How do you review a language that’s rusty? For me, the best way is to dive right back in, usually with reading or listening. I thought I’d write about how I’m going about doing this with Italian right now.
Italian is the weakest of the languages I’d say I “know” (in addition to French and Spanish). Because I already knew French and Spanish, reading Italian wasn’t too hard, so last spring, I decided to spend a little time on it. I read a lot and used Duolingo to learn basic vocabulary and grammar. After a couple of months of this, I was pretty comfortable understanding written and spoken Italian, so I took a break to focus on other things. In August, I spent a couple of weeks reading the first book of an Italian fantasy series called La ragazza drago. This was, again, followed by a bit of break, and then at the end of September I read an easy kids’ book on Cleopatra (I’m lucky to have family members who travel to Italy and bring me back books!).
Since then, I’ve really done nothing with Italian; my focus has mainly been on Spanish and Dutch. However, I would really like to keep Italian going– I definitely don’t want to lose it, and I would like to learn more vocabulary. Still, I’m happy with passive knowledge of Italian, and I don’t have too much of an interest in gaining speaking or writing skills.
My solution was to pick up the Easy Italian Reader from McGraw Hill. I’ve looked at this book so many times, but I always passed it up because I have real Italian novels I could read instead. Finally, though, I realized that a textbook would be helpful in patching up some of the holes in my Italian. This book contains short readings, ranging, it seems, from low to high-intermediate level. After each reading, the book defines difficult words and includes some exercises.
I really like the vocab sections– it’s nice sometimes to have a textbook do the legwork so you don’t have to keep looking up words in a dictionary. Even more helpful, much of the defined vocabulary includes words that don’t have easy Spanish/French cognates, so these are definitely my weak points. And finally, the vocab sections include a lot of everyday words that I can use right away.
So far, I’ve been skipping the exercises (mostly because I’m lazy, and they remind me of school). I don’t think they’ll help me much in reaching my goal, which is just to put aside a little time each day to read Italian.
I don’t know how long I’ll be sticking to this, but it’s nice to have an enjoyable way to keep my Italian going without a lot of effort or time (I’m probably putting 15 minutes in each day). Graded readers are a lot more helpful than I thought they would be, so this is a pleasant surprise and a fun way to study!