English POLYGLOT learned ITALIAN: here’s how he did it!

In this video we will be talking with a LearnAmo student! His name is Robert and we will have the pleasure of interviewing him. He has started learning Italian a relatively short time ago… yet his Italian is incredible. Let’s learn his story together!

Interview with Robert Winstanley, a polyglot

Tell us about yourself. I know that you have traveled a lot, and that you have a long story… In other words, tell our LearnAmici a bit about yourself and who you are!

Okay! So… I lived in Japan for 18 years and I learned Japanese. I have a passion for languages: besides English (which is my mother tongue), I speak six languages. My favorite is Italian… it’s the most wonderful language in the world, in my opinion.

What other languages can you speak, besides English, Italian and Japanese?

I can speak French, Portuguese and German. I have been also thinking about learning Russian, but I haven’t decided yet…

How long have you been studying Italian and why?

I started studying Italian seriously a year and nine months ago, meaning that I started studying regularly taking online classes on LearnAmo, and I practiced on my own doing something every single day: listening the radio, reading something… I started at the beginning of the pandemic to have something to do to make it through lockdown.

We want to remind everybody that if you want to take some individual classes, just like Robert did, you can do so with Graziana on italki. Italki is the biggest platform in the world to learn languages: you can find hundreds of tutors ad professionals to learn any language. Graziana Filomeno works with italki as a qualified Italian teacher and has completed over 3500 classes with a positive feedback. If you want to study Italian with her on italki, now’s the perfect time!

Do you think that Italian is the most difficult language, of those that you have learned?

No, not at all! On the contrary, it’s the most amusing and the most pleasant one to learn because it’s a Romance language, so all the grammatical structures are similar to the ones of other Romance languages. It’s a phonetic language and you read it as it’s written: the pronunciation is wonderful, there are no issues (maybe the “rolled” r sound). The third reason is that…it’s a beautiful language: all the words and sentences are musical. Also, someone told me that, in order to pronounce Italian properly, you have to smile..so it’s the language of smile!

What did you find the hardest to learn in Italian?

There are many irregular verbs and learning the conjugation of irregular verbs in the passato remoto (“simple past”) by heart was a nightmare. The use of the subjunctive is been rather difficult as well. Sometimes I find hard to remember the order of the words, for example the position of the pronouns: in Italian they put the direct object pronoun between the modal verb and the verb, unlike English where we put the direct object pronoun after the modal verb (“Spero di poterla guardare” and not “Spero di poter guardarla” ). Not to mention false friends such as “paragonare” (which means ‘to compare’), “deludere” (‘to disappoint’), “cancellare” (‘to cancel’), “servire” (‘to serve’)…they are actual traps. You know what they say…”fino alla bara, sempre s’impara”!

What do you do when you encounter a topic that is too difficult for you? How do you overcome obstacles?

I read the grammatical rules, then I try to learn short sentences by heart; they usually come from a song or something that I have read somewhere. For instance, there’s this Italian song called “Volente o nolente” in which there are two lines that say “Dipendesse da me non saresti là fuori in giro” (‘if it was up to me, you wouldn’t be out and about’) and this is a way to learn the “perdiodo ipotetico” (hypotetical construction). Another way would be to read a lot.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading this wonderful book called “Romanzo Criminale”. It’s extraordinary. It takes place in Rome and it’s a real story about the Banda della Magliana (The Magliana Gang, an Italian criminal organization)…it’s very interesting! It’s about many famous incidents in Italian history, such as the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, the Brigate Rosse (The Red Brigates), etcetera.

Would you like to live in Italy?

Yes, of course. The problem is that at the moment my son is 16 years old and he goes to school, therefore I cannot. However, I am familiar with Liguria: Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Portofino. I have only been to Rome once but I would like to visit your wonderful Puglia, that I don’t know yet.

What would you suggest to someone who has been losing their motivation and is thinking about giving up on learning Italian?

If you want to do anything right, you need passion, interest and love, too. maybe you should change your perspective. Enjoy the progress you’ve made and don’t worry too much about the mountain you have ahead of you! Find the source of your dissatisfaction and change it! Change school, teacher, book…and above all, try to find an aspect of the Italian lifestyle that you can develop a passion for: the music, the cuisine, the history, the art, the literature ( I have just found out that it’s amazing), the movies, the tv series…anything! A partner, even!

You have said that you have discovered Italian literature and that you like it a lot. What do you do when you’re reading a paragraph or a page and you realize that you don’t know many of the words you have just read? How do you avoid to become disheartened?

I think that it depends on the level you’re at. I can read normal books now and even though I don’t know all the words, I manage to understand their meaning. Moreover, there are special books aimed at beginners, in which the language is very simplified and there are explanations of the words. There are also books that you can find in Italian, but with a parallel text in English…

Is there anything else you might want to tell our LearnAmici?

I would advise you to subscribe to LearnAmo. You can find many useful, amusing videos on YouTube as well.

We want to thank Robert for joining us, for the small talk, for his story and his suggestions! We hope you have enjoyed this video and this article. If you’re interested in other stories and interviews like Robert’s, take a look at the article about the American Cryptocurrency entrepreneur who is in love with Italy!

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