In this article called “3 tips to get unstuck”, I am going to talk about this common feeling – feeling stuck in Italian conversation – and how to solve this problem.
Every language learner, when he or she starts to learn a new language, sooner or later needs to face this problem.
Don’t worry, it is normal. So please, don’t feel stupid or frustrated – it is part of the learning process. Read my tips to overcome this problem.
Often, especially with new students, I happen to listen to the following sentence: “When someone speaks to me in Italian, I can understand and understand quite well at that, but, when it comes time to speak, I feel stuck and, I can’t manage to say anything.”
This feeling of fear and discomfort is absolutely normal, so do not consider yourself an alien. By speaking a language that is not yours, you are leaving your comfort zone, you are doing something unusual, and this, in particular at the beginning, can cause anxiety and fear.
What I want my students to notice is that if they can, more or less, understand what they are listening to, it means those words are already there, in their heads. The next step is to open all the drawers up there and bring out all the information stored, in order to talk. Many of you will tell me: “Ilaria, easier said than done!”.
It is not easy, I know, but I invite you to keep reading this text to discover my 3 tips.
1. Your cultural background is important
When we decide to learn a new language, in this case, Italian, we have to appeal to our background. Any experience lived, even if considered trivial, can be useful: a song learned, a food with a particular name, an expression heard during a journey that has remained with you. Each experience can, therefore, be a source from which to draw information and to which you can refer in order to learn other things.
Anything can become useful and help us. For example, are you passionate about music or opera? Well, it means that you already know some Italian words like those to indicate rhythm: piano, allegro, andante and veloce, are terms that are not only used by Italian musicians.
Are you a native English speaker, or do you know this language perfectly? As I already mentioned in my article Five reasons for learning Italian many English words are very similar to Italian ones. This will allow you to expand your vocabulary quickly without so much effort. The same goes for the other Romance languages – if you know one of them, you will have an advantage in learning Italian because of their similarity.
In summary, all your previous knowledge and experience can help to get you unstuck and continue the conversation.
2. Use all the words you know
This point is fundamental: the most important thing is to be able to communicate.
Especially at the beginning, our goal is to send a message and make sure that our message will be understood. How do you do it? Simple, by using all the words we know, even if the sentences we construct are not perfect. At this point, you may ask: “Ilaria, are you telling us to talk nonsense?”
No, I am not. I’m just telling you to communicate.
The point from which we started is the feeling of being stuck and not being able to express oneself in a foreign language, which is why our goal in this specific case is not to have a perfect conversation, but to break the ice and give the conversation a go.
In order to do this, put together all the words you know, form simple sentences without focusing too much on grammatical rules and start saying something. Your goal now is to communicate and make sure you understand as much as possible. Over time, however, you will increasingly refine your Italian and pay more and more attention to structure.
3. Have fun
The spirit with which you undertake any activity can influence its outcome.
Whatever the reason why you decided to learn Italian (for interest, because Italian or something of Italy fascinates you, or for necessity), remember to have fun.
It’s necessary to study in order to learn new languages, but do not think about Italian as a boring activity. Try to make it as interactive and fun as possible. For example, look for materials that are suitable for you and your way of being; in fact, it is not necessary to follow the canonical study methods with just hours of grammar. Watch movies, find language partners, take part in challenges and keep in mind that even Making mistakes can be fun and can help you learn the language. Remember also that the only way to get unstuck and overcome the fear of making mistakes is to face the problem head-on and talk right away!
One last consideration
Knowing a language other than your native language shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable and frustrated. It should convey a positive feeling to you. It has to make you proud of yourself and make you happy.
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