Italian Language

Learning the Italian Language


I had studied French for one year in high school a long time ago, but we actually spoke out loud very little. Then for one month, I studied Spanish in Mexico, also a very long time ago. After studying both, I never spoke either language again.

Since I now have dual citizenship with Italy, and because hearing the Italian language brings me bliss, I’m learning Italian. I find it difficult to learn, but I’m determined. So, after completing the Italy Retreat I taught in the Cinque Terre in September, I hopped on the the train to Orvieto in Umbria to stay at Patricia’s Bed and Breakfast (no longer in operation), and also to study Italian with her for four hours each day for a one-week immersion course.

(Photo of me in orange with Patrizia, my Italian language teacher, on the steps of the famous Cathedral of Orvieto, Umbria Italy.) (2nd photo is the Cathedral in Orvieto.)

After one of our lessons Patrizia was kind enough to allow me to interview her about learning the Italian language.

Lenora: What is the best way to learn the Italian language?

Patrizia: Actually there is not an easy way. But easiest way is to have fun, stay in a nice place and enjoy the language through singing Italian songs, learning the culture, cooking, shopping, visiting villages, restaurants, and basically learning through other actions.

Lenora: Is there a fast way to learn Italian Language?

Patrizia: The fastest way, would be to live 24 hours a day in Italy where you can hear the language every day.Fully immersed. Also, learning language means accepting the culture. If you do not accept the culture, then you will never learn.

So being exposed to language, culture, food, habits, the time table and rhythm of Italy–all this helps a lot.

Lenora: It would be easier, more practical and smarter for me to learn Spanish because many people speak Spanish in the United States and also in other countries, such as Mexico, South America, and Spain. I hear that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. Chinese comes in second place and then English. But, right now I have no interest in learning those languages or about their culture. I love the sound of Italian, how it rolls off the tongue, cascading musically over my emotions.

As Dianne Hales mentions in her book, “My Bella Lingua”, ‘this lyrical language thrills the ear, beguiles the mind, captivates the heart, enraptures the soul, and comes closer than any other idiom to expressing the essence of what it means to be human.’ ….When you learn Italian, you enter the Italian soul. Acclaimed as the most musical of tongues, Italian is also the most emotionally expressive.’

Lenora: Do you have any particular recommendation for people who are older like me, who are learning a second language really for the first time?

Patrizia: Be patient. People in the habit of studying may learn faster, so it may take you a bit longer.Some learn faster than others, but it is not like some people cannot learn a language. It isonly a matter of time.

There are two important factors in learning:

1.) Removing the filter of being frustrated or too shy to speak

2.) Being motivated to learn

The first factor is to change the psychological ‘filter’ that make you feel too shy to speak like a beginner. The filter we may experience is feeling frustrated or shy to speak. Psycholinguistics has found that adults learning a language put a psychological filter (filtro affettivo) that blocks a person from speaking. They do not want others to hear them make mistakes.

Lenora: I can relate because I’m a teacher so for me it is frustrating to talk like a little child.And we all learned in school that it is not good to make mistakes! I disagree with this. I love when mistakes are applauded because the students have at least tried.

Lenora: How can we overcome the filter of being frustrated and shy to speak?

Patrizia: 1.) MOTIVATION: How much are you motivated to learn? This is most important and it’s up to you to be motivated to learn.

2.)LEARN BY ENJOYING: Class with grammar, structure and exercises, during full immersion you can have it all.Learn through enjoying: playing, singing, watching a movie, having coffee together.

My method of teaching is to allow you to speak right and understand right away. In my style of teaching, the needs of student are taken into consideration.

In my teaching style, the students are central. I am just there. The teaching is not the center.The student learns by herself. In fact, no more teaching. The function of the teacher is that of facilitator (facilitatore).

Nel mio insegnamento, lo studente e centrale: I suoi bisogni, le sue necessita. Io semplicementeaiuto lo studente ad imparare, lo studente impara da solo e la funzione dell’insegnante ‘ quella di facilitatore.

Lenora: Thank you, Patrizia for your expertise and help. I learned so much from my week with you and just wish I could stay longer.

How have you learned Italian? Any tips to share?

Learn more about traveling to Italy on Lenora’s Italy Retreats For Women
Find out more about Lenora’s Sweet Life Workshops and Sweet Life Happiness¬†Coaching.

You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article,¬†provided author credit is included.