Italian 101: il grande finale

I’ve seen the last few months trying to learn Italian using online resources and technology. I definitely learned some of the language, but more importantly, I learned A LOT about learning online. Here’s what I learned.

  1.  You simply cannot expect to learn online without doing some work offline. You would think this should be a no brainer, and for you maybe it is. But for myself, I had some weird thought that I would be able to learn everything I needed to learn online without using a pen a paper for example. I thought I would be able to learn it without practicing the language away from the computer. I was wrong. Yes you can find a lot of information online and yes a lot of it is helpful in teaching you something. However, you cannot forget about other methods that help us learn such as writing, underlining text, labelling pictures and reading. You need to use the offline learning skills you have to enhance your online learning experience. For my project I found that if I was struggling to remember a term that it helped to write the term down a few times so that I actually learned the spelling and what the term meant. I know other classmates have used post-it notes to label items around their house to help them learn. These are great examples of how offline strategies can help reinforce your online learning.
  2. There are hundreds of resources available online. Which ones work best? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I would recommend doing some simple searches online to try and find some resources that others recommend. Search for things like “best way to learn a language online for free“, “learn a language online” or “best apps to learn foreign language”. In order to find out what works best for you or which you like most you have to simply try them out. You can read reviews from other people but they might not feel the same way about a site that you will. For example, Vanessa found that she wasn’t too impressed with Duolingo and although I see where she is coming from, I think that it can be a valuable tool. It’a a matter of trial and error for you to find some resources that work for you.
  3. Connect with others and create a PLNThere are so many ways to connect with others online. For myself I used Twitter, Instagram and blogging to follow and connect with others. By sharing my blog I was able to connect with people who read my blog and commented on it. Through comments on my blog I was given suggestions for additional resources to check out for my learning project. I was able to connect with others on Twitter and practice some of my language skills as well. There are some great websites that allow you to chat or talk with others who can help you learn the language you are working on. Depending on what you are learning about your PLN might look different. You might connect with others by sharing step by step videos for cooking, or following an online Twitter chat. Everyone’s PLN will be different, but it’s important that you reach out and try to connect with people.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone.  There are so many beneficial things that can come from stepping out of your comfort zone. In my learning journey there were two things I did that really made me step out of my comfort zone. The first was reading a book in Italian. It was only a children’s book, but it was difficult to put myself out there and read it online knowing that I probably mispronounced a number of words. I practiced over and over but never felt confident enough that I was reading it perfectly. I decided to just record it and post it. It was a good opportunity for me to hear how I sounds when I speak and reflect on it. The second thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with someone online. I was hoping to have a Skype meeting with someone but I didn’t feel confident enough in my speaking skills, so I opted for the next best option and had an online chat with a couple of people through WeSpeke. This was truly a great learning experience for me as it gave me an opportunity to have an unscripted conversation with someone. I had to think about what I wanted to say and try to put the words together in a sentence. I found that I had to use a translator to help me complete my sentences but it was nice to connect with someone and practice what I had learned. Both of these situations caused me to step out of my comfort zone and I think I learned a lot from each experience. Had I not pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone I would have missed out on these great opportunities.
  5. Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. Regardless of what you are learning, you must keep at it. Learning a new skill does not happen over night. It’s important to practice and be consistent. Learning takes time. Even practicing for 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Use the people in your network to connect and practice or ask for help. Watch a video while waiting for a bus, listen to a podcast in your car. Whatever you do to connect, try to do it every day. If you are involved in a MOOC, do the work that is required, check in when you are supposed to…participate. You get out what you put in, so if you are serious about learning, you’ll find the time.

In follow up to one of my first blogs showing the beginning of my learning journey here is some evidence of the progress I made. I’m happy to say that I reached 37% fluency and level 11 on Duolingo. On my placement test at the end of my learning journey I was able to place out of 4 categories so that was also great. Below are some photos of my progress and a video showing my final placement test.

Duolingo Progress

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Duolingo Placement Test – Post

Babbel Progress

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Itlaian 101: And the award goes to…

This semester I was given the opportunity to learn something – just like I am given the opportunity in any other class. However the opportunity was presented much different than it has been presented in any other class. I was given the opportunity to pick something that I was interested in and learn about it using technology and online connections to help me along the way.

Obviously when you are given the opportunity to learn about anything a lot of possibilities run through your head. I wanted to choose something that I would enjoy learning about. I wanted to learn something that I could use at some point in the future. I would have loved to pick something creative like sewing or knitting, but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money purchasing materials along the way (especially with my limited income on maternity leave). So I decided I would learn a language.

The language I decided on was Italian. Why? Well I didn’t want to do French because I already have some experience with speaking French having gradated with a French 30 credit (even though that credit is from way back in 2004). I wanted to start with a clean slate. In my travels I have spent some time in Italy and I just love everything about the country. The food, the culture, the scenery, the cities and of course the language. I have always thought that it would be great to learn a language and be able to travel and use it someday. Now that I have been learning some of the language maybe it’s time to go back.

Throughout the semester I found a lot of resources that are very useful in learning a language online and found even more that seemed to be of little help. If you want to check out all of the resources I  reviewed in detail look back at some of my previous posts. But here is a quick list of my top resources for learning Italian online broken down into categories.

To practice site words, memory work and phrases.

WINNER: Duolingo – great tool for rote memorization and practicing words & phrases. Uses audio, text, written and spoken language. The biggest negative is the sentences that are used to practice sometimes – they don’t make a lot of sense and you wouldn’t use them in daily conversations very often.

RUNNER UP: Babbel – similar to Duolingo but is a paid service. This focuses on themes for each lesson and can be helpful in learning phrases for basic conversation or travel. Uses mostly writing and listening to complete the lessons.

Honorable Mention: Mango – A free online service provided by the library in Regina. Similar to Babbel in the sense that you practice basic phrases and conversation by listening and repeating the audio.

To listen to audio.

WINNER: News in Slow Italian  – provides slower audio with text to read along. The text is also translated into English to help with further comprehension.

RUNNER UP: The Italian Experiment – this site is good but provides limited resources. There are three audio books you can listen to and follow along with text. The text is also translated into english. It is a great site but would be nice if new material would be added.

Videos

WINNER: Learn Italian with Lucrezia  – most of her videos are fairly short and very informative which make them really nice to watch. The lessons range from beginner to advanced. She also has an instagram and twitter account that I would suggest following.

RUNNER UP: Learn Italian Words App – this app works offline and has a large variety of video lessons ranging from beginner to advance.

Social Media

WINNER: Twitter – @italianlanguage Instagram – italianwordoftheday – both accounts provide you with one word a day to practice and learn. The Twitter account gives you a word and a sentence most days to learn. The Instagram account gives you a word with a picture each day, but no sentence.

RUNNER UP: Twitter @ItalianLearn this account also gives you a word a day and you can click on a link that will take you to a sentence that uses the word and audio for the pronunciation.

Speaking with Others

WINNER: WeSpeke – a great tool to connect and chat with others online.

 

 

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.

 

Italian 101: Week 4

This week I spent my time focusing on Babbel while continuing to use Duolingo. I had to pay for the course on Babbel and it was close to $20CA for a one month subscription. I decided to do a month because it was the cheapest option in order to test it out. I didn’t know if I would like it enough to use it longer than one month so I thought I would test it out and cancel before the month is up and my subscription renews automatically.

For something that is a paid service, it is VERY similar to Duolingo. Although there is more structure for each lesson and lessons are geared towards a specific topic. I like that the lessons build on skills similar to Mango Languages. I created a few videos to share my thoughts on Babbel and show some of my progress.

This first video shows you the homepage/dashboard and explains some of the features that I like on Babbel.

In this video I show you how a lesson works. I tried to skip through the lesson in order to make it quicker for the purpose of the video, so it’s not a full lesson length but it takes you through the whole thing.

This last video shows you how to review your vocabulary using the built in review feature.

I feel like I had a really successful week. I was able to keep a streak on Duolingo achieving 50XP for six days. The picture shows only a one day streak and that’s because I finished my practice yesterday after 11pm which is after midnight on the website.

My streak on Duolingo this past week.

My streak on Duolingo this past week.

I moved up in my fluency by 5% moving to 9%! Although I don’t want to judge my skills based on that. I find that I am getting better at speaking Italian and reading it. I still struggle with the writing part but I think that will start to come.

Finally moved up from 4%!

Finally moved up from 4%!

Some new things I tried this week:

  • I branched out on Duolingo and tried to connect with others learning/speaking Italian. I attempted to read some comments and also tried to join in but I learned quickly that I still don’t have enough skills to fully participate. I’m hoping in another couple of weeks I will be able to make more use of the chat.
Screen Shot of my chat

Screen Shot of my chat

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 1.59.00 PM

Screen shot of my chat

  • I tried a few podcasts but didn’t have a lot of luck with them. I thought I’d be able to find some that I could listen to while running or while in the car but after skimming through 5 or 6 of them I wasn’t able to find any. A lot of them were free and had a lot of “infomercial” type dialogue at the start that really turned me away from them.
  • I have added the #italianlanguage to my hootsuite feed. I am hoping to find some other useful hashtags and people to follow. I haven’t found a whole lot to be useful on Twitter yet.

My weekly assessment/reflection:

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.54.49 PM

From here I plan to focus on Mango and Babbel a little more to see if I can improve my skills a little more before attempting to have more conversations with others online. I may also try to find some youtube videos that might help me.

Overall I would say it was one of my most successful weeks. I’m feeling good about my progress so far. I’m branching out and trying to connect with others who are learning Italian which is taking me out of my comfort zone a little.

Italian 101: La Mia Familia and Mango Language

This past week was spent using Mango Languages alongside Duolingo to continue my journey in learning Italian. Mango Languages was introduced to me by Brittany a fellow classmate who is learning German as part of her major project. In order to sign up for Mango I needed to have a public library card through the city of Regina. I was able to login using the link found on the Regina Public Library e-learning services site. When I logged in I was able to create my profile, select my language and do a placement test before beginning. You can find the video of my placement test in this post. If you’d like to see how to get started with Mango Languages and how it looks check out my brief tutorial.

In this video I explain how the lessons work and give a brief review of what I like and don’t like about the lesson format.

For the most part I have nothing negative to say about Mango Languages. The only thing I don’t like is the voice comparison feature. I don’t like that I have to listen for myself to see how my voice compares to the narrators voice in terms of pronunciation. I prefer Duolingo’s voice recognition software that will tell me if my pronunciation is correct or not (although I sometimes feel the software is a little off). If you are looking to practice speaking and reading Mango is great for that. There is no written practice and you do not get to read Italian and then answer in English like you can with Duolingo.

I decided to make this quick slideshow to showcase some of the skills I learned using Mango this past week. I learned a bit more than the slideshow demonstrates but if I wanted to showcase all of my learning it would have been a pretty random presentation so I decided to just focus on my family because I was pretty excited to have learned how to introduce family members in Italian.

A few things I have learned in the few short weeks I have been learning Italian:

  1. I  have found that I cannot take a day off from practicing the language as it seems to fade quite quickly.
  2. I continue to struggle with endings of verbs depending on the context of the sentence.
  3. I am not great a pronouncing a lot of the words yet and also struggle to roll my r’s.
  4. There are slight similarities between French and Italian that I have to really think hard about in order to use the correct language. These similarities cause me grief sometimes, but often it helps me because the Italian word is so similar to the French word that I can relate them and it helps me remember it.

Some goals moving forward:

  1. Practice EVERYDAY! Even if it’s only enough time for one lesson. It will be better than nothing and will keep the basics fresh. Every little bit counts right?
  2. Write down pronunciations and words that I struggle to remember rather than continuing to make the same mistake over and over. When I put the pen to paper it helps me remember things a lot better.
  3. Explore a different app/website each week while continuing to use the Duolingo app on my phone.

What I hope to accomplish over the course of this project:

  1. I want to feel confident in my basic communication skills. I will know I have accomplished this when I reach out to someone to have a conversation with them.
  2. Become at least 50% fluent in Italian using Duolingo to document this percentage. I am currently still only 3% which is a little discouraging because I have completed a lot of lessons and come a long way since I started. I haven’t been using Duolingo as much because I have been focusing more on Mango this past week. I am hoping 50% is a realistic goal.
  3. I want to have at least three conversations with someone else speaking Italian starting March 7.

I have also decided to create a reflection rubric to use each week after seeing some classmates create rubrics for their project. I figure this is a good way to keep me accountable and compare my week to week progress.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 8.39.28 PM

Next week my major focus will be on Babbel. This is a paid service so I don’t know how long I will choose to use it but I will try it out. I plan on continuing to use Duolingo and Mango as well.

Ciao!

 

Italian 101: Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone

I decided to do my first ever vlog to describe my major project experience so far. I haven’t done a vlog before with the exception of the little Flipgrid videos we have done for class. I have recorded my voice over screencasts before and am pretty comfortable with that, but I have never liked the sound of my voice and didn’t think I would like my face being recorded very much. But it turns out it wasn’t so bad. Seemingly talking to myself and recording myself seems a little awkward at first but I actually think I might like it better than writing a blog post. I felt like I could explain things in a little more detail with the vlog. It’s nice because you just kinda have to go with the flow. When I write a blog I am CONSTANTLY going back and deleting things. With a vlog, unless you want to make 10 videos before finally finishing one, you just have to keep going. I did redo this video a couple of times but I decided to keep this last version and consider it a successful first vlog. Check it out and bare with me at times (apparently I can easily get distracted and lose my train of thought). I am hoping to get better as the semester goes on.

In this first video I provide a summary of my experiences so far with Duolingo and my Italian learning progress. I also discuss how I feel I have been doing and where I plan to go from here.

This next video is a bit of a tutorial. I show you some of the features of Duolingo that help me when I get an answer wrong. Some of the features collaborate with others using Duolingo.

And last but not least, here is a video of my first experience with Mango. I did a placement test for Italian last week and recorded it. I will be working more with Mango this week so stay tuned for more videos.

Ciao!