Okay, no more putting this off.
I’ve been living in Italy for six-and-a-half years now, and I get along pretty well with my mid-intermediate Italian language skills. I can navigate most situations, though often I have to be a bit creative in how I use my limited vocabulary and my feeble knowledge of the more complex verb tenses (perhaps the most daunting part of learning Italian). I often draw smiles or laughs at this cobbled-together attempt to be more conversive. But, I realize that I’ve been lingering at the outskirts of a fuller immersion and participation in Italian culture. I’d promised my self that when I moved my life to Italy I wouldn’t do it half-assed. So, no more procrastinating.
Tackling the resistance of the adult mind.
I’m painfully aware of how, when I’ve endeavored to venture into advanced Italian, my brain petulantly says “I don’t wanna!” Adult brains just don’t have the same aptitude for taking on a new language and making it stick. I didn’t grow up in a time where the competency of a child’s mind for adopting multiple languages was recognized or even encouraged. I marvel at the number of people here in Europe who grew up with a different mindset and subsequently a command of multiple languages.
I’ve been guilty of an expectation that, because English such a dominant language in the world, the onus should rest on other people to speak my native tongue. I can understand why non-English speakers view this as a form of arrogance and, dare I say, laziness.
Hunkering down with a private tutor of advanced Italian.
Years ago I did a month-long intensive Italian language course in Rome. I was told I was at a B2 level when I finished. But, in retrospect, I felt like I had so much new stuff crammed into my brain that I didn’t have the opportunity to really understand it and put it to practical use. Also, I was in classes with speakers from many other countries. It wasn’t unusual to be sitting alongside six other languages. For me, that wasn’t conducive to pushing the information down into my long-term memory. I’ve known for a long time that having private instruction is the best path forward for me.
A couple of months ago I discovered an online resource call superprof.it. It offers up a database of tutors at very reasonable prices. I researched several instructors available in a forty-kilometer radius and landed with a fellow who tutors at all levels. We’re meeting for coffee tomorrow to get acquainted and for me to understand his teaching style.
Concentration on individual components of the Italian language.
For me, mastery of advanced Italian will be “piano, piano” (slowly, slowly). This means fully digesting the individual components and putting them into practice before moving on to another meaty aspect. I’ve flirted with the conditional and conjunctive verb tenses but I haven’t remotely approached competency. In order to add more clarity to my communications and understanding of Italian, these are particularly essential.
Immersing myself in Italian media.
This is no small thing. Italian TV, movies, newspapers, books, and music (see my post about Italian music) are all rich sources for helping my reluctant adult brain to make the switch and rewire itself for long-term competency. My spouse, who is Italian, has been preaching this to me for years. I’ve been stubborn in this regard for far too long.
I’m tired of missing out!
Ultimately, by not having a command of advanced Italian, I’m remaining deaf to a good chunk of the rich Italian culture. So, time to commit and to do the work! Stay tuned as I share my progress.
Bravo Jed! In bocca al lupo. 🙂
Crepi! Grazie, Steffan!
I’m definitely going to follow you on this journey and congratulate you on taking this step towards your goal. I’m still studying with Manu Venditti, Italy Made Easy Academy and really thank you for connecting me with this resource originally. I’m working piano, piano too. I’m doing the immersion exercises, listening and viewing. While I remain very enthusiastic, I’ve avoided the AmicoExtra conversations that I’ve had for two years!!!! Silly of me. I’m so excited for you. I can’t wait to see where your coffee meeting takes you. xo. thanks JED.
Ciao, Angela. My coffee meeting is just over two hours away. I admit I’m a bit nervous. Will he think I’m a lost cause? Will me push me further than I’m ready to go (I want to have real understanding and mastery before adding on additional areas). Always great hearing from you!
Jed, I’ve been remiss I’m telling you how much your posts mean to me. the logistics ones are great, but the meaning of life ones really resonate for me. We’re moving to Abruzzo in April (from Canada) and I’m really trying to hitch a ride on your life lessons. And I’m right there with you to push forward on Italian study! This year. I’ve been loafing along at B2/C1 for about four years. Time to push it up! Interested to hear more about how you get along.
Thanks, Nancy. It means the world to mean that the life evolution musing resonate with you. Hitch away, and share yours, too! I’ll keep you posted about my progress with greater fluency!
Luck you to be moving to Abruzzo. It is one of my very favorite regions.
It will be very interesting to hear about your progress! In boca al lupo Jed!
Great to see your post! I recently met a new Italian friend , Manuela, in Spello, Who teaches Italian on Skype. Your post has encouraged me to work harder at my language too!
Yes, Skype is also a great option and there are many tutors who do it. The most important thing, in my opinion, is the style of the teacher and how sensitive there are (or aren’t) to what learning style works for you!
Hi Jed, I’ve been here 5 years. I Just spent 2 weeks in hospital where no one spoke English. I called it my immersion recuperation. I had to answer the question, “how long have you lived here?” multiple times. Usually the person expressed some surprise I spoke such little Italian (I am B2 as well and I do get by). I was embarrassed. My roommate’s family, from Puglia, said you won’t learn italian unless you go daily to speak with Italians. She was right. I have a private tutor and have been going, one-on-one for at least two years. It Has not helped my fluency. Sadly. TV and Movies I should adopt, yes. But I wish I was more extroverted so I could make Italian friends. I truly believe it’s the only way. Good luck.
Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective, Nancy! The Italian game shows are helping me a bit. I need to start turning on closed caption so I can hear and read! Time to detach the training wheels for me. God knows how it will all go!
That’s great, Jed! I’m still trying to understand some of my husband’s New York coloquilisms ( my spelling is wrong, but hope you know what I mean!) and we’ve been married over 28 years! I’ve heard that Italian is hard to learn, so Good Luck! It sounds like your progress in it is very good!
Beth Skinner Zuercher
Ciao Beth, I neglected to mention in my post the additional challenges of dialects, of which there are tons (languages all to themselves). The best I can try to do is to learn a few expression from the local dialect. Then, there are the idiomatic expressions. For example “Prendere due piccioni con una fava” literally translates as “To take two pigeons with one fava bean.” That the equivalent of saying to “To kill two birds with one stone.” Loads of fun ahead!