Lately I’ve been spending time with a man other than my husband — everywhere from the kitchen when I’m cooking to the car when I’m driving. His name is Manu (Emanuele) Venditti, a native Italian who lives in Australia and teaches Italian, mainly on his youtube channel Italy Made Easy and podcasts. Like tens of thousands of Italian lovers around the world, I am addicted. The reason: Manu’s passion for both learning and teaching languages.
As a 13-year-old spending a month in the United States, Manu became so frustrated when he couldn’t communicate that he devoted himself to studying languages—not just English, but also Portuguese, Spanish, French and Japanese. On a student exchange program in 2000, he fell in love with Australia and earned a degree from the University of Melbourne. While teaching private and college students down under, Manu discovered what he considers the most effective—and entertaining–medium for language instruction: online videos.
“As a person who’s learned languages myself, I have figured out what works and what doesn’t,” says Manu. “Being able to communicate to people in their native language has helped me create stronger bonds and experience the real culture of another country. I want that for my students. I want that for everyone!”
Here are five of Manu’s language-learning secrets:
1. Variety. “My entire system is based on what I wish I had when I was learning languages. I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘the perfect method’ to learn a language, but I know which methods fail to deliver. Most courses focus on grammar and end up producing students who are excellent at theory but cannot communicate well or even understand Italian. Other methods focus on miming and repetition, creating students who may sound good but cannot really express their own thoughts freely. I try to cover all bases — explaining the grammar, presenting colloquial expressions, creating natural conversations, providing material to read, etc.”
2. Engagement. “This is the reason I love video. It’s a lot easier to digest new content and to stick with studying a foreign language when there is a connection with the source of the information. Nothing beats seeing another human, talking to you and inspiring you to learn more. My job is to be that someone who helps students visually learn Italian–grammar as well as vocabulary. It’s one thing to read about the imperfect tense in a book and another to see and hear your teacher tell you a funny story, giving you a specific example while explaining the concept.”
3. Passive learning. “There is active studying and passive studying, which in my opinion is the key to success. If all you do is study for one hour, you’ll be lucky to hear Italian for 20 minutes (since you will be in learning mode to assimilate all the new concepts). What if you had Italian stuff playing all the time in the background while grooming, cooking, commuting, exercising? You might not understand much of what you are hearing, but your brain will do most of the work, and very soon you will:
• be able to understand more and more of what is being said
• start speaking with a much better Italian accent
• speak with real, natural Italian expressions rather than translating things into Italian.”
His advice: Spend five times as much time listening as you do studying.
4. Practice. “Most students taking private lessons fail to learn a language because the one hour they spend with their tutor is ALL the time they devote to the foreign language. Imagine becoming excellent at any sport or musical instrument by only practicing one hour a week! The Italy Made Easy Academy provides a place for learners of Italian to find a community of other motivated students so they can ask questions in our forums, help each other and form study groups. We also have a Chat service that allows students to have unlimited audio or video calls in Italian with native Italians trained to make it easy even for beginners to converse.”
5. Commitment. “Being fluent in a language does not mean speaking and sounding like a native but simply being able to speak with flow, naturally, without relying on mental translations so you can
talk about anything relevant and useful to you. But no one can teach anyone else a language. You have to learn it yourself. This means that it is up to you to put in the time and the effort. The most important questions to ask are:
• How badly do you want to speak Italian fluently?
• How much time and effort are you going to put in?”
So why learn Italian? “Italy is a truly mesmerizing place,” says Manu, “Our culture is so rich that it would be a shame to miss out on it just because you don’t speak the language.”
Click here to check out the full range of Manu’s digital courses—from quick tutorials on everyday phrases to his “Zero to Italian” classes that will accelerate your learning, regardless of your level. Just like me, you’re sure to get hooked!