I have been trying to learn Italian now for about ten years.
Every year I'd come back from Italy at the end of September and sign up to a new course. I'd go to class most weeks but feel like I wasn't getting anywhere. Night classes aren't the ideal way to learn if you're a morning person and classes ended in June so by the time I went to Italy again in September I'd have forgotten it all. Over time I guess I improved a bit but not enough to feel confident.
Last year it all changed. We came into a little bit of money, enough to decide that it was time to buy our (eventual) retirement home in Italy. Suddenly we were in Italian estate agencies where no one spoke any English, learning a whole new vocabulary. Then we were negotiating. Then talking to lawyers and surveyors and banks. Luckily for us, a lot of this was about listening rather than talking. And people had very good incentives to make themselves understood.
But now I'm into another new world of Italian utilities and public services where the onus will definitely be on me to communicate. And builders and painters and locksmiths where I need to be able to tell them what I want. Experience so far suggests that they will understand only when it suits, so I need to get better. And fast.
At the minute I'm feeling overwhelmed by options. I've started attending classes again but the only ones available locally are way below my level. And they only run for five weeks. I've got dozens of books, both grammar and literature, and a lot of websites. I've got podcasts that download automatically. The one thing I don't have is a good habit. I know that early mornings are my best time but they're already committed with exercise and meditation. So I need to figure out where I can find time whilst my brain is still working.
So I signed up! I had already found some information on the best way to learn a language and they recommended a site called Italki. I surfed for ages trying to find the perfect teacher, then realised that no such thing exists and that I was using this as a procrastination device. One of my biggest failings is over-researching things with an idea of perfection somewhere in the back of my mind. So I just scheduled a session with someone who looked reputable and was available at a time to suit. Which is an hour from now. And I'm feeling terrified. I don't really know what of. The unknown I guess. What if I don't like her? What if I just sit like an idiot with my mouth flapping open? Do I take notes? Did I oversell my very basic Italian abilities?
And more than that, what do I want to do? It's just a 30 minute taster session which I'm figuring is just enough to get to know one another a little.
But I'm thinking I've done a lot of very hard stuff already. For this I can sit in my own home and I've got a safety net because the teacher speaks English. So here goes.
Well I tried the online talking system. And it works. The teacher somehow set it up that I could see her on skype but she couldn't see me which worked really well for me, I had somehow felt vulnerable if she could see me. I made myself reasonably well understood and we conducted most of the discussion in Italian which I was pleased with.
The only irritation is that I booked another lesson with her ahead of my next trip to Italy (I leave in two days time) but she had a mix up with her calender which meant it had to be cancelled. I had a specific task in mind - I wanted to be able to introduce myself to the neighbours - and I had sort of been looking forward to practicing the vocab I would need for this. I worked on this a little on my own yesterday but I think talking to her would give me confidence for doing it. That said, I feel excited by the fact that I have finally found a method that might work for what I need.
In the meantime I'm trying to do a little bit of something every day, whether it's reading a few pages of a book or watching something short on italian tv or looking at a text book. I'm also talking to myself in Italian describing routine tasks I'm doing or translating odd phrases in my mind. I used to feel frustrated by the fact that i couldn't really stick to one method, now I'm trying to see that as a plus. As long as I do something every day that's the main thing.
I'm just realising though my tendency to trivialise my achievements. I was really scared about the online talking and instead of giving myself proper credit for finally doing it (three years after I first thought about it!) I'm just passing it over as if it was nothing. This was a big achievement. I hereby give myself a gold star for bravery.
Next step: reading another short story tonight and class tomorrow night.
So I've not posted here for a while. I have been really trying to work on my Italian, as well as trying to re-establish healthy eating and exercise habits, and this has sucked up the time and energy I might have given to trying to figure out what I'm doing here. And I'm still feeling that this system is not intuitive, I'm not really sure what I'm doing both with the change labs and with the blog itself. So my impulse has been to not engage with it at all. I've been experiencing it as a blockage to what I'm trying to do rather than an enabling feature. But then maybe this is my own fault for not focusing on it.
On the Italian, I've had another couple of online classes. The first one was kind of bad, I hadn't said what I wanted from it beyond conversation and we ended up in discussions that required use of the conditional and future tenses, which I'm not that familiar with. Once I set the terms of reference though - to keep it in past and present tenses for now as far as possible - things got better. I've got another class this afternoon and I'm trying to do some work in between times. I've found a website that does flashcards and have also signed up to a meetup type site that would allow me to meet other people who might want to do a language exchange locally.
I don't feel I've really established a habit though. I've engaged in some behaviours that might take me towards where I want to be but I feel like I'm just fooling around at the minute. I'm travelling a lot and it's hard to routinise this sort of thing when I don't have as much control over my schedule as I'd like. All of my 'habit building' time in the morning is currently assigned, and I find it a lot harder to do mind work in the evening. This is something I need to work on.
As for the fear issue, I feel like I'm spinning a lot of plates right now. And if I give too much attention to any one thing (whether this site or learning Italian itself) I'm afraid something is going to come crashing down. I've gained a lot more weight than I'd like over the last six months because I haven't been paying attention to my eating. My attention has been drawn in too many other directions. All of these things are priorities and I'm afraid of adding anything else in. I don't know how to decide what to abandon and what to focus on. It just feels like too much now. And when I say now, I'm not really seeing any space at any other time so I need to do it now if I want to do it at all.
Any ideas? I'm rushing to finish this now because my gym buddy arrives in 8 minutes and I haven't sorted out my shoes and water yet :)