Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Jennifer Studies Italian These Days...

In preparation for my trip to Italy, I have been studying Italian in my free time. I have been studying for about 7 months now, and I have a number of ways that I practice the language.

RAI Television
I have a subscription to RAI television and I keep the television on a lot more than I used to. It’s true that I don’t understand everything, but exposure to sounds and authentic language is absolutely necessary when studying a foreign language. I, especially, do not respond well to studying only from a book. My dad, on the other hand, can sit and read an Italian grammar book without feeling the need to hear the words pronounced by someone else. We just have different learning styles. I admit, I should sit down and look at my book more than I do, but I have used the television before for language studies, and it never fails me. I must also put a plug in for all the exposure I get to current events and Italian culture.

Italian Music

Several months ago, I picked up a CD at a second-hand music store. I listened to the CD before I purchased it to make sure I would tolerate the sound, and it passed the test. Some might prefer opera, but I opted for pop music. I listen to my CD primarily in the car when driving, but I also try to sit down at home and read the lyrics as I listen. And yes, I confess, I sing along too. The exercise wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t actually practice pronunciation!

Second Life

Some call me the futuristic girl, others think I have lost my marbles. For anyone who is immersed in virtual worlds like Second Life, you know that I am a hip, cool, non conventional language student! And so is my instructor, Anna Begonia.

What is an Italian lesson in Second Life like? Well, for starters, you need to register with Second Life and create an avatar. From there, you enter the orientation island where you learn to walk, fly, and dress your avatar. Eventually, you stumble upon people like yourself who use Second Life for language studies.

I was in Second Life for at least 1 year before I discovered Anna Begonia. She has a virtual Italian meeting called 'Italianiamo' every Monday at 5:30pm EST, and there are between 4-6 students who gather to practice speaking Italian. The students are located in all parts of the world. Most of them are in Europe, and then there is Paloma Mabellon (that’s me…) who is in the United States. Oh, did I mention our avatars have names?

I must admit, whenever I am in my Italian class, I get a rush of energy. I think it is the coolest thing that I can be gathered with a group of people I have never met in person, and we are practicing the language through simulations and games.

You probably notice the picture in this post. I took a picture of my class this week when we visited a simulation of ancient Rome. We even got to dress up in togas! Other weeks have included a visit to Puglia, an art exhibit on Futurismo, and the cinema to watch a short film in Italian.

I could go on for hours about how much I look forward to this weekly meeting. If you ever want to join me, just contact me and I will introduce you to my wonderful instructor, Anna Begonia.

Il Circolo Italiano
I have a friend who is an Italian instructor at Springfield Technical Community College. She has organized a monthly conversation group that meets the first Saturday of the month at the Italian American Cultural Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. When I can, I drive up to Springfield to participate.

Meet Up Group in Connecticut
Are you familiar with MeetUp? It’s a way for you to meet people who have similar interests. I went to the website and did a search for an Italian conversation group in Connecticut, and I found one! I have only been able to attend one event, but it’s another option for me when I can’t make it up to Springfield on Saturday mornings.

CDS & Books

Yes, I do have the more traditional resources for studying the language as well. I have not invested in Rosetta Stone, which I hear is quite good, but I picked up a few different CD book programs at Barnes & Noble and I have synched my mp-3 player with the CD content.

How do you like to study a foreign language? Clearly, immersion is the most ideal scenario, but not all of us can afford to just jump on a plane and spend time abroad. What works best for you when immersion isn’t possible? Tell us about it here!


  1. Wow! I'm impressed! That is so cool Jennifer. I love all the different methods of learning, particularly the Second Life stuff. I need to go back one of these days..

  2. Fun! These are such great ideas for when "immersion" isn't a possibility. I'm with Catherama ... very impressive!

    Cherrye at http://my-bellavita.com


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