As some of you know, I took on a challenge to learn 6 languages in 4 years. One year has almost passed – 3 years left – in which I reached advanced Italian and intermediate German. I’m hoping that my learning rate will get faster as I learn new languages, or else I’m in trouble!
To learn more about my full language challenge: http://tovakrakauer.com/6-languages/
I just moved to Italy for five months, including Rome for the next three. I wanted the experience and a change, and the chance to practice Italian is a great plus. My Italian has improved; I’ve picked up a few new phrases and corrected some frequent errors. I also noticed that I speak and understand more easily. I try to speak and listen as frequently as I can, but I don’t have as many opportunities as I could wish. I’m stubborn about only speaking in Italian.
I wish I was progressing a little better. I don’t understand a lot, and when they speak quickly (that is, normally) – I understand little. I’m reading ‘Il dio delle piccole cose,’ or ‘The God of Small Things’ in Italian. When I tried to read Italian books in the past I gave up, because I didn’t understand the general context. But I read the ‘The God of Small Things’ twice in English, so I know what it’s describing. Reading it is fun but frustrating; it really brings home how much I don’t know.
I’ve started reviewing tenses and a few small things like clitics. I think I’ll learn vocabulary naturally here, but the grammar is confusing me and I need to make order. I also made the official language on my computer Italian so that I can be surrounded by the language.
Surprisingly, I’ve found that in the last few weeks I started remembering high school Spanish! Maybe it’s the strain of learning more than one language, or maybe people here in Italy just use more Spanish references. In any case, I remember basic words: ‘muchacha’, hermoso’, ‘aqui’. Basic but exciting!
German is TOUGH. The words are long, hard to remember and hard to pronounce. They often sound like a jumble of syllables. The grammar is similar to English: gender–neutral, no pronoun drop, same word order, etc.
For basic words, English and German often sound the same. For example, ‘cat/Katze’ , ‘high / hoch’ , ‘milk/Milch.” To the English ear, some German words sound like distorted English.
For an Ashkenazi Jew who grew up with a sprinkling of Yiddish in her vernacular, German is highlighted with sweet moments. For example, the German word ‘Fleisch,’ known to every religious Jew in the mandatory separation of dairy and meat. The labels for ‘Meat’ and ‘Milk’ are often written in Yiddish: ‘Fleischik’ and ‘Milchik.’ Or to ‘schlaf’, sleep, which Jews use in reference to Shabbat naps. Or ‘Gesundheit’, which we say after someone sneezes. As it turns out, ‘Gesundheit’ in German means ‘health.’
In Duolingo I switch on and off between reviewing old material and moving on to new things. Kudos to Duolingo: they’ve made an app which is didactically effective and addictive. For me it has worn off some of its magic – I have to push myself a little – but it’s still fun. I’ve shown Duolingo to children who usually watch television for hours, and they weren’t able to tear themselves away.
Duolingo revolutionizes the way people learn languages; eventually, I think it will cause a worldwide phenomenon of polylinguism. They also want to introduce it into the classroom, which I think is a great idea.
Here in Italy I’ve been looking for German speakers to speak with, without success. If anyone knows Germans in Rome, please let me know!
There’s still some serious work to do in Duolingo for German, both in finishing the language tree as well as going over it a few times. But I’ve already decided which next language to take on next. Coming up – Greek!