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edited August 2011 in Italian
There are various effective ways of studying and practicing a foreign language. These, of course, depend on the particular circumstances of each student too. Here’s some winning tips:
1 – Read out loud. Don’t be shy! Just reading is not enough: you need to hear yourself pronounce those foreign sounds and train your mouth, tongue and vocal chords to form them. In terms of “what” to read, that’s easy: read very simple texts. If you are at the Beginner level, avoid newspapers. The best texts are those you know already very well in your own language: for instance, fairy tales or children stories. Remember, at this stage, you are not reading to appreciate literary masterpieces, gain scientific expertise or get the answer to your most pressing existential conundrums. You are reading to learn new words and grammatical structures: if you know the story well you won’t have to focus on the plot but only on the way this is re-told in the new language, and you will easily deduce words because you know what’s coming. For example, say, you are reading Snow White in Italian: the witch gives “una mela” to Snow White who takes a bite and falls in a deep sleep… what can “una mela” mean? Easy, right!
2 – Listen to the radio. Fortunately, nowadays, the internet allows us to stream (often live) various TV or radio programming from all over the world. The Italian national radio station (Radio Rai) can be streamed live through your computer no matter where you are in the world. This is the greatest opportunity you have to practice your listening comprehension. (Much better than watching TV or films—because, without the images and visual language, you must make a real effort to focus exclusively on sounds and pronunciation.)
3 – Repetition! Have you ever noticed how parents talk to their toddlers? Or how we talk to our pets? How many times do we repeat “Yes, that’s grandpa!” until the words are assimilated by the baby and become part of her linguistic treasure! Remember, it takes a baby about three years to produce complete sentences and become fluent! The same goes for anybody learning to communicate in a new language: it does not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. If you learn a new word or expression, repeat it daily—and make sure to do so out loud. Write everything down in a notebook and go back to it regularly, repeat all vocabulary and phrases you’ve been acquiring over time.
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