Wednesday 11 September 2019

Daily photo - 11: Learning languages and talking Italian

Today I spent time working on my Italian. I have always enjoyed learning foreign languages - not that I speak many.

The couple of languages I speak give me a lot of pleasure, satisfaction, and also the confidence that I can get by in those respective countries.

French is a language I learned when I was at school. I got through 'O' Level French, but in reality all we learned at school was enough to pass the exam rather than for it to be of any use in France!

So my French practice came from going to evening classes and doing an 'A' level course by correspondence.

It was only when I went to live in Paris for over four years that I put my learnings into practice and learned more stuff that you don't find in books!

That was almost 30 years ago. Although I returned to the UK in 1996, I have not forgotten my French and I still use it when I visit.

Because I enjoyed speaking French I decided to add Spanish, and more recently Italian to my language-speaking repertory.

The process with these latter two languages has been slightly slower because I didn't live in the countries for a long time.
I have travelled around South America and Cuba for a few months in the past, and I lived in Italy for over 18 months, so I get by when I have to speak to people. But I would like to get to the stage where I dream in those languages. Apparently that's the indicator that you are properly fluent in a language.

So in an attempt to maintain, if not improve my level in Italian this Hugo book has been my friend for a while. I am old fashioned about these things and don't really go for all these new-fangled apps or computer software that people talk about. For me, it's just good old grammar books with exercises plus watching news clips and trashy soap operas on RAI television. Un Posto Al Sole is my go-to television show. It's like Home and Away, but because it's in Italian and set somewhere that looks like Amalfi Coast that makes it a slightly classier brand of soap opera. Watching the fortunes of Vittorio, Silvia, Leonardo, Adele, et al has become my guilty pleasure. I also like to read Gazzetta dello Sport or even the odd novel.

What I must say about language learning/speaking is that it has a very positive effect on my brain. It's like another part of it is opening up, and it puts me in a bright place. It's not exactly like when doing sport and you get endorphins, though it's something similar. It's more like jumping onto a different ride at the fair, and getting a different kind of enjoyment. Because languages have different rhythms and sounds it could also be like playing a different instrument - something else that I enjoy. Whatever it is, that change does me good.

So even if I didn't travel abroad I think I would still practice languages just to exercise that part of my brain and experience that bright feeling.

Related posts
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Books and writing

A bit of cycling poetry

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