Elena

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.

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Why an online language teacher is great for introvert learners

Finding an online language teacher is great for introvert, shy and anxious students. Start your language learning revolution from your living room!

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5 ways to avoid overwhelm when learning a language

Anxiety is one of the worst things to wake up to.
It shows up whenever it wants, stays for however long it likes. Often, it makes simple everyday activities into a challenge. It interferes with work, social life and also with language learning.

You can’t make anxiety disappear with a wave of a magic wand (yet!), but you can search for patterns and recurring causes. Little by little, you can try and implement strategies to ease your discomfort.

When it comes to language learning, there are several elements that might stress you: finding time to study, not getting the results you want, starting to speak, just to name a few.

In this post, I am going to address 5 problems I have experienced on the practical side of my language learning routine. Then I will share with you strategies I implemented to organise my monthly studies in order to avoid overwhelm.
To make the most of this article, don’t forget to download your free anxiety kit for language learners!

avoid overwhelm when learning a language

Goal setting

Many successful language learners recommend setting measurable and practical goals in order to get results. They also list accountability as one of the key factors to help you work towards those goals.
For anxious learners, though, this can become a double-edged sword. Getting support from fellow learners is a blessing, but you might also feel like everyone is looking at you underachieving. You know, rationally, that it’s not true, but anxiety is the opposite of rational.
You want to keep setting goals, but without feeling the pressure.

Let’s do it!

Recently, I started using a more flexible system to set goals. I draw a mind map of the activities I want to engage in during the month and hang it on the wall in my study corner. In the centre, I write which language I’m studying. Then I add 6 circles for different skills and aspects of the language: vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, writing, reading. Finally, I write around them the activities I plan for each skill. In the end, it looks like this:
mind map
This structure will also help you understand at a glance if you are working on all language skills in a balanced way.

Resources overwhelm

Nowadays you can find plenty of resources for most languages on the internet. Free apps, podcasts, grammar explanations, authentic materials are easily accessible from anywhere.
This is clearly a huge advantage and it makes it possible to study virtually any language from any corner of the world, as long as you have internet access. However, it could also become a source of stress. Every new tool sounds like the most amazing thing, you want to try it, you twist your learning routine to fit it in. In the end, you spread yourself too thin and use too many materials, so you lack the consistency you need in order to study effectively.

Let’s do it!

Right after drawing your goals mind map, pick the materials you will use during the month. Try and pick not more than 2-3 tools for every skill. If you are focusing on a specific skill, then pick a maximum of 5 resources to focus on. Try to stick with what you picked until the end of the month: if you find new materials you’d like to use, add them to your resource list for the following month.

Wasting time

Have you ever had a Sunday when you were totally up for a productive study session, then you checked Facebook and your day just disappeared into it? Or you wanted to watch a couple of episodes of your favourite series, and ended up spending the whole day in front of your TV? You probably felt frustrated and mad at yourself for wasting your time.
Studying regularly is the safest way to see fast results in your language learning. Sometimes, though, you feel like you have no time at all. You can’t find half an hour to practise and you are not improving as much you want. You seem to be unable to dedicate time to your language studies consistently.
Start planning your study sessions in advance: this will help you create a routine and make language learning a regular element in your life.

Let’s do it!

Take some time every week to plan your study sessions. Work your way around your commitments and actively create space in your week for language learning. Write in your planner at what time you are going to be able to do it and for how long. It would be ideal to decide which activity to do in every slot as well. On Monday you are going to work by bus? Then you can review vocabulary with your favourite app from 7:30 to 7:45. On Friday you are having some friends over for dinner? Listen to a couple of podcasts while you cook, from 18:00 to 19:00.

Underestimating your achievements

Oh, insecurity! As someone who struggles with anxiety, you surely know that tiny, annoying voice that tells you over and over that you’re not good enough. It creeps in your head and whispers “Your grammar is a mess!”, “You don’t know enough vocabulary”, “It takes you forever to formulate a sentence!” or “You got nothing done this week”.
Don’t let these negative thoughts kill your motivation. Even people who already speak several languages and act super confident still have their struggles, I promise you.
To have a clear idea of your progress, record it in a notebook. You can also record yourself speaking and listen to it a few months in: you will be able to hear how much you improved.

Let’s do it!

Before going to sleep, track every language learning activity you accomplished on that day. Write it down in your diary: you can go into details or just write a few words. What matters is to have some proof of your hard work whenever you start doubting yourself. Thinking of your achievements, however small, at the end of the day, will strengthen your confidence and motivation.

Lack of insight

Overthinking is one of the favourite pastimes of anxious people. Most of the times your mind revolves around one thought, often negative. You look at it from different perspectives, make it huge, analyse it for hours. So the idea that you might be lacking insight into your language learning sounds like nonsense to you. However, it’s important to train yourself to think positive thoughts and constructive critiques, instead of destructive rants. Maybe you could use some time of focused reflection on your studies to improve your results.

Let’s do it!

Every week, write a journal entry about language learning. What are you satisfied with? What didn’t go as expected? What was your biggest achievement? Is there anything you should do differently? Are the resources you chose still effective? What is your next goal?
This time is important to help you give form to your successes, worries and objectives. Journaling about language learning will make you more aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

To help you keep overwhelm out of language learning, I created the anxiety kit for language learners: use the templates to put these tips into practice. It comes with a beautiful playlist of instrumental, contemporary classical music and jazz I made just for you. 🙂

Have you ever felt anxious about language learning? What are the things that stress you the most? How do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments!

Get the anxiety kit for language learners for free and straight in your mailbox:

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Elena

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.

3 Best Free Apps to Study Italian in your me-time

If language learning is your thing, then you probably know and use a few apps. Apps are a largely accessible and democratic tool, often the first many learners use when they tackle a new language. Moreover, a number of apps come for free – or at least with many features available free of charge.

Apps are a good place to start picking up vocabulary and grammar structures. You won’t become fluent studying only on apps, but they can be beneficial within a balanced language learning routine. They’re like the fruit juice in your language diet.
In this article, I will focus on apps to learn Italian giving you access to most features for free. I also picked applications that are available on desktop, as well as on mobile versions both for Android and Apple.

Why are apps good for introverts?

For an introvert, the thought of starting to talk to a native speaker of your target language might stress you. If so, you can start speaking by repeating out loud the words and sentences you learn through your favourite app. Or even record yourself practising new sentences where you use words and grammar points you studied with the app.
This can’t replace actual interaction with a native speaker, but it can be your “safe zone” for a while. Creating a language foundation with the most common words and grammar can give you the confidence you need to start talking for real.

Plus, they are perfect to unwind and recharge at the end of the day. You can take 10 minutes only for yourself, open your favourite app and focus on it. No more crowded streets, loud people or painful small talks. This is me-time at its best.

Incidentally, apps are also great because you can wear your earplugs, bury your nose in your phone and avoid people trying to start a conversation on the bus. No need to hide it, I’ve done it too.

apps to study Italian

Duolingo

No list of language learning apps can be complete without the cute green owl.
Duolingo introduces the language to you bit by bit, through units that you can unlock once you complete the previous one. The order of the units is a good guide for you to follow through your studies, integrating it with other resources. (Check this and other tutor-approved tips to maximize language learning through Duolingo from Kerstin)
Its desktop version also provides basic grammar explanations, while the mobile one only has exercises.
The exercises consist of translations from and to the target language, writing down what you hear, matching words and their meaning, speaking, picking the correct translation.

Sometimes the sentences you find on Duolingo are a bit unnatural, sometimes they’re plain weird. I lost count of the screenshots I sent to my friends while practising to share a laugh with them. However, if a sentence makes you laugh you are more likely to remember it – and with it the vocabulary or grammar it includes.

Even though also the other two apps in the list use gamification, I found Duolingo to be the best at keeping you motivated. Its system of achievements to unlock and lingots to win through small challenges or by maintaining your streak is quite addictive.

Teacher’s tip: You have finished your tree from English to Italian and you think you’re done with Duolingo? Think again! Go back to it and challenge yourself to practice on the reverse tree – from Italian to English instead.

Memrise

Memrise is a flashcard-based app that uses images, audio and mnemonics to help you learn the language. Some of the content is created by Memrise’s team, while some of it is created by users. This means, on one hand, that you might encounter a few mistakes from time to time. On the other hand, this allows for a diversified offer in term of teaching and memorizing methods. There is a wide offer of Italian courses, from the official Memrise Italian course to a deck with words from Inspector Montalbano.

The app is based on the spaced repetition, which optimises your ability to retain information. It tests you on the same information with different kinds of exercises and at increasingly long intervals, to help you remember what you studied. First, you practise in learn mode for an introduction to the vocabulary. Then you can use the classic review to memorize it, and the speed review to test your memory with fast quizzes.

Out of these apps, Memrise is the only one you can use offline in its free version. You can download single decks and study whenever you have no access to the internet.

Teacher’s tip: One of my favourite features about Memrise is the possibility to create personalised decks. This way you can use it to review lessons, create your own mnemonics and tailor your study sessions. Regularly add new vocabulary and expressions to your Memrise deck and practise every day. Five or ten minutes a day are enough to see some progress.

Clozemaster

Clozemaster is a lovely little app that looks and sounds like an 8-bit game and teaches you the language in context through mass exposure.
It’s based on a very simple, yet effective, exercise where you fill in some sentences with one missing word. It teaches you natural language that you can actually use in daily life. When I study with Clozemaster I always keep a notebook at hand, because it has so many useful everyday expressions!
It divides vocabulary into sections for the most common words. You can either decide to start with the first 100 most common words or let the app automatically show you sentences.

Clozemaster strengthens your understanding of sentence construction and of the language in general, as well as teaching you set phrases and some slang.
You can learn Italian starting from several other languages. At the moment of writing you can learn Italian from English, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian. Not bad!

Teacher’s tip: Are you studying another of the languages offered in combination with Italian? If you have at least an intermediate level at either, use the language you’re stronger at as your “learn from” language. This way you’ll get double practice at one time!

What is your favourite app for language learning? Do you have another app you would recommend?

Bonus: Tired of feeling overwhelmed by language learning? Then get the Anxiety Kit for Language Learners, free and straight in your inbox.

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Elena

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.

One tip for anxious language learners – Clearthelist November

What a month!
On top of preparing my move from London back to Italy, I managed to smash my phone and arrange postage of my precious books with the worst courier ever.
Despite being sure I wanted to leave London it was actually super tough. No surprises, my housemates became like a family to me and I already miss them lots.

Moving on to the things that went well, I’m happy with my language learning for October.
Amidst the mess of my daily activities, I found a little peace in my study time. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or simply like I wanted to cry for a whole day I took a break and watched a video in French, or practised some Swedish with an app. In the most stressful month of the past year, language learning didn’t feel like an obligation. It actually became my way to cool down and cope with anxiety.
This was possible thanks to a slight change I made in the way I organise my learning goals.

tip for anxious language learners

Benefits of mind mapping and tracking achievements

You might remember that in September I went goal free. Unexpectedly I studied consistently and even went back to learning French regularly.
At first, I didn’t give it much thought. In October, though, I started to see some patterns.
It surely is important to have some sort of plan instead of just randomly piling up unrelated bits of knowledge. However, publicly declaring that I will learn 100 words on Memrise or post a sentence on Instagram every day stressed me.

I have been struggling with anxiety for many years now. Among my coping strategies, regular habits and being organised have been the most effective. So why did planning my language learning in detail only worsen things?
That is because anxiety also makes me insecure and hyper self-conscious. Therefore, writing down accurate goals didn’t make me feel accountable: it made me feel like everyone was looking at me underachieving. Of course, rationally I know it’s not true and no one is here to judge me. But if you try to talk some reason into an anxious person… well, good luck with that.
Shortly, I needed something that made me feel comfortably organised, without making me feel constrained.

To begin with, I stopped setting goals that are too rigid and specific. No more “learn x words, listen to x episodes of a podcast”.
Instead, I write down a mind map of the things I would like to do during the month, in no particular order. There is always time to add something new, delete something that is not working. Then, when I start my study session I pick one of the activities and work on it.

On top of that, I have been playing with Clozemaster and Duolingo before going to sleep, so even at busy times, I practise at least a bit every day.

Then, in the evenings, I record in my diary the achievements of the day. French: Clozemaster, Duolingo, one video. Swedish: Clozemaster, Duolingo, Babbel review. Something like this.
Creating this habit of doing a little bit every day and tracking it afterwards improved my results and motivation.
I don’t feel stressed about language learning anymore, I study without putting pressure on myself and this way I’m learning more and more effectively.

OK, Let’s move on to the actual learning bit!

What did I use to study in October?

French
– A few more lessons on Lingoda (you can read my review here)
– The free 7 days course from Selfrench – great for learning new vocabulary and can be adapted to every level.
– Some episodes of FrenchBlaBla‘s podcast and some videos from Comme une française
– The exercises from TV5 Monde
– Videos from Solange te parle and Cyprien (thanks Katie for recommending him!) & some French music
– I switched to French when catching up with a friend

Swedish
– Babbel (affiliate) for vocabulary review and studying new grammar
– New videos from Clara Henry

French & Swedish
– I kept my streak with Clozemaster and Duolingo practising every evening.

Activities I want to do in November

French
– 2 more lessons on Lingoda (affiliate)
– Practice on TV5 Monde
– Listen to podcasts
– Conversation with a friend

Swedish
– I started taking weekly lessons with an online teacher, I’m so looking forward to this!
– Study grammar on Babbel
– Reinforce the grammar topics I feel insecure about
– Work through the Rivstart books

French & Swedish
– Go through my notebooks to review grammar and vocabulary
– Clozemaster and Duolingo every evening
– Listen to music & watch some videos

What are you going to study in November? What works best for you: setting very specific goals or a more flexible planning of your studies?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you purchase through the links provided.

Follow:
Elena

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.

Learn languages with an online school: a Lingoda review

I mentioned earlier that in September my language studies were focused on French, as I had the chance to try Lingoda.

Lingoda is an online language school that offers classes with small groups and private lessons via Skype and Adobe Connect. You can pick one of four languages: English, French, Spanish and German. The curricula and materials are based on the CEFR levels (A1-C2). When you complete a course you have the possibility to get a CEFR certificate. Classes are available 24/7, so whatever your timezone is you can book lessons at the most convenient time for you.

How did it go?

In order to write this review, I received 10 lessons credits, 5 for private lessons and 5 for group classes, so I was able to interact with different teachers and to try a number of sessions focused on grammar, speaking and writing. Though being assessed at a B2 level I was eager to fill some gaps in my grammar knowledge with a teacher, so I took B1.2 lessons.

Learning on Lingoda

Lingoda offers a rich curriculum of classes on several topics, divided into chapters. Each chapter has a theme, covers a couple of grammar points and includes lessons focused on each language ability.
You can download for free all the slides and learning materials in order to prepare for your class in advance or to review grammar/vocabulary. The topics are varied and engaging and whatever your interests are you’ll definitely find something for you.
When I first checked the topics I almost felt a bit overwhelmed: I didn’t expect such an extensive choice of themes. They range from hobbies to family, from media to politics and current events, from cultural insights on France and other francophone countries to living abroad. There are also lessons tailored to specific needs: writing a resume, applying for a job or going to an interview.

My absolute favourite thing about Lingoda is the quality of teachers I got to study with. I had lessons with 7 of them and all were prepared and experienced. They made the lessons enjoyable, effective and fun. They made sure that my pronunciation was correct, worked on my mistakes without interrupting me – one of the signs of a well-trained teacher – and were constantly attentive to any doubts or questions I had. The approach is communicative and you are encouraged to speak as much as possible.

Private lessons

I believe getting full attention from a professional teacher is one of the best and fastest ways to make progress in a language, and my experience on Lingoda confirmed this idea.
For my first three lessons, I studied with the same teacher. She soon identified my weaknesses and gave me spot on tips and reading recommendations suitable for my level. Afterwards, I had two more lessons with different teachers. Both were excellent but it’s a bit of a shame because I would have loved to keep studying with the first one.
During the lessons, I received constant feedback, suggestions on what I needed to improve and how to best do it. In general, I felt that all the teachers I worked with really cared about my progress and results.

If you are interested in studying a specific topic that doesn’t appear in the regular curriculum, then you can book a customised private class. The teacher will prepare a bespoke lesson tailored to your needs.

Group classes

In most group classes I worked with only one other student. Once I was the only one so I got a private lesson, and once we were four students.
This was the first time I had group lessons online and I was a bit worried it would get chaotic. In every occasion, though, the teachers flawlessly managed time, tasks and the attention they gave to each student.

The practical stuff

The website interface is visually pleasant, user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Adobe Connect, the software used for group classes, always worked well for me. I never had issues during the lessons or while connecting.
The booking system is quite straightforward: you can pick lessons for the topic or according to your time availability. When booking a class you receive a confirmation via email that lets you add it to your calendar in one click.

The price for a monthly package ranges from 79€ – 269€ and it can include private lessons, group classes or a mix of both.
You can get a 60 minutes trial class for 0,99€ to talk with a teacher who will assess your level.

What’s not great?

As I mentioned earlier I would have loved the possibility to choose a teacher and keep working with them in my private classes. It would make me feel more comfortable and motivated and I think progress is faster with an instructor that knows your needs and learning style.
Also, if you want to take a specific lesson within a group class, you will have to wait until the online school schedules that lesson. Generally you will have about three slots to choose from during the week, otherwise, you can arrange to study your desired topic in a private lesson.
Finally, if you are very tight on time this might not be the best option for you, as their plans go from a minimum of 5 private lessons or 10 group classes a month.

Summing up

My experience with Lingoda was overall very positive, especially thanks to the amazing teachers I studied with. Let’s sum up:

Pros
  • Outstanding teachers
  • Free downloadable materials to prepare your lessons or review any topic
  • Rich and engaging class curriculum
  • Easy to use and to navigate
  • Lessons available 24/7
  • CEFR certificates available
  • It’s possible to have completely customized private classes
Cons
  • One cannot choose a teacher to work with regularly
  • Not great flexibility when you want to book a class lesson on a specific topic
  • Not recommended for people who can’t attend at least 5-10 hours of classes every month
Who is it for?

Lingoda is the ideal choice if you want to progress fast, you are committed to dedicating at least 5 to 10 hours in a month to online lessons, and ready to pay a bit more than on the most used learning platforms (but still less than you would with a private teacher elsewhere).

Ready to give it a try?

English with Lingoda
French with Lingoda
Spanish with Lingoda
German with Lingoda

Have you ever taken group classes online? How did it go? What is the most important factor for you when taking classes online? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you purchase through the links provided. However, all views are my own and this is an honest and impartial review. I only work with brands that I use or would use myself and that I would recommend to the readers of this blog.

Follow:
Elena

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.