Experience Report - 4 weeks into FF and on a trip to Italy

So, here I am sitting in a hotel room in Sorrento on the last day of a short break to Italy. I've only being learning Italian for 4 weeks using Fluent Forever, but I thought readers might be interested in an experience report on how I got on. As a bit of background, I didn't set out to try and learn Italian in 4 weeks or anything silly like that! I happened to stumble on Gabe's 625 word list in an attempt to learn a bit more in preparation for this trip. As I dug a bit deeper and I realised what this site was really all about I jumped right in, bought the book and started learning pronunciation before progressing to the 625 word vocabulary (30 new cards/day 20 reviews). In summary, it's been really great. Although I am nowhere near fluency (despite a stupid little irrational corner of my brain that keeps trying to tell me it should be otherwise!), I really feel I'm on the right track with FF. The biggest thing I have noticed is that learning pronunciation and spelling first pays MASSIVE DIVIDENDS. First, I can hear the individual words and sentences people say and picture them in my mind. I can't understand most of it, but it's a huge difference compared to having an unintelligible stream of consonants and vowels wash over me like it did on previous trips. I've also picked up a few simple phrases along the way which is a really great side-effect. The second big thing I have noticed about learning pronunciation and spelling first is that I can look at a word and say it confidently. Place names are pretty interesting in this regard. There is a town a few stops down the train line called Castellammare di Stabia which I would have struggled with previously but now more or less just trips off the tongue. Well, as long as I'm not speaking to an actual Italian! But, that brings me to one area I have struggled with. Actually talking to people. I'm an introvert so (translation for the extroverts coming up... :-) I'm hard wired to need think really hard about things and then want to express my conclusions clearly and concisely. Not being understood is a bit of a confidence drainer for me so using a new language is always a scary proposition that I just had to get over. It wasn't really that bad once I got started. A few funny/notable things happened. On my first day, I decided to order food at my hotel and I saw they have caprese salad on the menu. I decided to follow Gabe's advice and apply my fancy new accent so I mustered my courage and asked in my best Italian "insalata caprese, per favore". Rather than the stream of excited Italian I had hoped/feared for, the waitress solemnly said, in English, “That is tomatoes and mozzarella. OK?"! On the other hand, I thought hard and pluralised an example from my phrase book to order 2 train tickets to Sorrento from the ruins of Herculeneum yesterday (due bilgetti per Sorrento per favor - at full volume and with gusto like the locals do) and was rewarded with a tsunami of Italian that I could hardly understand. At that point I dropped into English but I was happy because I had done a good enough job to be mistaken for an Italian speaker. So, would I have done anything different in preparation for my trip? I've been thinking about this a bit and the conclusion I've drawn is that I would do it just the same. Ignoring thematic vocabulary lists makes things a bit weird but that's just because I haven't got through it all yet; and it's early days' after all. For instance, I know the number 5 but not 7, but I also know some off the wall words like cielo (sky) and piangere (to cry) that actually came up so it balances out in the end. I might have made a bit more of an effort with my phrase book but I think it would have led to more cases where I could say a sentence but have no idea what the response meant. Perhaps, if pushed, I might consider learning the present tenses of essere (to be) and andare (to go) so I could construct slightly more elaborate sentences. However, I think I would ultimately still run into the problem that it's very early days no matter which way I cut it so I'm probably best off just following the book. When I come back to Italy next year, though, it will be a very different matter indeed. I'm confident that Fluent Forever will make that possible.

* Originally posted by mowat27.

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5 comments

  • I really enjoyed reading this @mowat27, thanks for sharing. It sounds like you've made a flying start in such a short time. Perhaps you'd like to post a progress update every four weeks, I'm sure that would be very interesting and encouraging for everyone. I'm totally with you on the introversion issue. I think it takes a lot of speaking practice to get past feeling tongue tied. Best of luck going forward!

    * Originally posted by Arwuh.
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  • Hi @Arwuh

    Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

    I think the introversion/fear thing is the big challenge I want to take on. That said, Sorrento is a bad place for trying to apply your fledgling Italian though because its economy is heavily dependant on tourism (a lot of it British and American) so *everyone* speaks English.

    I had a very entertaining conversation with a taxi driver in Naples on the way to the airport this morning. His English was comparable to my Italian and we managed to confuse and enlighten exchange other in equal measures! The point is that I was forced to apply what I know so I learned a bit more vocab and form a valuable and strong personal association with those words too.

    I think I'll get onto italki a bit sooner than the book recommends (perhaps using the techniques from Gabe's post on hacking FF).

    So, yeah, I'm happy to post updates if people find it helpful. How about you, though? What are you learning? I'd be interested to hear your experiences too.

    Cheers

    Adrian




    * Originally posted by mowat27.
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  • This is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    * Originally posted by Gabriel Wyner.
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  • Hi @mowat27, I'm learning Spanish but my progress has slowed to walking pace with me not setting aside enough time to produce new flash cards. I'm wading through my grammar book but it's a tough slog. Your post has given me some much needed motivation which is why I'd be grateful for any more you've got in the coming months. Come to think of it, please Gabe can we have a success stories forum for this kind of thing?
    Thank you both.

    * Originally posted by Arwuh.
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  • Hey

    I'm glad to help. Maybe you should start using what you know so far by talking to some people online. If your into grammar then you are miles ahead of where I am and I'm sure you'll have your own success stories soon!

    I've booked my first italki session for tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Cheers

    Adrian

    * Originally posted by mowat27.
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