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). Afterwards, I started learning Italian in 2015 from the Italian Cultural Institute in New Delhi and completed level B1 in mid 2017. I’ve  been studying at home on my own since then.

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My Experience of Learning Italian

Learning Italian has been the same for me as it might have been for any of you who were leaving the borders of their home language and stepping into an unknown territory for the first time.

It’s almost like your first solo trip.. You feel hesitant and unsure.

It has been exciting yet frustrating and challenging!

What stood out for me while learning were guidance, consistency and passion.

After I started immersing in the language at home, I felt more comfortable and realized that needed to make use of other methods of learning apart from a textbook. So I started listening to podcasts, watching movies and playing the Radio wherever possible. For instance, if I was in the kitchen, I would listen to new songs while cooking.

You won’t believe how much actually went in my subconsciousness…Passive learning works!! 

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The Challenges:

1. One of the major challenges I faced is when sometimes nothing seemed to work. My brain refused to function in Italian.

As I mentioned before, learning a foreign language is tough and especially when this language sounds nothing like your own!

2. The old age myth was also another common question around me. People think that as you grow older, learning a language isn’t for you, that it’s practically impossible to learn and speak it. But I beg to differ on that subject.

3. The worst challenge that I continuously faced every day was the fear of talking. My first Italian teacher never encouraged me to talk so talking has always been a difficulty.

I’m also a very shy Italian speaker and 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 vocabulary is my strong suit and grammar certainly isn’t. Words come naturally to me, compared to my colleagues who don’t understand the English counterpart of the Italian word.

But I absolutely hate conjunctions and pronouns and still struggle with their placement. I can’t understand passato remoto or conjuntivo either and wish I never have to face them.

I stick to things I am confident in- present, past and future along with gerundio and imperfetto.

This often makes me wonder…Is there such a thing as fluency??

If you are a Spanish speaker, Italian might come easily to you but for those of us coming from totally different worlds and languages such as Hindi, Italian is and will always be complicated.

….But not impossible to conquer!

How the Locals Helped Me:

I have been fortunate to have met the right people when traveling in Italy. They have helped and guided me immensely. They’ve also been in awe of why I love their country and hence have gone out of their way to talk to me in Italian.

Sometimes strangers on the street with whom I’d talk, would look at me twice, clearly seeing that I’m not Italian and ask me why was I studying Italian??

Then there have been episodes where Baristas at the Bar would shyly smile at the way I’d ask them something and nod back to reassure that they understood me. This is what motivated me to carry on….


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.

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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.

A company in Delhi was looking for a person to help them communicate with their Italian clients in Italy. They needed someone to bridge this huge gap in their business and help move it forward. It was nothing short of a dream because at that time I didn’t fathom that a career path like that could exist here!

I took up that job and felt a new found respect for language learners! Switching between languages during the day and taking care of your brain speaking Hindi, English and Italian is tiring and cumbersome but learning Italian helped me find a unique side of me. It has given me an incredible opportunity to understand the business side 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:

-Take a course/classroom/online training

-Immerse yourself, make efforts

-Practice, practice, practice

-Keep a journal if required

-Don’t forget passive learning

-Mingle with the locals when in Italy

-Stay motivated by listening to podcasts

-Keep your eyes open for any opportunities

“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

Thank you, Italy. Forever grateful to you for everything.

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30 thoughts on “My Experience of Learning Italian

  1. 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. 🙋

  2. 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!

  3. 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’!

    1. 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 😭🤣

  4. 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. ❤️

  5. 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!

    1. 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

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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

    1. 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…..

  9. 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

    1. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

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