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Hello everyone,

I'll soon be a CI student, and my question is very simple: how can I effectively improve my mother tongue? How can I make it more elegant, concise, expressive? For those interpreters with Italian A or Italian in their language combination (my native language is Italian), which are the best newspapers/magazine/book/writers/... you'd suggest I read? Any kind of useful tip is welcome! Thanks in advance

asked 19 Sep '12, 17:59

Oasis's gravatar image


edited 28 Feb '18, 08:07

Andy's gravatar image


These are my personal favourites. They work for A or B languages

3.5 Learn by heart, and practise reciting, 5-10 lines of well written text in your B language every day. Each day check that you still know all the previous days' texts each day. This may sound ambitious but it won't actually take more than 10 minutes and after a week you will find yourself using the new structures and expressions when you speak your B language.

This exercise will contribute very quickly and effectively to expanding the active vocabulary of your B language by moving not only words but also entire structures instantaneously from your passive to your active knowledge of a language.[1]In a short time you will have large body of good quality language that can be recalled instantaneously.


3.7 Learn off-by-heart and mimic 2 minute extracts from, interviews, speeches and stand-up comedians in your B language. Copy the speaker’s sentence intonation as well as pronunciation. Learn one per day and each day check that you still know all the previous days' texts.

This exercise will help you develop the correct sentence intonation and rhythm when speaking your B language. Both are very difficult to learn and often give away foreign speakers of English who otherwise have a very good cammand of the language.

In addition learning extracts by heart will function as in 3.5, moving words, structures and here also intonation patterns directly from passive to active language knowledge.

(Comedians are mentioned here because to sound really authentic you will have to feel like you are exaggerating the accent when you speak....but in fact it will not be as over the top as you think.)

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answered 21 Sep '12, 11:20

Andy's gravatar image


Thank you!! They really do sound useful techniques! =)

(21 Sep '12, 12:09) Oasis

Dear Oasis,

To improve my A language, I like to identify my personal "masters of the language", be they journalists, authors, colleagues, teachers, public speakers, actors - you name it....

Then the next step is to try to put my finger on what exactly intrigues me about the way they use our native tongue. Do they play with words - do they coin new expressions - do they use a particular style or are they particularly good at adapting their style to the situation or the audience?

Thereafter I ask myself what I could do to follow these masters a little bit.

In some cases it might be useful to shadow good actors in order to be able to speak different dialects for example - which is nice for a native speaker but might sound very strange if attempted by a non-native speaker.

Another way to improve one's A language skills would be to spot words which are not used too frequently, turn this into a treasure hunt and introduce them into one's own vocabulary.

Another good exercise is also to practice conveying the same contents in different register:

  • Use children's language
  • use a journalist's language or a short news-like style
  • use ancient language
  • use biblical language
  • use the language of your classic authors
  • try to make sentences rhyme
  • find as many synonyms as you can for certain expressions
  • use idioms
  • collect proverbs
  • play with your language
  • find alliterations
  • and read (and possibly also write) a lot.

It might also be a good idea to join a debating society or organisations such as "Toastmasters International" ( I understand they have clubs all over the world and the senior members give valuable feedback - not only on the style of presentations but also on the use of the language and other aspects which would make a native speaker an even better native speaker.

For those of us who do not live in their home country it is very important to keep abreast of the changing A language. Many expressions are "en vogue" for a certain period of time - sometimes originating from TV commercials or shows, sometimes being borrowed from youth language or other sources and we do not necessarily know about these phenomena when living abroad. The internet is of course very helpful but I know colleagues who have been living in Germany for a very long time and still make a point of going back home every year just for the sake of being totally immersed in their own native language and culture.

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answered 19 Sep '12, 20:13

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 18 Mar '13, 17:40

Thank you, very useful answer! Never thought about conveying the same message in different registers, reminds me a bit of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style =)

(20 Sep '12, 04:16) Oasis
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question asked: 19 Sep '12, 17:59

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