Is learning a second language on your to-do list ? So when are you gonna do-that?

The cry for manners illustrated above might make you smile. My mom and I spied this beauty above some stairs in Venice and we laughed for days. But the lesson learned from the clean freak who crafted the sign is this: despite the mistakes, it still manages to convey a very clear message. You can do that.

I know from experience it can be very intimidating. But wanna know the best way to learn? Just like anything you accomplish in life it takes the critical first move; the starting. If your going to Italy it starts with words you already know like ciao and grazie. Then day two you add a sprinkle of this and a pinch of that. Then after week one you’ll be speaking a full sentence out of pure exasperation. But only if you start.

My first full sentence in Italian was dov’è la stazione, (where’s the train station?). I was so lost and exhausted that my first real Italian sentence was driven by pure frustration. It worked though, on my second try. The man understood me and started speaking back, gratefully tossing in various emphatic hand gestures. I was on my way to the station. Someone understood me! If I had never started I would not be where I am today. And while my Italian needs a generous helping of wax and polish, I am damn proud of just being able to speak a second language. Just jump in and make yourself understood.

Are you scared? Of what? Looking like an idiot? Making a mistake? Just remember that the person you may be talking to likely only speaks one language. That will make you feel the bigger woman for trying in the first place.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” -Elbert Hubbard

No, learning correct Italian is not an easy ride. But remember that starting is the worst part and that a glass of wine and a great smiling face with a go-to attitude will have you more fluent than 95% of the tourists you encounter.

Now go out and be amazing!

But wait, paint me a picture of your favorite language learning moment in the comments below.

10 Responses

  1. well I have to say that you are absolutely right about “getting started ” ..One of my first experiences was in an Italian Bar …Whilst visiting the next town with a friend and desperate for a bottle of water it seemed the only normal thing to do ..YES Go in and buy a bottle ..oh yes yes yes “”How simple I can hear everyone saying ..”are you crazy ..you are actually frightened to ask for a bottle of water ???! ” ..haha here’s the crunch ..!!YESSSSSS in ITALIAN YES I am a chicken !!! so I pushed my friend to ask even though she had actually been in italy less than I …when I realised that she was just as frightened as I was ..i suddenly felt quite brave and took the plunge to really try all the words I knew (very few ) and use them daily till i picked up some vocabulary …most of the time the reaction was one of complete confusion ..I didnt understand anything ..they didnt understand me but slowly slowly piano piano ,it started to come together … putting the correct grammar aside, I realise how grateful I am to my friend ..to realise that EVERYONE is frightened to GET STARTED ..and it just takes a little push to do it …what a wonderful thing it is to have that second language and to beable to communicate , laugh and have fun now with my italian friends …As much as I love my English speaking friends …the ability to reach out in another language gives me a great sense of achievement ! ….

    1. Kaye, you are so right. Speaking a second language is an achievement. What language lesson “in the field” hasn’t started out of pure exasperation! If you want something badly enough, you will make yourself understood- bottle of water or bottle of wine. But just blurting it out is key and carrying on that desire is paramount
      So glad you stopped by! I absolutely love hearing your version of exasperation. Keep in touch.

  2. Favorite language learning moment: I was in Germany for a month and had been speaking English and German on and off. Although I wasn’t fluent in German, I decided that I wasn’t going to speak English at a cafe we were at in Baden-Baden (beautiful place to go visit BTW). I began to order and found that forcing my self to speak was helping me remember the vocabulary. I had managed to order and pay, and have a small conversation with the waitress…it was pretty awesome, that is, until she began to speak faster…I had to stop her and let her know I wasn’t fluent.

    1. Hey Alison,
      I think you got the point exactly. You deciding not to speak English put you in the learning mind frame. With this acknowledgement you conquered the first baby steps, which is really the hardest part. I LOVE STORIES LIKE THIS! Jump in to language and see what happens. Probably something. That is good. Bianca.

  3. Ha! My last trip to Italy was with my boyfriend at the time who spoke both French and a bit of Spanish, so Italian came very easy to him. But this also meant that he would do all the communicating, which pleased me just fine… But eventually I began thinking I should at least try. So one afternoon while sitting in a little pizza restaurant in Livorno, he had forgotten his wallet and had to run back to the hotel, I took the opportunity to practice my Italian. The BF was lactose intolerant, and I knew the trip was beginning to wear his whole digestive system down so I decided to order a pizza with olives and no cheese. I got a very strange look but off went the waiter. Unfortunately,olives is not ‘olio’… and when it arrived it was a very plain pizza covered in olive oil and nothing else… Needless to say, he ordered from then on. 🙂

    1. Michelle,
      That is a hilarious story! I can’t imagine what the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) was saying behind your back. Too funny. Another major gaff for pizza craziness is getting the word pepperoni mixed up. In English it means meat, in Italian it means bell peppers..so you can imagine the fights started by the tourists in the pizzerias!

      Thanks for the story. xx Bianca

  4. Great encouraging words to all those keen to learn this language. Italians appreciate more those people who have a go at the Italian language than those who expect to be understood in English. Well, wouldn’t you too? 🙂

  5. Immersion works because the best way to learn Italian is to hear it and practice speaking it every day in the context of your normal life. When people talk about immersion, what they really mean is learning by doing – to get away from an academic approach and live the language

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