In anticipation of a 2-week Italian vacation, I took on a “zero to conversational” Italian challenge. I spent 6 weeks learning and practicing new words, patterns, and grammatical rules, something that took a tremendous amount of patience and mental energy. Learning a new language is a wonderful way to improve focus, tune out distractions, and get your brain working in ways that it’s not used to.
Dedicate 30 minutes per day to learning a foreign language.
Start with an app. There are dozens of language-learning resources (local language-learning groups), programs (Rosetta Stone), and even apps (Duolingo) to choose from.
*Speak, speak, speak. The best way to learn a foreign language is to speak as much as possible, even if what you say makes little sense and feels silly. You will feel uncomfortable. I practiced Italian with my hairdresser. He taught me a few swear words. I practiced with a friend who speaks fluent Italian. I even filmed myself saying certain phrases, just to force myself to speak out loud. Finally, I set up several Skype conversations with a native Italian who wanted to practice English. I’d spend the first 30 minutes speaking Italian, and then we’d switch to English.
*Children’s books, videos, and songs are especially helpful. Watching nursery rhymes, counting, and alphabet videos on YouTube helped me familiarize myself with sounds, tones, letters, and basic vocabulary.
*Take lessons. I hired a virtual Italian teacher on Italki.com, who, every week, taught me basic grammatical rules, phrases, and vocabulary.
-Prepare cheat sheets:
- Memorize useful irregular verbs such as “to be,” “to want,” “to have,” and “to be able to.” These verbs are used all the time, and practicing their conjugations opens up a vast array of options.
- Learning the six W’s (and how). Learning how to say who (chi), what (cosa), where (dove), when (quando), why (perche), how (come), and which (quale) come in handy quite often.
- Memorize common words and phrases that you know you will use frequently.
- WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW OFTEN – list the details of the challenge on the Accountability Tracker.
2. DOCUMENT IT ON THE CHALLENGE CALENDAR:
3. THE REWARD – don’t forget to document your reward on the accountability tracker! How will you reward yourself? Do you respond better to milestone rewards or are you holding out for the big daddy upon completion? What will it be? What motivates you?
4. KEEP TRUDGING FORWARD – don’t give up. If you fall off the wagon, keep moving forward! Ask for help. That’s what family and friends are for!
5. REFLECTION – reflect on the challenge – what went well, and what could be better. Learn from this and use this to improve on yourself and your future challenges!
What’s your Challenge? Get started today!