I wonder if I put a few words here?

Category: Free Inquiry

Goodbye For Now… Though I Have not Finished (Arrivederci… Ma Non ho Ancora Finito)

It is almost April, and I have already come to the end of this inquiry project, but it will not be the end of my Italian studies. I have been in isolation with my family for over a week now, and hope of travelling internationally this year is dwindling, but our trip will likely only be postponed until next summer. Although cancelling the trip would be disappointing, this pandemic is affecting the whole world (and some much more so than me),  I choose to see the situation positively. If we wait until next year, I will have another 12 months to practice Italian, and considering the progress I’ve made in the last three months, it will make an enormous difference. If I  consider my language skills in the two circumstances, only viewing the trip as a factor in relation to my learning, I will stay motivated for longer if the trip is postponed. If the trip happened as planned, the odds that I will still be studying Italian come September are much lower.

I did not finish my project of learning an Italian song, unfortunately, since my time escaped me, but I have looked for opportunities to practice in different ways when it is possible. For instance, I was able to put my work into practice last week, when I messaged an Italian friend, who returned home at the beginning of the year. It came about because I asked her how she was doing (in Italian), considering that Italy has a large number of cases and deaths due to the Coronavirus. We messaged back and forth a bit in Italian, and I capitalized on the chance to test my skills. I used Google Translate to check my own messages, since I didn’t want to send grammatically incorrect texts, as well as to look up some words that she used. I probably could have managed a short conversation if I steered us towards the basics, but I chose not to.  It is also notable that in the last few months, my dad started studying Italian as well. From time to time we will joke about our studies with words only the two of us understand. I am much farther ahead than he is, but if I can continue to motivate him, maybe soon we can study together and practice having conversations.

Since I started learning Italian in December, I have managed to practice for 95 days. In my opinion, that is a long time to consistently practice anything for. I had lofty hopes for this inquiry, but three months is not enough to learn a language. My excuse for not yet being proficient enough to fool the Italian locals is that I have a growth mindset and recognize that I am never finished learning. Duolingo was a great tool to learn Italian on, and was easy to use when I was lacking time or creativity. If I did not have the structure that Duolingo provided, I might not have progressed so much during school. I am proud of my progress, and I look forward to having more time to commit to this goal, once I finish my projects. I started seriously on this journey in December and if I have until next June or so when my family can travel to Italy, I am eager to see what experiences and conversations I will be able to have because of this skill.


The World is Paused (Il Mondo è in Pausa)

It has been a while since I’ve given an update on how my Duolingo lessons are going so here it is:

I have been studying a variety of subjects, but I have been leaning towards vocabulary practice lately. The vocabulary topics I have been focusing on the most in the last few weeks are family, colours, and food. These are pretty basic words which I’m sure will be handy to know in any situation. I have also studied questions, and feel that I have a good grasp on the vocabulary for “what, how, how many, which, who, when, etc., although I do need to reinforce this knowledge more. I finished this section completely, and it was very interesting for me, but I need to continue studying sentence structure and grammar, once I finish the vocabulary lessons I am on. I have studied grammar a bit, but have been avoiding it lately, since it is not the most riveting subject.


(pictured: a screenshot of my Duolingo app)

At this point in the semester I am not as far in my Italian as I had expected myself to be, but I should know that learning a language is complex and takes more effort than one initially realizes. It is so rewarding , especially when you can go to where it is spoken and meet locals who can teach you about the area and culture. However, the momentum I had in December, before I even knew of this project, has been difficult to keep up alongside all the external factors like other projects and work, and current events. These were not nearly as intense when I began my Italian studies, and COVID 19 would have been a foreign concept. Now it is very local.

As it stands (and as far as I am aware), schools, universities (including UVic), workplaces and borders are closing all over Canada and the US, and there are some severe cases in Europe as well, with Italy being the worst. Travellers crossing the Canadian border must quarantine themselves for 14 days, but spring break has just started, so many locals are also taking this opportunity to do so in order to protect ourselves and our vulnerable neighbours.

My family has decided to wait until May to make our final decision, since the time between now and then does not affect any refunds we would need to request. There is still hope that things will improve in Italy before May, but in Canada, It seems that things will get worse before they get better. My cohort is on the edge of our seats, as our spring practicum and possibly our graduation date are on the line.

Next week I will return with another update, and hopefully better news regarding this virus so that I can continue my studies enthusiastically. 

Italia, Mi Manchi Già (Italy, I Miss You Already)

My Italian practices are continuing to go well, and I am proud that I have been able to keep my momentum. I do not think, however, that I will be able to finish Duolingo by the end of this class. I did not look at the amount of lessons when I set this goal, which is silly of me, but there happens to be a vast array of lessons. This is fantastic, but it is unrealistic to say I will finish them since it is an entire language I am attempting to learn.

A few days ago, a woman came into my work, and I discovered that she speaks Italian while we were chatting. We tried to speak, and I could understand her, but my spoken Italian was not great. I always find myself wanting to respond in French, which I know much better than Italian. She suggested an Italian own bakery in town, so perhaps I will pay the owner a visit, using my Italian as an excuse… I also am currently studying a song from my Italian playlist, which is very interesting, but still in the works.

There is a potential wrench trying to fling itself into my plans regarding this inquiry, and it is called Coronavirus. I am trying to stay positive, but there have been outbreaks in Italy, and flights cancelled due to this relentless ailment. This may force my family to cancel our trip, which would be incredibly disappointing for myself as well as my family. We have talked about postponing and going somewhere else, but I won’t likely be able to use my hard-earned Italian skills. I plan to continue my studies in hopes of having a purpose for them soon, but my family’s safety is paramount in this situation. Regardless of the outcome, I will be grateful for this experience, and hope to take this skill far.

Manarola, Italy

Photo by Jack Ward on Unsplash

Italy, I don’t know you yet, but I want to…

Imparare con la Musica (Learning with Music)

I took a day trip to Vancouver this last weekend, by myself. This involved many hours on public transit, so I downloaded an Italian pop playlist which I listened to during the hour and a half I bused and trained into town (and for some time on the way back). This experience was interesting and encouraging, and overall positive. I do not expect myself to understand everything songs are saying, as even sometimes in English I do not fully register song lyrics the first time (or until I look them up), however, I could make out the words. What I mean by this is that I heard a word, but did not yet understand it. I picked out words here and there and got the gist of some of the songs, showing me that I am capable of training my ear to understand authentic Italian.

Though this will not be instantaneous, and may not even happen before June, with practice and the acquisition of new vocabulary I will be able to understand spoken and sung Italian. I think one thing that will help me is to look up the lyrics of the songs so I can read what they are saying, and learn the vocabulary, so that I know what these words sound like spoken. The next step I would take, once I learn a song, would be to learn how to sing it. This will help with my accent and fluidity in speaking. 

I am enjoying challenging myself, because it helps me to continue my practice in a refreshing way. This experience did help to motivate me, and these steps I laid out will be my next challenge.


Progress (Il Mio Progresso)

Come February 10, I will have been studying Italian consistently for 2 months. I have currently finished all of the Duolingo lessons up to the first checkpoint and a good number after that, and what I have learned is a lot of basic vocabulary and sentence structure. Many words are similar to their French counterparts, as I mentioned in the previous post, so I am picking up vocabulary rather quickly.

I watched a movie with my mom and sister on Sunday night, and they happened to choose Only You. It is not a good film, by any means, and the characters are absolutely ridiculous, but it was interesting to see Robert Downey Jr. in one of his earlier roles. My point is that this movie is set in Italy, so I was able to put my comprehension to the test. I wasn’t trying to test myself seriously, but I did try to listen to the Italian parts. My abilities were on par with my expectations, meaning I could understand basic vocabulary, and the gist of the Italian portions in context. 

From this experience I can tell that if I were there, I would need to ask people to repeat themselves, or speak slower quite a bit (which I am sure will be the case even with improvement). Considering I have not been studying Italian for long yet, I am happy with this conclusion.

It is encouraging that my Italian was better than the main character’s (who spoke no Italian), and almost on par with Robert Downey Jr.’s character (who is also an anglophone American).

The duolingo lessons are starting to move toward more verbs and tenses that will be useful to me, so I’m hoping that next time I listen to Italian conversation I will understand more of the vocabulary. While the basic vocabulary is good to know, learning tenses and verbs will help me more than knowing animal vocabulary.

How to Learn Italian (Come Imparare l’Italiano)

I started learning Italian last October on YouTube, and while YouTube is a great supplementary tool,  I needed something more structured to help me along my journey. When I downloaded Duolingo, I began to practice more regularly. While it is becoming more difficult to reserve time during my days of learning, working, and routine, the systematic approach to the lessons allows me to continue progressing. Starting my journey of learning Italian on YouTube felt like I was floundering in a sea of information. I didn’t know where to find what I needed to know and found myself avoiding it altogether instead of becoming overwhelmed. When I finally found a routine that worked for me I started to learn quickly, and the information made sense.

I have not found the grammatical aspects to be too difficult to learn so far, but this is because I already know French, and there are more similarities between Italian and the French sentence structure than English. I find that because both languages share Latin roots, in the lessons I can make educated guesses and make sentences easily or understand sentences. I’m no wizard, though; there is often a word pool that users can pick from which makes the process much more manageable. While this feature could be seen as allowing learners to be less engaged, keywords are repeated and carry over to subsequent lessons to be used repeatedly. While I sometimes doubt this style, I have found myself retaining vocabulary despite it.

Duolingo is not conducive to learning an entire language, but it provides a means to a foundation. Even if one is not entirely self-motivated, Duolingo provides incentives and makes lessons game-like for learners. It also has a leaderboard, adding a competitive aspect, which some people find discouraging, but others are motivated by. I generally ignore this feature, as I do not have enough time to obsess over my position in relation to others’. I think this is a good strategy, though as many people enjoy competing with people in other apps. This game aspect makes Duolingo fun, while providing education. Although I am not a “gamer”, I enjoy the lesson designs and the way I can learn and study while feeling like I am taking a break.

While I will eventually finish Duolingo and have to set some more self-guided goals, my current study routine is manageable and effective despite the fact that I do not have much extra time to put into planning my own lessons. I am happy with my progress as I know much more Italian than I did 2 months ago and will continue on this steady track to learning my third language.



My Free Inquiry (La Mia Inchiesta Libera)

My mother flew to meet my father in Europe for their honeymoon about 26 years ago. He was already there serving with the Canadian army and had a free plane ticket, either back to Canada, or to Europe. They chose the latter. While there, they decided they would return in 25 years for their anniversary. Although we are late, my parents bought my family five plane tickets to Italy for this coming June. It will be the first time travelling to Europe, for myself and my siblings, where we will be travelling Italy for 3 weeks. This will be a unique experience for my family as we are all grown up (my younger sister will be 17) and soon may have responsibilities, jobs, or significant others that would affect such a trip. We rarely have the opportunity to travel together, let alone for three weeks, but the opportunity has come and we are taking it this year.

Although I am no expert in any language other than English (I would say I am almost fluent in French), I love to learn languages. I see them as windows into other cultures, and I love to experience how other cultures express their feelings orally, through literature, and through music. I have thought about learning Italian before, but I have never acted on the thought, so when my family decided to take this trip, I decided that there would be no better time to learn this beautiful language.

I studied a bit one day in October, writing down vocabulary from YouTube videos, but between school and work, learning Italian for a trip 8 months away dropped to the bottom of my priority list. The week after the semester ended, though, I downloaded a free version of Duolingo and set myself a daily goal that lasted a week. I am proud to say that I have not missed my daily practice since, and have continued to renew the challenge each week (in fact, Christmas Day was the day I studied the most by far). I did not want to lose my momentum entering in to the new semester, so I was glad when this free inquiry project was assigned. During the coming semester I will continue to improve my Italian so that I can translate for my family while we are travelling Italy. I hope you enjoy following my journey of learning Italian! 

Until next time,


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