On learning languages…


I’m working on learning Italian. When I was a kid, I hated learning languages, and had the terrible monopolistic language view that everyone should speak English. I have long since realized that was a really stupid opinion, and it really hindered me from learning another language. In high school, we had to take two years of a language as a graduation requirement. I wanted to take German, just because I thought it would be cool, but they stopped teaching it the year before I reached high school. So, the options were French or Spanish, and I heard Spanish was easier and I took that. I generally had terrible teachers with the worst teacher being Mr Nava. Ironically, you would think he would be the best, because I believe he was an immigrant from Mexico. He simply made us memorize verb conjugations, and we never spoke Spanish in class. I memorized, and I got an A, but I didn’t learn.

Now I really want to learn Italian, and at 37 it is becoming more difficult for me to learn new things — especially things like languages. I tried self-teaching myself German back in my early 20’s, and I know a few words, but I can’t really do much with the language. I decided I really want to learn Italian though, since Costanza is full fledged Italian.

Unless you’ve been in the dark, I’m sure you have heard of duolingo. It is an awesome website, and I’ve reached “Level 11” in Italian. I do a lot of lessons on my phone, and some on the website while at my Mac. I also listen to Pimsleur audio books on the way to work. They utilize spaced repetition for learning, and I really like the technique. I also ran across a great app called Anki for the Mac. You can make flashcards with it that utilize the Pimsleur spaced repletion techniques. And, as an added bonus, you can add sound. So, I combine the two techniques by “borrowing” sounds from duolingo.

I’ll do a post on this soon on how I’m hacking it to learn in a way that works well for me.


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