I’m starting a new series on the blog appropriately called #studywithme (because everything needs a hashtag, right?!) My intention is to take you behind the scenes and show you exactly how I’m learning Italian. I hope you can find some inspiration for fun and creative language learning strategies and activities.
Twitter is quickly becoming my favorite way to keep track of new Italian words. Even though I’m a huge fan of pen and paper, I find Twitter more fun and effective than notebooks or even flashcards because of its interactive nature.
Personally, I find flashcards like those on Memrise extremely boring. If something is boring, that means there’s a slim to none chance that I’m going to do it, and consistency is the key to language acquisition and retention. The other problem is that most flashcards lack context, which is essential to gaining a complete understanding of a word (which includes knowledge of form, meaning, and use, according to linguist Diane Larsen-Freeman).
However, I want to point out I don’t think that there is any “secret” to learning a language or a “best” method. I think the best way to learn a language is what is fun and effective for you.
My goal is to simply reflect on my language learning journey and share what works or doesn’t work for me, and I hope that I can inspire other learners to try creative independent learning techniques to find out what works for you too.
How I use Twitter
I started out using Twitter to tweet new Italian vocabulary as I learned (so the context was in my immediate surroundings, possibly from a conversation or text in Italian). However, I realized that it would be helpful to include the original source (context) of the word. So this is the process that has been most effective for me:
- Select a context (for example, a recipe) and tweet a link to the original source
- Look up any new vocabulary (I use Reverso Context)
- Then tweet the new vocabulary from that source in the thread (basically tweet a comment to yourself lol) so that all of the new vocabulary is grouped together with the original source
Why I prefer Twitter to flashcards or notebooks
The reason why I love Twitter so much is 1. I’m always logged in on my phone or computer so it’s convenient and 2. I have gotten valuable feedback from native speakers that I couldn’t get by using flashcards or a notebook.
For example, one time I mistakenly wrote barbabietola rosso, and a native speaker commented that it should be barbabietola rossa. I am so grateful for this feedback, and now I have an experience associated with this word, so I have been able to commit it to memory much faster.
Another great example of valuable feedback I received through Twitter is a discussion about synonyms and appropriate contexts for the word genuino. (see the full thread here)
The recipe in my example above describes the torta as genuino:
La torta all’arancia è un profumatissimo dolce sano e genuino.
What caught my attention is the usage of genuino, which differs from the English genuine. In English, I’ve heard of a recipe being authentic (as in true to tradition), or wholesome if perhaps it’s made with whole wheat or healthy ingredients, but I’ve never heard of a recipe or food being described as genuine. (English speakers, correct me if I’m wrong! But in my region of the US I have never heard this collocation). I am guessing from the sentence above, the best translation to keep the same meaning would be wholesome, do you agree?
I was able to receive this valuable feedback about the use of genuino from Sara, one of my favorite Italian bloggers (check out Sara’s blog here, she shares fascinating information about Italian culture, a must read for all Italophiles!).
To summarize, genuino in Italian can be used for food, but in English it seems the best translations would be healthy or wholesome. Authentic describes a dish prepared true to a country’s tradition (like authentic Italian cuisine). When I think of genuine, I think real (as in genuine leather). For real food, we would probably say whole, unprocessed, or natural.
I believe that interaction and feedback help us learn faster than having to repeat flashcards over and over. Create an interactive experience that gives meaning and context for a new word, and I guarantee it will stick in your memory!
Have you ever used Twitter for language learning? Let me know in the comments how you prefer to keep track of your new vocabulary!