After a couple of months of trying to revive my Italian, yesterday was the first time I spoke with a Italian! Despite my Italian being a lot fresher in my mind, I was still terrible! A lot of people would probably say that I'm being a bit harsh on myself, but if I am it's only because I have high standards of myself. The point is, I learnt Italian for 2 years before going to Italy for a couple of months and spoke it everyday. Now, after a year of inactivity, my Italian is right back down at A1 level (in terms of speaking, my knowledge of grammar and words is higher) and that drives me nuts!
I have a little history of this, working flat out on something and then burning out and letting my knowledge and ability fade away because the time and energy I thought I needed to put in everyday was unmanageable. I've done this mostly with instruments: flute, guitar and piano. I got to a good level in all of them but because I was working so hard on them, when a day or week came that I couldn't practise I thought I was a failure and slowly let everything slide. Total rubbish. still play, but not as consistently as I'd like. If only there were 36 hours in a day!
Anyway, my session yesterday! I found a Community Tutor on italki, which is a great site for finding people to talk to in your target language. I wanted a community tutor and a professional teacher for the following reasons;
- I'm unsure of my current level (reading, writing, speaking and listening are all at different stages) so I decided to only focus on conversation as that needs the most improvement
- I love learning grammar! So I don't need a teacher to give me exercises, I can do it myself and then practise with my tutor.
- Community tutors are usually cheaper. The teachers are also cheap, but for my needs I community tutor is enough.
- There is no exchange! Of course you can find people to talk to for free over Skype but normally they will want to practise your native language as well. I've nothing against this! But when time is short, I'd rather keep the focus on my progress (therefore, I pay, hehehe).
The session was only a trial and the majority of it was in Italian. Woo! But, I was terrible. The words I knew came easily and my grammar wasn't too bad but when I needed a word, that I knew I knew, I couldn't find it! It was a horrible feeling! Unsurprisingly, German slipped out quite a bit but I felt better when I was done because it dusted off the cobwebs on the Italian bookshelf in my head and I knew exactly which words I was missing, which are needed in everyday conversation. Despite the exhausted feeling I felt, I knew I'd learnt or re-learnt something. With consistent practise, I know I will only get better!
What I also remembered, which I consider the most important thing, is that I love Italian! I love speaking it, how I feel when speaking it and how wonderful it sounds when it flows. Loving a language doesn't mean you'll learn it automatically. A language needs time and dedication to learn, but when you love the language you're learning, it doesn't seem like a chore.