Books for beginners.

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Philip
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Books for beginners.

Post by Philip » Mon Dec 31, 2007 6:26 am

I have acquired a small library of books in an effort to teach myself Italian. Here are the books that I have found to be the most useful for myself as a beginner of 18 months self learning.

"Big Green Book of Italian Verbs" Bigger and heavier than all the rest.

"Easy Italian Reader" One can actually read this in bed, and begin to take pleasure in reading italian text without getting frustrated.

"Oxford Beginner Italian Dictionary" Not the best reference book, but good for a beginner, with lots of explanations and examples.

"Lonely Planet Phrasebook" Pocket size and concise. The only phrasebook that deals with the real world, not merely nicey nice tourist situations like "Posso ricevere un fax qui?" e.g. it has "Vaffanculo! " Which is useful to get a bit of breathing space around the Trevi Fountain.

The rest of 'em baint much cop.

Ci vediamo. Phil

Roby
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Post by Roby » Mon Dec 31, 2007 1:36 pm

Philip,

Take a look at this link for more helpful resources

http://impariamo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=44&start=0
Roby
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld

dmj120
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Post by dmj120 » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:50 pm

This book, Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Verb Tenses , was recommended to me http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0071451382

This workbook might be useful.
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Philip
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Post by Philip » Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:40 am

There appear to be a number of queries on this site regarding how to learn Italian. Try this book, or purchase this CD or join a class they are advised. I've been there done that. I've been learning Italian for 18 months now, sometimes I've hit rock bottom, and gone weeks without studying, because it's all too hard. Sometimes, I'm on a bit of a high because I feel that I'm getting somewhere at last, but not often does that happen.

Last year I took a trip to Italy and none of my hard work learning Italian seemed to be of any use. I joined the wrong queue, got lost, I had to point at what I wanted to eat, and I could not even use public transport. My confidence was low, but on the plus side, I lost a few kilos.

I am a high school teacher, I'm interested in how one learns new things because it's my job. I know the theory. Studied it, put it into practice, and most times it works. But none of my knowlege has assisted me one bit when I attempt to learn a new language.

Language skills are in a class of their own. According to the theorists we are hard wired to easily aquire language skills in early childhood. Most children are able to become proficient in speaking multi-languages up to about seven or eight years old, then this ability ceases to exist. I don't know why, and neither does anyone else.

Once one is above a certain age, learning a new language is hard yakka. One has to do it the hard way. Somehow we have to make new pathways in the brain to learn conjucations on reflexive verbs, translate this into what one already knows, and recognise "false friends" at 60 words a minute, recognise the rules of capitaisation and ownership,
I can't.

Well stuff that into the wrong end of a ragman's trumpet I say. There has to be a better way. Because knowing the second congucation of an intransitive verb might be good in the classroom or for when sitting for an exam, but it's bloody useless when one is stood transfixed with fear upon boarding a bus in the centre of Rome. Yeah, got your attention?

I truly believe that to learn a new language, useable, not to pass exams, but useable, one has to start from the ground up.

Jeez I was heading somewhere, but I just had a phone call from my step son that I have not seen for a few years. He is coming round in 15 mins.
He needs something, otherwise he would not have called. I dunnow what to say to him, last time we saw each other we were not on the best of terms, i think I'll give him a big hug, italian style, and see how he reacts.

Anyway I recommend Michel Thomas, That's what I was gonna say.

Ci Vidiamo Phil.

Massimo
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Post by Massimo » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:01 pm

Philip, I do understand what you mean. I have been teaching Italian to foreign students for some time now, and I know what they go through, which is exactly what you are experiencing.

All I can say is that adult learning (especially with foreign languages) needs a loooooot of motivation and support, which is what I try to give my students and which is what every good teacher should do.

And in case of self-study, things get harder, because no matter how good the course one is taking is , the "lack of that human presence" (believe it or not, we all need it!) stops students somewhere at one time or the other, and if the student is not motivated this can bring to a complete halt, and it does when the student meets with the first difficulty.

I would suggest you give yourself goals, like, for example, "I'm going to Italy next Summer, what do I need to say and understand when I'm there?" and study the things you will actually need on your trip. The grammar, and all the other blah blah blah will come naturally.

Or "I want to watch Benigni's La vita è bella in its original version by the end of next Spring", and concentrate on the spoken language. Can you imagine the sheer joy you will experience if by the time you think you can manage, you'll watch that movie and understand 70% of what is being said? In short, you have passed your own exam!

Now I don't want this forum to think I'm advertising myself, but as far as the human touch is concerned, Languamedia is an example. Self study but with an actual teacher, motivating the student and supporting him in time of need. One of the members of this forum, Davide, can vouch what I'm saying, as he is the typical example of a very, very motivated student who's willing to go through all the difficulties self study can bring with the help of a teacher.

Hope my post can be of help to you Philip, and by the way, good luck with your step son, those are the important things in life after all. Let us know! :D
Massimo

Want to learn or practice and improve your Italian? Visit : http://www.learnitalian.at.vu

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keithatengagedthinking
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Post by keithatengagedthinking » Fri Jan 11, 2008 3:04 pm

I agree with Massimo. As much fun as self study can be, I think that it is important to work with others. If taking a class is not possible, you can always work one on one with a teacher. In my case, I've always studied independently with a teacher because I've always been too busy professionally to take time out for a class. I have to say that working with a teacher along with my self study has been a tremendous help, especially when it comes to speaking and understanding the language.

As one often sees, the way people talk in the tapes, books and CD's is not usually how people speak in real life and can give a false perception of one's expectations when they finally go to Italy. I remember my first time in Italy and how totally unprepared I was. But with time and practice, it got better each time.

It took me two years before I could even understand what people were saying, even basic phrases. I got frustrated a lot since I don't like being slow in things, but over time I became more patient. I think that if you just keep at it, things will slowly come together for you.

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Devee
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Post by Devee » Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:42 pm

This information was a nice read. I'm glad I'm not the only one that has troubles :) I've been attempting to learn Italian for a while now and seem to just get frustrated and give up. One on One training is really expensive so that is out of the question (at least for now). I have a few "learning Italian" books that I have been reading once again. They seem to be good for identifying things and for extremely simple conversation. I also have some Italian speaking films which I will start watching again. I have some extended family in Italy and would love to be able to talk to them some day :)

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Davide
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Post by Davide » Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:24 am

Hi Philip.....no, learning a foreign language ISN'T easy but I think adults are far too hard on themselves in thinking that they're going to be able to speak/understand easily after a few year's of study. I also think that we place FAR too much importance on trying to get everything absolutely perfect before we dare open our mouths.....the important thing is did you communicate what you meant to communicate? If you did, then getting the odd agreement or verb wrong isn't important.....you just learn from mistakes and try to do better the next time.
One of the little tricks I use is to do what's called 'inner chuntering' - I hold conversations with myself, either describing what I'm doing at that moment or just something imaginary.

If the course you're following has CDs with dialogues that you have to take part in, do them over and over (and over) again until they become totally automatic and fixed in your head.

You said that sometimes you feel that you're learning and then at others that you're getting nowhere...again this is quite normal as with any new skill....you just have to keep going until you get over that plateau....and do the same when you reach the next plateau.
I think this is where having a teacher is a real boon because they can motivate through the times when you feel as though you're not getting anywhere.

I have regular Skype conversations with Massimo as part of my Languamedia lessons. Now, I'm currently at upper intermediate level and I can tell you, I STILL make stupid mistakes when I'm talking, but I've stopped letting it worry me because I've learned that it's one thing to follow a course in a book and respond to stock situations with stock responses (nothing wrong with that , it's part of learning) but it's a completely different thing to have a live conversation with a native speaker in a situation where you literally have to 'speak on your feet'. It takes time and LOTS of practice.


Goodness I hope this hasn't come across as a lecture - I just wanted to reassure you that nothing you're experiencing is at all unusual.....take your time and above all have FUN learning the language.


Davide :D

Philip
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Post by Philip » Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:00 am

Grazie a tutti, there is plenty of support from everyone on this site which gives me the motivation to keep on going, thanks everyone for your comments.

Ci vediamo, Phil.

ericspinelli
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Post by ericspinelli » Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:15 pm

Philip wrote:Language skills are in a class of their own. According to the theorists we are hard wired to easily aquire language skills in early childhood. Most children are able to become proficient in speaking multi-languages up to about seven or eight years old, then this ability ceases to exist. I don't know why, and neither does anyone else.

Once one is above a certain age, learning a new language is hard yakka. One has to do it the hard way.
If you read enough material on language acquisition you will find that the theory of "critical age" is controversial to say the least. An interesting, non-academic paper I read recently that refers to this is available here: When do people learn languages?.
Philip wrote:Somehow we have to make new pathways in the brain to learn conjucations on reflexive verbs, translate this into what one already knows, and recognise "false friends" at 60 words a minute, recognise the rules of capitaisation and ownership,
I can't.
You can't translate at 60 words per minute? Neither can most people. That's why most bilingual people are not professional simultaneous interpretors, nor are most of them even efficient consecutive interpretors.

For the purpose of this post, I would like to separate the translating done as a skill by professionals and the translating done by language learners as describe by Philip. From here on, I will be using the word "translate" and its derivatives to refer solely to the latter.

Stop translating! Don't do it. Translation of a foreign language is language acquisition death. Why? It is not a scalable process. You will reach a bottleneck -- be it speed, nuance, or otherwise -- at which point comprehension declines or stops. Don't translate!

I hope you can take that somewhat tongue in cheek, because it ignores and discards the greatest advantage of adult learning (experience!), but it is not a sustainable routine. Translation works best at lower levels and impedes the most at higher ones. Along the way some ideas can be most easily obtained through translation but this should be an easily discarded tool. Scaffolding has no purpose other than to help us construct the building. Once the roof is in place, it would be foolish not to tear the scaffolding down.
Philip wrote:Because knowing the second congucation of an intransitive verb might be good in the classroom or for when sitting for an exam, but it's bloody useless when one is stood transfixed with fear upon boarding a bus in the centre of Rome.
Right you are, sir. Learning a language and learning about a language are not the same. Neither are study and practice. Japan is a fantastic example of this, with likely over 100 million people with up to 8 years compulsory English tuition who cannot function in English.

For anybody interested in learning about foreign languages and foreign language acquisition, I recommend: the articles on Language Impact (Greg Thomson is good) and English-Learning and Languages Review (this has some Italian specific content, and I recommend the articles by Amorey Gethin and Erik V. Gunnemark).
Davide wrote:Hi Philip.....no, learning a foreign language ISN'T easy but I think adults are far too hard on themselves in thinking that they're going to be able to speak/understand easily after a few year's of study.
This is true to some extent, though I believe the time limits can change drastically depending on what situations you are put into. This includes location, availability (which can mean everything from number of sources, to willingness of sources, to rate of bilingualism in the target language community), and even the language itself (things like morphological complexity).

Personally, as a language teacher and a language learner, I'm doing a little research. I'm studying Italian in Japan. Let's see how the benefits being a native English speaker with 4 years of Latin study will compare to the severe lack of any Italian speaking community save the internet. I'll let you know in a year!

-Eric

Edit: Copied when I should have cut.

Philip
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Post by Philip » Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:32 am

Eric I found what you had to say very interesting, and thought provoking.
I read When do people learn languages with great interest.
The writer has challenged one of the myths of learning theory, namely that up to a certain age children are "hard wired" to learn language, including learning a second language.
This is a theory that was stated as fact when I trained to be a teacher at a mature age, only a dozen years ago. I was critical of this theory, as I reconed that young children had a greater motivation and more time to learn the language than adults have. I quickly learned that I gained better grades at University if were less critical of the content. So, I learned to shutup and listn to the lecurers, who had based their careers on outdated theories.

When I began teaching I found that all the therory that I had been taught was bloody useless in the classroom. Since the I have been very interested in learnng theory. I have the opportunity to change my teaching methods very quickly and experiment in the classroom.
I have come up with no rule which guarantees success every time.
Somedays, everything clicks into place, somedays are frustrating.
I could go on and on because this is a topic very dear to me.

What I am actually doing right now is avoiding my self imposed lesson in Italian. I try to spend on hour a day learning Italian, and my psyche finds it hard work and will come up with a dozen things I need to do before my head is in the right space to do some study.

I have taught subjects in which I have had no prevous knowledge, and I have found that for me, learning stuff is an enjoyable experience, and I walk into the classroom with my newfound enthusasim, and an angle on how to present the stuff to my new students, and it has been a good time for us all.

I taught myself Electronics, and can happily explain the functioning of a Shmitt Trigger where four things are happening at once and they all influence each other. It took me many hours to undrstand this, but I can now put it into a package and deliver it to a room of disinterested youths.
I taught mysef to read music, I can teach music theory effectively because I know how to deliver the content and I know the stumbling blocks.
I taught myself how to make furniture, dovetailed drawers, even carving linenfold pannelling, you shoud see the pride that my students take in their work.
I taught myself to appreciate poetry because I had a remedial class in English. I remember reading aloud "Stop the Clocks" by WH Auden.
and you could have heared a pin drop in the class becuse the tears were running down my cheeks as I read.

I have found a few learning tricks to get to get me and my students out of every difficuly. One of my favourite tricks is to remember the saying, "When at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
And I say to the kids that this is a load of rubbish. I tell them "When at first you don't succeed , give up! Give up what you are doing. Sit down and have a think, see if you can find a better way."

But I can not find away out of my bind at the moment in learning Italian.

But I'm not giving up. I'm sitting down and having a think.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I nearly deleted this message, but on second thoughts, I'm going to let it stand because maybe some other beginners will read it. Maybe they feel that they are in a similar situation.
I've hit a brick wall. It's not lack of motivation or lack of resources or lack of encouragement. A brick wall, No one else can help me here, I'm just going to have to work it out on my own. There must be a better way.......

I'm off to band practice in an hour. I play Pauke in a Guggenmusik band, one of the only three outside Switzerland. They are all bi-lingual with Swiss-German as a first language, exept for Maumi who is Japanese and who speaks English, Japanese, and Czeck. Practice is in English except when our leader gets upset. THey all learned English as a second language, I'm gonna ask the how they did it.

Maybe I'll find another way...........

Ci vediamo, Phil

dmj120
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Post by dmj120 » Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:20 am

I just picked up "Pocket Idiot's Guide, Italian Phrases" annnnd LOVE it. The best part is the pro-nun-cee-a-shun colum.

Excellent for beginners!!

found on amazon: http://www.buy.com/prod/pocket-idiot-s- ... 57601.html
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pinkdiamond4me
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Post by pinkdiamond4me » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:18 pm

Buon giorno!

I would like to know from our advanced and native speaking Italians on this forum if anyone has heard of the following website:

http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr

I use it a lot and it seems very helpful to me, but I am wondering how accurate it is. I do know that there are some words that do not translate correctly, but I am wondering if it is "mostly accurate." :)

Grazie mille!

Kellee Z

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Peter
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Post by Peter » Mon Feb 18, 2008 6:15 pm

Kellee Z wrote:Buon giorno!

I would like to know from our advanced and native speaking Italians on this forum if anyone has heard of the following website:

http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr

I use it a lot and it seems very helpful to me, but I am wondering how accurate it is. I do know that there are some words that do not translate correctly, but I am wondering if it is "mostly accurate." :)

Grazie mille!

Kellee Z
Ciao Kellee

I would not put too much faith in online translators; you can (and I have done!!) end up with a lot of pure gibberish. Dictionary.com is a little better than babelfish, but I shy away from them. :P

However, I do speak as someone with a bit of experience and so feel more comfortable now just going for it!! And I am not sure that such things were available when I first started learning Italian. :) :)

Anyway, we are all different in how we approach learning anything, so if you feel it helps you (even only to a degree) then I would not try to stop you. So long as you are aware of their limitations. :) :)

Roby
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Post by Roby » Mon Feb 18, 2008 6:16 pm

Kellee Z wrote:Buon giorno!

I would like to know from our advanced and native speaking Italians on this forum if anyone has heard of the following website:

http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr

I use it a lot and it seems very helpful to me, but I am wondering how accurate it is. I do know that there are some words that do not translate correctly, but I am wondering if it is "mostly accurate." :)

Grazie mille!

Kellee Z
Kellee,

Babefish is not a very reliable translation site. There are other sites that are more helpful. In the Free Lessons section, you will find a post on Grammar and Vocabulary websites. Check this post out.

If you need anything translated, don't hesitate to post your English document for translation here. Everyone here is very helpful.
The only thing is that we ask you to take an attempt at writing it in Italian. Be sure to post in English what you are trying to say as well.
Roby
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld

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