Some Thoughts About Learning A Foreign Language

So, as you all know, this is not a new subject for me. I have learned Latin, Ancient Greek, some Italian, and German. I think that once you learn how to learn a language, it comes relatively easily. But I have spent the better part of the last year and a half not being able to properly communicate myself, which makes me feel like a total dummy with a two-year-old’s vocabulary.  Yes, I know that I know five languages.  Yes, I know that I am not a dummy.  Yet when you are in such a subordinate position with language all the time, it is easy to forget that you are indeed an intelligent person who has complete and complex thought processes.  I should not expect so much from myself after one week of class, but of course we all want to be fluent right now and want to speak without an accent right now. Italian is not a difficult language by any stretch, and I think that by the time I leave I will be pretty capable.  However lovely it is to live in Florence, I find more occasions to use English than Italian, believe it or not.  And it is not because I am lazy.  It is because the people with whom I communicate the most (friends, housemate, etc.) default to English with me because it is easier for them not to practice their own Italian.  And no matter how hard I try to speak Italian with the locals, more often than not they answer in English because it is faster and easier for them to just say what needs to be said than to invest the few seconds it would take to help me along.  Of course it has only been a few days and I cannot really make that many judgments.  I am glad I decided to live with a host family because at least when I go  home my host mother converses with me in Italian.  I also have several hours of conversation class each week, which is where I feel I learn the most.  The teacher for that section, Christiana, is particularly wonderful, patient, and helpful.  I hope I will have her as my main instructor next month.  Piano piano, is what they say here.  One step at a time.


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