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A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English and French. This week, the topic is Italian!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola una vez más a todos :)

The journey continues! Today the language is… Italian!

If you read the last blog entry, you might remember that I said I tried a language learning technique that consisted in reading books or texts in the target language. That method was supposed to only work with romance languages, and I tried it with French because I was taking French in high school. Well, I got a little ambitious and I decided I wanted to try it with Italian too. After Catalan, Spanish and French, it seemed easier to learn a fourth latin based language, and it certainly was. Some of you possibly know this already, but the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new one, specially if the new one is related to one or more of the other languages one speaks.

I learned a lot by just reading. When I was in San Francisco in the year 2000, I bought an Italian dictionary, some books and a CD from an Italian pop duo called Paola e Chiara. I liked their album so much that I learned all of their songs by heart, which is a great way to learn too (and that’s why we sing a song in Spanish at PBO at least once a year). I was very excited about how easy it seemed to learn Italian. In fact, I thought I didn’t even need to practice it orally at all.

I never really thought about learning Italian seriously, until I got to my Senior year in college. As I said before, my major was French and my minor was German (even though the educational system in Spain is not as in the US). In my Sophomore year, I spent 6 months in Paris, and that stay helped me improve my French so much, that I wanted to repeat the experience in Germany in order to take my German to the next level. I applied for an exchange in Germany and… all the spots were taken. However, I was offered a spot in Forli near Bologna, Italy. I never planned to go to Italy to study, but I wouldn’t waste such a great opportunity! So I spent 9 months in Italy.

I loved the experience. It was better than the exchange in Paris. I lived with roommates from other parts of Italy, and we spoke only in Italian. In fact, Forli is kind of famous in Italy because there are many colleges and faculties there. The city is rather small, so there’s students in every corner, bar, café, restaurant, etc… Everyone comes from somewhere else in Italy and all of us were eager to meet new friends. That was such a perfect combination! I met lots of new friends and I spoke in Italian all the time. That’s when, again, I realized how little Italian I knew and how much room for improvement there was. As I said before: speaking is the key.

Obviously, living in a place where the language you learn is spoken everywhere is ideal, but most of us can’t do that. What is the closest thing to being in that kind of situation? Living your life here in that language. Use it everyday; read books, watch TV, listen to the radio, speak to people… everyday. When you make a language a big part of your daily routine, you learn so much faster. Now, don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to be immersed in it 24/7, but I’m sure you can commit to 5 or 10 minutes a day. That really helps. It’s way better to practice a language 5 minutes a day that 2 hours every 2 weeks.

I keep speaking Italian thanks to Caro. She introduced her Italian teacher to me and now we have a one hour class every Monday morning. Thank you so much, Caro! Gerardo is fantastic, isn’t he?

Anyways, I hoped you are ready for the next story because it is going to be about a very different language: Japanese :).

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English & French. check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in French

Two weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Two weeks ago he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, last week he wrote about how he learned English, and this week he will delve into how he learned French.

In case you missed either of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola queridos alumnos!

After a brief text last time about how I learned English over the years (and still learning!), it is time to continue with the language learned next: French.

I was 15 or 16 years old and in High School when I decided to take French as an optional language. I think the biggest reason was the fact that I had been in Paris when I was 13, and I met my uncle and his family there. It is a long story, but my uncle was born and raised in France. He knows some Spanish, but my parents talked to him and the rest of his family in French. That experience was probably the reason why I chose French.

I remember the first day of class: the first thing the teacher taught us was how to count to 10. Afterwards, we were supposed to count to 10 on our own, but we all started counting in English! Obviously, our brains were used to switching to English and only English as our foreign language, but with some practice we had no problem getting used to French.

That was my first time learning that language. A few months later, I read an article about a guy who had a theory on how to learn Romance languages (which are Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, plus some other smaller languages). He said that he learned by reading texts in those languages and by inferring the meaning of most of the words. I really liked his approach, because you didn’t have to go to class or find a teacher, so I started to read texts and books in French. I used the dictionary sometimes, but just when I thought I needed to know what a certain word meant. Otherwise, I would’ve been using the dictionary all the time, and that was not the point of his method.

I would say it worked for me, but maybe because I was attending French classes in High School, who knows. In any case, I recommend it to any student who has reached an A2 or B1 level. Be careful when you pick a text or a book, though; it should never be too hard for you. My advice is to choose something that you can understand at least 70% of what is written.

Anyways, when I decided to study Translation and Interpretation at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona in the year 2007, I had to choose two foreign languages. I picked French as the first language and German as the second one. Everyone else choose a combination of English and another language, but I wanted to take advantage of being able to learn new languages to learn something that was not English. Among all the freshmen, only another girl and I choose a combination without English (I think she chose German and French, in this order). I really enjoyed the 4 years in College, but the best part was the Erasmus Exchange Program.

For people who have never heard of this: the Erasmus Program is a very popular exchange program that allows European university students to complete a whole year of their studies in another European country. Students love it because during that year abroad, professors are usually very lenient with them. It is practically a year away from home to discover another culture, make friends and have a lot of fun. I enrolled in the program, and in my second year in college I went to Paris (however, I only stayed there for a semester).

During my stay, my uncle and my aunt were very kind and they let me stay in their apartment. I learned a lot during those 4 months. I was speaking French with my family in Paris, every day. I also had a part-time job in a restaurant, and I met some friends there.

After I came back to Barcelona, I visited my friends and family in Paris several times. However, in 2010 I left for South Korea and haven’t been back to France since then. What I do now to keep my French is to speak with my Swiss friend Tania. I met her through and ad when I was looking for private French classes in San Diego. We kicked it off and became friends very fast. We practice French and Spanish on Wednesdays. We chat in French for an hour and then in Spanish for another hour. As I always say: you need to speak it in order to keep it :)

Now, that was a long text! Feel free to comment or ask questions and stay tuned for my next blog :)

Besos y saludos,

Octavi

In case you missed Octavi’s previous blogs on becoming a polyglot:

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Last week our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Last week he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, and this week he wrote about how he learned English. In case you missed last week’s post: https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Now on to today’s topic:

¡Hola a todo el mundo!

Today I’m going to share my experience learning and reaching fluency in English. It all started when I was 8 years old; yes, 8 years old only. English was not taught in schools in Spain, and only a very few people knew how to speak it. Both my parents are a rarity in Spain because they both speak English. They knew they wanted me to learn the language as soon as possible, so they found an Irish young guy who lived in the neighborhood and who offered private lessons. Since the first moment, he only spoke English to me. I was terrified in the beginning; a guy who I couldn’t understand was saying things to me that made no sense. Why would my parents do that to me? :)

Anyway, that was my first contact with English, and since that day I never stopped learning. A year later, the Catalan govern introduced English as an optional subject in schools, and 2 years later it became mandatory.

Although the language was being taught in schools, it really didn’t help me learn it. The approach was terrible: they only taught how to pass tests, not how to speak English. Besides, the teachers were not natives; I spoke better than my first teacher in school! That was the reason why my parents put me in a private language school the following year. I learned a lot more there and I’m very thankful for that.

After some years in the language school, I stopped taking classes. I thought I had learned enough and, in my mind, I was already a fluent speaker. How foolish I was! When I turned 20, I went to San Francisco alone. I remember very well how embarrassed I felt when I couldn’t understand the immigration officer at the airport. Later, during the whole stay in San Francisco, I realized how rusty I had gotten and how much I still had to learn. It gave me the motivation to push myself to read books, watch films and talk to people in English after I went back to Barcelona.

What really has helped me, however, has been meeting Ron, my husband. Since I’m with him, I have learned so much! I talk to him everyday, since 8 years ago, in English, and even though he doesn’t usually correct me, I’ve gotten immersed in the language. So, again, the more you use a language, the better you get at speaking it. If you can’t marry a Spanish speaker, at least you can come to our classes and… speak! :)

Stay around, because my next blog is going to be about another of my languages and my journey with it.

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

Our in-house polyglot, on language fluency

 

Hola, queridos estudiantes.

 

After a long absence, your beloved teacher Octavi is back. Since the last couple of blog articles covered how to achieve fluency and what fluency really means for everyone, I would like to share what it means to me.

As many of you already know, I speak 7 languages. However, that doesn’t mean that I speak them all perfectly, of course. I speak 2 languages at a native level, Spanish and Catalan, and even in those two languages I have some doubts every now and then. I think that is pretty normal, though. In my opinion, English is the language I speak better after those two. Let me tell you that I make mistakes and forget words all the time, and I speak English every day! I started learning it when i was 8 and even now, 30 years later, I keep making mistakes of all kind. Does that mean I am not fluent in English? I wouldn’t say so, because to me fluency is not being perfect, but rather communicating effectively with others while being more or less accurate. In French and Italian I have no big problems either, but not using those languages in my everyday life makes it harder to get to a very advanced level. I am happy with where I am with my French and my Italian, and I know I will only be able to keep them at a certain level, but I still think that I am fluent thanks to the fact that both languages are similar to Spanish and I don’t need to practice them as much as my last two languages, Korean and Japanese. Obviously, Korean and Japanese are so much different from Spanish that just in order to speak them at an intermediate level you need to practice them almost everyday, and that’s what I do. I practice Korean and Japanese everyday, and even then my level is not as high as in any of the other languages I speak. Nonetheless, for a Westerner, I consider I speak Korean and Japanese at a pretty high level.

So what is it to be fluent? As you can see, the first thing to be considered is the language in question. Secondly, we have to think about what it means to ourselves. For some people, just being able to have simple conversations is going to be enough, while for other people being fluent will mean to be able not only to have conversations, but also to talk about any kind of topic, in any context or level (it’s not the same to talk in Spanish with a friend about your week and to give a speech about Biology in Spanish). Once you get to a certain level, being fluent really depends on what you want to achieve and how satisfied you are with your progress.

In any case, most of us need at least a couple of years to reach fluency. Mi advice is: don’t be too obsessed with getting to a certain level; enjoy the journey!

 

Saludos a todos,
Octavi

Why oh why am I learning a foreign language?

Do you ever ask yourself why in the world you are learning a foreign language?
I hope that you have asked yourself this question and that the answer is clear to you.

Learning a foreign language takes a tremendous amount of time, commitment, effort and eventually a lifestyle change if fluency is your goal. Since it’s a marathon and not a sprint, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing it, to keep up the momentum.

I suggest that you take a moment to make a list of reasons, and keep it somewhere that you can look at it on occasion. I keep mine in my phone.

Here is my list for why I am learning Italian:
– Because I love the sound of it
– Because I’ve always wanted to learn it, since I was a kid (lifelong dream)
– Because I love all things Italian
– So that I can communicate when I travel to Italy
– So that I can communicate with more people on this earth
– So that I can go through what my students go through: learning a language as an adult and using PBO’s conversational method
– So that I can sing in Italian (especially Andrea Bocelli)
– Because I think that being trilingual is pretty cool
– Because it’s fun (I still get giddy when I learn new words or recognize a word in a song/book/movie)

So why are you learning Spanish? Please share your list with us!

I hope you have enjoyed the 9th of 10 tips for new language learners!

Besos,
Caro