Are you learning a foreign language?
Have you taken a beginner’s course and now it’s time for you to practice a bit? Have you tried muttering some words but immediately stopped, frozen by your shyness? You’d like your sentences to be perfect, but are too ashamed of your mistakes? No worries. Been there, done that, experienced it all!
I have been studying languages all my life, with various results, and I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I have learned the hard way.
Let’s take German, for example. I started studying it in my first year at university, mainly because I had been told it was a very useful language. I did my best at learning it. I memorized every single word and grammar rule, I practiced every day all alone in my room, I spent some time in Germany, but something in my mind kept telling me that German was too difficult for me, that I would never be able to speak it properly. Every time I tried speaking it, it took me ages to come up with a proper sentence, too ashamed of my pronunciation and choice of words. Can you guess the result? Saying that I can speak some German now is a huge overstatement.
Later on in life, I decided to start learning Spanish. I spent a few months in Mexico and attended a language school there, determined not to repeat the same mistakes I made with German. You can object that Italian speakers find it easier to pick Spanish up if compared to German. That’s absolutely true, but on the other hand Italians are more subject to making mistakes due to the similarity of the two languages. We can come up with a lot of embarrassing false friends, let me tell you. Anyway, I am quite fluent in that language now, but I would never have learned it if I hadn’t let go of my perfectionism. I decided not to be shy and accepted the possibility of making mistakes. And started speaking.
So, if you are learning Italian or are willing to do so, the most important tip is incredibly simple: don’t be shy. Just don’t. Obvious as it may seem, letting go of your shyness is one of the most effective things when learning languages.
Moreover, there’s no reason to be shy about speaking Italian with us Italians. Let me tell you why.
1. We absolutely adore when foreigners speak Italian.
Unlike English native speakers, who may take for granted the fact that people speak their language, since all the world speaks English, we are aware of the fact that Italian is rarely spoken outside of Italy. We know that Italian is a difficult language to learn and we really appreciate the fact that people decide to study it. We are thrilled when we hear foreigners speak our language, believe me, and we do nothing but encouraging them in their efforts and helping them if needed.
2. We are so in awe of foreigners speaking Italian that we even love their mistakes.
Joe Bastianich – I know, I am mentioning him again – is a perfect example of what I am saying. When he first started acting as a judge for Masterchef Italia, his Italian was way far from perfect and he needed a work-around. So he decided to somehow make up the words he did not know, following his grandmother’s example, and this was one of the reasons of his huge success. One of his many grammatically incorrect phrases, “Vuoi che muoro?”, is now a common catchphrase in the Italian language. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it is fine to speak Italian improperly, I am just suggesting you not to be ashamed of making mistakes. It’s totally fine! Nobody will judge you.
3. Quite a few Italians do not speak English, therefore you will have no choice but to speak Italian with them.
Shyness won’t even be a problem then, because you will have to use your knowledge of Italian as a survival tool. And you’ll have a lot of fun trying to survive in Italy, believe me!
So no worries, if you know a little Italian and are about to come to Italy, just wear your best smile and start practicing. It will be a great adventure!
If you are interested in improving your Italian language skills, I’d suggest you check Chiacchieriamo, your way of chatting with an Italian without moving from home.
Chiacchieriamo is a Skype chat which helps you practice and improve your Italian with a native speaker. If you want to give it a try, you can request a 30-minute free chat, so that we can meet each other and see if you like the service.