I’m sure I’m not the only one who says they are rubbish at languages, well at least here in the UK, having tried to learn French in school, Italian at university and Spanish for fun (and to make holidays easier). None have been easy and none have stuck. Still, I keep trying, feeling like a bit of a failure if I don’t- and that’s especially the case with Italian.
Why Italian? Because I did it for nearly four years at college at honours level and whilst, even all these years later, I can understand the spoken and written word (with a bit of time and concentration) but I can’t string a sentence together without a lot of effort – by which point the person I am trying to speak to has lost the will to live and gone off for a beer.
Late last year, I tried again, taking a short, six week, course. And, once again, I left stumbling over my phrasing. So, when I saw the chance to try Paul Noble’s Unlocking Italian guide I jumped at the chance – determined that, one day, I will be a failure no more. After a few weeks of working my way through it, I’m still not fluent, but I do have to say I feel more confident than I have in a long time of being able to say more than a few words without choking.
The aim of Unlocking Italian is to help people who are travelling to Italy speak to the people who live there without resorting to a phrasebook and butchering the language as you do. As Paul says in the introduction, the phrasebook is most people’s go to and they don’t work because they provide limited options for what to say and don’t provide you with the building blocks to say what you want to.
It’s the saying what I want to say that always gets me. I become paralysed by getting the correct words in the correct order and with the correct inflection. I worry about whether something is masculine or feminine, singular or plural and my brain has to go through all of that before I can get anything out of my mouth. With this, I just had the opportunity to say things and it felt refreshing.
Unlocking Italian has two parts – the first is two audio CDs (which I moved over to my ipad so I could listen on the go). Paul introduces the process and then talks you through how to structure sentences and phrases in short (3 / 4 minute) sections, helped by a native speaker so you can hear how the words should sound. He starts with three ground rules:
- Take your time
- Don’t make any effort to remember
- Don’t worry if you make mistakes
They are all very reassuring for an overachiever like me who would otherwise have had pen and paper out. Instead, I let myself go with the flow and started to enjoy myself.
Once you’ve gone through the audio you move onto the book, which builds on what you’ve learnt and allows you to see what you have been saying written down. It’s more in-depth and really helpful. I am glad you don’t look at the book as you go though or work through it first as otherwise I think I’d have felt overwhelmed as usual.
The big thing, of course, will be whether any of this sticks and I don’t know the answer to that. I hope it does but if it doesn’t (or doesn’t all) then I know I can pick it up again, and probably will before I head off to Italy – which we hope to do this summer – or start another Italian class.
Overall then, for those wanting to kick-start their learning or just feel more confident on holiday, this is a really good starting point. It’s easy to follow, easy to listen to, and easy to do – taking up very little time in the grand scheme of things. For me, it was fun and I would recommend it to anyone out there itching to say more than Ciao!
Note: I won a copy of this from the publisher. It was not provided in return for a review but I have chosen to write one. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.
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