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My Experience of Learning Italian

In a side margin of a worn out diary I once wrote “Goals- to learn a foreign language”. Little did I know that the next year I would take a trip to Italy that would change my entire life! (Read more about me here). Not only would I learn a language but also work with the language! So I thought of outlining my detailed experience of learning Italian on my own. Believe me, it was a journey of self discovery more than anything else. Hope you enjoy and gain some inspiration from it.

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My Experience of Learning Italian

Learning Italian has been exactly like leaving the borders of my home country and stepping into an unknown territory for the first time. I remember how hesitant I was to learn a foreign language a decade ago. Over the years, I realized how useful it has been for me, my personality and growth. It has been an exciting journey even though it is frustrating on many days!

I started learning Italian in 2015 from the Italian Cultural Institute in New Delhi and completed level B1 by mid 2017 and B2 in 2021. Apart from the course, complete immersion at home has been one of the prime factors of my improvement in the language. So I focus on other methods of learning such as podcasts, TV shows, YouTube videos etc (anything but a textbook).

For instance, while cooking, I often play the Radio and over the months I’ve begun to notice the difference in how much I can now understand. So much went in my subconsciousness than I thought and yes, passive studying does work!

What were the challenges I faced??

What stood out for me all these years were consistency and passion. But there were also a lot of challenges:

1. One of the major challenges I faced is that my brain refused to function in Italian. There were days when I couldn’t speak in Italian, I didn’t feel the motivation to work even on an extra word. It was hard!

2. Another challenge I faced is constantly having to hear the old age myth – that it was impossible to learn a language in my 30s. People had a habit of telling me every now and then that it’s too late, that learning a language isn’t for me. But I do beg to differ on that subject now 🙂

3. The most challenging aspect for me however has always been my fear of talking. I’ve always had difficulty in speaking to locals, I feel shy and conscious. It is hard for me to put myself out there. And even though I love constructive feedback from locals, I don’t appreciate locals telling me how every single word needs to be said. Which is also the reason why I constantly second guess myself!! 

Another challenge was…..

My boss (of that time) didn’t appreciate my studying Italian over the weekend. He was quite discouraging that I was doing something that didn’t that involve the company’s work. (no, it wasn’t even his company!) One Friday, he asked me to come for an extra shift on Saturday. I refused to come mainly because it was a day off for me and I had already committed to go for my Italian class.

Boy, did he hate my guts!

Not only did he question and judge me on that incident but also expected me to leave my weekend classes. Today I have a sudden urge to send across this link to my ex-boss, not to feel superior but to let him know that learning a language wasn’t a waste of time (read till the end). And that there’s more to life than the cubicles in the office 😉

Progress So Far:

Progress in Italian hasn’t been super fast but fairly okay. I’ve come to the conclusion that language learning is a lifetime activity. It’s not something you can ever do in a few months or even a few years.

Is there such a thing as fluency?? I’m not sure.

For instance, if you are a Spanish speaker, Italian might come slightly easier to you. But for those of us coming from totally different worlds and languages such as Hindi, Italian will always be new, challenging and complicated.

I’ve also come to realize that everyone has their strong suits while learning a language. For some it is grammar and others it could be speaking. I’ve realized vocabulary is my strong suit and grammar certainly isn’t. Words come more naturally to me, compared to my fellows, who sometimes don’t know the English counterpart of the Italian word. So If I can be honest, I face difficulty in grammar more, especially pronouns, reflexives, congiuntivo…

My goal is to speak but also stick to things I am confident in- present, past and future along with conditional, gerundio and imperfetto.

How the Locals Help Me in Italy:

I have been fortunate to have met several kind people during my travels in Italy. They have helped and guided me immensely. Most locals have been in awe of my love for their country and have gone out of their way to talk to me in Italian. Baristas at the Bar have shyly smiled at the way I ask them something and nod back to reassure that they understood me. This is what motivated me to carry on.

Sometimes strangers on the street would look at me twice, clearly seeing that I’m not Italian and ask me, “why are you studying Italian”??

But everything isn’t as rosy as it seems. I have also faced my share of unpleasant situations where people have simply frowned back because they didn’t understand what I spoke in Italian or replied back in English to avoid the conversation or simply disliked the way I spoke (a local once said to someone, “oh but she barely speaks knows anything. It is too less, pochissimo!) It wasn’t encouraging to say the least but these things are part of learning a new language.

Just give yourself credit for the smallest of things!

And then an Opportunity Arrived..

In 2018, after almost 3 years of learning Italian, an opportunity knocked on my door. I found that a company in Delhi was looking for a person who knew both impeccable English and intermediate Italian. Their role was to bridge the gap in their business and cultures and for someone to basically understand that. The company was looking for a person who understood the culture of Italy but also the language.

It was the most bizzarre experience to apply for the job and get selected. Honestly, it was nothing short of a dream because at that time I didn’t fathom that a career path like that could even exist.

I took that job and a new world opened for me!! Today I’m working with another client in their Italian project which gives me the opportunity to use the language in my daily life.

I have a new found respect for language learners and translators because over these years I realized how difficult it is to constantly switch between languages. My brain is speaking Hindi, English and Italian and it often gets tiring and cumbersome. That being said, it is all fulfilling. Learning Italian helped me find a this business side of me and offered an incredible opportunity to understand the business aspect of things in Italy.

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Sometimes even in our darkest times we only have to trust the path.

So if you are learning Italian like me here are my TIPS:

  1. Take a course/classroom/online training
  2. Immerse, make daily efforts
  3. Understand the gestures of the Italians- most important!
  4. Keep a journal in Italian
  5. Talk to locals when in Italy
  6. Stay motivated by listening to music, radio and podcasts
  7. Keep your eyes open for any opportunities

Forever grateful to Italy for everything!!

“Credi in te stesso e in tutto quello che sei. Sappi che c’è qualcosa dentro di te che è più grande di qualsiasi ostacolo.”

Christian D. Larson

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45 Comments

  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • […] learn new things, see different aspects of life, know more about literature, the culture, food and even the language! The best part is that I am regularly connected to that love through my acquaintances and friends […]

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  • […] Before you go, read my story of learning Italian […]

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  • […] Read my journey of learning Italian! […]

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  • Image Earth Travel
    June 16, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Hats off Ishita and admiration for your persistence! Loved reading this post. 🙂

    Italian grammar is hard to master and even my Italian friends say they find it difficult, so what chance to we foreigners have…
    I persist learning as English isn’t widely spoken where I am in southern Italy plus, I don’t want to forget what I’ve learnt so far as it’s easy to forget if you don’t practise.

    I find Italian harder than French but not sure if others feel the same.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      June 16, 2020 at 7:08 pm

      Ciao Nilla. Trying the best with the resources at hand. Grammar is very frustrating to me, my vocab is better. I find it quite funny when people say Italian is easy, its definitely not easy!

      Reply
  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • […] My Experience of Learning Italian […]

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  • parikhit dutta
    May 5, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    I have been learning French and I completely relate to this post! Indeed learning a language requires consistency, practice and effort and I will also like to add that there will always be someone better than you in a classroom but that mustn’t deter the effort on why you chose to learn a foreign language in the first place 🙂

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      May 7, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      That’s wonderful. Hope your studies are going well!

      Agree, I had someone very well versed with Spanish in my class and he could pick Italian a little faster than others.

      Reply
      • parikhit dutta
        May 7, 2020 at 2:57 pm

        That always happens. 🙂 For now I am having a good time learning French and my next target is Italian 😀

        Reply
  • LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia
    February 9, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    I’m avoiding passato remoto, which I find I can get by without it most of the time but I do need to revisit it and learn it if I ever want to do an Italian proficiency exam! Being in Italy absolutely upped my game – especially because I live in a part of Italy where it’s not easy to find English speakers. I am surrounded by Italian all the time and that really helped me progress quickly! Regardless, languages need to be practiced and used with frequency – consistency is key!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      February 9, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Of course, I can imagine. Unfortunately its not easy for everyone to move to Italy 😉 But yes with the technology around us, we all will slowly get there to better conversations.

      Reply
  • Kathryn Occhipinti
    January 28, 2020 at 3:17 am

    Congratulations on your new position, Ishita! I truly believe that learning another language opens up a whole new set of possibilities for every individual. Reading, writing, and finally speaking a second language all take separate focus and practice, and I believe are all best learned when one finds a topic or has a goal that truly interests them. For me, the goal was to travel, so travel vocabulary became my basic vocabulary. I’ve been expanding my horizons ever since, mostly with Italian TV series and movies so that now I understand native speakers talking about everyday topics and situations. All language is a life-long journey but that’s OK if you love learning about the cultures in which you live.

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 30, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Thanks so much Kathryn! I agree wholeheartedly with you. Its important to work on it EVERY SINGLE DAY! Brava to you! 🙂

      Reply
  • Penny Albertella
    January 28, 2020 at 12:20 am

    You are truly an inspiration! Learning anything new is a challenge but new languages are particularly so. My family lost the language after a generation or two. I’ve tried but struggle!
    Your determination and motivation are impressive!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 30, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Too kind, Penny! Thanks for following me here and on Instagram. Are you currently learning anywhere?? Thanks once again!

      Reply
  • Darlene Foster
    January 26, 2020 at 11:20 pm

    Well done, you!! Learning another language is never easy.

    Reply
  • Giovanna
    January 26, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    Dear Ishita,
    Your story is so inspiring! I’ve been studying Italian for 20 years now. I grew up with the Neapolitan dialect spoken at home in New York, so I had an ear for Italian, but I always answered in English when speaking with my family members. I started to formally study it at university, but I mostly studied on my own. I live in Italy and I’m still studying as one day I’d love to be able to speak and write Italian at a professional level. Congratulations on finding a job where you can use your Italian language skills and it’s inspiring to see your determination. xx

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 30, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Ciao Giovanna!! Thank you for commenting on my post 🙂 I can only imagine how different it must be for you to listen to the dialect at home and then formally study “Italian”. Thank you so much again!! x

      Reply
  • Silvana
    January 26, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    Cara Ishita,
    ti scrivo in Italiano per celebrare i tuoi sforzi nell’imparare una lingua che io, da italiana, trovo davvero difficile!
    Vivo negli Stati Uniti da quasi otto anni, e dall’anno scorso ho avuto l’opportunita’ di insegnare Italiano in un college vicino a dove abito, nello stato del Delaware.
    Ho trovato il tuo blog su Pinterest e voglio complimentarmi per la tua determinazione, il tuo entusiasmo che traspare in ogni frase che scrivi, e la tua sincerita’ nel descrivere le difficolta’ che inevitabilmente ci sono nell’apprendere ogni nuova lingua.
    Io sto studiando Spagnolo, e per quanto simile all’Italiano, richiede comunque impegno e costanza nello studio.
    Complimenti e grazie per il tuo interessantissimo blog!

    Ciao,

    Silvana

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 30, 2020 at 8:58 am

      Cara Silvana,

      Grazie per il tuo messagio…Che bella storia!! Grazie per condividere i miei post su Pinterest e anche per i complimenti. E` significa molto!! 🙂 In bocca al lupo per te e per il tuo studio di Spagnolo. Si hai ragione! E` veramente difficile per imparare una nuova lingua ma piano piano sto provendo…..

      Reply
  • Anonymous
    January 26, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for posting this…I have been in Italy for a few years, and get very discouraged. Your inspiration has me back on track!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      I don’t know if my experience sitting in India will help. But trust me, you are so much better than you think. So please keep going. Never give up xx

      Reply
  • Shabby Sheep
    January 26, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    History is full of examples of ‘idiot bosses’ like your old one. It’s great to hear your story of positivity and creativity – very heartwarming. You are a superb example of ‘Possibility Thinking’. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. 🙂

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      🤣🤣 Indeed! I’m stoked, thank you. Definitely needs celebration! Cin cin!

      Reply
  • chrisblackwrites
    January 26, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Amazing to hear language success stories like yours! It’s good to know the hard work and dedication pay off in the end!

    Out of the various ways you’ve been learning which do you think has helped the most? (Classes, self study, using the language while on holiday etc.)

    If you haven’t read it already I recommend picking up Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner, even for an advanced learner it’s full of good advice. Good luck in your future studies. Ciao!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      Thank you so much, Chris! It’s been quite a journey!! ♥️♥️ I’ll check the book you suggested…..grazie!! And as far as your question goes, a mixed bag to be honest. Talking to locals in Italy helps me most but when I’m back I don’t have as much practice. So I love self studying and making that environment. noting words here and there, watching movies etc 🙂 Hope you enjoy the blog

      Reply
  • Kelly
    January 26, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Love your dedication to learning Italian! I think language learning is a forever journey. I too struggle to speak, but piano, piano, we shall overcome! 🙂 It’s so wonderful to always keep each other motivated. ❤️

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      Thank you Kelly! It’s great to keep each other at it. Still struggle with Talking in general but we’ll get there xx

      Reply
  • KareninCalabria
    January 26, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Congratulations on your journey, Ishita. It’s wonderful to see your passion and know that you’re affecting so many people in such a positive way – no boundaries! You’ve made so many good points in this post from one language learner to another. And I’ll add, don’t worry about the grammar! Sure, study it and do your best, but in the end, vocabulary is more important (not only IMHO but in that of many expert linguists, as well). Communication is the key. Brava, continua cosi’!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Thank you Karen. It’s been full of ups and downs. Communication is seriously the key and that’s why I worry about grammar.. I just can’t manage sentences with some tenses. They don’t get into my head 😭🤣

      Reply
  • Bob
    January 26, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Your dedication to your passion has paid off in so many ways. Just by following your heart, you have filled your life with good Karma. You are creating bridges that span across cultures and you are opening your mind to new experiences. What could be better than that? Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 11:47 am

      You are extremely kind. But I do agree that good karma is what it is 🙌😍😬 thank you so much, Bob!

      Reply
  • Lorelle
    January 26, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Great advice lovely. It’s not an easy task, but I agree, practice, practice, practice. Xx

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      January 26, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Grazie cara. Hope your trip was all kinds of amazing!! Xx

      Reply
  • Stefy
    January 26, 2020 at 1:09 am

    Dear Ishita, I would like to know which songs helped you learn Italian. Truly curious. And don’t worry about the terrible congiuntivo and passato remoto, as we Italians often use them in the wrong way. An example? Those who are from Rome like me are often tempted to use the conditional in place of congiuntivo and for what concerns passato remoto, well, 🤔in some cases I need to stop to ponder whether I said it right myself. 🙋

    Reply

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