My first experience speaking English wasn’t exactly a happy and relaxed moment. I couldn’t figure out why, but all the words that I had in my brain didn’t seem to come out. In fact, nothing seemed to come out.
It was almost like all I had learned until that moment was a total waste of my time. Completely useless and impossible to apply.
I was 14 back then, and I had studied English for 7 years. Having studied English from a young age, it should have been easy for me to speak naturally by that time.
Still, I felt like I had to start from scratch.
The basics, the grammar, the words, the verbs were all there. But somehow they wouldn’t come out.
I had a huge shock when I first arrived in England. No one was speaking the way I would have expected to. I didn’t know what to say, and I felt embarrassed for not being able to say a word.
I couldn’t accept the idea that it would have taken me some time to understand a fast speech in an unfamiliar accent and speak spontaneously and confidently.
It was so frustrating.
I was supposed to stay there for two weeks, and I was wondering if that time was going to be enough for me to improve my English and speak with more confidence. Without sounding like if I didn’t know anything at all.
It was such a weird experience. I would always get good grades at school, and I assumed that I knew the language enough to speak with other people. So, why was it being so hard for me to speak?
I’m pretty sure this story sounds familiar.
Although you might not have studied Italian since childhood, you have probably found yourself in a situation like this.
Lots of words in your head. Hours spent on grammar books doing exercises and doing them right, but still no results when it comes to having a conversation.
What can you do to make your words flow and have natural conversations in Italian?
When you have your first speaking experience, you’re faced with a few hurdles:
👉 approaching someone
👉 understanding them
👉 responding accordingly
👉 keeping the conversation going
👉 remembering words
These are just a few of them.
It feels overwhelming at first. You want to do everything “right”, and you want to fight with reality, because you see that things are not as you expected.
You might be tempted to think that you should study harder and more. Wear yourself out and try harder and harder until you get things right.
So what can you do about it?
Here are a few tips to leave overwhelm out of your learning and speaking experience and begin to have natural conversations in Italian.
Listen without expectations
You might be tempted to listen to someone and see if you can spot some words. You put a lot of effort on trying to detect the words that you know and when you catch them, you miss the rest of conversation.
To avoid this experience, what you can do is listen without expecting to understand.
It might sound counterintuitive, because you want to understand everything, but don’t forget that this is your first experience listening to someone.
So, shift your focus from words to musicality and intonation. See how people really talk, without expecting them to talk in a certain way.
The idea that you have in your mind might not match reality. So, be curious and listen to what people actually say and how they say it.
Pay attention to the repetitions
When you start focusing on the big picture without paying too much attention to the single words, you will begin to notice a few sounds, words, short expressions that people tend to repeat.
After hearing a certain sound for a certain amount of time, you will realize that that sound belongs to that word that you thought had a different pronunciation.
Similarly, after hearing a short expression for a certain amount of time, you will realize that THAT is what people say in that particular context.
Once again, it’s all a matter of staying curious, being attentive, and open and receptive to what may come.
Leave judgment out
When faced with different and unfamiliar words or ways to build a sentences, you might have moments where you say.
Why is it like that?
Shouldn’t it be in another way?
It doesn’t make any sense at all to me.
Sadly, sometimes logic doesn’t play a role in this play. You might find that the Italian sentence structure is completely different from the sentence structure of your first language. When this happens, “judging” and labeling Italian as “crazy” is just counterproductive.
What would help you the most is seeing the “illogical”, sentence structure and the “weird” way of speaking as just a sentence structure and a way of speaking.
When you remove all judgment, it’s easier to welcome Italian into your mind (and your soul).
Judgment creates distance. A neutral observation creates acceptance.
Use simple words
It might sound uncomfortable at first to use simple words. Especially if you normally speak “in a certain way”. However, as weird as it might be, it’s what will allow you to become familiar with the new sentence structure and the new words.
Communicating is about getting the message through. It doesn’t matter if your words are not perfect, or if you would say it differently in your first language. You can have natural conversations in Italian even if you don’t know as many words as you would like to know.
Remember that you are starting to use Italian, and it perfectly OK if you keep it simple.
Again, don’t judge yourself for “not speaking properly”. Focus on what you can do. On what you accomplish. On the things that you are actually able to say.
Results will come. Trust yourself and trust the process.
Play with what you have
It’s the best way to begin to think in Italian. You might be tempted to look for more and more words to make your sentence more complete, more detailed, more… perfect.
But recycling what you have will ensure you will remember your words over a long period of time.
Here is how it works.
When recycling, you’re forced to fish in your words pond. You have to go deep into your memory and find a word that would translate what you have in your mind. It might not be the perfect word, but it’s the word that you need in that moment. And it’s also the word that you will remember because you will have a memory attached to it.
It might take some practice, but practice makes better.
In conclusion, having natural conversations in Italian is not something that happens overnight. But it’s neither a race against time. It’s an ongoing process that requires your attention and, above all, a lot of patience and acceptance.
What are your thoughts about it?