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.
Love words in Italian, English, Japanese, French and Swedish: cultural differences, mistakes and expressions of affection in different languages.View Post
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!
This post contains affiliate links. It means that, if you buy something through the link, I get a small commission that helps me cover the website expenses. Thank you!
I started my first blog in 2002. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved to write. So I began to write some sort of angst teenage journal in white small letters on a black background, on a now long gone Italian platform called Splinder.
I was writing it for myself and I didn’t feel the need for anyone to read it. But then people did.
We were all teenagers, we picked our nicknames from the lyrics of punk-rock bands. We wrote about loneliness, unrequited love, and all those struggles that seem so final and important when you’re 17. We connected through a common love for OK Computer and Pulp Fiction and a shared feeling of melancholy.
Most importantly, we were there for each other. We recognised ourselves in the others’ pain. We exchanged emails, we listened and gave advice, and we eased each others’ path through the rough times of being a teenager.
The more I learnt about Japan and Japanese, the more it grew and expanded. Once again, I connected with people through the blog. Some of them I met in real life, with some we are good friends now. We taught each other many things, we exchanged opinions about the Japanese culture.
Through that online community, I found relief when I struggled in my life overseas.
Then, one year ago, I created Hitoritabi.
I can’t begin to say how many wonderful and inspiring people I met through this blog. Besides discovering new resources, experimenting strategies and learning methods, support is still the main takeaway I get from this community. Since the very beginning, other learners and teachers have been there cheering me in my successes, empathising with me in my falls.
As an introvert, I’m used to time alone and I rarely get bored when I’m by myself. But finding people who share my interests is important for me, too, and not all of my real-life friends do. Besides, they’re spread around the globe – the perks of living abroad, uh.
For years, online communities have been the point where my desire for time alone met the need to connect with people and talk about common interests.
I can be home in my pyjama cuddling my dog, and at the same time I can vent out about my frustrations, or give advice to someone struggling with their progress. I can share an illuminating article or discover a laugh-worthy comic strap and get the biggest laugh of the day.
That’s why today I’d like to share with you why online communities are important for introverts, and how to find one.
Face to face interaction can be stressful if you are an introvert or a shy person. You feel awkward and you are absolutely sure that the other person knows you do, too. The slightest hesitation or slip of the tongue becomes a major drama and makes you freeze completely.
Through a screen, you feel safer. Sure, your real name and picture are there, but you can better hide all of your insecurities. This way, you can be yourself, be calmer, and build meaningful connections faster.
For many introverts, writing is the most natural way of communicating. We write for ourselves, we write blogs, we write all the time. It allows us to think about what to say, to formulate our thoughts and to come up with something we’re happy about.
How many times did you think of something brilliant to say hours after a conversation was over? When you communicate online, it isn’t as weird to go back to a conversation and add your thoughts at a later time.
And then, there are those days when we can’t stand any human interaction at all. We hide in our cocoon of thoughts and we isolate ourselves from the world.
Oh, the struggle of getting a message on one of those days… Is it just me, or this system of showing people when a message was received and read must be some sort of complot against introverts’ mental sanity?
Anyway, when you are in an online community you’re not expected to reply straight away. You can take your day off and get back to the conversation when you feel ready for some social interaction.
Most of the biggest websites and apps for language learning have forums where users can get in touch with each other and find advice.
For example, Duolingo, Memrise and Clozemaster have forums where you can discuss with people learning the same language as you. On Italki’s forum (affiliate) you can also ask native speakers to correct the things you write.
The language learning community on Instagram is so lovely.
Learners are willing to step out of their comfort zone and make mistakes, and everyone is there to look out for you through your journey, make kind corrections to your writing and make you feel welcome.
Plus, if pictures are your thing, you can practice your skills in photography, too.
If you already have a blog, you can join a link-up. It means that you write a blog post on a common theme as other bloggers, usually on a set date, and share the link. Then you read, comment and cheer for other learners, and they will read, comment and cheer for you.
The pace is a bit faster on Twitter, but you can still join threads and discussions in your own time.
A lot of learners and teachers are easy to contact there, and you can interact in a not-committing way in just a couple of sentences. For me, Twitter is a place where I can get in touch with others with as little stress as possible.
Follow people who learn and teach your target language, or for general content about language learning check the hashtags #langchat and #languagelearning.
You might also want to keep an eye on #langsummit, a big online event for language lovers coming up soon.
From time to time there are language challenges going on there, too. If you feel brave, they are always a fun way to connect with other learners.
Facebook is becoming more and more a place where people connect and socialise, and less a place where getting passive knowledge.
Showing up with your actual name and picture can be daunting, but in most of the groups I explored people are, once again, kind and helpful.
And as you are here, nodding along at our shared introvert struggles, why not joining a newborn Facebook group, The quiet language learners’ nest?
I created it because I would love to build a warm and supportive community where introvert, shy and anxious language learners can thrive. There, no one will shout you must speak from day one, or push you towards fluency in no time.
Where is the fun in cutting the learning process short, anyway?
I hope to see you there to start this journey together.
Do you look for support in your language learning and community online? Which are your favourite virtual huts? If you have any good one to recommend, let me know in the comments. 🙂
There are days when life is grey and you just want to hide under a big blanket, away from everyone. In a sort of protest against the world, you want to be in your head all the time and forget what is outside. Maybe to take a walk in a forest, listening only to the sounds of nature. Or immerse yourself completely in an entrancing adventure tale and daydream to be the heroine of the story. Or, if you’re like me, throw yourself into a massive kanji study session.
I’ve been there many times.
When I used to live in Kyoto, I often took a bus to a quiet shrine or a path in the woods to be by myself. It was the most refreshing, energising feeling.
While in Japan I also learnt some words that fit perfectly with that state of mind. Today I’m going to share a few introvert-friendly words with you, together with some kanji and grammar. Some of my favourite things all together!
Forest bathing, forest therapy, taking a peaceful walk in a forest.
Doesn’t it feel amazing to disconnect from everything that drains you and walk in the silence of a forest? To look at the light through the leaves, listen to nothing but the sound of the birds and your steps on the path. When you need to recharge, please take some time to 森林浴をする /shinrin’yoku wo suru/, do forest bathing, or 森林浴に行く /shinrin’yoku ni iku/ – take a walk in the forest.
森林 /shinrin/ means forest, woods. It’s formed by the kanji 森 /mori/, meaning forest, and 林 /hayashi/ meaning grove. Their meaning is similar, but 森 is bigger than 林 – you guessed it, it’s formed by three 木 /ki/, kanji for tree, instead of two.
浴 is the kanji used in 浴びる /abiru/, that means to bathe in, to bask in, to be immersed in. You also use it in シャワーを浴びる /shawaa wo abiru/, to take a shower.
Buying books and stockpiling without reading them.
I’m so guilty: when I see a bookstore I can’t resist and I often buy more books than I have the time to read. Raise your hand if you’ve done it, too.
If so, you can say 積ん読してしまう /tsundoku shite shimau/. The structure -te shimau suggests that you don’t really want to… but you end up doing it anyway.
This word is formed by the kanji for 積む /tsumu/, to accumulate, and 読む /yomu/, to read.
Pretending to be out.
Imagine you’re home in your pyjamas, rewatching a favourite movie wrapped in a blanket. Someone rings the bell at your door, but you’re not waiting for anyone. Sometimes when it happens I stay quiet, almost stop to breathe, and wait for the person to go away pretending I’m not there. Not the greatest example of adulting, I agree, but nobody’s perfect!
In Japan, they have a word for it. You can say 居留守を使う /irusu wo tsukau/, or pretend not to be home.
The kanji 居 is the same you’d use in いる, to be there or to exist, although it’s almost always written in hiragana only. 留守 /rusu/ is the word for being away from home, so here you go: you are there, but you do as if you were away from home.
To shut oneself in one’s room, to seclude oneself, to hide away.
Oh yes, there are those days too. When you don’t want to be out in a forest, or in a library, or with one close friend. You just want to be in your room with chocolate ice cream and a grammar book. That’s fine! You can こもる
for a while.
This word is usually written in hiragana only, but there are two kanji for it: 籠 and 篭. Both kanji have the meaning of “seclude oneself, cage, implied”.
こもる is also part of the word 引き篭もり (or 引き籠もり) /hikikomori/, used for people who decided to reclude themselves and withdraw from society.
Someone who curls up under a kotatsu all winter.
Of all cosy Japanese inventions, kotatsu is one of the cosiest. It’s a low wooden table covered by a thick blanket and heated from below. So you can snuggle your legs under the blanket and be warm and comfortable. I wish I could find one in Europe, too.
こたつ is usually written in kana only. 虫 /mushi/ means insect, bug, but you can also use it to describe someone’s temper. For example, 泣き虫 /nakimushi/ is a crybaby: you add 虫 after 泣く /naku/, to cry.
Quiet, silent, slow, unhurried, calm, peaceful.
People often use “quiet” to describe introverts and shy people. That’s because they don’t know the storm of thoughts that happens in our heads most of the time.
Silent and peaceful are also two words to describe our favourite environments and moments: a peaceful evening, a silent house.
From the point of view of grammar, 静か is a -na adjective. This means that, when you use it with a noun, you have to add -na at the end. For example, you can say 静かな人 /shizukana hito/, a quiet person, or 静かな一日 /shizukana ichinichi/, a quiet day.
Lonely, lonesome, solitary, desolate.
Ah, solitude. We look for it and cherish time alone, but we’re also scared to be lonely. It’s hard to find the right balance, especially as an introvert. Sometimes we feel 寂しい, too.
And although we like to be by ourselves, we are not necessarily 寂しがり屋 /sabishigariya/, a lonely person or a person who succumbs easily to loneliness. We do nurture our meaningful connections with care.
寂しい can be pronounced both as /sabishii/ and /samishii/. You can use it to describe someone’s feeling, but also a place. It’s an -i adjective, so you can use it directly next to a noun as it is. For example 寂しい女性 /sabishii josei/, a lonely woman; 寂しい場所 /sabishii basho/, a desolate place.
Daze, (in a) trance, ecstasy, engrossment, deeply absorbed, in a deep dream.
You know when you’re reading “just one more chapter” of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and suddenly you get to the last page and it’s 3 a.m.? You are so absorbed, so deeply into the book that you lose the sense of time.
Then you could say ハリーポッターの本に夢中になっていました /Harii Pottaa no hon ni muchuu ni natteimashita/, I was completely absorbed in the Harry Potter book.
The kanji in this word are 夢 /yume/, dream, and 中 /naka/, middle or centre.
You can also use this word when you want to talk about something you’re strongly passionate about. To do so, use the structure [something]に夢中になっている, /ni muchuu ni natteiru/. For example, 音楽に夢中になっている /ongaku ni muchuu ni natteiru/, I’m crazy about music.
Travelling alone, solitary journey.
Well, yes, a bit of self-celebration here. Travelling by yourself is an intense, liberating experience. My first solo trip, which also inspired the name of this blog, was a four-day adventure to Nikko. I needed to be alone with my thoughts and in a place where nobody knew me, so I set out on a lonely journey: 一人旅に出かけた /hitoritabi ni dekaketa/.
一人 means one person, or alone, while 旅 means trip, travel. If you’ve never taken a short trip by yourself, give it a try!
Which one of this words resonates the most with you? What is your favourite word for introverts (in Japanese or in any other language)? Let me know in the comments!
Pssst! Are you an introvert, shy or anxious language learner? Then join me in The quiet language learners’ nest, a Facebook group where we can share tips about learning a language without pressure, find a kind and empathetic community and thrive together. Hope to see you there!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the “get fluent in no time” language learning approach?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. And there are other ways, I promise.
Today I have a guest who agrees with us, too. Danae, who shares lessons for people who love learning Greek at Alpha Beta Greek, tells us about a slower approach to language learning and how to get the most out of it.
Do you ever feel so focused on your language study that you forget the world around you?
Pretty much like reading an intriguing novel – except the imagination part.
Maybe more like… knitting?
A stitch is replaced by words, a knitting pattern by grammar patterns. And as you put together this puzzle of initially nonsensical bits, you feel the happiness and satisfaction of completing a project.
You feel focused and present.
You slow down the time.
Yep. Sounds like knitting.
Here’s the fun fact. I don’t even knit, my daughter does. But, I learn languages.
When Elena and I were talking about language learning and anxiety, I remembered the calming effects learning a language had in various periods of my life; moving places, even different countries; starting a new job; dealing with work-related stress.
The vocabulary was there to explore, new sounds to pronounce, grammar activities to fill out.
I was able to slow down and focus on my learning, shutting for a bit the noise out.
Because here’s the truth.
Our culture wants us constantly busy. Buzzing. Exhilarated.
Language learning is often seen in similar ways. Fast. Exciting. Easy.
I get it. People are different, with different goals and different learning styles.
But what about us souls out there who believe in a slower, calmer, centred approach to language learning – if not life in general. What about us who actually need this kind of approach?
This summer I started learning Dutch. It was a project I postponed for years. Like, 10 years! “Not having time” was my excuse and being the perfectionist I am (recovering, gradually) I was aiming for “the” perfect time or “the” high energy to study.
Without really realizing it, I was buying into all the “fast, smart and easy” hype, thinking that if I don’t even have the time or the abilities (!) to learn this way, then, well, that’s it. I’m doomed.
Until I realized that what I needed was a different approach. Gentler.
In the middle of the chaos that is life, I started, one word at a time, knitting my way through Dutch.
I ignored all “streaks” my app was giving me, all points and rewards. I found the time to learn the language by slowing the process down.
Seems counterproductive? Well. Before August I didn’t speak or understand a word of Dutch. Now I can understand short sentences, grasp some tricky grammar concepts and understand part of the Netherlands culture through its language.
Doesn’t seem too bad!
Had I pressured myself to the “right here, right now” approach, filling my phone and my email with daily lessons and making learning a race, I‘d still be left hoping to learn Dutch someday.
Hey, I’m not saying a slower approach is for everyone or for any situation.
Sometimes you got an exam to pass. A deadline. Or you simply are your most productive when you decide that for the next 10 days you’ll be studying your target language 8 hours per day.
Sometimes – I do get it – you need to be fast.
But if you don’t have a deadline and you feel intimidated by speed and fast fluency, ask yourself what is it that you need? Realize you have a choice and this choice is enough for you and your needs.
At the end of the day, no one will know your needs better than yourself. Once you put the work and motivation you have, you become your own learning’s secret ingredient. And “fast” doesn’t have to be on your list.
Here are a few more ideas to get the most out of a slower learning:
How about you? Does a slower language learning pace resonate with you? Let me know in the comments.
A sun loving Greek and a philoglot, I teach Greek to people who love learning it, particularly supporting Beginners and Intermediate learners to confidently speak Greek.