? That’s what the author wants to explain in the easiest way. And he does it in a simple way, although he still quotes authoritative sources and experiences.

One among many was very interesting for me and I quote it below from the original source found on the internet.

“This study investigated the effects of simultaneously reading and listening to the same text on comprehension and fluency gains for basic-level English language learners at a university in Puerto Rico. The quiz scores and fluency rates of two English lab groups who read and listened to E. B. White’s novel Charlotte’s Web were compared to the scores and rates of two other English lab groups who silently read the same novel. The listening-while-reading group outscored the reading-only group on all eight weekly comprehension quizzes; for four of those quizzes, the difference was statistically significant.”

Another very important point in the book Lettura + Ascolto that could be interesting to you who are learning the Italian language is the fact that “Using audiobooks […] while learning the English language [or any other language, such as Italian in your case] is an absolutely necessary everyday tool in schools, colleges, universities, both in Italy and abroad. And this because it has been proven beyond any doubt that reading a written text and listening to it at the same time increases the memory retention of vocabulary, of grammar and synthax of the language, as well as it adds a remarkable amount of information about culture, history and customs. Some American studies calculate that the increase of the linguistic learning due to this method of listening and reading may even be of 30-50%.

I have always thought that adding a sensory channel (in this case the auditory channel) to what you do, reinforces the experience and speeds up the learning. That’s why I’ve often tried to get the audiobook (the unabridged version) for the books I read. Simply because it gives me a much deeper experience.

And in creating my books, I always read aloud and record the texts, so that you have a multilevel learning experience, a whole-brain learning experience. Yes, because if you use my books in the way I suggest, you will have the opportunity to relax while listening, to read and listen at the same time to absorb their content, words and expressions, as well as the conveyed skills.

Lettura + Ascolto is a nice non fiction book, aimed at Italians (so the level is very high) that allows you to experience what it talks about in the same moment when you read and listen to it (it is available as book with mp3 CD; and audio-eBook versions).

One thing which is not mentioned in the Lettura + Ascolto book and it’s what I consider to be the next step in the learning process. After you have listened to the book, after you read it and listened to it, it’s time to get in the more active phase of the learning. And how can you do it?

Well, you can for example use a technique that many international polyglots use very often: shadowing!

You don’t know what shadowing is? It’s a technique that consists in speaking “fluidily” and (almost) at the same time, by saying the same things that you listen to.

It’s good for you to know that there are several ways of practising it and in any case I suggest you do it first only after listening to and then after reading and listening to the audio you want to practise it with.

Here you have some examples of ways of practising shadowing:

1. The “easiest” way is to practise shadowing (I repeat it: aloud) while reading the text with your eyes and listening to the audio at the same time;

2. When you get good at the first method, you can simply close your eyes, listen to the audio and say aloud what you are listening to (almost) at the same time;

3. When you get good with the preceding methods, you can add some “challenges”, for example you can practise shadowing while walking, or while doing some brain gym (as well as all those movements involving both sides of your body: I like to touch my nose with my right hand while touching the right ear with my left hand as fast as I can… I know, you will feel a bit silly (or crazy) while doing it, but I guarantee that it’s very useful. And I bet it won’t be easy to do it for you;-)

If you asked me why you should practise shadowing, I could answer you with what they write at Prudl.

“Our experience as language learners has convinced us that shadowing is a truly effective method. In a nutshell, it consists of mimicking out loud a native speaker. As many of the learner’s senses as possible are involved. Hence, it encourages proper accent formation and accelerates the rate of vocabulary acquisition. In other words, shadowing creates the optimal conditions for your brain to form good habits right from the beginning.”

This could be translated into Italian like this (more or less):

“La nostra esperienza come studenti di lingue [straniere] ci ha convinti che lo shadowing è un metodo veramente efficace. In estrema sintesi, consiste nell’imitare a voce alta un parlante nativo. La maggior parte dei sensi dello studente viene coinvolta. Di conseguenza, incoraggia la corretta formazione dell’accento e accelera la velocità di acquisizione del vocabolario. In altre parole, lo shadowing crea le condizioni ottimali affinché il tuo cervello formi delle abitudini giuste fin dall’inizio.”

good books italian

Now that you know what shadoing is, you’ll just have to start and practise it with the texts that you like the most. You could even start and practise it with my books;-)

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | 3 Commenti »

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 »

Speak in chorus with Italians!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 13 maggio 2011

When are you supposed to speak in Italian? Right away or after a while? What do you really think about it?

Well, there are people starting to imitate Italian pronunciation right away and other who wait for a while, before doing it. In which category do you belong? And why do you do this way? Do you think it is good to start and speak right away or you need to wait?

Have you tried to answer all these questions? ;-)

Well, now I can tell you what I think about it. It is true that in many Italian courses held in Italy, you are asked to start and speak right at the very first day…For instance a thing that you will usually learn in an Italian course is how to introduce yourself…So, COME TI CHIAMI? MI CHIAMO ANTONIO;-).  This is what usually happens in a communicative approach to language learning. Is it useful to do it? Yes and no.

Yes, because this way you will go home and be able to say a few sentences right after the very first lesson. No, because before speaking properly you are supposed to listen to a right amount of comprehensible input. And that’s why I suggest, if you use the Speak Italian Magically course, to follow the steps  and to speak only in step five, after you have listened to the same adventure several times and in different days (maybe also right before going to bed). Then at that point it would be useful to start and speak in chorus with the Italian only version of the adventure, while reading the text at the same time. This speak in chorus “thing” was used in schools in the past, but very little nowadays. It makes sense only if you do it after you have been exposed to the text and audio for a sensible amount of time. I know it may seems a little challenge, but it’s fun and it’s worth doing challenging things sometimes. This “waiting time” is what other linguists have called “silent period” (Asher, Brown).

As you know, I am very fond of accelerated learning methods, that is why I would strongly suggest to drink a glass of water (pure water, not coca-cola nor juice) and practise a bit of Brain Gym before doing this “speak in chorus” challenge. Well, you could do this: try to speak in chorus without doing Brain Gym and then speak in chorus after doing Brain Gym. If you notice any difference, then you’ll realize yourself whether it is worth practising Brain Gym before studying or not.

What is supposed to happen when you practise Brain Gym? Well, in several books ( Smart Moves, by Carla Hannaford; Brain Gym Teacher’s Edition, by P. and G. Dennison; and also in a book about medical NLP, Magic in Practice, by Thomson and Khan) you will find that you will achieve what in Italian is integrazione emisferica of your brain. This may be the reason why professor Arguelles, an american polyglot, suggests that when you “shadow” an audio, you walk at a swift pace while practising. Walking is an activity that both oxygenates your brain and integrates both sides of it. And even if you may look a bit crazy doing it, you should try it for yourself…maybe in a place where no friends of yours see you! ;-)

So, what are you waiting for? Listen, decode a fair amount of Italian, then go on and speak Italian! ;-)

Pubblicato in The course | 1 Commento »


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