Struggling with Italian language

The Italian language is a beautiful sounding language. I mean, I really like the way it sounds when others speak in Italian.

Coming out of my mouth, Italian is ugly. If I think the way I sound is ugly, I know native Italian speakers can barely recognize my words as their language. The rolled arrr’s. The accented third syllable. The c’s that sound different depending on the following letter.  None of it comes together when I open my mouth.

And my vocabulary…we won’t even go there.

The other day, a service worker of some sort came to my gate to read one of the utility meters. When I tried to tell him that my Italian was not good, he became irate and spoke in understandable English. His exact words were, “You should be speaking Italian in Italy.” I said, “Si.” Then proceeded to burst into tears.

I don’t want to be a foreign language failure. I want  to converse at a basic level in Italian. There is so much to learn, though. My frustration is enough to make me want to quit. It’s too hard.

My enthusiasm for learning Italian was at an all time high last year before I left the states. Now, I force myself to practice now and then.

I am not consistent in my practice or study of Italian, so it is no surprise that my skills are declining and not increasing.

I really do not want to be an ugly American and refuse to learn to speak Italian. I want to be a good neighbor and resident of my town. I know to do this, I need to consistently study and practice my Italian. I just wish I wasn’t so bad at it.

My visions of  small talk with the neighbors in Italian have faded. The most I speak with my neighbors is when I say, “Bon giorno!” as we pass.

Help me motivate myself!


11 Comments on “Struggling with Italian language”

  1. Stella says:

    I meant to say DO NOT learn grammar ( if you can help it) until you’re nearly fluent. Trust me this is the best way!

  2. Stella says:

    Don’t learn the Language backwards ( the standard way most languages are taught) – in other words, learn grammar until AT ALL at first until you’re fluent. I know, sounds crazy but that’s the best way to learn. I speak 3 languages; and I’m learning Italian now.
    Here’s what you need to do:
    1. Pimsleur: buy the CD’s and do the (30 mins.) EVERYDAY. Trust me.
    2. YouTube: type in Polyglots ( these are people who have learned many languages) and watch their videos on tips on how to learn a new language. Most (if not all) wii vouch for the fact that if you don’t learn the language the right way from the beginning you’re pretty screwed…
    3. One guy I watch is: ‘Loki2504’ – watch his tips – and apply!

    Let me know.

  3. Sorry that meter-reader was rude to you. I think the fact that you want to learn is awesome because many Americans wouldn’t, especially if you are in an area where you don’t *have* to speak Italian to get around. I came across a blog that recommended a test today and I’m going to post the link at the end of this comment. You answer several questions about preferences and so forth. At the end, it gives you out of a number out of 20 for what you scored in each category of learning: Visual, Aural, Verbal, etc. So you can see which way you learn best which may help you see what exercises will help you most. For example, my highest was verbal (which they consider speaking and writing).

    One thing they recommend is repetition which makes sense for me because I have done the best with exercises that give you examples and then start making you fill in the blanks, write sentences different ways, etc. One that was also high was aural which explains why I had picked up a lot when learning Spanish just by watching several movies in Spanish with the English subtitles on. Whatever your style is there is sure to be a lot of exercises you can try to help you. Oh, two other categories they explore are social and solitary which tells whether you benefit more from independent study or a group setting. My guess by your post would be that you will score higher on social and might benefit from a class, interaction with a tutor, or talking to friends who speaks the language, etc.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      The experience upset me at the time, but I have decided I will do as much as I can. It will not be enough for some, but others will appreciate it. You are lucky that you pick up languages easy. I think I spend too much time chasing my two year old to practice.Sounds like great resource. Thanks for sharing.

      • I think that most people will probably see that you are trying and that’s enough for them. The ones it’s not, that’s their own problem. I don’t know if I’d say easy. I’m not even conversational in most lol but hopefully that will change at least for German. I just have decent retention for the random things I have learned. You’re welcome. Hope it helps :).

  4. Kaarin Engelmann says:

    I’ve been thinking about your entry for a couple of days.

    I think one of the biggest difficulties of learning a new language as an adult is that we are so self conscious and we have bigger vocabularies, which makes us want to have a big vocabulary right away in our new language.

    Thus, one thing to do is not worry so much about making mistakes. I’ve made people totally laugh with my screw-ups–I said “young” (giovani) instead of “day” (giorno)–but a vast majority of the Italians I’ve met could figure out what I was stumbling to get out and were very friendly about trying to help me learn (especially if I said that I was studying). Okay, that meter reader was an exception, but just try to block him from your mind.

    Flash cards are really helpful. Work on your verbs–just present and past tense; no special tenses required for speaking. Use the top 50 verbs to start with. You should be able to find them in a verb dictionary or even online. I found this flashcard maker really useful: The next time I make some, I’ll make an extra set for you.

    Try listening to the Italians speaking on the radio. I can pick out words I understand and sometimes even whole sentences 🙂 I think it helps with listening at speed.

    I’ve ordered some DVDs with Italian subtitles or Italian speaking and English subtitles to help, as well. It’s nice to see the translations in a single place.

    Try reading a book that is translated in both English and Italian–maybe something like Harry Potter. I’m using the Book of Mormon because the chapters and paragraphs are numbered the same in both languages, so when I want to see a translation, I just have to find the same chapter and paragraph. I don’t think the Bible will work as well because there are so many different translations, but it might help.

    Start out with just saying small things, such as “buona giornatta” (Have a good day), “vorrei” (I want; when used in the context of a store or restaurant), “capisco” (I understand) or “non capisco”, or “puo ripetere per favore” (can you please repeat that), “non lo so” (I don’t know). According to our Italian teacher, saying a phrase seven times in context/conversation will get it into your memory. In any case, sometimes I look up a common phrase before I’ll need to use it so that it will be handy.

    Which bring me to Google translate. I use it a ton. It is more useful with writing than speaking, of course, but I’ve found that it helps me with learning to use more simple language. Especially since I know that it does a crappy job translating sometimes, I write what I want to say, see the translation, click on the Italian version and see what alternate words I could use that I know. Sometimes I simplify the English vocabulary to get more Italian words that I know so that I can actually use and remember the phrase. Does that make any sense?

    In any case, hang in there. I’m discouraged with my progress, as well, but I managed to go in a store and speak all in Italian the other day, so I must be doing better than when I arrived. I wish I were at the conversational level, too, but you’ll definitely never get there if you don’t start somewhere.

    Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that you might have access to Rosetta Stone through your husband’s work. Have him log into and check. Rosetta Stone has it’s pluses and minuses, but it definitely gets you speaking and learning vocabulary.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Thanks Kaarin! Great ideas. I like the flashcard maker website. I just used index cards and a marker. Decidedly low-tech, but useful. I was feeling whiny after the meter-reader yelled at me. I am now definitely more motivated to keep working on Italian, though.

  5. Meg says:

    I might be coming to Vicenza Italy in December! My guy got new orders for there. Keep up the good work on the language. You can do it! If I come, maybe we can hook up and work on it together.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Hope you get to come here! It is pretty amazing here. At least your guy’s orders give you some time to plan. It’s a big move but definitely worth it. Let me know if you come, we will have to get together!

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