Observations from an Eataliano
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Carla-Italy

Parla italiano, not yet…

I have to learn Italian. I’ve fought it, and made a million excuses.

I’m embarrassed that I’ve owned a house for nearly 4 years and can’t speak more than a few basic words. I’m understanding more, but communication is a two-way street.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do anything I need to in Italy without the language. Buy a house – did it!. Get plumbing work done – yup. Order a great meal – all the time! My capabilities are limited to the most basic of in-person conversation. The only thing I can do on the phone is make dinner reservations. 

I’ve tried a number of different methods to learn the language. A couple community center lessons in America. Feeble starts with on-line apps like Duolingo and Babbel. Some time with Rosetta Stone, Living Language and Berlitz. I read how the polyglots did it. (That was a new word for me  – but it’s not Italian). Hanging out in Italian bars was fun, but didn’t get me far. Lots of YouTube time. I went to ex-pat meetings in Italy. Watching movies in Italian with English subtitles. I’ve failed at all of them.

The failure was part me, part the methods.

I have to learn Italian! I have too many Italian friends I care about. I can’t have meaningful conversations with them. I stumble over doing business. It would be impossible for me to do any paperwork or business without it. I have no idea what the newspaper or local news is saying.

Finally, I’ve found something that’s starting to work for me.

I have a tutor. Carla (pictured above) is a university language student from Lucca. She and I spend an hour at a time, twice a week. I’m making good progress.

Here’s why it’s working for me:

Customized. We started with a discussion of why and what did I want to learn. There was some negotiation there. “I don’t care about grammar, just give me enough to get my point across”. Carla explained that I’d sound like an a fool without grammar. You can’t just string words together. You have to form sentences. Sentence structure is different between the languages.

Adaptive. When I’m confused I I get immediate assistance and don’t get frustrated. There’s no pushing forward until the lesson is solid. When one venue had too much background noise to concentrate – we picked another. Nothing short of a personal tutor can provide instant adaptation to facilitate the learning.

Balanced and Comprehensive. Carla is not an Italian language tutor, but an ALL THINGS ITALIAN tutor. History, art, culture, driving, tourist sites, the best gelato place, the best pizza place, (talk about motivation!) humor, customs, local events, food, carnevales, sagres, snacks, drinks, coffee, perspectives, politics, expressions, idiosyncrasies, jargon, colloquialisms, sports, hobbies and more. This makes the lessons interesting, real, and relevant.

Accountability. Carla makes me do my homework. I’m also making my goal public to add  ‘outside’ pressure. Feel free to message me with “How’s it going?”, “What have you learned?”, “Could you pass the test?”. If I hesitate – call me out!

Friendship. There’s a mutual friendship that has developed where each of us wants the other to succeed. I want Carla to succeed in her language teaching. She wants to help me reach my Italian goals (plus a little grammar!). That relationship helps as it personalizes the interaction, and further increases the engagement in the lessons. 

Once I have some baseline skills, I might return to the other methods that had failed me.

Eatalianos don’t give up when the first or fifth attempt fails. Important, meaningful efforts may be difficult. They are worth it!

2 thoughts on “Parla italiano, not yet…”

  1. I had lessons for a while to get the basics, and yes, you do need grammar. After that I just tried to find people who would talk to me. Don’t be afraid of mistakes, just talk,

  2. Kathleen Spring

    This was a good blurb because it had a concrete ending to it. If it was only the first half, it would have been just a frustrating long list, but with the tutor working, it offers people hope that there is always one more alternative way to learn a new language. (I did it the old fashion way, …at school)

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