In this episode, I share a recent experience I had when I decided to organize and consolidate two years' worth of Italian notes. I have notes scattered throughout various notebooks, online documents, and miscellaneous sheets of paper. Though I love organization, I had never figured out how to organize my notes as I took them, and going back afterwards felt like a waste of time -- time that I could be spending learning something new instead. But, as I went through old notebooks, I found lengthy notes and examples of something I recently discovered I struggle with. Weeks ago I started looking for material covering Italian prepositions, and I ended up going back to a program I already had. Yet, as I consolidated notebooks, I found that I had already studied prepositions from this exact same module of this exact same program a year and a half ago! The problem was, I "learned it" and left it. I didn't put my new knowledge into good practice, and I never went back to review. I just kept charging forward always trying to intake more, more, more.
For at least two years now, I haven't felt confident about my level of spoken Italian. I know I'm making great progress, but because I still make many mistakes, and because parts of the grammar (like what preposition to use when) isn't completely clear, I feel like I'm still at a beginner level. Going back and seeing several things that I once thought important enough to study but failed to solidify into my spoken language was a big signal as to why I feel so apprehensive about my level. I reached out to my very experienced, language-loving tutor, Kenny (www.somethingpolyglot.com -- check him out, especially if you're learning one of the 5 languages he teaches), and he shed some light on my speaking level (which he says is higher than I thought), why I'm no longer at a beginner phase, and what I can iron out to keep working toward upper-intermediate. Looking at the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) Assessment Grid, I am confident that Kenny was right about my level. So my unsureness was two-fold. First, I really didn't understand the difference between beginner/A-level and intermediate/B-level. More specifically, I had always glorified the intermediate level, thinking all grammar would be clear, and mistakes would be nearly non-existent. Second, I have experienced Impostor Syndrome, and deep down I believe that I'm not really speaking comprehensible Italian. Somehow I'm faking it just good enough to fool my (very experienced) tutor and native-speaking friends.
Addressing these two sources of my language doubt, combined with accepting that reviewing notes is essential to a good study routine and is not a waste of time, I have felt much more focused and determined in my Italian journey. I know what grammar things need my attention, and I know I have the materials to review and work on them without spending more money or time searching for the perfect resource. Even though my language journey isn't centered around my level, knowing that I'm further along than I thought gives me the confidence I need to keep speaking and pushing forward. Without that confidence, it's too easy to believe the doubt, the lies, and the shame or guilt that can so easily creep in.