Italian 101: It’s a Roller Coaster

Life is full of setbacks. I am going to be brutally honest here. There was nothing out of the ordinary or drastic this week that happened to me (unlike Genna…who by the way is still rocking her major project!), I just didn’t make an effort to find the time to work on my learning project. I usually try to do a lesson or two before I go to bed each night, but this past week I couldn’t really be bothered. It got to a point where Duolingo sent me a notification to my phone that said it looked like their reminders to practice weren’t working so they would stop sending them. This was after three days of not practicing and to be honest it felt like a relief that those notifications weren’t going to be sent anymore. I wasn’t going to write a reflection this week because I didn’t have the best week and didn’t accomplish a whole heck of a lot. This past week has certainly been a low in my learning project. But I thought that it’s important to reflect on weeks like this especially so that I can learn from them and improve. I don’t have any particular reason for my lack of effort and motivation this past week, but here are a few things that I can say have probably affected it:

  1. I am having trouble feeling like my learning has a purpose. I don’t have any real reason for wanting to learn Italian other than the fact that I have travelled there and would love to go back. With no plans to go back in the near future it makes it more difficult to stay motivated to learn the language.
  2. I feel as though I continue to learn words as opposed to the actual language. Using Duolingo allows me to practice a lot of words, but they are just that…words. Sometimes the sentences I practice are practical and sometimes they are not. For example, these sentences aren’t really practical.
    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Kitchen Bowl

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    This sentence seems a little more practical but it still doesn’t make me feel like I am learning useful aspects of the language. I guess anything is better than nothing though.

    Screenshot from Duolingo

    Screenshot from Duolingo

  3. I am having trouble retaining the information I am learning and I think it is because I need to practice speaking more. In order to practice speaking more one of two things needs to happen 1) I need to connect with people who also speak Italian. 2) I need to use the tools I have found that focus more on the speaking as opposed to reading and writing. I have tried to find people to connect with on Twitter but have been unsuccessful. I may try find a group on Facebook to join (hopefully there is one out there). I need to use Babbel and Mango way more than Duolingo to practice the practical parts of the language as well as the speaking.
  4. As a follow up to 3, I know of places that I can reach out to such as forums and discussion groups on Duolingo, but I don’t feel confident enough with my speaking to use them.
  5. I feel as though my learning is hard to gauge. It isn’t tangible like knitting or sewing. I can do some placement tests to see where I sit but I don’t know how accurate they are.

My goals for the next week.

  1. Practice using Babbel or Mango at least once a day completing a minimum of two lessons per day. This should help me gain some speaking confidence and learn some useful things as well. I want to try stay away from Duolingo for a lot of the reasons that Vanessa discusses.
  2. Look for a Facebook group to join.
  3. Check out the pen pal exchange group I came across on Twitter to see how it works.
    Screenshot of Twitter

    Screenshot of Twitter

    4. Take the placement test on Babbel, Mango and Duolingo at the end of the week to see if I have improved since the start of my project. I will use this as a midterm assessment to see where I am at.

Here is my self-assessment on my project this past week.

Reflection Feb 9-16 Screenshot

Reflection Feb 9-18 Screenshot

So now that I have my bad week out of my system, I hope it is only upwards from here. I think I lost some motivation because I felt like I wasn’t gaining any ground for the amount of work that I had been putting in. I need to remind myself just like Kristina that it is all about the process and this whole online learning thing is new to me. More important than the learning itself is the reflecting aspect of this.  If my Italian language skills don’t grow a whole lot by the end of the semester my growth in terms of how to approach learning something online certainly will.

I thought I would finish off by sharing a few clips from a Friends. Sometimes I feel like this is me trying to learn Italian haha.

This one especially makes me think of my experience with the voice recognition software. I often feel like what I am saying sounds different than what it should sound like, but I get it correct. Other times I feel like I am CERTAIN I am saying it correctly but it tells me I am wrong. Guess I need to work on some of the pronunciations more.



11 thoughts on “Italian 101: It’s a Roller Coaster

    • Maybe it’s the fact that it’s February break?? Although my slacking started mid week last week. I must have been in vacation mode already. Although it seems everyday should be vacation mode since I’m off work on mat leave. Must’ve been because we didn’t have class this week. Glad I’m not the only one with a bad week. Good luck moving forward!


  1. Hey Ashely! I am glad you shared your low week, we all face struggles and sometime our biggest learning experiences come from our failures. I know this something I preach to my students a whole lot, but I agree with you, it is hard being on the other side of the spectrum and feel the struggle.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said maybe there is a bigger purpose put there than just learning Italian. The big picture is how you approach learning, sharing, and using open education to accomplish your learning goal.

    I used to be fluent in Portguese and Spanish and I did not learn these languages through a workbook. I was immersed in speaking and listening to them when I went on an exchange. It took me about 4-6 months to become fluent and was an amazing experience. I am sure if I go back to Brazil I would pick up the language in a snap. I can still read, listen and understand, but I struggle with speaking. After my exchange, I always wanted to learn Italian and used to do lessons (face-to-face), but only for a few semesters. I would recommend you try out the support groups or pen pal system to make it more personal. I have some friends who are fluent and maybe you could connect with them once a week via Skype or something to practice your speaking and listening? Also, you should check out the Italian club here in Regina. They might have a recommendation for you! Good luck!


    • I might have to take you up on your offer for the Skype visits with your friends. I don’t think I am ready for that quite yet, but it is a goal of mine for the end of the semester. I can understand that you are able to read and write still because reading is the easiest for me, then writing, but speaking is the part where I struggle. I will feel better about things once I get back on track and stay there. Thanks for the comment!


  2. Hi Ashley – First off I LOVE the Friends throw back!

    Thanks for sharing your ‘bad week’ experiences. I can totally understand where you are coming from with a lot of the things you discuss.

    I’ve really stayed true to using Duolingo – but there’s been multiple times that I am practicing and I laugh out loud at the sentences I am translating, because they are ridiculous! Additionally, I can relate to the pronunciation part of it too, there are times that I know I’ve said the word correctly and it doesn’t register, and there are many times that I’m unsure of my pronunciation and it accepts it too.

    I think your goals for this week are good ones to have. I am branching out and looking for a supplementary training app this week – and Mango is on my list to try.

    This week will be a better week – my fingers are crossed that you find someone to connect and speak with to give yourself more of a purpose!


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  4. These kinds of weeks are difficult to pursue learning something new. I completely understand, and I appreciate that you shared your struggles with us, as I know many will or have gone through similar difficulties.

    The speaking is the most difficult part I believe. I know words, individually, thanks to Duolingo, but putting them together into a coherent sentence is challenging, and there is no way I can verbally speak Italian with another ‘on the fly’. Everything needs to be prepped in advance, which really isn’t simulating a ‘real’ conversation. I have been wondering similar things recently; how can I actually learn to speak Italian, and not only read and understand it? I wonder how long it takes in the learning process to be able to speak Italian, and if our expectations of ourselves are too high (or maybe too low!)?

    Either way, although you had a bad week, you have learned quite a bit and I am in awe of your past blog posts! I admire your work, and I aspire to learn as much Italian as you throughout this process! Good luck and keep it up!


    • I feel the exact same way as you in terms of the speaking and connecting with people. I know pieces of conversations and words, but to actually put it all together into a meaningful conversation on the fly wouldn’t happen. I feel like I need to sit down and just repeat the same lessons on babbel over and over again so I can learn the basic conversation skills I want to have. Like Kristina mentioned in her comment it took her 4-6 months being fully immersed in the culture to grasp the language. I think that anything we take away from the experience is better than nothing right? Part of the project is learning about the process. Reflecting on what works and doesn’t work and determining different places we can go to learn or connect to learn online or through technology. Maybe we should try connect for a chat during the last couple weeks of class to have an Italian language chat?


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