Italian 101: Kickin’ it Old School

In my last post I talked about brining old school methods into my new school learning project. This past week I decided to look into some old school ways to learn online. I was able to find a few things on my own and I was also able to use some resources that have been suggested by others in the class or different places online. I have been working with flashcards, lessons, books, audio and workbooks this past week. I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on each, but have worked with each resource enough to understand whether or not it would be helpful moving forward. I will be reviewing the following in the blog:

  1. The Italian Experiment (website)
  2. International Children’s Digital Library (website) 
  3. Quizlet (website/app) 
  4. Basic Italian and Grammar Workbook (online PDF) 
  5. News in Slow Italian

The Italian Experiment

I’ve mentioned the Italian Experiment in a previous post and haven’t gotten around to talking much about it. I was introduced to this lesson from a chat that I was part of on Duolingo. The website is made up of lessons, stories (with audio and translation) as well as reviews of online courses. I have spent some time listening to the Three Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears on this site. I like that you can listen to the audio, read the Italian text and also see the translation in English. There is a lot of repetition in each of the stories so I was able to pick up on some of the terms and sentences by the end of each story. In terms of the lessons, they are very basic and cover introductory topics. I personally like the lessons because they cover the essentials for learning any language. I like that the lessons provide knowledge that will help you further understand the lessons. I read over the reviews of the Italian Language courses but never looked any further into them as each one requires a purchase and most are quite expensive.

International Children’s Digital Library

After some fellow classmates (Amy & Genna) have read books in another language I decided I would give it a shot. After all if you are trying to learn the language you should be reading it as well. This site was suggested by a classmate (sorry that I can’t recall who mentioned it or where I saw it, but thanks for sharing). This site was created for families who have moved to new countries where it may be difficult to find books in their native language or for families who need to learn a new language upon moving. It is suited for more people than those who have moved to a new country of course. Take me for example…someone who wants to learn a new language to travel or as a hobby. It is free to use and you can access books that are recommended for ages 3-13. You can search books by fiction, non-fiction, characters, age group and language. Many of the books are translated into multiple languages. The text for the book is given in the language you selected to read which is one downside. For someone like me who is just learning it is difficult to understand the books (even at a 3-5 age). I have to translate the book each time I read one which is a good thing because it challenges me to think and pick out words I know, but it is also time consuming. In my video below I took a screen shot of the Italian and English version of the same book. I put each page onto a slide so you can see the translation. The translation doesn’t translate back and forth between Italian and English quite as I thought it would. Here I am reading a story from the International Children’s Digital Library. I’m sure I am mispronouncing some of the words and I know my r’s still don’t sound the way they should so please excuse my rookie mistakes.


Quizlet is an online flashcard maker. You are able to create your own sets as well as find other sets that have been created by users. You can practice the flashcards by using the different features included in the program. I think its a really useful tool, however I have a feeling I would do better making flashcards with pen and paper as opposed to using a keyboard to make them. Check out my quick review below.

Basic Italian and Grammar Workbook

I found this workbook searching for online learning resources. It is developed by lecturers at the University of Turin in Italy and University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. I haven’t printed the workbook out because it’s 194 pages, but I have scrolled through it and skimmed it. It is definitely an old school workbook full of information, exercises and answers. From what I can see it is a great resource for providing more than just words. There is a lot of information and a decent amount of practice for each unit. The amount of information isn’t overwhelming however. This is something that I would like to print off one unit at a time to read and practice. I bookmarked this PDF and don’t know how I cam across it. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be printed or even presented as a PDF online. I don’t know if there are any copyright issues with this. I hope not!

News in Slow Italian

This is a great website that I came across a few weeks ago but never explored until the last few days. This is a GREAT resource for anyone looking to learn Italian. There are different pages for beginner, intermediate and advance users. I focused on the beginner level. Each level includes lessons with audio to help you learn Italian. When you are listening to a lesson you can hover your mouse over the Italian text which will display the English translation. The beginners lessons have very little Italian but they progress as you go along. I believe a subscription is needed to have full functionality of all the lessons. The intermediate new shows are great to listen to. I am usually able to piece together enough information using the Italian I have learned with the help of the English translations. There seems to be a lot of features and different ways to interact with the site so it is a great place to explore if you are learning Italian.

I hope that some of my resources help you learn Italian if you are trying to learn the language. I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the resources I have shared.



Italian 101: Social Media and the World Wide Web

I don’t have much to discuss this week as I haven’t tried out any new methods for learning Italian. But I did want to write so I can reflect on the last week and how I did with meeting my goals. Here are my goals from last 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.

I practiced daily with Babbel, but didn’t use Mango because I didn’t have the app on my phone. I finally downloaded it so will use it from time to time from now on. I didn’t do more than one lesson most days and that’s because the lessons took me longer to complete than I had originally thought. I wish I could devote an hour each day to practice, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day so I have to make do with what I can fit in throughout the day. I also managed to work with Duolingo on an almost daily basis even though I said I would avoid it (I just can’t seem to escape it haha!). I think what keeps brining me back to Duolingo is the simplicity and the repetition. When I work with Duolingo my confidence seems to be higher and I feel like I actually know some Italian even though I still just know words.

I did look for a Facebook group to join and joined it but nothing has been posted since February 13th, so it’s not a very active group. I will keep an eye out for posts and see how it goes, if it doesn’t pick up then I will try find another group to join. It seems that there aren’t many groups that would be worthwhile to join but I could be wrong. After searching on Facebook I decided to try and expand my PLN on Twitter and Instagram. Here’s a list of the people I am following on each platform:

Twitter: @MargieMiklas@travelitalian1@ItalyMagazine@italianvocvoc@italian_easy@ItalianLearn@Turismoromaweb@LucreziaOd

Instagram: lucreziaoddone, italianwordoftheday, italian_teacher

I didn’t look into the pen pal exchange group either. I guess it’s because I still don’t feel confident enough to be a pen pal and communicate without the help of my resources. I suppose that any conversation will be better than nothing even if it is with the help of resources. My goal is to have a conversation by March 7th, so that gives me next week to attempt to connect with someone.

I was catching up with the forum/chat I was part of on Dulingo and I found some great websites that can help me learn some Italian. I plan to spend some time on these sites this next week while using instagram and twitter as well. I will continue to use Duolingo, Babbel and Mango when I can. I will be travelling this next week so as long as the kids can stay entertained or sleep on the plane I will have a few hours to practice.

The sites I was introduced to are: The Italian Experiment and Italy Magazine. I also found online radio stations that I can listen to and News in Slow Italian. I’ll try to find some time to work with these as well.

After reading Amy’s blog I thought I would try to list some of the words I know in Italian. The blue is my original spelling and the red is the corrected version. I have a lot of learning to do with word endings…does it end in e, i, o, a?? It all depends on the context so it can be tricky. I have some work to do with the spelling, but hopefully if I do this more often I will get better at it.



I should also mention that I tried to do a placement test for Duolingo and Mango and didn’t place any differently than I did at the start of the class which is a HUGE disappointment. But I know that I am learning. With some more practice on Mango I should be able to place further than Unit 1 Chapter 1 and as for Duolingo my fluency is up from 9% to 16% so I am making progress.

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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

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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:

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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: 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.



Major Project Update: Socrative

I am happy to say that my final project is nearing completion. Okay maybe that’s being too optimistic, but it really is coming along nicely. I have spent this past week really looking into Socrative. I must say that I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to test this out with my students. The app is extremely user friendly and I can see so many uses for it in the classroom.

I recently came across this resource explaining 3 ways that open response questions can be used in the classroom with Socrative. I am a really big fan of gathering student questions using the quick response option. It would be an easy way for students to ask questions from their homework that they need help with. Once students respond with questions they are struggling with, students can look at all of the options and vote on the questions they want answered so that it prioritizes them for me allowing me to answer the question most students have. I really like the voting option for the quick response short answer questions.

I also like the idea of using the quick response short answer questions for brainstorming in class. It is a great way for students to get involved and provide answers as opposed to just shouting answers out. I like that you can have student names be anonymous so that they don’t have to be scared of sharing their answers. Names will appear for the teacher when you run a report so you can see who submitted each response.

I have been busy making tutorials for Socrative today and have a few more to go before I am done. I haven’t started my Explain Everything tutorials yet, but I don’t feel like they will be as in depth and hopefully won’t take me as long. I still have some Evernote tutorials as well. Hoping I can get things done within the next week so I can focus on my summary of learning.

Major Project Update

I took a break from my major project this past week as I was visiting family in Vancouver and had a hard enough time reading the articles and making sure I was available to connect in class this past Monday. Since being home I have had a opportunity to look at my progress again and reevaluate where I am at and where I need to be. Here is where I am at with exploring each of my apps.

Evernote – Done exploring the app as well as looking into ways it can be used in the classroom by both me and the students. I have also finished looking over and summarizing the terms of service and privacy policy. My look at ‘the medium is the message’ is also completed. I have made some tutorials, but I need to finish the rest of my tutorials.

Explain Everything – I have spent some time playing around with the app and thing I have the ins and outs figured out. I have learned how to upload documents from Dropbox to the app so I can write right onto the documents. I have created some videos to test it out. I will be working on my tutorials this week by using screen shots of the app. I need to look at the privacy issues as well as the message for this app.

Socrative – I have spent some time creating quizzes and checking out the other feedback options. I was hoping that I would be able to create my own question using the exit slip option but it appears that the three questions offered are the only questions that can be used as exit slips. If I want to do a short answer exit slip I will have to create a one question quiz for students to use. I haven’t been able to explore the whole app yet and haven’t created a student account to see how it works from a student perspective.

If I had to give each app a percent based on completion I would say that Evernote is 95%, Explain Everything is 40% and Secretive is 20%. There is still a lot of work to be done which makes me a little nervous as there is only a few weeks left in class. I will really have to focus and get things done!

My project will be presented in the form of a weebly webpage. You can check out my progress by clicking here.