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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Italian 101: New School Requires Old School

I feel like I have so much to talk about when it comes to my learning project. This weeks focus will be on my experience using Twitter, Instagram, blogs and Facebook to connect with others in order to learn Italian. I am also going to talk about my progress with Duolingo (which is still my go to app). The last thing I will talk about is how new school learning requires old school methods. I have included a few videos reviewing the accounts I follow. They are quite long and not very polished unfortunately (it wasn’t a good day for vlogging in my life but I had  been trying to get these videos done since last Thursday so I just wanted to get them finished finally).

Twitter

I started following a variety of accounts on Twitter. I have found that of the accounts I follow very few seem to be very helpful in learning the language. I have attempted to tweet a few times in Italian but most of the time I need to use a translator to help me form a complete sentence.

A tweet to classmate Elizabeth who is also learning Italian

A tweet to classmate Elizabeth who is also learning Italian

I feel as though I am on the right track with using Twitter to learn a language but I need to find more accounts that are useful to follow. I took the advice from my feedback by Katia and decided to create a list on Twitter of the people I follow to learn Italian. It will be much easier to locate and focus my learning on Twitter now.

My learning Italian Twitter list

My learning Italian Twitter list

In the following video I take you through some of the Twitter accounts I have recently followed and give you a brief overview of each. Some of them are much better than others and I will continue to follow them after this class, but at the end of class I will go back and delete some of the accounts that I have found are less useful.

Instagram

I have found a few accounts to follow on Instagram and also created an Instagram account that I tried to use to share some of my learning. I say tried to use because I haven’t really kept up with it. I found that I wasn’t able to attract any followers and because of that I quickly lost interest. It is something that I should reconsider however because I think that a photo blog or flash card type posts are a great way to learn.  I have actually also had trouble locating my account to share on here. My account name is AshleyLearnsItalian and it was created as a second account on my phone. I have taken a few screenshots to share so that you can see what I had done.

I have also reviewed all of the accounts I have followed. I would love to find more to follow and will keep an eye out for more accounts that I can learn from.

Blogs and Facebook

Through my blog I was able to connect with Stephanie who had commented on my blog. She was able to suggest a Facebook page for me to follow – I’mpariamo l’italiano. Unfortunately I found the page to be beyond my current level of understanding but maybe someday I will be able to use the site. Stephanie also recommended iTalki which I had heard of before but after having her recommend it I am making it a goal to use it before the end of class. I of course started following Stephanie’s blog and have found it quite nice to read and learn from. I also started following the Conversational Italian blog through the @travelitalian1 twitter account. Here is my review of Facebook and the blogs I follow.

Duolingo

I have decided the reason I keep going back to Duolingo is because it is just like a game. It makes learning a little more fun. But I have also discovered that because it is like a game I often don’t focus as much as I should when I am using it preventing me from actually absorbing the material at times. I am wondering if it has become a way for me to procrastinate or kill some time yet still learn something.  I have also added the Italian keyboard to my phone to help me with spelling Italian words when using Duolingo. Check out this video on my progress and experience this past week using Duolingo.

New School Requires Old School

This whole time I have been so focused on using online tools to learn that I have assumed I would be able to learn a language without writing anything down. I know I said in an earlier post that one of my goals was to write down words that I was having trouble remembering but I never stuck to that (it seems to be a reoccurring theme for me…setting goals only to forget about them). The problem is that learning is tough, especially online independent learning. There are so many goals I could set and so many different things that I can be working on that would be helpful. The trouble is knowing which goals I should continue to work on or which methods will help me the most. I was emailed a few articles that have some tips for learning a language on your own and although I am using technology to learn online, that doesn’t mean I give up traditional ways of learning completely. For example, when trying to memorize words it is useful to write the words down on a flashcard.  It’s also important to organize your time, make it fun and stay focused.  And if all else fails guess or make up the words you are looking for. You just might surprise yourself.

I am happy to say that my scores on my reflection rubric for this week have improved since last week so I obviously feel like I am making progress.

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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.