In about three months I’ll be moving to Naples, Italy where I’ll be stationed in the US Navy for close to three years. I couldn’t be more excited. Living overseas in Korea has changed my perspective on the world. It’s made me realize that there’s so many more cultures and ways of living out there that I couldn’t imagine just settling down and living in one place the rest of my life. A big hurdle to living overseas is taking the time to learn the language. In Korea, I used menus to help to learn to read Korean and ultimately enjoyed some delicious foods. Italian on the other hand uses the same alphabet as English which drastically cuts my learning curve. So I’m taking a different approach. Instead of just reading the language, I want to actually practice writing it out and ultimately use it to communicate with other people. For the next 30 days, I’ll be writing at least three sentences in Italian everyday.
Hypothesis: Many people think that speaking the language and having spoken conversations with native speakers is the only way to learn a language. For me, I’m a visual learner, so I need to see and write things down to learn them. Looking at the words and studying them helps me to recall them easier than just hearing them. I believe that by writing at least once a day, I can immerse myself in Italian and begin to pick up the grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary.
Online Journaling With italki.com
I love to write…in English. Otherwise, why would I take the time to write in this blog. Italki.com has come up with a social network for language exchange. The site is mainly geared towards matching students with language teachers, but it has a feature that I really like. An online “notebook”. People from all over the world can post a profile about themselves along with journal entries in the language of their choice. Then other members can post corrections to their entries. It’s like having an army of language teachers to correct your translations for free. What an awesome deal.
I started with a simple post trying to say the following:
Hello! My name is Allen. I’m an American living in South Korea. I am in the United States Navy. Next year I’ll be moving to Naples, Italy. I’m learning to write Italian. I want to write every day to improve my Italian. Please help me to improve by providing feedback.
After a little cheating on Google Translate and googling “How do you say ____ in Italian”, here’s what I came up with:
Ciao! Mi chiamo Allen. Io sono americana abitare corea del sud. Lo sono nella Marina degli Stati Uniti. L’anno prossimo mi trasferirò a Napoli Italia. Sto imparando a scrivere italiano. Voglio scrivere tutti i giorni per migliorare il mio italiano. Ti prego, aiutami a stare meglio, fornendo un feedback.
I called the post “Le mie prime parole in italiano” meaning “My First Words In Italian” and hit the submit button. Within a day I had three people correcting my work. Telling me to use “americano” instead of “americana” for American or “lavoro per” instead of “nella” to say that I “work for” the US Navy rather than “I’m in”. I even got a “molto bravo!” or “very good” in English. Wow, who knew that there were so many people out there willing to help others. Machine translators are never this nice or to even that accurate.
But if you think about it, for a native speaker of a language, editing is easy. When it takes me two hours to type eight sentences, a native speaker of a language can come in and make edits within minutes. They know this stuff. I’m just learning. But after only one day of typing away I already took away a few things including:
- Italian uses genders for words so some may end differently depending on the sex.
- Not every proper noun or first word of each sentence is capitalized like in English.
- Machine translations are not always right, so you really need to pay attention to what you’re writing and use multiple sources.
Making Friends On italki.com
Journaling is great, but I really want to use writing to connect with other people. Italki.com also allows you the option of sending private messages or following other members. You can search for other members by what language they speak, what language they’re trying to learn and where they’re from. I searched for Italian speakers learning English living in Italy. While the idea seems kind of dated. When I hear about pen pals, I always think of that scene from Eurotrip, where Cooper tells Scotty that “Only girl scouts have penpals” and they that his pen pal is probably a sexual predator. Regardless, I’ll send out some messages and see what I get back.
Photo Credits: Flickr