CILS Prep Log 28/04

Today I took a TELC B2 practice test which is quite easier than the CILS exam for the same level. In order to increase the difficulty I the initial 3 sections of the exam giving my self only about 2/3 of the time alloted for the first section of the test. I scored 176 points out of a possible 180. Unfortunately I was interrupted before I could complete the written piece of the exam. I'll need to continue that later.

I also wrote a letter asking for information and completed lesson 28 of Ascolto Avanzato with a perfect score. I have yet to have the letter corrected.

In addition to the above, I completed a large number of flashcards for vocabulary.

Fall Italian Language Challenge for 2015

It’s almost the middle of September and I’m very excited because I’ve finally progressed to the point where I can speak for a few minutes on a familiar topic. I would still not place my speech at the B2 level but I’m nearly there. My reading ability has absolutely skyrocketed. I’ve been reading a book called Geografia Italian per Stranieri and I don’t even realize I’m reading in Italian. There may be one or two words I need to look up in each chapter. I’ve also gone back to Io Non Ho Paura and feel I understand the vast majority of it now. There may be a few words per page that I’m unsure of or need to look up. All-in-all, I feel my progress over 9 months has been substantial. I’m feeling fresh, I’ve revamped my study habits and fall is upon us.

This means that it’s time for another 90 day challenge. This one will go from October to December and I’m really excited about this one because it’s going to include frequenting the Italian course offered by School Amici in Cincinnati. Thanks to Reddit, I’ve found some strategies that have been helping me get past my bad habits that I feel have been holding me back the most. If you’ve been following my progress you know that I have always had issues writing frequently, reviewing my lessons, and organizing/preparing for my lessons. In my last post, I mentioned the Reddit user who studied for and passed the C2 exam for Italian in 2 years. I got 2 very good ideas from him that I have already integrated into my routine that have helped me immensely: using videos from EuroNews to write the transcript for or a summary of short videos and giving a 3 minute monologue in my lessons.

Writing the transcript or summary has been helpful because I do it with pen and paper only. Then I can look back at the transcript provided by the video and ensure that I am not consistently misspelling any words. It also helps improve my listening comprehension as well as boosting my vocabulary.

The 3 minute monologue has helped because I simply cannot do it if I have not done some sort of preparation. I’m learning set phrases, conversational connectors, and finding chronic issues in grammar and pronunciation all of which give me the required motivation to go back and review my lessons.

This will be my study routine for the Fall Language Challenge.

  • Using Memrise to add another few thousand words to my vocab. I’m doing Memrise daily.
  • Using EuroNews videos every day to boost my writing.
  • 2 conversation lessons per week with monologues. I’m not quite certain that I will be able to maintain 2 lessons like this per week but I am going to try.
  • The School Amici class, which will certainly have homework/exercises at the B2 level. I am excited that I placed in the upper-intermediate class.
  • Using Ascolto Avvansato 3 times per week to help my listening comprehension.
  • Extensive Reading with books like Geografia Italiana.
  • Every other weekend I want to take a B2 or C1 practice exam. If I am lucky, I’ll be able to pass one of the C1 practice exams by December.


Out with a whimper...

I definitely consider my summer language challenge to have been a success. I increased my vocabulary by over 700 words (that's just based on my Memrise/Anki work) and gained a much better working knowledge of the fundamentals of Italian grammar. Unfortunately, though, I feel it ended with a whimper. I lost steam on the last couple of weeks and combined with a death in my family I basically did almost nothing in the final week. I certainly did nothing productive! And what's worst, it was the first week since I started studying Italian that I did not have a conversation with a native speaker in Italian only. But that's what happens when the reality of life intrudes on your goals.

I am excited that I will be taking a live Italian course in Cincinnati in September. I'll be enrolling in the upper-intermediate class and working hard to get myself to the point where 2016 can really be dedicated to taking the C1/C2 level CILS examination. Over at /r/LanguageLearning the Redditor JS1755 posted his experiences taking the C2 examination for Italian and his description of it really inspired me to get back on the horse and reset my goals for the next four months.

I've got a little bit of free time where I can re-assess my strategies and tactics from the past few months and see what I need to do to really hit my goals before the year is over.

Half way through my summer Italian language challenge

I'm close to the half-way point of my summer Italian language challenge for 2015 and I feel that so far it's been very successful. I feel like I have a very good handle on most of the grammar topics for B1 and a good deal of the vocabulary as well. I think I need to spend a little more time with vocabulary regarding health and illness. This just has not been an area of much interest for me up to this point. I've been pretty successful in increasing the amount of writing that I am doing and this week I turned in 4 assignments for correction. I need to do my best to keep that pace up in the coming weeks as well as make a full transition to not using any sort of assistance in my writing; just a pen and paper.

Despite the victory I consider increasing my written output in Italian, I have not been reviewing my lessons and I am noticing more and more that there are certain words that I am consistently mispronouncing. This has to be fixed. It would go a long way to help my fluency if I didn't have consistent issues with words that seem to come up regularly.

My 3 usual tutors have all been helping me immensely during my challenge (Laura, Daniele, and Salvatore). I've also been collecting a lot of examples of grammatical structures for the B1 level in a Memrise course.

CEFR B1 Italian Supplement - CILS TELC

CEFR B1 Italian Supplement - CILS TELC

I'm only about 1/2 way through with it but it already has 672 full sentences in it. I'm trying to get to the point were each grammatical structure has close to 300 or 400 examples. I suspect that it will be well over 2000 sentences by the time I'm done with the B1 specific grammar topics. I think by the time I'm ready to start specifically preparing for my CILS exam, I'll have created a corresponding course for A level Italian (a single course for A1 and A2) as well as a B2 level course. If I am lucky, this will mean that I'll have put in enough work to be able to consider sitting the C1 examination next summer. 

The First Week of my June 2015 Italian Challenge

I'm on my fifth day of my June, 2015 Italian Language Challenge and I wanted to give an update now because some of my parameters have changed since my original post (surprise, surprise). First off, I have not been using Magari like I expected but I've found two other resources that are a little better for someone who is self-studying. The first is called Parola a Te! It covers each of Italy's ragioni and discusses aspects of history, literiture, and culture that are important to each ragione. I also has both audio and video companions that can be found on the book's web site. The other book is Il Rifugio Segreto: Letture Semplificate.  This also comes with a CD but what I like most about it is that it matches my reading and listening level really well and includes explanations of vocabulary from the texts in Italian.

The biggest change, though, has been working with my iTalki tutor Laura. She's been kind enough to take on some daily tasks and lesson prep work for the cost of a couple of extra hours of lessons. Every night I send her a report of what I have done that day and she corrects any exercises for which I don't have the answer key as well as correcting any writing that I have done. It's a huge commitment because I don't take days off. There might be days when I can't do as much as I want to, but I make an effort to get some Italian study in every single day. So far, just knowing that she has an expectation of me is helping to keep my on task and I feel like I have made more progress in the past 5 days than I did in all of May. That's not to say I didn't make any progress in May, I did. I was just kind of aimless and a lack of focus always leads to less progress than learning with a clear goal.

Two of my three big complaints about my learning process have been addressed with this arrangement: I'm writing more and I'm prepping for my lessons. The final one is really up to me, though. I really believe in doing learning retrospectives to take new vocabulary and structures from your online lessons and add them to Anki or Memrise or whatever spaced-repetition system you use. Without doing this so much learning slips through your fingers because you are so focused on the act of participating in the conversation there is no chance you will remember which grammatical structures you got wrong or which vocabulary words you are mispronouncing. If I can maintain this level and quality of work, I am really sure that I can make it to B2 by the end of August, 2015. 

Thoughts after 5 Months of Learning Italian

Today marks 5 months and 2 weeks (give or take a few days) since I started studying Italian. My original plan was to see how far I could get in 3 months and I think I progressed to the point where I was close to a solid A2 in the CEFR and using material in Italian only for the B1 and B2 levels. What I did not expect when I started is that I'd end up liking Italian so much or that I would make so many friends who were native speakers. This has made me decide to keep going in Italian until 2016 when I will attempt to take the CILS B2 or C1 depending on when the exam is and my confidence. The problem is I need to get more serious about my studies and increase my writing output. I'm already doing at least 2 hours of conversation per week as well as studying Italian for at least an hour per day. But there are a number of things I am not doing.

  1. I'm not doing retrospectives on my lessons. I have to start reviewing my lessons seriously and trying to make sure that I master the things I'm learning in the lessons and that I understand the corrections I am being given.
  2. I'm not preparing for the lessons. I need to pick a topic from my Conversations to Go game, translate it to Italian and then learn the vocabulary and structures that I expect that I will use in the lessons. I'm wasting too much time thinking instead of practicing.
  3. I'm not writing enough. I am a firm believer that if you practice speaking regularly then writing can have a direct positive impact on your speaking skills. I'm confident that if I had done these things from the start, I'd be close to the B2 level right now. 

For this reason I'm setting my next challenge. I'm going to take 13 weeks to really focus on getting to a solid B2 level. Here is my plan.


I've got two weeks to get my material ready.

  • I'm going to complete level one of Glossika's Italian fluency module and get as close to 1/2 way through level 2.
  • Translate 40 of the conversations to go slips for use in my lessons or in writing exercises.
  • Gather together examples of the following grammatical structures to supplement Glossika.
  • Present, future, passoto prossimo, and imperfetto of the top 10 irregular verbs by frequency. I expect this to be close to 8,000 sentences total (many will be conjugated variations).
  • 3,000 examples of the conjuntivo and condizionale with at least 1/2 being of the top 10 irregular verbs.


Here is my plan for the first week of June through the 30th of August.

  • Magari (B1 to C1) 400 pages – Use this book and some of the ideas for exercises to guide grammar and conversational learning. Many of the activities in this book are designed for groups or classrooms so finding an appropriate variation on the activity will be essential.
  • News in Slow Italian – one episode per week. This will include summaries of the 4 news segments.
  • 3 writing exercises using Conversations to Go – This will be the hard part of my learning to stay committed to. I need to force myself to create more output or I will not advance.
  • 2 or more conversation classes per week for a total of two hours minimum.
  • Practice tests and quizzes each week with CILS exam simulations performed every fourth week.

This is going to be a lot of work and that's why I'm sticking with a 13 week time span.  I can't keep up this kind of work indefinitely but 13 weeks is a good amount of time to be able to accomplish some real goals and still be able to make corrections for any problems I might have.

My 12 Week Italian Language Challenge

For 2015 I’ve decided that I am going to try a 3 month language challenge for learning Italian. Currently I have no knowledge of the language beyond what the average American would have from TV and other media. I’ve chosen Italian because I’ve always wanted to learn another Romance language. I’m fluent in Portuguese and can fake it pretty well in Spanish, though I’ve not studied it formally for very long – I’ve only read a couple of books and some poetry. I really wanted to learn a non-Ibero-Romance that was ideally not one of the main national languages such as Jèrriais, Occitan, or Sicilian but I’ve just spent the last year working on Irish where I have had a huge issue finding native speakers to assist me as well as a glaring gap in resources at the upper-intermediate level. With the less commonly studied Romance languages it seems my plight regarding a lack of learning material would be even worse. Combining that with my grand over-estimation of how good my Irish was when I started back on it in December, 2013, I want a quick win before going on to a non-Indo-European language in mid-2015. Thus, I chose Italian as it would potentially open up resources for learning Sicilian in the future and I can leverage my knowledge of Latin and 2 other Romance languages.

So, here is my plan:

1.      A 12 week challenge to go from A0 to a high B1

2.      Using Pimsleur Italian, Colloquial Italian 1 & 2, and Assimil

3.      Memrise to help build vocabulary

4.      Book weekly lessons on iTalki with a native speaker

5.      A twice monthly report out on YouTube to keep me honest

6.      Keep working on Irish!

My challenge begins on January 4, 2015 and will continue until the 28th of March. I think the biggest challenge for me will be to maintaining my study habits with Irish as I am committed to getting out of the B1 level and up to the B2 level in 2015 and that means a lot of work. I’m still struggling conversationally and in writing making stupid mistakes with irregular verbs and poor pronunciation. But I think that a short distraction into another language will help me regain my motivation.