If there is one thing I harp on the most, it’s that we deserve to enjoy the process of learning Italian.
But what does that really mean? What does enjoying the process look like?
It means that each moment you spend devoting yourself to Italian becomes a form of expression.
Learning a language can give you the same joy you feel as you paint, play the guitar or write a poem.
Every sentence you put together* becomes a brush stroke, and every new idiom you learn falls in perfect step with your corps of dancers.
It can be art if you learn to treat it that way.
*Yep, even if you have no idea where to put the “ci” or how to conjugate that verb.
Respecting Your Desires
It means that when you devote yourself to the language, you lounge in the midst of dictionaries, workbooks, programs and online courses only to realize there is no formula to follow.
Even better, you understand that while having one would be convenient, you wouldn’t want it because you’d get bored.
You would be following someone else’s joy that worked for them.
It’s better to listen to your own quiet voice telling you what you want.
Joy comes from learning to trust yourself – especially when the path seems unclear.
It means that instead of guilting yourself into studying a certain way or feeling bad about not studying at all, you use your energy to do what feels best for you.
So, filling out workbook exercises becomes time to dive into a rabbit hole of idioms you’ve been curious about.
Or maybe you rest, and you return more energized the next day or the next week.
Instead of guiding yourself by guilt, “shoulds”, or by being your own personal drill sergeant, you’re fueled forward by love, creativity and genuine enthusiasm.
Joy comes from the process of feeling open like you’re going off on an adventure, not closed off like you’re at a desk in a cell.
Using Self-discipline Instead of Control
It means that you feel intrinsic motivation to learn Italian, and you stop the madness of carrot & sticking yourself.
I’ve seen people finish these long, laborious intensive courses and be so burned out that they don’t want to touch the language anymore.
They move onto something else to rest from their exhaustion because they’re so turned off.
They have overburdened themselves to “save” time and sacrificed the point of learning a language as a result.
Self-discipline is more loving.
As the mystic Osho says, it gives you permission to pursue the things within the language that delight you instead of following the rules someone else set for you.
It awards you freedom.
Here’s an important distinction.
Joy doesn’t mean that you’re always laughing and popping prosecco bottles*.
It can also come from the satisfaction you feel after being challenged to surpass your limits.
Learning a language offers an aperitivo-style buffet of challenges for you to choose from, and each one will show that you’re more capable than you realized.
*I want to have a party like this, and I want it to be like a rap video except I’ll throw Italian flash cards all over the place instead of money.
Finding Your Blend of Organization
It means finding freedom within structure.
You don’t need an hour-by-hour schedule* to learn a language, but you do need a few core pillars that make up your foundation.
Working within a system minimizes doubt, encourages you to deepen your practice, and saves energy for learning.
*Sigh. I actually used to do that. Talk about control issues.
It means you learn that you’re your own worst enemy + your greatest, most loving savior.
This is because humans are tangled inside, and language learning has a tendency to summon demons – ugly things we don’t want to confront.
But when we choose to ignore them, we slow our progress.
We hold ourselves back and then wonder why we can’t have a proper conversation after six years of learning.
Joy comes from being courageous when we refuse to let our personal junk get in our way.
Embracing the Journey
It means that the concepts of becoming fluent or being conversational don’t exist.
Instead of getting to the end, the illusory goal and feeling empty inside, you recognize the impermanence of what you’ve devoted yourself to and just keep learning.
It’s tempting to want to rush to the end of things, but we suck the love out that way.
We set unrealistic goals and beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them because our humanness showed up.
Our goals need more heart, more depth.
They need to be open to what’s possible instead of demanding guidelines that call themselves SMART.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss the point.
I won’t be the burglar of my own joy.