I am sure that studying Italian in Italy is a dream of many students of the language.
Being able to finally practice the language you have studied so hard in the country where it is spoken is undoubtedly rewarding but it can be quite challenging as well.
I am really interested in learning more about the experiences of foreign students in Italy and I was super happy when Saloni contacted me and told me that she wanted to share her thoughts and ideas about the topic.
Saloni is a lovely young Indian lady who works as an interpreter and blogs about her love for traveling at Sal’s Escapes. She fell in love with Italian – a language she discovered by chance, as it always happens with love – and started studying it with great dedication. She also managed to get a scholarship to study in Siena first and in Perugia afterwards, so she has definitely some experience with studying in Italy.
In this interview, she tells us about her experience with learning and practicing Italian, first at home and then directly in Italy, and her thoughts about the Italian way of life. As usual with these interviews, there is a lot of food for thought and lots of things to learn, so I am truly grateful for another opportunity to reflect on my language and culture.
But enough of me, I’ll let her speak now!
Hello Saloni! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. First of all, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your life and work?
It’s my pleasure to be interviewed by you.
Hello! I’m from Mumbai, India. After coming back from Italy, I started working as a French and Italian interpreter in India. I have always been inclined towards creative pursuits like art, architecture, culture, history, etc. Apart from 2 years of experience in the translation field, I am also a small-time blogger which communicates my passion for travel.
Your big passion for the Italian language is very interesting. Why and when did you start learning Italian?
When I was in University, I had an opportunity to opt for a second foreign language. I wanted to select Spanish but I could not due to certain constraints, which gave me a lucky break to choose Italian. Italian was never on my mind before that! I owe my Italian experience to my Italian prof!
What was your experience with learning Italian? Was it difficult for you to learn it? Can you tell us more about your learning process?
I was blessed enough to have a native professor who taught Italian. His teaching methodology helped me grasp the language quickly and efficiently. He used the modern approach which involved a lot interacting, observation and play. The studies were equally focused on communication skills and grammar whilst embracing the cultural aspects too. I also had literature as a part of the curriculum which pushed me to not just read short novels but also to analyze them.
Learning Italian wasn’t very difficult as I already had a strong base of French grammar and as these languages have Latin roots, it’s pretty easy to proceed. However, I initially experienced (and still do, sometimes) the confusion of mixing up words from these languages in a sentence: I once said: “ho oubliato” instead of “ho dimenticato” (oublier is ‘to forget’ in French).
You have been to Italy to improve your Italian. Can you tell us a bit about your experience? How did you find the Italian university system and education?
Yes. I bagged a scholarship to study at University for foreigners of Siena in 2013 and University for foreigners of Perugia in 2016. Both the universities are top-notch. The international experience and corresponding cultural exchange were quite pleasing. It offered me the possibility to discover a world full of history, traditions, arts, and beauty.
The courses were also tailored as per student’s specific requirement. Moreover, the university often organized a great number of interesting workshops, lectures/presentations, and outings. As you notice, their approach is diversified which helps us learn the language quickly as well as imbibe various other aspects of the country.
You speak Italian very well, but is there something you still find quite hard when it comes to speaking – or understanding – Italian?
Language doesn’t come with a set of rules; it’s always changing and evolving. It is a challenge to keep up with new words, new phrases, understand local dialects and to maintain the same language level that I had when I was in Italy.
Do you have tips for people learning Italian?
Communicate! Learning a language is futile if you aren’t able to communicate. I’ve seen people spend hours studying the conjugation tables, grammar rules, vocabulary list or watch Italian movies; and they still can’t speak it. Don’t get me wrong. Studying is important: it helps you to improve your language skills. But if you want to speak, you’ve to get used to speaking the language, as simple as that!
You have come to Italy at a very young age. How was life in Italy? Was it easy for you to get used to it?
Yes. I was only 19. I was nervous as it was my first ever travel abroad and it was solo. Life in Italy was great but not easy at all. Great because the moment I landed in Italy, I fell in love. I cannot begin to describe the cultural richness that this country cradles.
However, getting used to the people and lifestyle took me a while. Italians are amazing but in certain places like Milan and Siena, racism was a problem. As long as you are at university, you are unassailable. Besides that, you do not get a chance to be comfortable and you need to be always on your toes. Consequently, you progress faster!
Now, my favorite question: what was the biggest cultural shock you experienced?
Bureaucracy in Italy! I thought only the Indian bureaucracy was inefficient until my long-term stay in Italy. It took me forever to finish the paperwork and bureaucratic procedures for my Italian residence permit.
What would you recommend to people who want to study in Italy for a while?
Italy has wonderful student-friendly cities like Siena, Bologna, and Perugia. Each region has its specialty that you might want to experience. I’d strongly recommend people to soak up the local culture, taste the authentic food, meet new people and travel in Italy as much as possible. Also, it’s important to have all your documents in place and stay organized. You will need original documents as well as signed copies.
Three things you like about Italy and three things you hate.
Things I like:
1. Tuscan Heritage – Siena, Florence, San Gimignano
3. Italian men
Things I dislike:
3. Bureaucracy 😛
Thank you Saloni for sharing your thoughts with us!
If you are interested in more thoughts about Italy, I have a whole section of interviews with expats. I have chatted with a Canadian living in Bergamo, a Polish girl in love with Rome, an American artist who lives in Umbria, another American who moved to beautiful Tuscany, a Mancunian who now resides in Molise,and a Scottish lady who relocated in Veneto.