Growing up in Canada, most people think we’re all bilingual in both French and English, but the only officially bilingual province is New Brunswick (and the accent is Acadian, it is beyond amazing to listen to, even the weather is interesting)! So my French is limited to the generalized (read: terrible) French-education that public schools afford you, so if you want to know how to ask to go to the washroom while you’re in class – I got you!
When I began learning Italian I was at a loss of where to begin. Despite being from an Italian family, a lot of first-generation immigrants often want their kids to fit in by speaking only the language of their chosen country, which for us was English, but it does do you a bit of a disservice for actually learning languages in future!
So, here are some tips and tricks that have helped me begin to learn my 2.5th language, and keep me motivated!
- You have to want to learn it for yourself. No amount of sitting in classes, watching movies, or using apps will motivate you to commit yourself to another language unless you’re doing it for yourself!
- Try and be as immersive as possible! I know it’s not always an option to catch a plane to Milan for some intensive immersion, and not all communities have big populations of foreign-language speakers, but do your best! Find movies in your language of choice, Instagrammers who only post in that language, change your smart phone language, etc. Keep the language present in your life as much as you can!
- Try not to focus on ‘translation-based language learning’. If you don’t understand a phrase, try and pick up on content cues and elements that allow you to understand the meaning instead of literally translating everything you don’t know. An apple is una mela, but try not and think of what it is in your language and just accept what it is as it’s own thing!
- Follow bloggers/people on social media who post about the culture you love! It motivates me to keep learning when I see people ordering at Milanese restaurants, being able to read all the different spice names at Florentine food markets, and arguing with their friends in traffic in Italian! It makes me smile, and makes me want to work harder to join them!
- Language books and apps help. Honestly, I was very resistant to ‘textbook learning’ after trying to do it for most of my life, but I learn differently now than I did growing up, so my process looks different! I love Duolingo (and doing at least 2, but typically 4 cycles each day) and the accompanying Tinycards app, the Living Language Italian series has been very beneficial to me (I like the casual approach), and the Dummies All-in-One Italian MONSTER of a textbook is also in my arsenal!
- Try and find friends, classes, or whatever you can (online or off) to be able to speak to about your progress and keep you accountable! In my city there’s an Italian consulate along with a number of Italian rec centres that offer Italian language classes!
- Lastly, repetition! If you dedicate time to it everyday you’ll start to see patterns, find words and grammar more quickly, and feel way less intimidated by the process!
I hope some of these tips help you in your learning process, and keep you motivated to learn the language you’ve always wanted! And above all else, really, have fun! Enjoy the process, the mistakes you make, and the journey towards fluency – it’s a commendable choice!