What I've learnt about speaking another language
So I’m coming to the end of my first semester in Italy, and I couldn’t be happier. I have met some incredible people, seen some beautiful places and also learnt how to cook pasta properly (or, better, in a less stereotypically British way). Among all this, I would like to think that my Italian has also improved – at least a little. However, there are definitely some things that I’ve had to remind myself along the way.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
I’m very much a perfectionist. Sometimes, this can be a good thing: but in this case, it makes you too stressed. The more frustrated you become when you don’t pick something up right away, the less you absorb (for me, anyway). Adopt the European way and relax a little; improvement is gradual, and you won’t notice that you’ve improved for a while.
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed at times.
There are definitely moments when I think I can’t keep up – especially if there is more than one conversation happening simultaneously or if someone takes you by surprise. Needless to say, one of the first phrases I picked up here was how to ask someone to repeat themselves. Big thanks to my friends for being unbelievably patient.
Listening to another language all the time makes you tired.
And totally justifies sleeping until 2pm every weekend.
Confidence comes with time.
Such a huge part of learning to speak another language is being confident enough to actually say what you’re thinking out loud. It’s OK to be nervous to say things you aren’t 100% sure about, and after a while you realise that you’ve stopped being nervous at all.
It’s OK to forget all the grammar you’ve ever learnt.
Certainly for me, when I’m having a conversation in Italian, if I think too hard about my grammar I completely lose my train of thought. You’ll find that you know more than you think if you just let yourself speak freely.
People appreciate effort.
Even if you have the most British Italian accent in existence (me), or don’t know a particular word, everyone will appreciate if you just try. Sometimes (but definitely not always), saying an English word with a slightly more Italian accent turns out to be right: in any case, people will understand.
It’s OK to be proud of yourself.
Speaking another language all the time is way more difficult than people give it credit for, and when it finally starts to come more naturally, you totally deserve to feel good about it.