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Bad habits

I’ve been working for some time now, here and there, on improving my Spanish and French. Both are useful for work, as I frequently travel to Francophone countries (Lebanon, Cameroon, and of course, France and Belgium), and Spanish-speaking (Peru, Argentina, Spain). While my travel language is ok, and I can read to varying degrees in both, I’ve not made much progress on functional work abilities in either language.


Partly, this is due to interference from my first second language: Italian. But I realised this past weekend that it’s also because language has become caught up in ‘work’ and it has felt more like an obligation than a hobby. I am also lacking a sense of achievement.


So, this past weekend, Pete laid down a challenge: to get to B2 in Italian in a year.


I last formally studied Italian at university. I always had it ingrained in my mind that I did very poorly, but my transcript reveals that Italian was my second-best subject that year. I had no real reason for choosing the language in the first place. In high school, my dad suggested Japanese, which was all the rage in those days. I picked French and Italian, the latter because I liked the food. The idea of ever visiting either country seemed somewhat ridiculous when I was young, but Perth had a sizable Italian community.


Over the years, my four years of Italian study atrophied as I rarely had the opportunity to use it. However, as soon as I started working on French, and especially Spanish, words kept coming back and interfering (a common phenomenon). Try as I might, certain things are completely embedded in my brain from learning verb tables as a teenager.


The picture is of the many books I have bought over the years to learn languages other than Italian. I also flirted with Japanese for a while. I’m very good at buying books, I’m less good at actually using them.


So, I’m going to work on Italian, and work on it properly. Emphasize speaking and writing, and pick up a conversation class when I’ve covered the basics again. Decide which exam to take, and when. Italian has limited utility in my work life, and THAT’S OK. Not everything has to be for work. It’s ok to have hobbies and to do things just for fun. Yes, I actually need to be reminded of this.


Of course, the hope is that once I am on my feet with Italian again, I can begin again with Spanish more confidently.


The reward if I get to B2? A week on the Cinque Terre. That could be just the right motivator. It will be hard work, and not made easier by all the trips I have coming up (I’ll be on the road on and off for the next few months) but I’m going to give it a good effort. And that’s enough.

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Taken on April 11, 2012