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.