12 Mar 2010

My First Big Failure

I spent last week in Ireland. It was great to be back home, drink real tea again, and see everybody.

I had big plans for when i got back to Siena. I had several important Ebooks and Italian language resources (and a lot of cool stuff besides) saved on my hard drive. Nearly all my friends were out of town for the week, so I planned on chilling out, watching movies, reading all my e books and stuff, and beginning my real Italian study.

Disaster struck.

I left ALL my chargers in Ireland - that's laptop, phones, camera and mp3 player. No Phones. No Laptop. No Internet. No E books. No Music. I got them posted immediately, but how to spend the time now?

The answer would have been simple. Free of distractions, study your Italian books, read The Great Gatsby and A Wild Sheep Chase. Talk with my Italian roommates. Spend just one week not listening to music for 7+ hours each day.

Instead, i spent one whole day being pissed off with myself. After that, I scrambled around trying to find ways to charge my laptop. Borrowed a friends charger, for a few day while he was out of town. Stayed up all night reading e books. Several days later I stole my roommates charger and did the same thing. In between this time, I can't remember what the frick i did. Friday I met up with people to go to the gym for the first time; the only productive thing I did all week.

The chargers were supposed to arrive this Monday. It is now Friday and there is still no sign of them. An Post GUARANTEED me they'd be here by Wednesday. The Italians don't have a fricken clue.

My sleep schedule is completely messed up. i borrow my roommates charger each night and surf until sunrise. Two weeks of my life, in a beautiful (if chilly) foreign country, completely wasted.

At the very least, I've begun eating and talking with my roommates, but lets face it, I could have done so much more. I Swear this will never happen again.

8 Mar 2010

Hit The Ground Running

Or at least I tried to. I've made a small bit of progress toward each of my major goals. Baby steps is what i was hoping for, and baby steps is what i got. I just have to remember that a year is a very long time. Supposedly people overestimate what they can do in a day but underestimate what they can do in a year. So I'll just keep moving forward.

I joined the local piano school, and had my first lesson this morning. It was amazing, way better than the lessons I'd had before. The teacher really scared the crap out of me. I've also gotten into the local gym, a cheap looking place filled with wall-to-wall weights. As usual i tried to do too much too soon and pulled a muscle in my left arm Right of the bat. I figure this is actually going to be my hardest goal this year.

Technically Italian study did not go well. I sat down with study material for a grand total of two hours this week. However, due to several of my English speaking friends not being around, i was forced to rely on my own shit-out-of-luck Italian. Had a great dinner with my roommate and some of his friends, who ran me through the basics of Italian curse words. Its done my confidence no end of good.

Fencing is the only thing that hasn't moved this week. Being exhausted from flying into the country that morning, i skipped fencing training this week. I'll get back to it with a vengeance this week though!


vaffanculo ( va - fan - coo - low) = Up Yours
Putane ( poo - ta - nay) = Hooker
Gatso ( gat - sow) = Cock
Stronzo = Turd

How I Plan To Learn Italian in 3 Months

I took Italian in college, and after one and a half years i gave it up. I was supposed to spend my third year in Italy, doing business classes in Italian, and the very thought of it scared the shit out of me. I could barely pronounce my name in an Italian way, never mind introduce myself to someone. I barely studied, and each and every exam was passed with a razor thin margin for error.

I've since given up on the idea of learning a language in the classroom - it just takes way too long, and you can feel you're really learning when you aren't. You go outside and try to speak to someone, and find you know nothing at all.

So, after a few weeks of soul searching, and a few snap decisions, here is my revised plan for Italian fluency

Step 1)
  • Move to Italy (check!)

Step 2)
  • Memorise the list of the 1000 most used words in Italian
  • Study the basics of grammar, but worry more about expressing myself than grammatical correctness
  • Master the 50 most important verbs in the five most important tenses

Step 3)
  • Get a job
  • Live with Italians, and try to only speak Italian with them
Step 4)
  • Go on daily English fasts, building up to cutting out English altogether
  • Italian Girlfriend?

I really feel that immersion is the key here, hence the move to Italy. But hey I'm still young and stupid so i can do these things. But if you're using age or kids as an excuse, that's exactly what they are - an excuse. If you really wanted something, you'd do it!

Most of the ideas here were stolen from beyondbouonds.org, a great resource from a guy who mastered mandarin in just 2 years! He has an excellent post about learning Latin languages in 3 months, which should be checked out.

Thoughts, comments, ideas?

4 Mar 2010

Step 1: The Yearly Review

If I'm gonna do this I know I need to be organised. The first step was inspired from a post made by Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of NonConformity. In it he advises giving yourself a year end review, just life any business would do. What did you achieve this year, and what will you change for next year etc etc.

What i really liked was the idea of an excell spreadsheet to keep track of all these things. Chris even provides a link to his sample spreadsheet. I took that and ran with it, spending a full day coming up with new pages to add, new plans, new goals and new ways of tracking my progress. I added a page to keep track of each of my major goals and the lessons learned therein, as well as a page for the major mistakes i'll make (and learn from!!) during the year. I'll give a quick breakdown of whats on my sheet for 2010.

Major Goals:

Italian - fluent in 6 months (Hoping for much sooner - living in italy now!)

Fencing - Use access to italian coaching to achieve some pre decided results at certain competitions.

Piano - To play Claire de Lune by September and be Grade 6 by years end

Habit Forming - Idea stolen from Zen Habits . Craft a new beneficial habit each month

Health - Improve diet and conditioning, and make a visible physical leap in fitness ( ie get ripped)

These are followed by a whole load of more minor goals such as reading 40 books this year (9 already), redefining my finances, give myself as many early dealines as possible and apply Pareto's 80/20 principle to everything in sight.

Each of the major goals has a series of short, medium and long term goals or steps i can follow im order to achieve what i want. I made it all nice and simple :)
I added to the metrics page as well, to keep track of how often i was going to the gym, fencing training and piano practice too, just to keep myself on my toes.

I'll be doing weekly reviews of my progress every sunday, which should take ten minutes or less. I really do want to change my life in 2010. I've said this in years past but now that i'm organised, and i can see the baby steps laid out before me, things are looking brighter. Now i just have to follow though on it- how hard can it be?