Monday, June 21, 2010

Uno, Due, Tre . . . My Secret To Learning New Languages

Been monstrous busy this past week, mostly to do with preparing for our cruise two weeks from now. As I've mentioned before, I'm doing what I did when we went to Paris for the first time last year. But learning Italian instead of French. Mostly basic words and phrases to help me through some possible scenarios while in Rome and Naples. I'm able to learn the fundamentals, at least, right away simply by applying the same exact language skills I learned while studying Mandarin in college -- repetition, repetition, and MORE repetition.

Sure, I know. You probably already know this technique. It's no secret. And yet, constant practicing doesn't always mean sitting at a desk with dusty language books and audio cues. Not for me. When I learn a language, I tend to live and breathe it everywhere I go. In this case, I take the lessons I learned the night before and constantly repeat them in my head while brushing my teeth, taking a shower, putting myself to sleep at night, etc. When I work out, I count each rep in my head in Italian. This way I get the numbers down pat.

On the subway commute to work, I live out mock scenarios and practice my response to each. I don't say the phrases out loud, naturally, because then I would be one of THOSE people on the subway. But I do keep a constant inner monologue going.

At work, I plug in my mp3 player and earphones and play the audio lessons in the background while I work. In a nutshell, I immerse myself in that language for weeks before I arrive in the country. No, I'm not fluent or even close to being so. But at the very least I can say what little I do know very, very well. And my pronunciation ain't so bad, either.

See, there's no trick to it. And you don't have to have a knack for languages. Hell, I'm virtually tone deaf! All you need are the right practice materials, the technology to make the most of them . . . and the discipline to work away at it little by little each and every day. If you're like me, you might even find yourself dreaming in the language you're trying to learn.

Yeah, ain't that some heavy shit?


  1. I just "count" on my husband to know the Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco and seis for me.

    He speaks five languages and picks up others quickly - even when we were in France he was able to figure out the language enough to order food, and get us around.

    There's dozens of reasons I love that guy.

  2. You sound like my wife now, Kim. Awww! :)

    By the way, it's freaking me out how close Spanish is to Italian. The numbers in the title of this post are Italian. You can see why so far picking it up hasn't been too difficult for me.

    ... quattro, cinque, sei, sette, otto, nove, dieche.


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