It’s been some considerable time since I treated the internet to an update on my progress with these two languages.
I think in some ways, this blog is an antidote to the current meme sweeping the internet about how skills in general (and languages in particular) can be learnt at great speed. I’m not bitter or anything – OK!?
You might be able to guess that my progress has not been rapid.
Keep in mind that I’ve been learning Italian & Polish quite part-time and some might say perhaps uncharitably sporadically, while working, being a dad, husband, cleaning paws and so on and so forth.
I’ve been spending more time learning Italian than Polish. Considerably more, and I’ve been reading a lot.
I aimed to reach B2 on the CEFR by the end of this year.
My Italian oral and written comprehension is at B2 level or above (woop woop) – which is partly to do with the fact that I understand Spanish well and also because I’ve listened to a fair amount of Italian. I walk SWP every day, and normally listen to Italian or Spanish audiobooks. So I listen a lot.
Now speaking, well my spoken Italian is still at a B1 level although I’ve spoken a lot over the year. I have fun speaking (mangling) Italian and can more or less talk about anything, but still the fact remains that my spoken level is still assessed at B1. I make mistakes, and at times I struggle for words. But still, I can more or less talk about anything.
Italian (and Spanish) are frequently described as ‘easy’ languages which I always find amusing. Easy to speak badly perhaps. Do these people who describe these languages as easy actually speak them well? Who knows. But being able to introduce yourself, say a few basic sentences and not much else does not qualify in my view as speaking a language. I like to talk about anything, politics, day to day life, cost of living, going to the pub, literature (books to you and me), feelings, weather, climate change … In fact, I talk too much according to the boss.
It can be discouraging to hear people describe a language as easy and quick to learn when your personal experience shows the opposite. There are a lot of polyglot videos on the internet where some so and so states that they speak X languages, and then you hear a monolog roughly the same in each language. Normally it will be something like ‘My name is Z. I speak N languages. I’ve been learning Italian (substitute whatever language you want here) and I think it is a beautiful language’ and so on. This doesn’t demonstrate much, and I wonder how many of these ‘polyglots’ can have free flowing conversations about a wide range of topics.
How many people who describe Italian as an easy language do you hear actually conversing at any reasonable level? You need a lot of words to discuss a wide range of subjects and it takes time to acquire these words. It takes even more time being able to use them in context. It might be different for you (and you), but this is how it is for me. And this, my babbers is my blog and how it is for me. If you find Italian easy and have learnt fast (and are a native English speaker), then you are a shining star. Or deluded. Look into your heart and take your pick.
There is no doubt about it, I’m finding Polish difficult. There are reasons for this.
I’m disorganised. Who isn’t? Maybe I need to read ‘ten ways to be more effective in life’ or ‘five strategies for learning faster’? There is more chance of hell freezing over. But I digress.
Polish is difficult. There is no doubt about it. In relative terms it is considerably more difficult than Italian. Italian is described (not by me) as an easy language, but it is definitely more accessible (for English speakers) than the slavic languages. Anyone who describes Polish as easy has a screw loose. It is interesting, fun and has lots of consonants but it is not easy.
Polish is not particularly accessible. Once you move beyond basic sentences mam na imię … (My name is …), you have no choice but to understand the grammar or you will sound like a complete numpty. Slavic grammar is complicated, and it takes time to understand and internalise.
I don’t have a pressing need to learn Polish. I have a reason to continue it that I won’t go into here, but it is not pressing. I’ve reached the level where I could learn much faster, but I don’t have enough of an incentive and this is what is slowing me down. The language is difficult but my slow rate of progress is now down to lack of time spent with the language.
So what is my level? Low. Pretty low. Less low than twelve months, but still low. I know a lot of (unimportant) nouns and some bits and pieces but am far, far, far away from being able to impress with my Polish.
Where do I go from here?
I’m carrying on with my Italian and hope to reach B2 at some point next year. Fingers crossed.
Ditto with Polish. Really I should find a conversation partner, but I am (at the moment) too *ahem* lazy or perhaps inept.
It is lucky I’m a competent programmer.