It's mid-year, and even though I have only completed 5 months with Italian (I started this blog in February), is seems appropriate to consider this my half-way point.
Yesterday, I gave a general assessment of how I'm feeling about my progress so far. Today, I'm going to look at my status in relation to my stated goals for the year.
When I started my Italian project this year, I defined what it meant to be fluent, and I also laid out a number of goals regarding things I expect to be able to do once this year is over. Let's see how things look en route to meeting those expectations.
My definition of fluency
First, let's see how I'm doing in relation to my definition of fluency:
- I said that a fluent speaker should be able to chain words together casually. At present, I still tend to spend a lot of time thinking out what I'm going to say, but I'm finding that with simpler sentences and ideas, I am beginning to feel that casual, comfortable manner of phrase-construction start to take place. I'm certainly not there yet, but I think I'm on schedule.
- I said that a fluent speaker should be able to understand a casual conversation and participate without breaking the momentum. Presently, I find I can understand pretty well at a normal pace, but I would destroy any momentum if I tried to participate. There's plenty of time, but this needs attention.
- I said that a fluent speaker should be grammatically correct, within reason. I basically just finished my in-depth grammar analysis a few weeks ago, so now I just need to spend a lot of time practicing the things I've been learning.
- Finally, I said that a fluent speaker should not be tripped up by slang. So far, I don't think I've learned any slang, so I think this is where I'm going to need to direct a lot of my attention in the second half of this year.
In summary, there are some things I feel really good about, but there are a few things I really need to work on. But on the whole, I have the general feeling that I'm on-schedule, and I have no cause for concern at present.
My goals for the year
Now, let's see how where I'm at in relation to my goals:
- I wanted to chat with new friends online about general subjects with little or no need for a translator or dictionary. So far, I haven't been doing very much chatting in Italian at all. What little I've done felt relatively comfortable, but it didn't cover many topics. But I think this goal is within reach soon... maybe in a month or two.
- I wanted to read an article from an Italian newspaper and be able to summarize it without a translator. I can already do this now for short articles on many topics, but I've had to look up a few words for longer articles on topics that are less familiar. I'm not going to call this one done yet, but I've begun reading the news in Italian every day now, so this one is within reach, maybe even this month.
- I wanted to read an entire book written in Italian. I have already begun reading a book of Italian short-stories, and I'm doing quite well, but in my opinion that doesn't count. What's important is to follow characters and a plot throughout an entire book. I'll probably choose the book soon and get started.
- I wanted to comfortably retell a joke in Italian. I haven't learned any jokes yet. Soon.
- I wanted to be able to express my personality through the language as I do in English (or Russian, or Spanish) through jokes, puns, wordplay, and flirting. Simply put: I'm not there yet.
- I wanted to be able to watch a movie in Italian without subtitles and understand what's happening. Last month I started watching movies in Italian. I'm watching without subtitles, but I'll admit that I don't always understand what's going on. But this goal is also within reach. Maybe another month or two.
- I wanted to understand a news clip in Italian. I tried watching Italian news from my hotel in Uzbekistan a few months ago, and had a very low comprehension rate. I haven't tried again since then, but I will will soon.
- And finally, I wanted to have a 10-minute conversation in person, without using English. Sadly, I have had very few opportunities for in-person conversation in Italian so far. This is an extremely important part of learning the language, so I'm going to have to start making opportunities for this. No excuses.
So, in summary, it feels like most of my goals are within reach in the next couple of months, which leaves a lot of room for error. While I would love to be closer now, or to even have met many of these goals, it is important to remind myself that this is a one-year goal at a casual pace, and not a three-month sprint.
For a normal guy, living thousands of miles away from Italy, and not dedicating inhuman amounts of time to study, I'm actually doing quite well. I have confidence that this isn't going to be difficult.
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