In August 2019 I started learning Italian. That meant that —for the next year or so— I would read less content in English, and more in Italian. As my target language was so close to my native tongue (Spanish), I thought: ‘Why not continue reading the book I’m halfway through (Educated, by Tara Westover) in Italian (L’educazione)?’. I made a quick search on Amazon, and I bought the Italian translation.
I thought it would be a piece of cake. ‘Ha! Italian. That’s pretty much Spanish’. It was not. It was hard. I missed a lot. Even though I was able to riff off from my Spanish, I didn’t know the meaning of more than half of the content I was reading (to put it in context, this was an autobiography —and a very well written one!). I tried to work my way into the book, but didn’t get far. My progress was painful and slow. After a couple weeks, I gave up and turned to easier content.
One year after
In August 2020 I decided to get back to L’educazione, just to see if it still was as difficult as last year. It wasn’t. I was able to understand most of it. Out of an excerpt of around 216 words (on average), I didn’t know the meaning of just 5 words. That means I understood something like 98% of the content. Insane!
One year after picking up the Italian edition of Educated, I went from getting the meaning of less than half of the content, to most of it. But it wasn’t just the magic of time passing by. During those 12 months, I engaged with the Italian language regularly. I read thousands and thousands of words, listened to countless hours of podcasts and music in Italian. Watched four seasons of a Netflix series, many films, and read lots of web sites in the language. Also, I did more than 24.000 reps on my different Anki decks.
I’m not a language learning wiz or a genius. I just put in the time. I spent a lot of time with Italian. And it paid off. It continues to pay off. Now I can enjoy mostly anything I get my hands on. If it was made within the past 100 years and it’s not something technical (or uses a higher language), I can understand it.
Of course, there’s still work to be done. Now that I’ve built a good foundation in the language, It’s time to put in more time in developing my output skills (writing and speaking in Italian). And continue stretching and developing my knowledge beyond the new easy.
In August 2020, I think of all I don’t understand when I listen to audiobook novels by Luigi Pirandello. And I tell myself: it’s just a matter of time. Time and work. If I continue learning, spending time with the language, one year from now I will be able to understand more of it. And so will you, in your Spanish endeavors 🙂
Are you keeping a long-term vision in your Spanish learning?
By the way, here’s the Spanish version of Tara’s book: Una educación 😉