Why I love Italian

I am so very happy to have chosen to study Italian almost 10 years ago. Let me explain why!

1. It was my personal choice to study the language

Even if this was the case with Russian as well, it was different with Italian. For many years I had wanted to learn this language, and in school I finally had the possibility to do so.

2. I experienced the language since I was little

It almost seems like a cultural stereotype, but like countless other Austrian families we ALWAYS spent our holidays in Italy – and not only in the summer time. Italy was our destination of choice, also for the Easter holidays.

3. I formed a lot of pleasant associations with Italian

If you always spend your holidays in a certain country since you were a child, over time you will form associations with the language spoken there. This is why I used to associate the sound of the Italian language with holidays, with the smell of freshly prepared ice cream, water and sunscreen, with the feeling tiles that have been warmed up by the sun under your feet. Of course, by now I have managed to acquire a more realistic and less stereptypical image of the Italian language and culture, but I believe that my positive attitude towards it will never change.

4. It is an accessible language

In contrast to Russian, I would define Italian as a very accessible language, in terms of its flexibility, its word stems you so easily remember and – last but not least, its enchanting sound.

5. It helps you understand other Romance languages

As a language enthusiast, the fact that Italian resembles the other Romance languages makes me very happy. Both Spanish and Portuguese seem to be cooler, more relaxed brothers of Italian and I love to browse through Wikipedia entries in these languages – forever hoping that one day I might start speaking without ever having actually studied them! 😉

My 5 most effective language exercises

Warning: they are intense (but hard work always pays off!)

In this post I would like to share 5 highly effective exercises with you. Each of them is focused on one or two specific abilities. Have fun!

1. Listening comprehension and immersion:

All you can binge watch

Who would have thought that binge watching a show or youtube channel could be so productive? I have found it is a rather foolproof way to infiltrate your brain with your foreign language of choice. At one point, I might or might not have watched a substantial part of season 1 of The Man in the High Castle in one sitting. Not only did I dream exclusively in English for what remained of the night – my head was positively buzzing with various English and Japanese accents and expressions. I guess I just let my CPE score speak for itself! 🙂

2. Orthography and listening comprehension:

Transcribe a speech/a video/a podcast

It surprises me every time how highly beneficial this exercise is – and you can do it whenever and wherever you have time: hardly any equipment needed! It might seem tedious and exhausting at first, but it is basically a puzzle you try to complete. It will introduce you to new vocabulary, sharpen up your listening comprehension and – at least if you are a Russian learner like me –  make  you question  your knowledge of orthography yet again!

3. Speaking:

Record yourself

This particular exercise is highly effective for various reasons. First off, I feel like the recording part creates just a little bit of tension, which will not only make you more aware of grammatical errors, but also more stress-resistant if you engage in this activity frequently. Secondly, you will be able to improve your pronunciation if you compare the recording to that of a native speaker. Thirdly, you will be able to look back on your recordings in the future and be proud of your progress.

4. Reading comprehension and grammar:

Translate!

This should probably be my favourite exercise – and I do enjoy it very much indeed! Pick any text in your foreign language you would like to understand extensively and translate it into your native language. Just think of all the amazing new structures, idiomatic expressions and translation strategies you are about to discover. You will understand why translation is called the most thorough way of reading after all!

5. Writing:

Write an essay

This exercise will teach you how to structure your speech, it will transform your passive knowledge into active and will challenge your range of vocabulary. Bonus points if you choose a rather difficult topic: I usually find the initially very challenging essays to be the most beneficial!

Why I love Russian

It is definitely not hard to fall in love with the Russian language. I started studying it at the age of 14, when I chose it to become my second foreign language in school. As a lot of my classmates I chose Russian over French because it seemed so special and interesting. If I’m honest, its most attracting feature was the new alphabet!
After four years of studying, unfortunately, I hadn’t come very far in terms of fluency in my second foreign language. I was able to express myself, to a certain extent, on a rather rudimentary level, but I agreed with my friend who told me: “Russian is a language I REALLY want to speak well.”
The more I studied Russian, the better I got a grip of how unusual this language is. It is so rich, so complex and full of culture. I love how it can be so similar German at times. I love how I, thanks to my knowledge of Russian, was able to dive into the whole new world that unfolded before my eyes: literature, artworks, newspapers, television, etc.
Of course, countless times Russian had me almost bursting into tears of desperation. To this very day I do not fully understand the necessity of verbal aspects, vicious prefixes and malicious orthographic rules. There is high probability that I will never speak Russian perfectly, but I feel like it is more important to keep improving and to simply enjoy the beauty and pride of this outstanding language.

Why I love English

Honestly, it is not difficult to fall in love with English, which is why I am surely not the only language enthusiast in whose heart this beautiful language holds a special place.

Speaking of my first ever contact with English, I have all but a very vague recollection of it. I remember riding in the car with my parents, listening to a “Teddy Berlitz” audio cassette. I tried to find the cassette and the corresponding book but it seemingly is not the most up-to-date language learning material, so this is all I could retrace! Just looking at the book cover brings back so many vague, intangibile memories!

Apart from that, I remember how my mum used to read “Mister Happy” to me when I was in kindergarden and I am quite convinced I did not understand a single word until I was older! But the more you surround yourself with a language, the more your senses adapt to the to the sound and the structures of it.

Today I love English because it provides the simplicity, the flexibility and the sharp catchphrases my native language lacks in many cases. English never ceases to amaze me with its plurality of accents, dialects and slangs, as well as the multitude of cultural aspects it can convey, depending on the context.

It is truly a language that wants to be studied, a language that throws so many awesome expressions and sassy jokes at you you just HAVE to engage in some language learning activity that doesn’t even feel like one.

 

Learn more about why I love Russian (in Russian)!

Language tag!

I was inspired by and took the questions from Maria
Athena’s video
. Since she is one of my favourite language-youtubers, I recommend you check out her chanell right after reading my blogpost 😉

For quite a long time have I fantasized about doing the language tag myself – so here it is!

1. Which languages have you studied?

I have studied English since first grade, in 9th grade I started studying Russian and in 10th grade Italian! My language learning experiences were very different from language to language even though I acquired my languages skills in all three cases in a “traditional” classroom setting. If you want to read more about my emotional attitude towards my languages, come this way.

2. What’s your favourite grammatical rule/word? 

I find it quite challenging to come up with a single favourite word or grammatical rule but it always amazes me when I come across words which are construed in exactly the same way in all of my working languages.

Here is an astounding example for you:

“unexpected” – “unerwartet” – “inaspettato” – “неожиданно»

3. What would you say is the key to attaning fluency?

Maybe other language-enthusiasts are going to disagree, but I consider a good knowledge of grammar the key to attaining fluency. Let me elaborate on this: without correct grammar and the knowledge how to construct sentences and how to structure your speech you probably won’t become fluent, even if you surround yourself with native speakers 24/7. I had very little actual speaking practice in Italian before I went to Florence for an extensive stay. Once I arrived, my Italian skills came to life and I realized I was already fluent at a good B2-level, despite not having spoken the language regularly at home.

4. What’s the coolest language you’ve ever studied?

Since all of my languages come from different families (Germanic, Slavic, Roman) it would be both difficult and unfair to pick a “coolest one”. From other people I usually get the most credit for my Russian skills, though,  since it is the most exotic language in my combination.

5. Any practical speaking experiences under your belt?

Thanks to my studies, travels to countries where my working languages are spoken, tandem partners and rather unconventional techniques to practice my speaking skills I can say that I do have practical speaking experiences under my belt!

6. Do you consider yourself bilingual, trilingual, multilingual, a polyglot . . .?

I would consider myself multilingual at this stage of my life. The notion that you have to be brought up with several languages to be considered bi- or multilingual I actually find rather restrictive. Apart from that … calling yourself multilingual is just too awesome to refrain from it, right?

 

5 quick fixes to improve your language skills

These 5 language practising ideas don’t take time out of your day!

1. Talk to yourself

People have looked at me funnily when I told them about this tip, but trust me: it helps. Whether you are riding in your car, cooking dinner or taking out the trash: exchange a few friendly phrases with yourself, describe what you are doing or talk about a certain topic that interests you. You will always stumble across vocabulary and grammar you might want to revise.

2. Change the language setting of your phone

Come out as a true language-enthusiast by switching your device(s) to your language of interest. After a couple of days, your eyes will accustom to being constantly confronted with this particular language and you will remember useful words and expressions without even trying!

3. Browse Wikipedia in another language

Whenever you research a name, event or phenomenon on Wikipedia, make sure to read the respective article in your foreign language as well. By doing so you will learn more about what you are interested in and do your foreign-language-reading for the day at the same time.

4. Podcast away

Make sure you are subscribed to a couple of podcasts in the language you are learning. Whenever you are on your way to work, taking a walk or queuing in the supermarket you can tune in and improve your listening comprehension and range of vocabulary.

5. Re-watch and learn

We all have a movie or TV-show we tend to re-watch every now and again. Try and watch a couple of times in your foreign language and your emotional attachment to the film or show will work in your favour!

 

 

 

How to ace the CPE

The Certificate of Proficiency in English is the highest qualification Cambridge offers for non-native-speakers of English. It is an amazing opportunity to take you English skills to the next level even if your employer or university do not require you to take it.

As I recommend the CPE to all of my fellow language-enthusiasts, I’d like to share my top tips on how to prepare and eventually ace the exam!

  1. Find a language buddy

Whether you speak English in your everyday life or not, I suggest you find a native speaker or someone who also prepares for the CPE. Meet up once a week to cover mock exams and speaking exercises  – it will increase your confidence and fluency level. I owe part of my success to my awesome language buddy as well!

  1. Look for synonyms

The CPE will require you to use an extended range of vocabulary. Try and substitute banal words and phrases (“good”, “bad”, “important”) systematically with sophisticated ones (“refined”, “vicious”, “imperative”) and score those extra points in your exam! I recommend Oxford Dictionaries as a source.

  1. A notepad is your best friend

If you consider taking the CPE you most likely already have a good command of English. Now it’s time to take your skills to the next level by focusing on what you do not know! While watching shows and reading the newspaper always keep a notepad close to you so you can keep track of new vocabs and idiomatic expressions.

  1. Get familiar with the exam format

Knowing the exam format and the specific exercises you will encounter during the exam is already about 30% of your success. Take some extra time to look at a chart of the text types you will be required to produce in your writing part so you won’t lose time during the exam.

  1. Justify your success

Engage in activities that simply make you feel confident about your preparation. Set aside an hour every day to revise new vocabulary, complete exercises in an exercise book or – my personal favourite – sign up for a preparation course at a language institute or university.

Have fun preparing and you will never regret the extra hours you put in!