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.
Discover your language learner’s Hogwarts house according to your learning style. A nerdy fun article to reflect on the way you learn best.View Post
… to indulge yourself in during the Christmas holidays.
Christmas makes me feel all warm inside, with thoughts of hot chocolates, fluffy blankets and lots of quality me-time.
It’s the best time to stay in, while it’s cold and dark outside, and spoil myself a bit. Which means lots of time for language learning in all its forms.
Today I am going to share with you 25 cosy, comfortable, stay at home language learning activities that introverts will definitely love.
This way you’ll learn some words that are relevant to you at the moment. If you catch up with your language partner after the holidays, you already know how to say what you received – or what you wanted but you didn’t get…
You can use the recipe for a meal from your country or a dish that is common in most places. You can bake your own bread, a yummy cake, or prepare a healthy salad. If you’re adventurous you can cook a traditional dish from the country where your target language is spoken.
You’ll probably feel a bit silly, but we like silly. Singing a famous Christmas carol will be easy because you’re already familiar with the melody.
Go on a Spotify or YouTube discovery spree. Google the name of the language you’re studying + a genre you love. Or why not, start listening to a whole new genre.
Think of an old favourite, a book you’ve read so many times you know all that’s happening, page by page. Reading it in your target language is going to help you pick up new vocabulary without effort. And even if you’re not likely to use Quidditch vocabulary in your daily life, you’ll get plenty of fun and satisfaction anyway.
Better if it’s a famous one that most people have watched: you get extra culture points. Head over to IMDB and look for the best-rated or recently released movies in your target language.
As for the translation of a favourite book, this is another way to pick up some vocabulary with little effort. I bet you have a movie you watched so many times you know it by heart. That’s a perfect choice! It’s going to be weird to watch it in another language, but learning your favourite monologue in your target language? Priceless.
Do some of your yearly reflection in the language you’re learning. According to your level, give yourself some writing prompts and write in your diary what happened to you this year, how you feel about it, what you wish for the new year.
Grammar geek friend, you’re welcome here. Doing grammar exercises is a wonderful way to unwind during the holidays. You can focus on practising a new rule and leave the world and its noise outside – if you ask me, it’s one of the small pleasures of life.
Get creative, experiment with words, try to train your imagination to work in your target language, too. Don’t worry too much about grammar, here. I know, it’s hard, but for this task, you should let go of your perfectionism. You’re allowed to take some poetic licence.
Taking care of your meaningful connections is a priority. Send a thought to your friends speaking a different language, just send a text message or you can even draw a pretty card. The most important thing is for you to nurture your relationships.
During the celebrations, you might have the chance to talk to your loved ones about the language or languages you’re learning. Try to arouse their curiosity and teach them a few words, a sentence or a little-known fact. Don’t overdo it, though!
Do it in your target language, obviously! Learn about the traditional Christmas dish of the country or a special way to celebrate in a city you’ve visited.
It can be a fun fact about the language you are learning or you can read something about a topic you’re passionate about, in your target language. Read a page on Wikipedia or an article from a newspaper or a magazine.
Oh, how I like it when things are tidy and organised. If you’ve been piling up notes over notes, use some time during the holidays to sort them. Divide vocabulary, grammar, idioms and use a colour-code to separate different topics. It will make it easier to review, later.
Careful with these, it’s easy to waste a whole afternoon there. Set an alarm after 30 minutes, just in case. Then dive in among pretty pictures, untranslatable words and learning inspiration.
You’ll get a tiny peek into Christmas celebrations, preparations and fun times in the country where your target language is spoken. You can learn some colloquial expression and, if you’re brave enough, you can join the conversation and post something using the hashtags yourself.
That time between Christmas and New Year is when you start learning something you always wanted to but never did. True, it might not last long, but at least you can take a couple of sewing tutorials in the language you’re learning and hit two birds with one stone.
It can be a course about the language or a course held in your target language, up to you. There is plenty of choice on websites like Open Culture, Coursera, Future Learn or Udemy. Be careful not to be overwhelmed by the number of things you can learn!
Podcasts and YouTube videos are good for times when you don’t want to focus too much, but if you have some time try to actively listen to new vocabulary, grammar and expressions. If you notice them and write them in your notebook, listening to the episode again later will reinforce your knowledge.
Meditation and yoga are wonderful ways to take care of yourself and become more mindful. I’ve recently started following the channel Yoga with Adriane and I can already feel the benefits of a regular yoga practice. You can look for guided yoga or meditation practice in the language you’re learning.
Is it just me, or writing a list is an extremely satisfying activity? It can simply be a list of things to do, or places you want to go, but also the things that make you smile and feel good. You guessed it: write the list in your target language.
But make sure you don’t spend too much time on them! They are ideal for short breaks or little study sessions. So if you don’t have many hours to practice between meals with your family and Christmas parties, you can dedicate a few minutes to learning anyway.
I am a very big fan of learning online – as an introvert, it has been quite a revolution for me. Many teachers might be on holiday, but you can at least start looking for a tutor you feel like you can trust and book a lesson for January.
Are you a member of the overthinkers’ club, too? Then do it in your target language. This can also be a little remedy to the crazy amount of thinking you do sometimes. It will take more of an effort to do it in a different language, so you’ll be able to slow it down a bit.
And because I want to thank you for being around and reading until the end, I am adding a special present: a language lover’s playlist. It’s a Spotify playlist of 90 songs in 36 languages, selected from different genres and artists. I wanted to give you some inspiration, so there are no big radio hits and no songs in English (those are way too easy to find). In the Secret Library, you’ll also find the tracklist. Enjoy it and let me know what you think!
Are you going to try any of these activities? Have you scheduled any special language learning plan for the holidays? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
I wish you a lovely festive season, with plenty of meaningful connections and enough me-time!
Disclaimer: some links in this post are affiliate, which means I will receive a small commission with no additional cost for you if you buy anything through the link. I only recommend products that I use or have used myself.
When I moved to Japan I was determined to learn the language as fast as possible. I didn’t take into account my shyness and my perfectionism, though. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak, I became super self-conscious. I could hear my mistakes and I kept hesitating, too nervous to produce a whole sentence without pausing.
That’s why it took me months to start using the language with some confidence. In the beginning, I would go along with my introvert side and just listen and observe. Then I started to imitate what I was hearing. Not only the words and expressions but also the sounds, the silences, the pauses. Finally, after about a year, I was able to speak with confidence with friends, colleagues, teachers and strangers.
I had learned how to talk, but also how to react to others’ words, when to pause, how to listen. I had even understood that there was no need to fear hesitation: I just had to express hesitation in my target language, too.
Japanese is a language where so many things are left unsaid – in a way, it is a great language for introverts and observers. To speak it, you have to understand the Japanese way to suggest something or to leave it unspoken.
More than in other languages, abruptly starting a conversation won’t sound natural.
To help you feel a bit more prepared to speak Japanese, today I’ll introduce you to some useful words and expressions. These will help you to start a conversation and to keep it going.
では、始めましょう！/dewa, hajimemashou/ So, let’s begin!
This is a must-know. It means “Excuse me” and it’s used to get the attention of the person you want to talk to.
By itself, it is used to attract the listener’s attention. Think of it as “Say…”, “Err…”, “Well…”.
In informal conversation, you’ll often hear also あのね /anone/, more feminine, and あのさあ /anosaa/, used mostly by men.
This word is very useful to take some time and think of what to say or what to reply. It’s used when hesitating and its meaning is similar to “Let me see, err, well”.
When used in the beginning of a sentence, they mark a new topic. They can be translated as “So”.
This is used to bring up the main topic of a discussion, or to confess or admit something. It means “To tell the truth, as a matter of fact, actually, frankly”.
You can use this word when you want to change the topic of discussion. It means “By the way”.
It means “For example”.
Aizuchi 相槌 are interjections and fillers used in Japanese during a conversation to let the speaker know you’re listening attentively to what they’re saying. They are essential for the conversation to go smoothly: without them, the speaker might think you’re not interested, or you’re a bit distant. Through aizuchi, you encourage the speaker to tell you more and you show that you want to hear their story.
They might sound weird to you in the beginning, but it’s important to learn how to use them when speaking with Japanese people.
These two words can be used also as aizuchi. When someone is telling you a story, you can use them as questions to know more. They can be translated as “And then?”, “Then what?”.
These words mean “Yes”, with different degrees of formality. はい /hai/ is formal, うん /un/ is informal. As fillers, they have a similar use as “Yes, I see, OK, Uh-huh”.
These are used to agree with something the speaker said. They mean “I agree, you’re right, indeed”.
It means “Really? Is that so?” and it’s used when someone tells you something you didn’t know. To show interest in a good news you say it in an ascending tone. To show empathy for bad news you say it in a descending tone.
When pronounced in an ascending tone, it shows surprise or enthusiasm, a bit like “Whaaat?!”. Careful, because when it’s pronounced in a descending tone it shows you’re not too interested in what is being said.
These expressions indicate surprise, like the English “Really? Seriously? Are you serious?”.
This is a casual expression showing agreement, and it means “I think so too, I told you so!, I know right?”.
These are some of the most common expressions you can use to make your Japanese conversation sound more natural.
If you don’t feel ready to use them in conversation, yet, try to identify them in movies, series or shows. Observe their use and get familiar with it. Learning how to use them will make a big difference in the way you socialise in Japanese!
What are the most common fillers and conversation openers in your language? Is it common to show interest in the conversation by using gap fillers?
Feeling part of an online community and building relationships with people who share your interests is a wonderful way to grow your motivation and make steady progress in your studies. If you’re an introvert, it can become the perfect balance between connecting with people and being comfortable having your own space. That’s why I decided to take part in #DolceVitaBloggers linkup, hosted by Kelly @italianatheart_, Jasmine @questadolcevita and Kristie @mammaprada.
This month’s topic is The Italian Connection, but explaining my connection to Italy would be way too easy: I’m Italian, duh! Instead, I am going to tell you a little secret that can help you connect more with Italian people, and teach you some words to go with it. Ready?
For some people, starting to speak is the hardest part of language learning. Learning some vocabulary on an app is fine, doing grammar exercises is a blast… but speaking? I’m not ready yet! What if I stutter, mumble and say incomprehensible things?
You might feel like you want to wait just a liiittle bit longer before talking to native speakers. You will talk when you know more words, or after you’ve polished your grammar, or when you are able to produce a whole sentence without hesitation. The thought of filling your sentence with “Um, ah… er…” freezes you.
Hey, I feel you! I’ve been through the fear of speaking a target language. I’ve also been terrified of being really awkward in my native language. Sometimes, when I’m in front of people I don’t know, I can’t think of a single word to say. So I won’t push you to speak at any cost if that makes you uncomfortable.
For now, I just want to give you two reasons why you don’t need to be scared to start speaking in Italian.
The first one is: Italians will be so happy about it. It doesn’t matter if you mess your verb tenses or if you can’t remember how to say “shy”. Being a foreigner who studies their language and tries to communicate through it will create an instant connection between you and any Italian you meet. They will be so proud you decided to learn Italian. They will be helpful and maybe even offer you a coffee.
As a general rule, Italians are indeed a friendly bunch and they won’t care much about language barriers. Probably their English isn’t top notch, either, but you’ll see them giving it a shot anyway. So go with the flow, mix up your sentences with some hand gestures, and have fun communicating in Italian.
The second reason is: there is nothing wrong with hesitating while speaking! People have been pausing, hesitating and filling those pauses for as long as we’ve had language. Moreover, every language in the world has sounds and words to fill the silence between sentences.
According to some research, hesitation actually makes you into a better speaker. It makes your sentences sound more natural and contributes to creating trust between you and the person you’re talking to. When you are talking with someone and trying to connect with them, you really don’t want to sound like a scripted tape! Besides, taking time to formulate your ideas and answers in a conversation is a good habit also in your native language. It shows thoughtfulness, attention to the listener and prevents you from saying things you’d regret one second later.
Now that you know there is no need to eradicate hesitation, pauses and fillers from your conversation, you hopefully feel a bit more confident about speaking with Italian people.
To really hesitate like an Italian, though, you need the right words. Let’s have a look at some fillers you can use to sound more natural. Then you’ll be ready to dare opening your mouth and starting to build your Italian connections!
These neutral sounds are similar in most languages, and you can use them as you would “Hmm” in English. They express perplexity, doubt, uncertainty. “Ehm” can also express embarrassment together with hesitation. Don’t confuse them with “Mmm!”, the sound you use when you talk about a yummy food!
Dunque means “therefore, so” and as such, it can be used to connect sentences. The famous proposition Cogito ergo sum by René Descartes is translated as “I think, therefore I am” in English, and “Penso, dunque sono” in Italian.
When used as a filler, “dunque” indicates you are collecting your ideas before speaking.
“Allora” is a very versatile word that deserves a post of its own. It means “then, at that time” and it can be used as a synonym of “dunque” as “therefore, so”. It is also translated as “then” in sentences like “Ci vediamo domani, allora!”, “I’ll see you tomorrow, then!”.
As a filler, you can place it at the beginning of a sentence when you are thinking of what to say.
The most common use of “allora” is equivalent to the English word “well” as an introduction to a sentence.
“Vediamo” literally means “Let’s see”, so you can use it in the same way. In many sentences where it’s used as a filler, it can be replaced by “allora” and “dunque”.
“Aspetta” means “wait”. You can use it when you need a bit more time to think, but you want to let the listener know you’re getting there. You can also use it when you just remembered something.
If you are talking with someone you don’t know well, you should use the formal “aspetti”.
“Insomma” is another word that conveys many meanings. You can use it to wrap up a sentence, or as an exclamation to express impatience and frustration. In some contexts it’s translated as “so-so”, other times it’s used as a filler meaning “like”, “you know”.
“Boh” is a very common word used in colloquial speech to express that you don’t know something or that you are totally indifferent to it.
“Beh” is an informal expression that means “well, so”. It’s very common in Italian.
You can also use it to introduce your opinion about something, sometimes expressing mild disagreement to what someone else has said.
“Mah” is an expression of doubt or uncertainty. You can think about it as a vocal equivalent of a shoulder shrug. You can use it as a reply to a question if you don’t know the answer.
When you use it at the beginning of a sentence, it implies you’re not too convinced about something. It can be loosely translated as “well”.
Well, now that you know the most common Italian fillers you are all set to embrace your imperfections and start connecting with the natives. Remember that hesitating is natural, even in your native language. It takes courage and time to start speaking, but you can do it! Good luck!
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t speak for fear of hesitating or making pauses? How did you overcome your fear?
When I took my first online lesson as a student, I was SO nervous. I was afraid something would go wrong and I was sure it would be awkward. I must admit, I was almost tempted to not show up. But then I did, and I’m oh! so glad.
The conversation went smoothly, I got a boost of confidence in my language abilities and I learnt much more than in a study session by myself. And, surprise surprise, my computer didn’t even explode.
It turns out this extremely shy, socially anxious, introverted me feels much more at ease when taking lessons through a screen. Incidentally, also when giving lessons through a screen.
After that first time, I took several more online lessons, in different languages and with different teachers. I even moved my own teaching from offline to online. Today I want to share with you how online lessons revolutionised my language learning, and how you can get some revolution, too.
But let’s take it slowly, one step at a time.
There are several reasons why you might want to start studying with a private teacher.
The risk of losing track, if you study by yourself, is real. You take it easy once, then twice, then you don’t open your textbook for a whole week. A teacher will be also your personal language coach. You’ll be more motivated to do your homework for the next lesson if someone prepared it just for you (and is actually going to check it).
Maybe you have reached a plateau and you feel like you’re not making progress. Perhaps you want to fill some gaps and you need the help of a professional, who is able to identify your weaknesses and help you with them. You might be preparing for an exam or a move to another country. In any case, a trained teacher can help you improve faster and meet your goals through lessons prepared to fulfil your needs.
For some of us, starting to speak a foreign language is super scary. Or well… speaking with people is scary in itself! To truly learn a language, though, at some point speaking is inevitable. Finding a teacher to have lessons or conversation with can be your comfortable space to practice, strengthening your language learning muscles and your self-confidence, before talking to other people.
Learning a language in a class can help you make friends, but it can also be a bit stressful. I still remember how nervous I got every time I had to speak in front of my classmates or to practice in couples or small groups! Moreover, the pace needs to suit everyone, so it might be too fast or too slow for you. Finally, the teacher has to work with to the whole group and they couldn’t be there just for you. When you have your own private teacher, you have their undivided attention. That’s a pretty big advantage!
The obvious plus of learning with an online teacher is you have much more choice. You aren’t limited to teachers living in your proximity, which is great if you’re from a small town or a rural area.
You also have immediate access to online tools, such as dictionaries and thesauruses, that can speed up communication between you and your teacher. And you’re just a click away from an infinite amount of authentic materials for your teacher to use during lessons!
Are you are shy, anxious or an introvert? Then there are extra super juicy benefits for you. 🙂
For anxious people, going to a place they’re not familiar with can be overwhelming. Whether you are meeting your teacher in a public place or at their home, the fear of getting lost and making yourself ridiculous is always lurking. So you will probably end up getting out way too early and having to wait for 20 minutes every time. This totally didn’t happen to me… several times.
The teacher won’t come to your place either, so you won’t have to do a massive house cleaning before every lesson. Because if they found one cat hair on a chair they will surely think that’s unbearably disgusting… Better still, you can learn from the sofa in your living room and you can even be in your pyjama and wrapped in your favourite blanket. If you really really really don’t feel at ease, you could tell your teacher you prefer to switch the camera off. I don’t recommend it, as face time is important to create trust and connection, but it’s a possibility.
Most online language teachers have a website or a presence on some social media. This makes it easier for you to do some research and find someone who gives you good vibes. You can read their blog, follow them on your favourite social media, subscribe to their newsletter, check out their videos, get a feel for their personality. Take some time to make sure you are a good match and that you like them and their attitude.
In my experience, learning with someone online helps you break barriers between you and them faster. You might think that meeting in person is the best way to interact and that online lessons lack real human connection, but that’s not true at all. Having a screen between you and your teacher will actually release some tension and being in the comfort of your home will help you feel more relaxed. Chances are you’ll share a laugh, make a joke, find something in common with your teacher during your very first lesson. I have been truly amazed by being able to be myself during online lessons – incredible for someone who is so shy in front of strangers!
Alright, let’s say you decided you want to take language lessons online and you picked your teacher. What next?
Now it’s time to get in touch and be sure you’ve made the right choice. Take a moment to write down what you are looking for in a teacher and prepare some questions to ask them.
It’s important to understand that there is no right or wrong here. Maybe the teacher is not a native speaker of the language, but they are extremely good at it and prepared to help you learn. Maybe they charge a bit more than others, but they offer great professionalism and go the extra mile for their students. It’s up to you if you’re looking for someone friendly, for a formal approach, for a strict or a relaxed attitude.
It’s likely that you’ll know if they are right for you the very first time you talk. Whether it is a free trial, a consultation or a proper lesson, that is going to be the moment of truth. Try to be as open-minded and positive as you possibly can, but also trust your gut.
Be honest and clear about your goals, needs, favourite resources and learning style and see how they respond. A good teacher won’t hesitate to tell you no and direct you elsewhere if they don’t believe they can help you.
After the first virtual meeting, take a moment to collect your impressions. Did you feel comfortable with the teacher? Did the conversation flow smoothly? Do you have interests in common, did you share a laugh? Do you feel more confident about your skills, or about being able to meet your goals? Most importantly, are you looking forward to studying with them? If your answer to all or most of these questions is “yes”, then congratulations! You’re about to start an engaging and satisfactory learning adventure.
For me, learning with an online teacher has been one of the best things I did for my language learning.
I get guidance, motivation to keep studying regularly and encouragement throughout my progress. Last but not least, I became confident enough to speak, make mistakes in front of people, laugh at those mistakes and start speaking again. A little miracle!
What about you? Did you ever take language lessons online? Was it a good experience?
If you haven’t, why so? What is the main reason why you’re holding back? Let me know in the comments!
Ready to take online lessons? Then get your free checklist to help you find the perfect online teacher. It’s waiting for you in the Secret Library, subscribe to get access! 🙂