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 powerful language learning self-love session inspired by Yoga with Adriene – a bit of creativity to practice languages in a caring and loving way.View Post
[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!
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!