I have always done well in tests of verbal ability and have college and graduate degrees in English. I took 2 years af Italian in college and can read and write it fairly well with the aid of a dictionary. I have even survived quite well in Italy speaking only Italian although I am certain my communications were far from elegant and very convoluted. I love the language and have heard that the way to really get decent is to be immersed in the language and speak it and hear it day in and out. My question is how is it possible to learn a language by hearing people speak words you do not understand.I am comfortable with books but book learning has not resulted in fluency in speaking or in hearing and understanding Italians when they speak What is the secret to really being able to hear and speak a language well. Thanks for any help you may care to offer.
"My question is how is it possible to learn a language by hearing people speak words you do not understand."
A lot of the information you take in when you are around people speaking another language comes from context, a stallholder in a market is probably not asking you about trains, and other kinds of verbal or visual cues, like tone of voice, gestures or body language. Through a certain amount of trial and error, you can begin to assign meaning to what you hear and recognize patterns. When you speak you either get the desired response, or you don't, in which case you have to adjust what you thought you knew. It's essentially the way you learned your first language as a child and the way you pick up new vocabulary in your first language as an adult.
Borrow some tapes from the library and listen to them while driving or doing the housework or whatever. At first use the tapes intended for leaning the basics of the language where they give you the translation. You will be amazed how much your absorb subconsciously.
Also, have you tried Michel Thomas language CDs? These are highly recommended as he explains the words and how to build them into sentences. Look on E Bay if you don't want the expense of buying new.
I also find that after listening to the language it helps me to read the text as well. This is due to the way we were taught foreign languages at school where we only used textbooks and listened to the teacher. The modern way to learn a language is as your friends have told you, by listening and not reading.
When you are more confident it helps to listen to radio or watch videos in the language you are learning, this will also help you absorb more and you will soon recognise words. The trick is not to dwell on words you don't understand, but move along with the flow and you will pick up the giste of the conversation.
Thanks,Inejenn. I plan to take your advice. I really like your advice to listen to get the gist of the conversation. That is ,after all, the way we comprehend in our native language.The tapes too seem like a good idea ,but as a part time jazz pianist my drive time is devoted to listening to the wonderful sounds of jazz. Thanks for the info as I shall need it to continue my research when I return to Italy in 2007. Joe
Just a very simple and inexpensive 'trick' to assist in starting to understand the composition of simple phrases with no allied pressure at all....
Go and buy some childrens 'starter' reading books in Italian and also some kids comics! After all that is how many children learn the basics and their story books and comics come with built in 'story boards'.