Italian. The long journey from B2 to C1


The CERF language levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. A1 is the lowest level, and C2 is more or less native.

I read somewhere that it takes twice as long to reach level B2 from level B1, as it does to reach A2 from A1. I also read that it takes twice as long to reach level C1 from B2, as it did to reach level B2 from B1.

In other words, the time needed to move up a level doubles each time.

This has certainly been my experience and I’ve now started on the long, long, long journey from a faltering B2 in Italian to C1. At this rate it will take me another four years … not that there is any hurry.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend any money to do this. Find people to talk to, and listen to pod casts for native speakers. Rince and repeat:)

Just do a little every day, and you will improve.

Or so I keep telling myself … Sono troppo pigro …

Of course, producers of language courses don’t want you to know that you can progress very comfortably without following any course, particularly as you become more advanced.



Polish. The struggle continues.

Are you sitting comfortably? I’m not, but that’s a story for another day.

Then I will begin.

But before I do  let me tell you that I’ve just completed a new App which will be here as soon as it has finished the apple approval process. Come on boys. Let it through. Allow the world to feast their eyes on another awesome Surfacelanguages app which is ..

… an Italian word puzzle type game for those of you who like such trinkets and are learning Italian.

For those of you who like such trinkets and are not learning Italian, other languages will follow soon (ish).

As the title of this post indicates, I’m still struggling with Polish. This has again been brought home to me recently as I’ve been doing a large number of language exchanges (scambi) in Italian.  And this in turn has made me think about my progress or otherwise with both Italian and Polish, or more colloquially where I am at. (I know, we are not supposed to write like this, but people say it. Where are you at? Or even where are you to?)

Returning to Italian before talking about Polish. I have reached the point where I really enjoy chatting in Italian. Sure I make mistakes and whatnot but I have fun, and importantly I can generally understand what is said to me. This is crucial (like duh) if you want to have a conversation, chat or meaningfully exchange information about topics.

I’ve made progress, and success breeds success, positive feedback and encouragement encourages more effort in turn leading to more success. And so on.

Back to Polish. It is not that I haven’t made any progress. It is that my progress isn’t very fast. I’m plodding along, like the proverbial tortoise.

In fact, when I was whinging about this, the Boss (who is wiser and more insightfull than me – and also controls the diary) reminded me that I said the same about Spanish. Of course I initially denied this. I was trying to save face. Polish is more difficult than any other language and so on. But the more I thought about it, the more I had to agree that she was correct.

Actually when I think back to learning Spanish (and I’m still learning by the way – it’s not like you can suddenly say I know Spanish …),  it took me years to feel confident speaking the language. If you read my blog regularly, you will see that this is a recurring theme. Learning languages takes me a long time. I don’t mind this, as it is just a fun hobby, a diversion, and a way of learning more about the world.

I haven’t as you may have guessed tried any Polish language exchanges. This is in part because I can’t say much, but more because my Polish comprehension is still very weak.

My experience with exchanges (in general) is that for them to be useful, both people need to have a similar language level. Otherwise most of the talking is done only in one language. This can still be fun, and you can have entertaining conversations but it is not especially useful in language learning terms.

The difference for me is that Italian has become a part of my life.  I have people to talk to, I read and while I try to remember and write interesting (well to me) words and phrases down, I don’t really do any formal ‘studying’.

I haven’t reached that level with Polish. I will and I am looking forward to that point, as that is when the language comes alive and becomes interesting.

Besos and baci,


Italian & Polish

It has been some time since I’ve mentioned either Polish or Italian in my ramblings, what with the dictionary issues and all. On that note, I’ve added the first one, and even finished the first of four dictionary based games.

So, all is going well on the programming side of things:)

But what about language learning?

At the beginning of this year, I set myself the (arbitrary) goal of reaching the B1 language level in both Polish and Italian. I already spoke some Italian (A1 ish) but not very much and no Polish at all, but SL is about languages, and I should learn them …

So where am I at?  (Don’t write like that kids if you want to pass your exams.)

My Italian is going well. I have a conversation partner and speak once a week. I’m starting to feel more confident in speaking (although with plenty of mistakes), and am starting to get a feel for how the language works. Success breeds success, and I’ve been spending more time on Italian than Polish over the last six weeks or so. Earlier in the year I spent more time on Polish, so I imagine the overall time spent will even out over the coming months.

I’m confident I will reach the B1 standard in Italian before the end of this year, and this will give me a good base going forward.

As an aside, I’m finding Italian grammar more complex than Spanish, but I don’t know if this is because it is more complex or just that I’m more accustomed to Spanish.

And now onto Polish.

Well, I was told by a Polish speaker the other day that Polish was very difficult for English speakers to learn.

I’m not going to disagree with that assessment.

If I had to guess my level, I’d say it is a low A1 – in other words I’m still very much at the beginner level. There is no way (this year) that I will reach B1 or even A2.

Surprisingly perhaps, I feel fine with this. Polish is a difficult language for english speakers to learn for many reasons. It is not impossible, but it is difficult. I am making progress, but slowly. The grammar is hard, most of the commonly used words are completely unrelated to english or romance languages, and there are a lot of consonants. (Actually, that isn’t a good reason for my tribulations with Polish, but there are a lot of consonants. How does this work playing scrabble. Is it easier or harder?)

I only have so many hours in the day, and so many hours to spend on Italian/Polish and while I will reach a good level in both (given time) I’m in no hurry – no tengo prisa, non devo sbrigarmi,  nie jestem w pospiechu (??). It is about the journey, and I don’t feel frustrated with my slow pace of learning. As long as I carry on improving, I will reach my goal.

But as well as this, I think that it is easy to forget how much there is involved to  reach a good A1 standard. I was ‘roughly’ assessed to be A1 in Italian at the start of the year, and I was surprised by how much I then needed to improve to reach A2.

So, I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved so far.

Anyway, it is a nice day, and I’m off to water some geraniums:)




Polish and Italian

I haven’t written about my Italian/Polish year for some time. Well, there is no time like the present especially when you are trying to avoid something painful – see below.

I’ve had two Polish experiences this week. One on-line via Skype, and the other at my Polish evening class. I’ve also had an Italian lesson. Busy week?

The experiences are like chalk and cheese. I am making little progress with Polish.  Conversely, I’m very pleased with the progress I’m making in Italian. I can chat away – obviously I make a lot of mistakes, but I can make myself understood, and I’m retaining the language. Yay!

And Polish?

It is not going well. I find it is an order of magnitude more difficult than Italian.

It is a challenge. A big big challenge. Bardzo duży. Bardzo bardzo duży.

I accept the above and embrace it even. Perhaps a trifle reluctantly, but I recognise that I have a problem here and I need to address it to make progress.

So I’ve metaphorically sat back and considered where my biggest blocker lies with the Polish language. It is vocabulary acquisition or more accurately lack of. I am not retaining or maybe learning sufficient Polish vocabulary to be able to have a conversation. I remembered the Polsh word hard today trudny but the word easy łatny eluded me completely.

So, a big push on Polish vocabulary over the next six weeks.

I’m not going to worry about endings, grammar and so on over this time. I’m just going to learn a large amount of vocabulary – which is what I’m trying to avoid while writing this.

I want to able to communicate and then build from this.

Other news. Our dog sprained his paw while chasing a ball too energetically. He is playing up to the level of sympathy being offered. Soon, I’ll be carrying him upstairs.






My Italian Challenge. A1 to B1. 2013

A1 to B1

After several years of picking up bits of Italian here and there, but never putting enough time and effort into the language to really improve, this  will be the year that I will improve substantially.

With this in mind, today  I had my first Italian lesson, with a native speaker, a teacher from italki. My level was judged to be at the end of A1 (A full definition of which can be found here), but in essence is:-

“Users can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. They can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.”

This seemed a fair enough evaluation to me. I get around in Italian comfortably enough in the most basic sense but struggle if I have to express more than the simplest ideas. So while I don’t have any particular inhibition in attempting to speak Italian, I really can’t.

My aim is to reach a comfortable B1 in the spoken language by the end of the year.  According to the CEFR wiki entry this includes: being able to describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. Great, I like to talk and this would be peachy.