Thursday, May 08, 2008

One week of Supermemo Italian

I've been using Supermemo's "English-Italian phrase book" online system for one week now. And, sure I'm prone to enthusiasms, but I could not hope for a better result. I've studied lots of languages in my day, from German in Germany at the age of three and Spanish in Florida at six to Russian in college and French, Latin, Czech, Bulgarian and Turkish at various times and by various methods. I even took a few lessons in Dari from an Afghan exchange student one summer a few decades back. But I have never seen a language learning system that works as well as, or anything close to the way Supermemo works. The final verdict will come in a few months, when I go to Italy and see how much I've remembered. But for comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation, this is "l'ultimo"!

I have been putting in at least an hour a day, in fifteen- to twenty-minute segments, stopping when I feel overwhelmed or other matters demand my attention. But the system picks right up where you left off and won't let you forget things forever. And it's even fun.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I have found a great tool called "Supermemo", a system that lets one learn in a rational way extremely complex or voluminous material. I'm studying Italian using the system. In the first week, I've learned hundreds of tourist-type phrases but, more important, have derived a real appreciation for the structure of the language. It's the little words that count: fra, da, tra, gia, qui, che, and so on. The online course program is easy to use and fits my computer-dominated life perfectly. All you need is a connection to the Internet. I have no doubt that I'll be able to speak decent Italian within a month. Then it's on to German, maybe or refresh my Russian or Czech or Bulgarian or, what the heck, all three!

I would love to use the system to learn chess openings, too. I have an old (1972) copy of Modern Chess Openings that I consulted while watching Fischer beat Spassky. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be going up against the Russians, thanks to Supermemo!