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No, that isn’t a spinoff title for a Denise Austin exercise video.
Okay, well sort of.
But the point is that many of us like to procrastinate and not study Italian until we realize that we have three weeks until we leave for our trip to Italy.
(Cough. I run a website for Italian. There’s no way I could have procrastinated. Cough.)
If that’s you, here are 9 ideas for how to get your Italian back into shape before you step foot onto the land of pasta.
9 Ideas for Whipping Your Italian Back into Shape
1.) Be 100% honest with yourself – While it may be tempting to fall into daydream land where you magically reach a conversational level in three weeks if you’re currently a beginner, it’s not very useful when you land in Italy and are kicking yourself for not being ambitious enough, or studious enough, or whatever enough.
Instead of falling down that rabbit hole, here’s what you can do:
— Look at your upcoming schedule for the next three weeks and see how much time you have to study Italian. If you do the math and find out that it’s an hour a day, take it down just a notch to 40 minutes a day. You want it to be realistic and achievable right from the start.
— Write down a few topics that you really want to be able to talk about. That could be making small talk about weather, ordering food in a restaurant or shopping for clothes. Choose three – one for each week – and know that learning how to express yourself in those situations is the priority. At this point, learning grammar needs to be your support system and NOT your entire goal. Communication first, grammar second.
If you’re using a program like Michel Thomas or Rocket Italian, finishing a handful of those modules might be your top priority.
2.) Get yourself an audio program that you’ll stick to. – Now this doesn’t mean that you have to pay for a program. This could just mean that you compile some podcast episodes in Italian or that you do some of the free trials for News in Slow Italian or ItalianPod101.
My personal favorite is making a list of podcast episodes that I want to hear from the show Al Dente on Podclub.ch.
Tip: I wouldn’t make songs your main source of audio for this specific time period. The lyrics in songs tend to be more abstract and poetic, so it isn’t necessarily useful for everyday conversation. Obviously, it’s fun, so pepper them in where you can.
3.) Doubletask! – Doubletasking means that you listen to an audio lesson while ironing, and it’s different from multitasking because the resources you need to accomplish a task aren’t being competed for. For example, listening to audio lessons while working is a big DON’T because work and Italian are competing for the same mental resources.
4.) Find a friend who can hold you accountable. – If you’re lucky enough to have a friend who is interested in Italian or learning some other language, you can ask her to keep you accountable for the next three weeks. Give her your milestones and tell her to check in with you every Friday. This way you know that you have someone to answer to and you’re less likely to flake.
5.) Schedule in a few tutoring sessions. – You won’t have time to go through an entire textbook, but you can tell your tutor that you want to focus on your priority speaking topics. Then you’ll be able to practice these situations with a native speaker before you have to do them in person. This will lower your anxiety and give you confidence going into the store to buy that dress or ordering tiramisù.
6.) Gift yourself an Italian travel workbook. – You can add some variety to your studying by doing a few exercises a day from this workbook. Consistent practice makes much more of an impact than a binge study-session on the plane.
For intermediate & advanced learners
7.) Read that book you got in Italy NOW. – Confession. I have a problem. I will buy twenty books while I’m in Italy just in case and proudly display them on my bookshelf while they collect dust. I’m going to make a concerted effort to get through just one of those books (& not buy anymore this year), and I encourage you to do the same.
8.) Set up a chat with a few of your Italian friends on Skype. – Get back into the groove of the language before you’re thrown back into the language.
9.) Identify a piece of the language you’re struggling with and take care of it. – You know if you need help in some areas of the language. They’re usually the things that stop you when you’re trying to speak, like pronouns, prepositions or complex verb tenses.
If you know what your problem areas are, do what you can to address them now.
— You can take the 10-Day Italian Pronouns Challenge.
— You can find online exercises for the congiuntivo.
— You can take the 7-Week Italian Prepositions Challenge.
— You can practice that specific area with your tutor.
There is no end to the options you have available to you to keep improving Italian.