Monday, January 23, 2006

I dream of dreaming in Italian!

It has been oft-repeated, as I endeavor and sometimes struggle to learn Italian, that I'll know I've reached a level of proficiency when I begin to dream in Italian. Needless to say, I'm still waiting for that day, er...night, to come.

I try reading Italian books in the evening, hoping that somehow the words will be infused into my subconciousness while I sleep. Instead, I dream of wandering Italy with stunted, confusing phrases emitting from my mouth while Bryan stands mutely behind me. Mostly I still have those annoying "channel changing" types of dreams. You know the dream that you're standing on a street talking to people and you're in your underwear feeling uncomfortable but nobody seems to notice your state of undress. And then the channel changes and you're in your childhood home, but you're in your current age and life situation and yet things are like they were when you were a kid. And just when you start to think, well that's odd, then the channel changes again. Or maybe it's just me. Strange dreams. In English.

Reading Italian stories and books is a good exercise, albeit one that consumes my time and my brain cells. I can usually complete about two pages a night, because I sit there with my dizionario and my book, looking up far too many words for timely progress. When I do hit a page that I can understand without reference material, I am elated. Dare I make it through an entire story, I jump from the chair exclaiming, YESSSS!!! Brava!!!, while tears of joy spring to my eyes. And then I feel exhausted from the brain strain.

And despite these efforts, still no dreams occuring in Italian. I have tried the CDs; the verb exercises; the Listen and Learn method, all for naught. I wish there was an Osmosis Method of learning a language, whereby I would sit in a yoga position with my eyes closed and the grammatical concepts and vocabulary would be poured into my brain. Alas, I'll have to continue with the Work Hard- Study Hard- Practice Method. This is a problem because I tend to remember a vocabulary word for about twenty seconds. Then I'll encounter the same word on the next page, grab the dictionary and look it up all over again. Bryan's memory skills are even worse. I'm contemplating whether Gingko may help with memory retention.

At least my Wednesday morning conversational class has resumed and I get to enjoy the company of others laboriously learning this language alongside me. There is some progress. Since I began this class last year I've learned two past tenses and am pretty well on my way to profiency in the future tense. This has opened up a whole new world of conversational possibilities!

But I still dream of dreaming in Italian. Someday.

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider


Dr. S said...

Once you stop thinking about it, it's much more likely to happen, I promise! :)

PassagetoItaly said...

Hi Valerie!

I am new to reading your blog, having found a link in on of Bleeding Espresso's posts.

I would just like to say that I know exactly how you feel with learning Italian. When I first began, reading was very time consuming. It was not until a conversation class that I actually had to read (besides exercises and short stories in beginner classes). Our teacher would say, "just read the story. Don't sit there with a dictionary to try to figure out every word. Just understand the basic concept." Well, this did not work for me. Instead I spent 3 hours on a few pages. First I read through with my dictionary and wrote the translation of the words I didn't know. Then I went back to the beginning and read it over a second time, this time being able to understand the passage. On the first try, nothing was absorbed, so reading it again helped.

Another thing I found that helped was actually using it. Even if you just have to write your 'status' on your Facebook in Italian, so be it! Many people are frustrated reading my Italian status if they don't know Italian, but it helps keep the mind fresh.

Hope you're finally dreaming in Italian. ;)

Valerie said...

PassagetoItaly - Welcome! Glad you came by. Using the language every day is certainly the best way to learn. My conversation classes helped so much. But there is nothing like being there and hearing the rhythm and cadence and 'street jargon' to really learn it well. I do sometimes dream in Italian, or a mix of English and Italian.

Passage to Italy said...

That's true! Being in Italy of course does help.