(Seen this email before? I sent it each year at this time!)
But WHY do you want to learn Italian, rather than, say, wasting away your days in front of Netflix?
It’s not such a silly question.
Learning a language is, after all, a major undertaking. It can take months, or even years, to get to a level at which you can hold your own in a conversation.
And you’ll need to wrap your head around all sorts of unexpected complexities – irregular verbs, gender, unpronounceable words, and many more – all waiting to snag you and impede your progress.
So why bother? Why learn Italian at all?
There’s the obvious answer, and then there are the not-so-obvious reasons.
For a lot of students of Italian, it’s probably a combination of things that drives them to keep studying and improving.
The obvious reason is that people speak Italian to be able to understand others and to express themselves in that language.
At Madrelingua we have students who have, for example, bought a holiday home in Italy, or have an Italian partner, or who simply love to visit or travel here.
There may be connected reasons, such as a love of art or opera, or plans to work or retire in Italy.
One common one is having Italian grandparents or more distant relatives, so therefore the desire to better understand your (linguistic) heritage.
But everyone in this category (and not everyone IS in this category) has some sort of recognisable NEED to learn the language.
If I improve my Italian, I’ll be able to understand people when they speak to me, and express my ideas in turn.
But there are a host of OTHER reasons for taking Italian courses.
There are, for example, people who enter retirement and realise they have additional time to fill.
Taking an Italian course is a way to meet people, sometimes no more than that. Perhaps you start a class simply because your friend is doing it and has suggested you come along.
That might be the (rather trivial) initial reason. But as I mentioned, mastering a language is a major undertaking.
It requires sustained effort, strong motivation, and decision-making.
It’s a little like climbing a mountain.
Which brings to mind the famous quote from early Everest climber, George Mallory, who took part in three expeditions but died on the mountain (decades before it was finally successfully summitted…)
Asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he replied:
“Because it’s there.” (Wikiquote.org)
So for the sense of achievement, then.
To prove something to yourself?
Because it’s a challenge (unlike watching Netflix…)
I bet that’s a big part of it for a lot of people, even if it’s not always acknowledged.
You might start out with a beginners’ course before a holiday in Italy, but there’s a real danger (as with scaling a Himalaya) that you’ll get hooked and end up spending years on your quest!
And as you learn, something interesting happens.
Decades back I worked in Turkey as an English teacher and started to pick up Turkish, in bars mostly.
People I met used to tell me something like “If you speak one language you are just one person, but when you learn a new language, you become a new person”.
As well, presumably, rather than instead.
I guess the idea is that you gain new knowledge, but also different points of view, fresh perspectives on the world.
As you study grammar, learn to read, listen to new sources of information about the world, you gain another dimension to your self, along with everything that goes with that: friends who speak the new language, a sense of ‘belonging’, and so on.
It’s true: you really do become ‘someone new’.
There’s a final reason people learn languages, unrelated to any obvious ‘need’, and beyond the satisfaction of opening doors to the world outside your own head.
It’s got to do with the pleasure that can be had from achieving mastery of something.
Think, for example, of that corny ‘Kung Fu‘ TV series from the ‘seventies, featuring a monk called Caine with amazing martial art skills.
To get good at Kung Fu (presumably), you’d need to make effective use of your time, exercise self-discipline, and become more AWARE:
Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
In short, first you have to learn to learn, whatever it is, whether a martial art or a foreign language.
Only then can you really begin to master the new skill.
And that process of learning that you CAN acquire new skills – and learning to do so more effectively – is liberating.
After much time, and much effort, you’ll finally figure out just how much you’re capable of.
2023 Italian Course Offer!
Save 20% on group Italian courses of any length starting in 2023 at our school in Bologna, Italy!
- Just pay the ‘Winter Offer – 20%’ course deposit (€120 instead of the usual €150)
- That guarantees you a saving of 20%, not just on the deposit, but on the whole course
- This promotion applies to group courses only, not to individual or online lessons
- Your course can be of any length: the longer you study, the more you learn!
- No need to decide the dates of your course now – just email us when you know
- Offer ends at midnight on Christmas Day – 25th December 2022
Or visit our the school website to find out more:
Contact us | Prices | Italian Courses | How To Book | FAQ
Having read your article – I do recall reading it previously and I agree! Don’t forget to add learning Italian to challenge the brain and create new neural pathways , not just to fill free time in retirement.
Sigrid Lee says
I agree that you become a different (new) person when you become fluent (or can at least communicate with ease). I feel I have a different personality when I am speaking Italian among Italians, here in Italy where I live. When I go back to the States, I feel different among English speakers. I say completely different things. As for Netflix, it’s a special pleasure to watch a series or movie in Italian or any other language I understand and not have to panic if there are no English subtitles.
I always enjoy your newsletter/emails.