I’ve always said, if I ever have a boat, I will call it Lost in Translation. Because, even when we speak the same language, words and meanings get misinterpreted. As an funny example, look at this he scene from the movie Lost in Translation, where Bill Murray plays the star in a whiskey ad in Japan. The scene is with a Japanese director and interrupter and Bill Murray.
I and my family have hosted kids from Japan and Germany. Even when they felt like their English was very good, they all understood less than they thought because your language is all about nuance.
As a young working adult, I decided to study the Italian language. But as I progressed, my teacher thought I might be dyslexic. At the time, the teacher’s comment kind of made sense. As a kid they labeled me a slow-reader, therefore learner. But I was never formally diagnosed. I stopped taking Italian because I had just gone to Italy and soon after that trip my mom died.
Anyway, I didn’t look in to my teacher’s suggestion that I could be dyslexic. That is, until years later when I returned to study of Italian because I started the quest of getting my dual-citizenship and wanted to look into spending part of my time in Italy.
To begin my renewed study, I found a local ten – week course in which the teacher used a traditional textbook. The small group of other students seemed a bit perfectionistic, which was intimidating. I made it up to the 7thlesson and I then I just didn’t want to go anymore. While trying to focus on the next lesson, a dread came over me because this very structured approach made me feel like I’m never going to “get it” Remembering what my former Italian teacher said, I wondered if I really was dyslexic.
So, like a train shifting tracks, I started researching dyslexia instead of practicing Italian. I learned I had many of the benchmarks of the learning disorder.
It turns out that 15% of the world’s population has dyslexia and many kids and adults aren’t identified. But more research has been done since I was a kid. The result? We’ve learned that for centuries, dyslexics have invented strategies and workarounds to navigate school, work, ands life in general. And now, many resources are available to help.
I still want to learn Italian, but I’ve realized that my approach has to be different than the traditional class room. Scouring the internet, and I’m in a DIY dual-citizen group they also have a subgroup for language learners. I’ve found a lot of interesting apps for mobile devices and computers, all of which take new approaches to language instruction. I like Duolingo, Clozemaster, Busuu, and Fluent Forever – each for different reasons. The Linkword Languages app is specifically for dyslexics but anyone could benefit. There’s even an object-spotting game called June’s Journey which you can play in several languages including Italian and German. What a great vocabulary builder! Of course, all have plusses and minuses, and some flow better than others. But I practice with at least one of them every day. I began to like learning again – so much so that I recently signed up for another class – but this time, it’s a literature class with a different teacher and a different group of students that know I’m dyslexic.
So, my strategies are now a bit eclectic. I use passive listening, such as podcasts and music playlists on Spotify, and the app lyric training as well as short videos that have the Italian subtitles on youtube and the language learning apps I use listed above. I also need to practice speaking, and so I met an Italian teacher on the web via an app called iTalki where you can meet on Skype and have a lesson. After my first lesson, she said that I knew a lot and I needed to have courage – or maybe she meant confidence – to speak and share what I know.
A few lessons later, I was explaining in Italian about my quest for Italian dual-citizenship, and how success depends on accurate genealogy through my maternal grandmother. Which is a 1948 case. It seemed like I was talking forever. But when I finished my story, and asked the teacher (in English) if she had understood me, she said, Yes!!
I was understood!
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