Living the Language … and the Quest for the All-Italian Language Month


Photo by Yan Pritzker Photo on Flickr

“How do you say that again?”

“I thought I’d be fluent by now.”

“I’m just not good with languages …”

One of the first things expats who move to non-English speaking countries are faced with is the 24-hour language fest-and if you are anything like me, you left your invitation at home.

Over the last year negative phrases like these have crept into my consciousness and crowded my mind with self-doubt and insecurities. I. Just. Can’t. Get. It.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly conversational in Italian, can understand most people and accents and can basically get by in any situation.

But it ain’t purty.

You see, there is a difference in getting by in a language and mastering a language. And I was behind.

Then I had an epiphany. (Well, not so much an epiphany as an eye-opening website I StumbledUpon that is written by an Irish lad who is fluent in-get this!-seven languages.)

His trick?

Speak the language.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

No, seriously. Why didn’t I think of that?

While I am exceptionally proud of my quad-lingual husband, his near-perfect English does nothing to help my Italian-language woes.

And the excuses just roll in …

– I’m too tired from working all day to think in Italian at night.

– It is easier for both of us if I say what I’m trying to say in English.

– I’m too tired. It’s too hard. I just can’t!

But now I’m done.

Just like Benny of Fluent in 3 Months, I’ve decided to dedicate one month to speaking only Italian-except when speaking to my family back home, teaching English or well, when I write to you guys.

And I’m happy to report that I am one week into this linguistic bombshell of a project … I’m sad to report to you, that I’ve already failed.

In fact, I made it FOUR WHOLE HOURS without muttering a word in my mother tongue. And boy did those four hours make me tired.

But I don’t consider the exercise a failure. It has taken me a few minutes each morning to remember to speak in Italian. It has taken minutes for me to say in Italian, what I could normally spit out in seconds in English. It has taken four dozen gentile reminders to my husband-and one or two to his friends.

I am conscience of the mistakes I’ve made. No, not forgetting to double the consonant and cursing or conjugating “he should” when I want to say “I should.”

I am talking about the biggest mistake of all.

The mistake I have made for the last three years when I didn’t give myself a fighting chance to learn Italian, to speak Italian, to live in Italian … no matter how difficult that might prove to be.

What are some of the biggest language learning mistakes you have made as an expat? What advice do you have for others?

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