My Dearest Mad-Readers,
I have been in Italy for an entire month. This is the third long trip I take, the first one being my CELTA and the second also was in England (near Oxford, as it happens). I believe it is now time to share with you my travel experience but also that I describe to you my language journey in a little bit more details. Let us not forget that I am a linguist indeed…
“An Unexpected Journey”
If this title sounds familiar, it is normal. I totally stole it from The Hobbit. By the way, Tolkien, if you are reading these lines, I am a big fan! Just saying…
Back to the article!
To be entirely honest with you, I did not imagine 3 months ago that I would be an au-pair for this entire year. I did have plans to travel to Italy, but I was focused on English-speaking countries for a long time.
After going through the most terrible depression I have ever had to go through, I made some life-changing decisions : I stopped lying to myself about some dreams I have been postponing for so many years. I decided it was time to dedicate all my energy to what I currently love and stop being delusional about things which might never happen. At that point, I began investing much more time into my blog, since I love blogging so much.
So, where did I start ?
Easy : I signed up on aupairworld.com and created the most detailed profile I could. I also did my best to be 100% genuine. I did not want to lie and end up somewhere I would have to fake. I wanted to be myself and choose a family exactly like a family would do it with an au-pair. I advise you to do the same. Pick a family as carefully as you would pick an employer!
It took a few weeks for me to pick the right family and truly decide where I wanted to go. I still was hesitating between being an au-pair and leaving on a backpacking adventure when I was contacted by an Italian family which really seemed to be the real deal. So I stopped looking at other families in England and elsewhere and decided I would be going to Italy exclusively, for one year, and preferably do the experience with said family. I already knew they lived close to Milano, so I was pretty excited, to say the least…
My Experience With The Italian Language
My First (Baby) Steps
I used to do only YouTube and Duolingo because I didn’t want to invest too much time into Italian straight from the beginning. In my defense, I was far too busy to concentrate on Italian when I began, and doing Duolingo+YouTube was just enough for me to familiarize myself with the language, have fun, and getting into the habit of learning this third language daily.
My Current Workflow
I cannot give you a precise workflow, since it generally depends on what I have to do during the day, but I strive to do between 1 and 5 hours of Italian a day, without counting exterior interactions I may have.
When I first arrived, I would do YouTube and study my grammar book pretty much everyday. It took me no time to improve, so I also began reading more content in Italian and memorizing more vocabulary with an app called Anki. It was not my first time with said app, although I haven’t ever used it as regularly as These days (probably because I haven’t ever needed it so badly). For vocabulary, I also use this web page : https://www.50languages.com/vocab/
I am well aware that most of you will not have this chance, but I also speak with native speakers on a daily basis. This has been my primary reason for being here so… You may understand why it is so important I write it here. Here, I have no choice. When I go to a store, to school, to one of the children’s activities, I must get out of my comfort zone and get ready to speak Italian. By the way, not only must I face my own lack of competence from time to time, but I have to say people tend to ask way too quickly “do you speak English?” and I hate when that happens. I am here to learn Italian for God’s sake! Sometimes I wish people were more patient with poor language learners…
There are still several more things I do almost daily. Not long ago, I signed up on Netflix. To me, this is almost synonym to turning to the dark side of the force… Yet I desperately needed a quality website to find movies whenever I could fancy, which means extremely often. I could not do it without Netflix, which gives me the opportunity to study even harder than before. I sometimes do something I am not proud of : I watch American movies in italian. This is what I call making space (and sacrifices) for learning Italian. English is an important part of me but I have to put my frustration aside and leave some space for Italian, which defines me just as much. Since I am half Italian, half French.
Since I am avid reader, I also read and take notes from the books I read. I am currently focusing my efforts on Twilight (in Italian), which is another book I figured I would never (never say never guys) read. When I came across Twilight in the book store, I just told myself : “okay, you need something you can note vocabulary on but you will not feel bad for writing in a book… *Poof* Oh! Twilight!” In the end, Twilight does not suck half as much as what I used to hear. Do you see how important it is to make your own mind about things ?
Since my level has significantly improved (despite the fact that I still make so many errors), I enjoy listening Italian songs much more. It also allows me to study their lyrics to search for new vocabulary items. I write regularly and publish my posts on lang-8 for them to be corrected. This way, I practice all the skills : listening, writing, reading, speaking pretty much equally.
My Goals For This Year
First of all, I wish to keep writing and making videos about Linux. It is such an important part of my life, I cannot imagine how it would be to keep it silent. I also fancy getting a certification to make the job search easier later, but I am not certain the investment would be worth it. I suppose I will rather do it in 2021, when I have a better idea of where I am headed with my blog and YouTube channel.
Since this should have been one of my 2 native languages, I am quite demanding. I have recently reached (according to several tests I took online and my own observations) a level of B1. My goal for this year is to consolidate this level and bring it to a solid B2, so that I can work toward a C1 the year after. Since I was a beginner when I first arrived and reached B1 in one month, at least B2 must be possible! Let us believe people! This is the only way I know to win!
I also intend to visit italy. Especially the North, since it is more accessible to me. I will go southward later in my stay, because I want to see Napoli and Rome (for the second time), but it is not yet among my top priorities.
This year (from September to July), I wish to grow my online presence as much as possible. This means developing my blog, my YouTube channel, my Patreon, and my goodreads. I need to write more in French as well, on my blog and on Plume d’Argent. If you wish to know more about me, I finally recommend this video, in which I speak in details of everything I wished to clarify about my goals. You may even notice some big progress compared with my previous videos (if you watched any of them).
Advice For Other Potential Au-Pairs
Being an au-pair is not always easy but it is a fabulous experience, especially if you get to live it with the best host family you could ever have imagined (like I do). It can become repetitive, so you need to have your own interests on the side to get your mind off your work. Traveling makes life easier, but I am well aware it is not simple in these times of coronapocalypse.
For your trip to go as well as possible, here is some advice :
- Select where you want to go & why. Having a reason for being where you will end will give you a motivation whenever you may lack one.
- Communicate as much as possible with your future host family before and during your stay. They interview you, but you also interview them. If a family is not right for you, find another.
- Don’t be idle during your stay : travel and learn the language. It would be a shame to waste such precious time, especially since you will probably remember that amazing experience for the rest of your life!
Conclusion & Sign-Off
As usual, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. If you did, consider supporting me by subscribing to my blog, via email or wordpress, or to my YouTube channel. You are welcome to spend some more time here too 😉
Anyway, all of you take care!