How to proactively use a short story to speak better Italian at any level
Why using the short stories to speak better Italian
- Our brain doesn’t learn words in isolation. We need to attach a memory or a feeling to a new word or fit in a context.
- They are short: it means they are easy to use and digest. You won’t stick around the same content for months or weeks. You can read it in a week or less!
- Most available short stories have an audiobook version too.
- You can start reading even as a beginner Italian learner.
How is reading going to speed-up your learning process
Reading is one of the ways to go when it comes to acquiring vocabulary and grammar naturally. Why? When reading, you will re-see words that you have already listened to or studied, but you didn’t have a chance to use. Reading will go a long way as it will both reactivate and strengthen your passive grammar and vocabulary.
How to use a short story proactively to speak better Italian
- Read out loud: this exercise will help you to practice your pronunciation and gain confidence in using the Italian sounds.
- Read and listen to the story simultaneously if you are a beginner or intermediate learner: don’t get frustrated if you don’t get most of what is said. It is expected at your level. The purpose of listening and reading at the same time is to familiarize with the sounds and learn how to recognize them.
- Write down a few sentences to summarize each chapter. Make the sentences simple. Try to use the same words and verbs that you have encountered in the story. Using the google translator won’t take you very far; instead, it will sabotage your learning process. I always recommend that my students use WordReference to look up words you don’t know and figure out their way to put them together. When writing your sentences, you should also practice the grammar you have been studying more recently. For instance, if you are learning how to talk in the past in Italian, a great idea would be to rewrite a few sentences or a chapter in the past tense.
- Have your writing proofread by your teacher and ask her or him to prompt you about the story. Remember, use it or lose it!
- Repetition is the key. When you are done with your short story, don’t put it aside. The learning curve shows that most of the information we receive gets lost if we don’t revisit it regularly. Re-read your short stories, your flashcards, or your sentences a couple of weeks/months later.
In this post you’ll come a cross a few times the word “chunks” – if you are not familiar with it yet, you should know that learning a language by chunks will help you construct your sentences coherently and sound more natural faster than learning vocabulary in any other different way.
Chunks are high-frequency combinations of words, verbs and nouns or nouns and adjectives. As I stated at the beginning of this post – words can’t be learned efficiently in isolation. When speaking, we speak in sentences and we often use the same combinations: that’s why learning chunks or small sentences will go a long way.
Some helpful chunks for a beginner learner of Italian, pulled out from the short story “Dolomiti“
accendere la televisione – to switch on the TV
vivere in armonia con la nature – to live in harmony with nature
è vietato fumare – smoking is forbidden
Some helpful chunks for an intermediate learner of Italian, pulled out from the short story “La vicina di casa“
- godersi il panorama – to enjoy the view
- devo assolutamente occuparmi del mio gatto – I must take care of my cate
- ristrutturare una vecchio finirle – to remodel an old barn
Chunks can be learned at any level. If you are a beginner Italian learner you should consider adding to your flashcards the chunks that you need to use in your basic conversation. As an advanced learner you can consider learning chunks in the shape of idioms or flowery language.
How to use the short stories as a beginner Italian learner
- If you have access to the audiobook, don’t expect to understand the whole narration without reading the story. The best way to use audio tracks at your level is by reading and listening to the content simultaneously. Like that, you will soon familiarize yourself with the sounds of Italian and the correct pronunciation of words.
- Don’t look up every second word. And, learn words within a context (short sentences, or simple chunks). A great idea is pulling out the most relevant ones and putting them on Quizlet. Quizlet is an excellent free tool that you can use to organize and review your Italian work.
- Highlight chunks or sentences that looks interesting to you and you want to try to use in your next Italian conversation. Leave aside all the words or chunks that won’t have particle use in your Italian talks in the short span. If you don’t know what words or chunks to prioritize, ask your teacher.
- Summarize the chapters in short and coherent sentences. Each sentence should have from three two six elements.
- Readout loud.
My list of favorite short stories for beginner learners of Italian
How to use the short stories as an intermediate Italian learner
- Read first and then listen to the audiobook, if you have access to it.
- Highlight chunks of sentences that sound more natural or involve new worlds. It would be best if you used Quizlet as the main platform to gather all the new chunks (recurring or coherent combinations)
- Memory is selective, not inclusive. Don’t include everything in your flashcards or notebook. Be aware that you need to know it all at your level and that the best way to memorize and learn is to prioritize and summarize the relevant information. If you don’t know how to prioritize the information, ask your teacher.
- Write a summary of the chapters. A smart practice is to stick around to the words that you already know. Using a translator will sabotage your learning experience because it will prevent you from “producing” the language and making those mistakes vital to enhance your comprehension.
- Integrate the new chunks in your conversation or sentences.
- Talk about the story with your teacher or language partner. You can ask your teacher to prompt you on the story or lead the conversation and bring your content to the table. Don’t forget to give time to your observations or opinions!
My list of favorite short stories for beginner learners of Italian
Why using this method will help you become fluent in Italian faster
In a typical classroom setting, you are often asked direct questions. You end up talking about yourself, your stories, your events. That’s great, but it won’t transform you into a stellar speaker of Italian in a short time. Real language touches on a ton of diverse topics, and most of the time involves speaking about something else other than you.
Short stories will allow you to digest Italian content with a bunch of vocabulary that you can internalize at your level, effortlessly. Talking about something else might sound hard initially, but I guarantee this approach will stretch your Italian like never before and improve your overall conversational skills.
By learning to talk about a story or a third person or an event, you will learn how to comment on events, express opinions, describe settings and circumstances. That’s the fastest way to learn to speak Italian naturally and consciouslly , especially at a beginner or intermediate stage.
How to use QUIZLET
For organizing your new words and chunks, I recommend my students use Quizlet. Quizlet is a free platform that helps language learners make flashcards and play with them (there a few linguistic games that you can play with your flashcards).
To make the most out of your Quizlet cards, your sets of words should have a date and a limited number.
Why a date? So that you can organize your review by date. You should always make sure that you review your “old flashcards.”
Why a limited number? A flashcard of 10-15 cards is more than enough. Know the limit will help you to prioritize the chunks or words you decide to retain. Trying to memorize every new word/sentence that you like is not an efficient way to learn.
This is an example of the set of flashcards I pulled out for my students on the story for beginner learners “Le città impossibili.“
See the whole set here