Thursday, January 21, 2010

Learning Italian, a breakthrough

Finally.

Before I was so worried about getting the grammar correct, I would be afraid to speak.

Somehow after my trip to St. Martin, where I kept responding to French speaking people in Italian, I returned to Italy speaking faster and with more confidence.

My Italian friends are being helpful by speaking more Italian around me. Since all of them are multi-lingual we would always speak English. Not anymore. Sometimes I do get lazy and fall back to English. Before they would switch but now they say they don't understand me. Ha.

I am determined not to be that American Expat who has lived aboard for years and still can't speak the local language. I don't want to just get by. What happens if I find myself in a situation where no can translate for me?

Plus I need to prove to myself that I can become fluent in another language. It kills me that I studied French for 7 years, have a French speaking mom, multi-lingual dad, was a foreign affairs major and yet didn't learn any languages.

All my expat friends are stronger speakers than me. Several have lived here longer and/or are married to/dating Italians. We now split our conversations between Italian and English.

While there are many practical reasons why I need to become fluent, there's also the poetic reason. Italian is such a beautiful language. I love how expressive, lyrical and dramatic it is.

Some day I will open my mouth and find Italian words spilling out of it effortlessly. Until that time, I will keep trying to remember which one of the twenty-one Italian verb tenses is correct, articles, that nouns have a gender, and ease up on the curse words. While they are fun to say, perhaps they are not always appropriate.

21 comments:

erin :: the olive notes said...

for some reason this post made me excited...and encouraged! I know your feeling for sure. I'm so frustrated that languages are something I'm so interested in, but it's one of the things that doesn't come naturally for me. ..."piano, piano" I always tell myself. And I can't wait to get over there again to continue working on it.

carrieitly said...

Here's to easing up on the cursing! Va fan...!

Rose in Cali said...

I am SO impressed! And inspired as well! It is such a gift to be able to speak the language in real life, and not just in a classroom. Keep going and don't let the challenges derail you. Please keep us informed of your progress. Maybe those of us who are living vicariously through you will one day get the nerve to follow suit!

Kataroma said...

I agree - I've met several expats who do not speak Italian and I just don't get how they manage since very few Italians seem to speak English. Just buying food, chatting with colleagues, making friends, enrolling their kids at school etc etc must be virtually impossible for them.

I was in hospital for 7 weeks and, while it was difficult it would have been even worse if I'd had no idea what they were saying to me and couldn't communicate with the doctors and nurses (and my roommates - actually it would have been good to be able to tune out their endless chatter...) So you just never know. HOpefully nothing like that happens to anyone else but it's good to be fluent in Italian just for situations like that if for no other reason.

GigiSxm said...

LOL at the curse word comment!
I work with two Italians and have banned them from cursing in the office as that is all i know in Italian!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

erin - I can't wait for you to come over as well!

carrieitly - Ha. That particular is one of my favorites.

rose - wait...don't get too impressed. I'm a long way from fluent. :)

kataroma - I hope everything is okay and that you are fully recovered.

I don't understand it at all. I get that it takes time but I've met some expats who have been here for years who cannot speak basic Italian. Nor are they interested in learning it. It's very easy to get sucked into the English speaking expat community here as it's large. I just don't see the point of living in a foreign country without being able to speak the language. You miss out on a lot.

gigisxm - ha. How's that ban working out?

Sonia said...

Keep at it girl! You should be proud of yourself. I was like you at first.. .worried about my grammar but then I was given some advice that really helped. I was told NOT to worry about grammar. People know I'm trying and they will correct me.. just speak it!

Once I started doing that, it was much easier and people do correct me.... with compassion because they know I'm still learning. I've really stepped up my game now to speaking more and reading since the baby is due in April. I don't want my kid to know more Italian than me!!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

sonia - auguri! People correct me with compassion as well which is so much more encouraging.

Tracie B. said...

someday you will open your mouth and not only find italian spilling out effortlessly, you will open you mouth to speak english and find that you'd feel more comfortable speaking italian!

Anonymous said...

yes, italian language is beautiful... unfortunately roman dialet sucks...

Fern Driscoll said...

Good for you! It will come, it surely will. And don't beat yourself up for not learning a foreign language when young - it's just about impossible if you can't be immersed in it, and in the States that doesn't happen with Italian (any more) (does it?). So much harder to learn as an adult. Give yourself a big pat on the back.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

tracie b - that happened to a friend of mine. She returned to the States for a visit for the first time in over 5 years. She could not stop speaking Italian.

anon - I rarely hear Roman dialect so I don't have an opinion about it.

fern - grazie. It is difficult to learn a language fluently without full immersion. It's not like there were a bunch of people running around speaking French in suburban NJ.

michelle | bleeding espresso said...

That's awesome! Someday soon you're going to be amazed by what comes out of your mouth when you're not even remotely thinking...in a good way :D

milanese masala said...

BRRRRAVA!! If you love Italian, Italian will love you back. You're getting better day by day and pretty soon, you'll be dreaming in Italian :) Now, the fastest way to learn Italian is to get an Italian bf. That's a very good argument to use with G ;)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

michelle - non vedo l'ora!

milanese - ha. That's what everyone keeps telling me.

scatteredmoments said...

Yeah! Good for you! I am in the same boat. With the added benefit of mostly dialect speaking in laws. Bergamasc , yikes!

I am taking another Italian class that starts in a few weeks and I am doing an language exchange starting this week. I can't wait for the days when the word just flow either.

Good Luck!!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

sm - grazie...good luck to you too. Language exchanges are very helpful.

Mae said...

I know the best way to improve your language skills is to just do it! Just speak, but I get shy as well. I am doing research in Brazil and feel foolish when I know I don't fully understand or can't fully articulate myself. But I have to keep putting myself in situations where I can practice Portuguese, even if I don't sound brilliant, lol. By the way, I want to learn Italian next!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

mae - good luck! In capoeira class they speak a lot of Portuguese. Many of the words are similar to Italian. (which of course confuses me. ha)

Anonymous said...

This post was very helpful to me. I am taking Italian at ASU. I just started intermediate and can barely understand 1/3 of what is going on in class. I'm not going to give up though.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

good luck Anon. I know what you mean. My first day of class in Level 2 I had a massive headache. I barely understood a word.