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When we’re learning a new language, especially on our own, it can often feel like we’re in a bubble.
We’re memorizing vocab, attempting to absorb grammar concepts and speaking out loud to ourselves.
All of the above are necessary components of learning a foreign language, but they’re missing something.
What is this elusive, mysterious “something”?
It’s something that unless you seek it out, you’ll rarely receive it.
Many of us have had the experience of being in school with professors.
They give us feedback, right?
But we’re missing one-on-one interaction.
The interactions that come with private tutors, Italian friends who are willing to correct us, and environments that push us to our limits with a loving hand.
I would love for The Iceberg Project to be one of those boundary pushing, frustrating but lovable, and completely honest environments for you.
If I had a portable platform and a loudspeaker, I would be one of those people running around in parks yelling “We need a foreign language feedback revolution!”
Not the smoothest of titles for a revolution…but I’m working on it.
After I ran the 7-Week Italian Prepositions Challenge, I noticed this the most.
Many people hadn’t been receiving feedback prior to the challenge, and every single one of us needs it.
As promised, the participants discovered that from taking the challenge they learned far more than just prepositions.
This happened as a result of feedback.
Not only did they learn their strengths, but they also learned where they needed to improve, which tended to be the areas of:
— Sentence structure
— Choosing the right verb in the right context
— Choosing the right vocab word in the right context
— Verb tense, subject, and adjective agreement
The first three I talked about in my article on 9 reasons you’re making mistakes with prepositions.
With each set of corrections on their stories, conversations and sentences from the daily lessons, the participants grew.
Yes, they definitely grew in how much they knew about Italian, but above all and most importantly, they grew in how they thought about Italian.
Their interactions with Italian became more intimate as an appreciation for the nuances and the exceptions unfolded.
Within each realization and frustration they experienced, space opened for more growth.
This is how language learning works.
You learn. You try. You’re wrong. You learn. You keep going.
While this article series on Italian verbs will share the nuances in the language, the real goal is to make sure you know that feedback is a valuable step you need to take in the language learning process if you’re not already taking it.
Without feedback, you’ll continue to dabble.
You’ll keep to your comfortable handful of phrases and basket of vocabulary words.
You won’t fully experience what the language has to offer.
Don’t let that happen.
Choose to challenge yourself instead.
These examples come from actual participants from the last challenge. They’ll remain unnamed.
The editors who made these changes can be found on the Meet the Team page in the event that you want to see their pretty faces.
Should You Be Using Potere or Riuscire?
WordReference defines these two words as:
— Potere – can, be able to, have the power,
— Riuscire – succeed, be successful, be good at
Herein lies the problem because native English speakers would say:
I can’t understand your accent.
They wouldn’t say I am not succeeding at understanding your accent.
The latter sounds archaic to us.
But the latter is also how a native Italian speaker might say that sentence.
Below you’ll find five cases within various situations for when to use “riuscire” vs. “potere”.
Take some time to read them and see if you can discern the difference of when to use which.
— Before: Non posso indovinare il tuo accento, di dove sei?
— After: Non posso riesco ad indovinare il tuo accento, di dove sei?
— Before: I cannot guess your accent, where are you from?
— After: I am not succeeding at guessing your accent, where are you from?
— Before:A casa, non riesco a fare surf!
— After:A casa, Dove vivo io, non si può riesco a fare surf!
— Before: At home, I am succeeding to do surfing!
— After: Where I live, one cannot do surfing!
— Before: Non posso immaginare di un mondo che vive in pace.
— After: Non posso riesco ad immaginare di un mondo che viva in pace.
— Before: I cannot imagine of a world that lives in peace.
— After: I am not succeeding at imagining a world that lives in peace.
— Before: Nessuno riusciva ad aiutarmi fare la scelta.
— After: Nessuno poteva riusciva ad aiutarmi fare la scelta a scegliere.
— Before: Nobody succeeded at helping me make the choice.
— After: Nobody could help me to choose.
— Before: Sono riuscito in amore.
— After: Sono riuscito Ho avuto successo/fortuna in amore.
— Before: I succeeded in love.
— After: I had success/luck in love.
In general, “riuscire” is meant to be used in situations where you have control.
In the first example, nothing is holding you back from understanding the accent except your own ability.
“Potere” on the other hand is more often used with situations where you don’t have control.
This is shown in the second example where the nature of the environment prevents a person from surfing.
However, like most things in Italian grammar, there’s no real rule for this.
Let’s take these two examples.
1.) Non riesco ad aiutarti.
This means that I’m not able to help you because I don’t have the ability to help or I have some external problems that are preventing me from helping.
I’m not 100% certain that I’ll be able to help you.
2.) Non posso aiutarti.
This means that I am 100% sure that I cannot help you.
In the next article on nuances in verbs, we’ll look at fare, andare, and uscire!
Questions? Comments? Drop ’em in the comments below.