I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.
I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.
A move to a new country or house can teach you something about life and language learning, too. Let’s look at 5 lessons you can apply to your language studies right now.View Post
When I started to teach myself Swedish, I thought that it literally meant I should do everything by myself.
I can make it on my own, I told myself. I studied other languages before, I’m quick at understanding rules. I’ll buy a textbook and go through it by myself – how can going through it with someone else help me?
If I have a doubt, I’ll Google it. Even better, I’ll just ask my Swedish boyfriend to explain it to me.
The point I missed, here, was subtle. Oh, I did learn a lot of things by myself… but I didn’t know it. It took a teacher who told me I was better than I thought to give me some self-confidence.
My insecurities and my perfectionism have often hindered my learning process.
And of course, if you have a native speaker for a partner you get more chances to practice. Unless they’re a teacher, though, they might not be the best person to clarify confusing grammar or the nuances of a word.
When it comes to online language learning, there are still fears and myths that may stop you from trying.
Sure, it’s getting common, but it’s still relatively recent and it encounters some resistance.
After all, every revolution met obstacles on its way.
As I said, before trying it for myself and realising how magical it is, I had lots of doubts, too.
So, I understand if you think this is not for you.
Sometimes it’s about the money, sometimes we’re too proud to ask for help. Often, we’re just scared to try and accomplish our goals for real. Because what if we try as hard as we can, and then we fail?
Have you been wondering “Is getting an online tutor right for me?” and always postponed your decision?
Then let’s look into some common fears about online language learning and let’s see why there isn’t much to be feared.
Of course, you can. A consistent and balanced study routine will definitely make you progress.
There are also times when you feel stuck, or you need to work towards a deadline. Sometimes you want to find your weak spots and work on them, and it can be tricky to identify them on your own.
These are some of the situations when a tutor can make a difference.
The best tutors don’t “teach” you, they make you better at learning on your own.
They add some grammar-nerdy explanations you won’t find in your textbook or a witty tip to remember a tricky rule. They recommend you a resource that fits your learning style and they introduce some new vocabulary while chatting about your favourite hobby.
When you learn with a teacher, you still do most of the work by yourself and you’ll have a compass to guide you through your learning journey.
Well yes… and no.
You won’t meet your teacher in person. You won’t have to leave the house or to have someone visit you. If you ask an introvert, this is pure bliss.
Instead, you’ll meet virtually while you’re in the safe environment of your house, with the protection of a screen between you. This is one of the things that make online learning particularly comfortable for shy and anxious students.
And while feeling more comfortable, you’ll likely open more and be yourself without making an effort. Often, connecting to others through a screen reduces the distance between people and helps them bond faster.
You get the best of both worlds.
Don’t worry, online language learning doesn’t mean big technological fireworks and fancy complicated software. Most of the time, all you need is Skype or a similar video chat.
Google Drive is another common resource for online lessons. If you ask me, it’s such a brilliant and useful one, you should be using it for your language learning already!
Whatever tool your teacher uses for the lessons, they’ll make sure you are comfortable with it. Online teachers are used to showing students how to use their resources, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
At least 90% of this depends on you.
The biggest myth to debunk is that you learn the language during your 1:1 sessions.
The bad news is, you’ll almost surely fail your goals if you plan on studying only one hour a week during the lesson.
The good news is you’ll learn lots if you complete your assignments and study a bit every day.
You can ask your teacher for advice on how to create a study plan and then stick to it.
To progress faster, try doing extra homework. For example, you can expand on the exercises you got from your teacher or study a couple more pages on your own.
If you don’t want to dedicate time to your assignments in between lessons, but only want to speak during the 1:1 time, then consider looking for a conversation partner instead of a teacher.
Money is the most common objection to online learning. The internet has taught us that we can get most stuff for free, one way or another. Then, why should you pay?
Well, maybe you shouldn’t.
When you really want something, then you’re ready to spend money on it. It might be a trip abroad, a Netflix subscription, a yoga course – anything you love and makes you feel good.
Language learning isn’t different. When getting past a study obstacle, daring to open your mouth, or passing a written test will become a priority, then you’ll feel like it’s worth the investment.
Until that time, keep staying consistent in your daily practice and enjoying language learning on your own.
I understand you! At first, the thought of buying an expensive package of lessons was terrifying.
The taster includes:
Your investment to find out if online learning is for you is 30€.
The Taster is for beginner learners of Japanese and beginner to upper-intermediate learners of Italian.
What is your number 1 reason why you aren’t sure about online learning? What is stopping you from trying it?
Since I started practising yoga, my creativity has grown to unexpected levels.
Being the over-thinker that I am, I’m used to thoughts running through my mind the whole time. But now it’s a bit different. I have less recurring negative ruminations and more good ideas.
For example, now you can even find out what your language learner’s Hogwarts house is. Just saying. 😉
I had no idea yoga and language learning could work that well together, but they do.
Today’s post was inspired by Adriene Mishler, the wonderful woman behind the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. She’s the only person you need to know if you want to start a yoga practice in your house. And if you’re an introvert, I don’t think I have to explain to you why at-home yoga is the best yoga.
So here is my personal little homage to Adriene: a language learning session for self-love.
Of course, following her most important message: Find What Feels Good.
Let’s get started!
You should have about an hour for the session. I know it can be hard to have one full hour to dedicate only to yourself, but you deserve one hour a week, don’t you?
Make sure you turn off all the devices you don’t use, or at least set them to silent mode and switch off all notifications. For this time you take for yourself try to avoid distractions as much as possible.
First, take a few minutes to relax. You need to disconnect from the frantic activity of the day and be able to focus on your study session.
Here are some video recommendations to set the tone for your hour of learning.
5-minute morning yoga: When you don’t have a lot of time, but want to wake up your body and mind with a quick and easy yoga session, this is a good one.
10-minute yoga for self-care: When you want to tell your body and brain that you’re going to take some time for yourself, try this soft and gentle session.
14-minute meditation for anxiety: This is perfect for when you’re having a bad day and you want to leave that nagging feeling behind. You’ll be able to find balance again through a truly refreshing breath technique.
Yoga and meditation aren’t your thing? That’s fine!
Be sure that you still move your body a bit before you start to study. You can take a short run or a walk. You can also just get up from your chair, get a glass of water and stretch a bit your neck and shoulders. A little goes a long way.
Time: 5-15 minutes
Alright, time to get to some language learning work.
We are going to start slowly and gradually, before pushing to something juicy.
Start with one activity that will help you focus, but won’t take a lot of your energy.
Some language learning activities can be almost therapeutic because they take your mind off your worries, but without leaving you drained.
Here are some ideas:
Time: 10 minutes
After a soft and easy warm-up, it’s time to push a bit harder.
Self-love isn’t just about doing some effortless activity that leaves you right where you started. It’s also about going past your safe zone, one tiny step at a time, to improve yourself day after day.
Find the balance between being comfortable and doing something that requires some effort. Pick an activity slightly out of your comfort zone, but don’t push yourself too hard.
Depending on your personality and on your strengths and weaknesses, what is difficult for you can change a lot.
Here are some examples of activities that could prove a bit more challenging.
Even if you’re just recording this for yourself and you don’t plan to share it ever, starting can be stressful. This is because deep down, we fear our own judgement much more than the others’.
You don’t need to start with a 15-minutes monologue. Try recording one sentence at a time, after writing it down and rehearsing a couple of times. Afterwards, the dopamine release might even give you the courage to post it on Instagram or Facebook and find support in the language learning community.
For shy learners, this can be one of the most dreaded ways to practice. After you’ve been learning for a while and you feel more confident about your skills, though, you might feel just one step away from it. When you get there, give it a try.
You can start with a 20-minute session, or with sending vocal messages to your exchange partner instead of talking on Skype in real time.
Writing might not be your forte. For some people, speaking just feels like the most natural way to communicate. This can be true especially if you have dyslexia or other learning differences.
But even if you normally love to write in your own language, doing so in a target language can feel like you’re losing “the magic” of it, because you can’t let the words flow as you’d like.
Chose a topic you’re passionate about to keep your interest high. This will also help you remember vocabulary and expressions that are relevant to you.
Just like writing, reading can be the most pleasant activity in your native language, but it gets tough in a foreign one. Looking up words and taking time understanding each sentence is frustrating.
That’s why it’s important to pick something at the right level – you don’t have to understand every word, but it shouldn’t be much above your level.
By reading authentic materials you assimilate natural, everyday sentence structures and grammar patterns, so it’s a valuable practice.
When you study a language with unfamiliar sounds, listening can become a nightmare. But being able to understand the spoken language is necessary to speak yourself.
Pick something that has a transcript and then listen to it a few times without reading anything. Try to mentally summarise what it’s about and only at the end check the transcript and research the new words.
In your next study session, you can use a part of the same text for a dictation exercise.
I’m a huge grammar geek, but I know grammar is a torture for many learners. You still need to grasp the basics of it, so from time to time, you have to pick your textbook and see how rules work.
The most effective way is to read a lot of examples and then create your own, making sentences that you are likely to use in real life.
Every learner is unique, so are the things they like and don’t like doing. Usually, you’ll be uncomfortable with things that feel a bit complicated. Those are also the ones you need to practice the most and that give you the biggest boost of confidence when you accomplish them.
Time: 20-30 minutes
I’m not going to make you end your self-love session with a demanding task, am I?
Now it’s time to pick your favourite, cosiest language learning activity and to indulge in it. It can be anything from the list above – what scares someone energises someone else. Or it can be any other thing, be creative!
Some extra tips for activities to do in your target language:
The list is infinite and I invite you to find the one thing that is absolutely delightful for you.
Time: 15-20 minutes.
Well done! You did it!
You spent about one hour learning a language in a way that is caring and loving to yourself. How does it feel?
Now it’s time to give yourself a little reward. You decide what you want to give yourself, it doesn’t have to be language related. Just don’t skip this part, it’s important!
I hope trying this little experiment will leave you brimming with energy by the end.
Of course, repeat this as many times as you wish. Once a week would be perfect.
What are the activities that feel relaxing for you? Which feel difficult and which are pleasant?
Let me know in the comments!
[Soundtrack: Christopher O’Riley – True Love Waits – cover of one of the best love songs ever]
Once I had some pretty epic karaoke birthday celebrations in Japan.
Fully embracing, for once, the philosophy of “the more the merrier” I had asked my friends to spread the invitation.
Must have been out of my introvert mind, right?
Well, it turned out to be an unforgettable party, with lots of people I had never met popping up, introducing themselves and even bringing me presents. For a few months afterwards, I would meet people at bars telling me “Oh, you’re the birthday girl”.
Cho-san, a Korean classmate from Japanese school, joined in too and amazed us with a stunning singing voice. He used to be a bit of a clown in class, childishly mocking other people and behaving poorly. That night, though, he was really lovely and sweet. After a few cocktails, we were chatting and taking silly selfies.
With my Japanese being still quite weak at the time, I told him やさしいチョさんが好き！/yasashii Cho-san ga suki/, I like you when you’re nice. When he looked at me with eyes wide open I added 友達として /tomodachi to shite/, as a friend.
I wasn’t so familiar with Japanese yet, so instead of saying that I enjoyed this kinder side of his, I had basically declared my love.
Fast forward a few years. I’m having dinner with a French friend and I tell him “Tu sais que tu me plaîs!”. Uh-oh, same wide eyes look. He explains to me that telling someone in French “tu me plaîs” is like telling them you’re starting to have feelings for them. I switch to English and explain, you know what I mean, I like you as a person.
So why is it so difficult to tell people in a different language that you like them as human beings? Without declaring love or having them think you fancy them, that is.
I’m sure you know the answer. Yep, cultural differences.
To celebrate Valentine’s day I’d like to take you through a little nerdy stroll among words of love. Should I write anything inaccurate about your native language, please correct me! And I’d love to read in the comments some words of love and cultural quirks of the languages you know. 🙂
Italian and I have a weird relationship. It’s my native language, but I haven’t used it as my main everyday language for a long time now.
After living the most recent half of my sentimental life in English, saying Ti amo in Italian feels almost… violent.
Of course, if I say “I love you” in English to my boyfriend, I mean the same thing.
But in my own language, it gets almost unbearably intense.
It’s interesting how emotional words in our native language have so much power, isn’t it?
There’s more than the emotional side, though.
“Ti amo” and “I love you” don’t mean exactly the same thing in every situation.
In Italy, when you say “Ti amo” it’s undoubtedly to express the feeling that connects you to your special one.
Some people may say it to their parents or children, but the most common use is, by far, with your partner.
With family members, it’s more common to use it when speaking about them indirectly: “amo la mia famiglia” (I love my family), “amo i miei figli” (I love my children).
But you wouldn’t say it, as in English, to a friend.
For that, we have a convenient expression, much missed whenever I’m abroad: Ti voglio bene. This can translate to “I love you”, but in a broader sense. You’d say it to your family, friends, or to a partner if you’re not ready to jump to the big A.
The closest (but still somehow unsatisfactory) translation would be I care about you, I wish you well, I want good things for you.
We also say Sono innamorato (if you’re a man) /innamorata (if you’re a woman) di te, which means I’m in love with you. It’s more natural to use this expression when you talk about a third person, though. So you would say “Sono innamorato di Francesco” (I’m in love with Francesco) or ask “Sei innamorata di lui?” (are you in love with him?).
Finally, Mi piaci has pretty much the same meaning as “I like you” in English.
It has a broad meaning, so a lot depends on the context.
You could be telling someone you have a crush on them, or just that you fancy them.
It’s less common to use it with friends because it could easily be misinterpreted.
I’ve often been feeling somehow unsatisfied with the English terms to express love and affection.
It has been the language I use in most of my friendships and relationships for almost 6 years, but still, I’m far from native-like fluency.
First of all, I miss an equivalent of the Italian “Ti voglio bene”. I love you feels too much; I care about you and I wish you well feel too little.
Then, English speakers say I love you way too easily, sometimes. When saying bye to a friend for the day, they throw in a casual “Love ya!”.
Even when I shopped at my local Morrisons’, the cashiers would often greet me with “You alright love?”.
Without entering in the dark realm of how long it took me to understand “You alright” doesn’t require a reply, at first I got puzzled by this familiarity.
It is, obviously, different nuances of “love”. But for someone who isn’t a native speaker, at the end of the day it’s the same four little letters put together.
In a mix of cultural and emotional distance, saying “I love you” in English never feels as powerful as it should.
Any native English speakers out there: how is it for you? Are there any other expressions for different nuances of affection that I have missed?
First thing first: did you see those Pinterest images where it says suki means I like you, daisuki means I like you a lot, aishiteiru means I love you and so on? Well… forget it.
As you might have guessed by the anecdote I told you at the beginning (or by watching ANY shoujo anime, for what matters), telling someone 好きです /suki desu/ can be a full-on declaration of love.
Yes, it also translates as the English I like you, but you have to be extra careful if you want to use it with a friend. This is even more true for 大好きです /daisuki desu/, I really like you.
Outside of romantic relationships, especially in writing it can be a way to end a letter to your close (female) friends. The gender note is important because men don’t often express their affection through words in Japan.
The most common translation of I love you in Japanese on the Internet is 愛してる /ai shiteru/. This is both extremely strong and extremely uncommon. While you’ll hear it a lot in drama and romantic movies, the chances of hearing it in real life are low.
Final myth to debunk is about 恋してる /koi shiteru/, which would sound unnatural if you were to say it to a Japanese partner. The word 恋 /koi/ is used more when you talk to a third person about someone you’ve fallen for. A teenage girl could say to a friend: 恋に落ちちゃった /koi ni ochicchatta/, oops, I fell in love.
In general Japanese people, especially men, don’t use words of love often. When they do, they’ll likely use 好き /suki/ or 大好き /daisuki/.
French words of affection baffled me at first.
As you might know, Je t’aime is the big one, the I love you to use with your significant other.
But if you tell someone Je t’aime bien or Je t’aime beaucoup, you actually make it less of a big deal. This is what you could say to a friend and has a much lighter meaning.
Things get a bit intricated with Tu me plaîs because it’s hard to say if one is talking feelings or physical attraction. In general, though, it’s something more than a pure expression of friendship.
Finally, there are some important differences between Italian and French when you talk about ways to show your affection.
In Italian, abbracciare means to hug, but in French, you would say prendre dans ses bras, enlacer or faire un calîn. Be careful, because embrasser means to kiss.
In a similar way, baciare means to kiss in Italian, but do not confuse it with the French baiser, which means (if you’ll excuse my French – lol) to fuck.
There are two expressions in Swedish that translate to I like you: Jag tycker om dig and Jag gillar dig.
Though the stubborn language nerd in me asked everyone what’s the difference – because if there are two expressions there must be a difference… everyone told me it’s pretty much the same.
To talk about romantic feelings, you can use Jag är kär i dig or Jag älskar dig.
The first sentence is similar to the English “To be in love with”, while the second is the big “I love you”. So you would use “Jag är kär i dig” in the beginning of a relationship when all is sparkles and new emotions, and “Jag älskar dig” when you are in a long-term, serious love relationship.
While “Jag älskar dig” could be used with a member of the family to show them love, “Jag är kär i dig” can only be used with a significant other.
Please note that I’m still a beginner in Swedish, so there might be other expressions that I missed. If you know any, please leave a comment!
Just a tiny fact about a language I don’t speak, but I kind of understand.
Once I was chatting about this topic with two Spanish friends. One of them said she would use Te quiero to express love for her partner, but Te amo sounds like South American soap opera. The other, who has Argentinian origins, said she would use both “Te quiero” and “Te amo”.
Spanish natives or Spanish speakers: what do you think?
First of all, that culture plays a huge role in language learning, so you better take your time to understand what’s behind the words.
No tricks or hacks can teach you the delicate nuances of expressing affection. Aiming at getting fluent fast will most definitely leave gaps in your cultural awareness and overall ability to properly communicate in the language.
Second: making mistakes about such a sensitive topic teaches you things you will never forget.
Sure, it can be embarrassing for a moment, but you’ll be forgiven and the misunderstanding will be cleared – after all, you’re not a native speaker. The things you learnt through this faux pas, though, will stay with you.
These kind of mistakes are worth making if you ask me!
What do you say when you talk about love in your language? Or in the languages you know?
Leave a comment and let me know! I would like for this post to become a big collection of love. <3
I’m a creature of habit.
My days follow an almost unchangeable routine.
My friends and family know exactly all of my little quirks. I always order the same pizza, the same drinks, the same ice cream.
Habits are one of my coping strategies against anxiety. Knowing what’s happening next makes me feel safe. Always picking the same dish avoids me the overwhelm of choosing.
Some might say I’m not an adventurous person, and that’s OK.
It’s alright until I get to the point when I reject all changes. I try to keep a healthy balance between my cosy, safe habits, and some novelty.
From time to time, though, I slip into a stubborn shutdown. “Yes, but…” becomes my default mode.
“You’ve been working a lot, you should go for a walk” “Yes, but…”
“You always order margherita pizza, but capricciosa is good, too!” “Yes, but…”
“Try this silly series if you’re feeling down.” “Yes, but…”
And so on.
When I finally realise I’m going that way, I gently push myself to do one small new thing. It can be as small as trying colouring books when I feel caught up with stress, or watching a show someone recommended me.
Because I know that I need some new things to keep my creativity go. I need new eyes to find my way around a problem. I need new inspiration to fuel my work and my language learning.
I hold tight to my habits in language learning, too.
For my Swedish learning routine, I rely on a few tools:
I’m happy with this routine and having a fixed set of resources helps me avoid overwhelm.
This doesn’t mean I don’t experience anything new, though. For example, I switch the app I use from time to time, ah! 😀
But the main source of novelty is human interaction.
The sessions with my teacher, of course, are always something new. Every conversation with another human being gives you something new if you let it.
And on Instagram I meet new learners every month, discover new stories, feel in awe of all these people who progress and struggle and share it all with others, joined by a love for learning.
So for me, as an introvert, the community is the biggest source of newness. Because interaction often drains me, when I decide to interact I do it wholeheartedly.
Of course, you can find fresh experiences on your own, too. Me-time is the comfortable time par excellence, but you can still add a bit of a twist to it.
My latest addition (and addiction) is yoga.
I’ve always been the laziest couch potato you can think of. Suddenly I get to experience the benefits of physical exercise on my brain, on my emotions and on my body.
A miracle, or what?
Truth is, most of the positive changes in my life come from… a little push from the outside.
So I cook balanced healthy meals and eat my veggies because I promised my boyfriend to do so.
I started going on walks because a friend made playlists for me that I could listen to only if I was outside.
I tried yoga because another friend told me a million times how good it would be for me.
Yep, I’m stubborn, but I learnt my lesson and I try to listen to the advice of people who care for me a bit more often.
Alright, you’re wondering, but what about language learning?
Well, in language learning, too, I look for healthy, balanced and feel-good strategies I can adopt from other learners and teachers.
Language Learning Summit is a celebration of all things language that will happen from the 11th to 24th February.
And it happens online so you know… you can attend in your pyjama.
You can watch presentations by more than 50 polyglots, teachers, learners and enthusiasts. For the most adventurous, you can virtually meet others during networking events, find a language partner or maybe a new friend.
There will be live talks and language practice groups, interviews and expert panels.
So if you weren’t sure where to find new perspectives and ideas, well… this is a good start.
I’m looking forward to this event and I hope you’ll be able to join, too. I can’t wait to hear the talks by wonderful language teachers and learners such as Danae from Alpha Beta Greek, Kamila from Polyglot’s Diary and Angel from French Fluency, and so many more.
Ahem… yes, there will be a talk from yours truly, too.
It’s about strategies to avoid overwhelm in language learning and getting the topic out there is worth the anxiety I went through while recording it.
If you ever felt like language learning was filling you with stress and worries I wrote this talk thinking about you.
My goal with this is, first and foremost, to let you know you’re not alone.
Yes, we are quiet language learners, but we don’t need to be silent anymore. We don’t only succeed every time but we also struggle, so what? The time has come to accept this is normal, everyone does and who tells you they don’t is hiding part of the big picture.
And with every struggle comes a possible solution, because we don’t just rant and complain without fighting back, right?
I’m looking forward to your feedback, to hear what was helpful and what can be improved, too.
Registration to the event is 17$, but you can use the code “celebratelanguages” at checkout to have 15$ off.
This makes it 2$ for a 2-weeks event – not bad uh.
For lifelong access to the 50+ talks, you can get a Premium Pass for 37$.
So if you’re busy and can’t make it, or if you want to rewatch your favourites, you can still enjoy Language Learning Summit.
I hope you’ll make it!
Please do get in touch to have a chat about your favourite presentations, share ideas and inspiration from the summit. You can tweet my way and use the official hashtag #LangSummit, or you can join the quiet language learners’ nest on Facebook.
See you at the summit!
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