The seeds were surely planted during my college days when I studied Art History in Florence. I was a newbie to the language and only learned the bare basics and a few useful phrases needed to scrape by.
After all it is essential to know how to say “quanto costano le scarpe” (how much are the shoes) when you see a beautiful pair of red shoes in the “vetrina” (shop window) that you pass on your way to school each day.
Even though I threw away my Italian dictionary upon re-entry into the U.S., the time spent in Italy, the people and the language continued to reverberate in my “cervello” (brain) and so, several years later, regretting that I didn’t really know Italian, I decided to seriously learn the language.
For the most part I am “autodidatta” (self-taught) and throughout my 15 year-mania-driven-obsession to learn the language, I have discovered that there is no one “bullet-proof-magic-method for acquiring fluency”.
To learn a language well (i.e., increase your vocabulary, practice your pronunciation and train your ear to hear and pick up spoken word) you have expose yourself to multitude of audio, verbal and writing experiences to fully stock your linguistic arsenal
If you really want to improve your language skills, it is important to dedicate time every day to learning Italian.
It is also important to get a handle on grammar. It might be painful at times, BUT it is necessary. And trust me. It is so GREAT when you start seeing the nuances between tenses and you finally understand why the “congiuntivo” (subjunctive tense) is useful for expressing your wants, needs and undying passions.
You also need a big juicy bag of vocabulary so as not to get frustrated when you are trying to talk about something other than finding your way to the “biblioteca” (library).
There are many fun ways to increase your vocabulary.
For instance, watching a TV Soap drama like “Un Posto al sole” is a great way to pick up new vocab and expressions and somehow it is so much classier to watch a soap in another language!
To flex my Italian brain cells and work on vocabulary and grammar on a daily basis I write a blog in Italian called “Diario di una Studentessa Matta” (yep you got it: Diary of a crazy student).
It is a forum where I practice my Italian and invite you to come and practice too. I even tweet & Facebook in Italian!
Why do I REALLY want to learn Italian?
I want to learn the language because the best part isn’t just the learning of the language (even though I do find it pretty of fun), the best part is that when I hop off the plane in Italy I can speak the language and have actual conversations with the locals!
I am happy to talk to anyone who will give me the time of day and it only takes a few sentences in Italian for their faces to light up and for them to lose their “I’m-too-cool-to-talk-to-you-attitude”.
They instantly become a best friend and hand out invitations for Sunday dinner.
Take, for example, the cab driver who drove me around Rome recently. By initiating a conversation with him in Italian I found out he is a musician and plans on going to Sanremo Italy’s music festival next year. He even popped in a CD and sang one of his songs for me.
This is why I adore the Italians.
When you muster up the courage to utter a few words in their language, they absolutely melt in front of you and their “inner- hospitable-thespian” emerges and it doesn’t matter if they are pastry makers, artists, olive oil producers, wine makers or 90 year old grandmothers.
True story: truffle hunters in Gubbio will invite you into their closed shops at midnight, flip on the lights and pour you wine from their private stock and let you sample their jars of preserved marmalades and aromatic truffley products, if you speak to them in Italian.
Because I want to share these kinds of adventures with others passionate about Italy and the Italian language I have started the Matta language and cultural immersion trips to Italy.
Since 2012 I have co-lead four trips to Italy. I partner with Italian schools and event planners and together we strive to create a truly unique learning experience – one that delights the senses, inspires adventure and which accelerates Italian language skills.
My Italian partners and I want you to get out of the classroom and use your Italian in a real and meaningful way. We help to pull back the top layer of Italy so that you can “tuffare” (dive) into Italian life, the traditions, the food and the people.
I have just announced two new trips for 2014 and you are invited to join me!
June 1-12 2014 you will find me in Lucca Italy partnering with Lucca Italian School for 10 days of language and fun.
August 23rd – August 30, 2014 you will find me at Tenuta Lupinari near Arezzo in Chianti country for 7 days of private language instruction with Italian teachers and plenty of chances to chat in Italian with Italian locals.
Learning Italian is a wonderful journey and I hope to meet you along the way! Siete anche un po’ matti?? Perfetto! Andiamo!