If you have recently moved to Italy or have been dreaming about the big move, learning Italian is probably on your “to-do” list.
Learning a new language as an adult is never simple, especially if it’s your first time immersing yourself in a new culture, this is often discussed in Expats In Italy
Whether you are completely in love with Italian or need it for practical reasons, you will face challenges. You will have to overcome linguistic and cultural obstacles on the way, and you will probably make mistakes. I don’t mean linguistic mistakes. As a new language learner, you are entitled to those!
I am referring to conceptual mistakes that can sometimes make your path towards fluency much harder, slow you down or even make you give up entirely.
Let’s take a look at these mistakes.
#1 Not defining your motivation for learning Italian
It might sound strange, but many people embark on their Italian journey without having a clear “why”.
Of course, we are all more or less aware of why we are doing certain things.
But when it comes to learning Italian, your “why” needs to be formulated very clearly.
Why is your “why” important?
The reason you have embarked on this journey might change over time, but you always need to have it clear. It will be the source of your motivation; this is what will keep you on track when you need to put in more effort.
A good motivation statement is short, clear and has a strong emotional component.
It can not be about logistics or necessity. As human beings, we respond better to things that engage us emotionally.
Ask yourself how reaching your Italian goal would make you feel.
“I am learning Italian so I can talk to my neighbours” is different from “I am learning Italian so that I can feel part of my new community”.
“I want to talk to my partner’s family” is different from “I am learning Italian so that I can feel closer to my partner.”
“ I want to be able to live in Italy and speak the language” is not “I want to feel at home in Italy” or “I am in love with Italy, and I want to feel part of the culture”.
Think about what it means to you, how it would make you feel… and clearly define your motivation statement.
#2 Learning Italian without setting a goal
When you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you thereLewis Carroll
Unfortunately, when it comes to learning a language, no road will take you there if you don’t have your goals clear. You need to have a direction and a final destination when you embark on this journey.
Your learning goal is your final destination: where would you like to arrive, or what level of proficiency in Italian would you like to reach?
Is it just informal conversational fluency? Full mother tongue proficiency? A basic level, just enough to get by?
Whatever your destination is, you need to know where you are going.
And by when you would like to be there.
What is your time frame?
It’s not a hard deadline, but you need that reference on your timeline.
Tie your “deadline” to an event in your life that has a strong emotional meaning. It can be your 50th birthday, an important anniversary, a long-anticipated milestone, like buying a house in Italy or moving to Italy.
#3 Not having a clear objective
Like any other project, learning a language needs a specific time-bound objective every step of the way.
What is the difference between goals and objectives?
Our objectives are the stepping stones that take us towards our ultimate goal. They are concrete, measurable and have precise deadlines. We can use the acronym SMART to define them (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).
Many learners might have their big final goal clear, but they don’t set objectives on their way there. And we all know how hard it is to work towards something that our brain perceives as unachievable.
Let’s make an example of a good beginners objective:
“I would like to be able to use Italian articles, gender, and number by the end of the year.”
It’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic… and has a deadline that makes sense.
#4 Learning Italian without a time structuring
It is not enough to have clear goals and objectives. We also need to make sure we have a structured path to get there.
And here is where most people fail.
It does not matter if you are part of a program, taking individual lessons or self-teaching Italian. Very few programs, teachers or textbooks will provide you with the necessary tools to structure your learning efficiently.
So it’s up to you.
It’s up to you to look at your calendar and block out timeslots dedicated to your Italian journey.
You will need to schedule a daily, weekly and monthly “date” with Italian.
Take a look at your short time objectives.
Look at your calendar.
Find a compromise between the amount of time you can dedicate to your Italian project and the progress you would like to make to reach your next objective in time.
Make sure you set aside one, better if two hours daily for your ongoing Italian progress.
It’s essential not only to work on new vocabulary and grammar but also to practice all of your language skills daily.
You will also need to find a few hours once a week, maybe over the weekend, that you will dedicate to your weekly review.
You would also need a day off when you allow your brain to “digest” the information absorbed during the week.
Schedule a monthly review day to go over all of the material you have processed during the month and ensure your new grammar and vocabulary have been retained.
If you are serious about making progress in Italian, make sure that at every step of your Italian language journey you have a clearly defined:
- Motivation: why are you on this journey?
- Goal: where you would like to arrive?
- Next objective: what’s your next destination on the way?
- Time structure: how much time daily, weekly and monthly you will dedicate to reaching your goals and objectives?