I know I’m not the only perfectionist out there trying to learn Italian. You know who you are. We’re the ones who are afraid to speak until we can say a completely formed sentence, with the proper verb conjugations, adjective endings and pronouns. Oh, and it has to be perfectly pronounced, too. Of course. I think this has been the single biggest obstacle for me speaking Italian, and is something I struggle with every day. I know some people can just dive right in with only a few words, but I have found that to be difficult. The single most important thing I’ve learned over the past two years studying Italian and living here in Italy is that every single person learns languages differently. The key is finding what works for you and running with it.
Many of you are probably already familiar with the great LifeinItaly.com website. Just recently I discovered the wealth of information they have available on learning Italian. I was particularly inspired by the article on the main page by Carlo Pescatori called “Every language is made up of words.” He makes some great points that are particularly relevant for people struggling with some of the issues I mentioned above. I love his idea to incorporate as much Italian into your thinking as you can. Over time it will grow and you will become comfortable with it at the same time. This is, after all, how we learn English. Little bit by little bit, word by word, and with lots of practice. I already find myself doing this often:
Start with nouns of things you have around all the time and talk to yourself like “I’ll drink un caffè now”, “let me andare in salotto for a while”, “tempo to cook again”, “adesso is time for una pausa” and so on.
My thoughts are often a mix of the two languages now, but sometimes I surprise myself by thinking or saying a whole thought in Italian without, well, having to think about it. But I feel like this process is helping me with the feelings of perfectionism that I struggle with. I know I will be incorporating some of the ideas and suggestions I learned in this article. Head on over to the LifeinItaly.com Italian page and explore the helpful articles and lessons they offer. I hope something there will inspire you!
Buona domenica! Happy Sunday!
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Thanks for this post, very reasuring as someone who is struggling with the bella lingua.
Just about everyone I have met who speaks Italian as a foreign language is also musical. As I am not musical it looks unlikely I will ever be fluent but i keep trying!
I also find the posts at becoming italian word by word very useful
I know exactly what you mean! I've spent a fortune on Italian language lessons and still struggle to ask for salumi at the deli counter in the local supermarket. Love your advice. Think I'll start by talking to the cat in Italian and see what he makes of that!
I am an Italo-Canadian so I learnt to speak Italian at a very early age but it was a dialect. It is always a struggle to speak properly whenever I go to Italy to visit my relatives. I try my best but they certainly do not appreciate the effort.
I have been using the Rosetta Stone Italian language learning program and it is really helpful (for someone currently stuck far away from anyone who speaks Italian) It attempts to expose the learner to the language in much the same way that we learned our own language as children – I think it is working! Thanks for this link though – I follow several blogs but yours is always a highlight of my day.
Ciao Linda! I do know how you feel. Sometimes it's frustrating how easily other people pick up languages. My boyfriend speaks three fluently (four if you count the Neapolitan dialect). He is certainly talented with music, too! I hadn't noticed that connection before, but it's interesting. But keep working away with Italian and try not to get discouraged. Piano piano as they say here! 🙂
Ciao Sheila! Thanks for sharing your experiences. You will find something that will click one of these days and all those details you learned in your Italian lessons will come into good use. Talking to the cats is a great idea! I do that all the time. At first it felt weird, but now it feels natural. They don't seem to care if I mispronouce things or conjugate the verb improperly. (At least I don't think so…) But speaking the language aloud and hearing myself speak it is great. You will start to hear your own common mistakes and find your own rhythm to the language. Have fun!
Ciao Anna! That's tough to switch from dialect to Italian. They can be so different! I still don't understand Neapolitan very much, and I'm fine with that for now. I want to learn Italian first!
Ciao Laura! I'm very happy to read your feedback on the Rosetta Stone program. I've heard such great things about it! Thank you for your sweet words – that really made me smile! 🙂
Lost in Sicily says
So interesting…I had the perfectionism complex too for the first few years in Italy. When I was able to let that go, I felt much better. The method you share sounds really useful and also reminds me of how my bilingual 2 year old speaks!
carissima, mi pare che utilizzi adeguatamente bene la lingua italiana. Secondo me cercare di perfezionarsi può essere utile ma non è indispensabile.
Well here I am Laura, three lessons down and I feel I'm the only real beginner in the beginners class. I am struggling I must admit but I will persevere and by next summer I might just be able to order a Cafe Americano in Italian in bella Atrani. Wish me luck!
Ciao Lost in Sicily! Thanks for the encouraging words … I am getting better at letting go and just diving into speaking. Some days, however, I bet your son could talk circles around me! 🙂
Ciao bimbotto21! Sei molto gentile! E buon consiglio. Grazie!
Ciao Una! Hang in there! I am sure you are not the only one struggling in class. Everyone learns at a different pace, so just be patient with yourself. Next summer we should meet up in Atrani and practice our Italian while enjoying a gelato on that beautiful beach. Deal? 🙂
Excellent idea Laura. Will be in touch. have booked flights and apartment already.Thanks for encouraging words.
Ciao Una! Wow… you are ready to come back! 🙂 That's the way to do it, because now you can look forward to it until then. Looking forward to meeting you in Atrani!