… there is general consensus that 5,000 base words is a minimal requirement, while for non-specialised, academic reading a considerably larger vocabulary is needed. It is therefore necessary that a large number of words be learned in a short period of time at the intermediate and advanced stages of language acquisition.
So, how do you learn so many words?
My teachers at InClasse recommend reading, listening and viewing as we need to ‘interact’ with a word between 5 and 16 times in order to retain it. I decided to give up reading English language books for a year and focus on Italian books and newspapers (you remember my goal is to be fluent).
I’ve read a number of Italian books now and actually enjoy it even thoughI don’t know all the words.I started with dual language books but found that I was constantly looking at the English translation. I’ve graduated to novels now, some by Italian authors and some translated from English. I’ll talk about some of the books I’ve read another time but there is a secret to reading in Italian.
The secret is not to interrupt your reading flow. So, do not look up words as you’re reading, just try and get the sense of the text and leave the dictionary ’til the end of the chapter.
I love Italian movies too; some of my favourites are Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all’Italiana) with Sophia Loren; Bread and Tulips (Pane e Tulipani) starring Licia Maglietta as well as the famous Federico Fellini satire, La Dolce Vita with Marcello Mastroianni. Did you know that the pejorative term paparazzi originated from this film? Mastroianni, the journalist hero had a side-kick, a photographer named Paparazzo. At home, I prefer to watch movies with the Italian subtitles, not english. This helps with my comprehension, especially if the characters speak too quickly or are difficult to understand.
Listening to the Italian news on the radio or watching on TV is the most difficult for me as newsreaders seem to speak really quickly, and if you’ve ever listened to the weather forecast (previsioni del tempo) and you can understand it, hats off to you! I’ve been told to keep listening as it becomes easier to understand.
Visiting Italy, eating the food, admiring the magnificent art and enjoying the culture is all the richer if you are able to speak the language. So if like me, you are learning Italian, trying to wade through the language without hitting a snag, or worse, getting bogged, take a different tack. Try some Italian television – reality shows are entertaining and the language is repetitive which is good for expanding your vocabulary and comprehension. Watch an Italian movie without the English subtitles or read some Italian cartoons (fumetti).
I think the main thing is to keep at it. I’ll see you on the other side of the swamp.
Auguri sinceri …Isabella