As I live in Italy, I of course want to be able to speak to the people around me. This take a lot of effort and time. It’s more difficult as well since I’m working with a lot of tourists that speaks english. Natural that my Italian don’t improve with English speaking people.
The Italians though is extremely sweet. In the beginning when I ordered the icecream stracciatella I pronounced it as I did in Sweden. The people behind the counter repeated my order, but with the right pronunciation. This way I learned. Very few people has started to talk to me in english when I’ve tried to say something in Italian. Some of course, because they didn’t know how to speak english, but a lot of them I’ve heard afterwards that they actually speak some English. (This is including my colleague, that it took me a month to find out that he spoke a little English!) He still only speaks Italian to me, so obviously he just speaks English with guests. I’m very grateful for it, ’cause this way I’ll learn more. I know that in Sweden, if somebody stumbles as he/she tries to learn Swedish, it’s very common that the Swede starts to speak English. For two reasons, the Swede want to practice their English, the second they want to help the person and make it easier for the person. In the end, they don’t. I can tell you, I’ve done the same. I’ve started to speak English, just to help, but I know that I’m actually doing the opposite… How is somebody going to learn my language if I just speak another language with them?
People will make mistakes and that’s how you learn. I’m making a lot of mistakes in Italian and probably still some in English too.
Here’s an example of a mistake I did:
I’m studying a distance course in Italian and had to go to the Swedish consulate to take the test. My boss send me a text the next day to ask how it went. I answered in Italian. So my lack of knowledge and the help of autocorrect was not the best combination. I intended to write ‘The test went well, but the prepositions are difficult’. I didn’t know how prepositions were spelled and trusted autocorrect. The word came up and I continued to write. What happened was that I saw ‘preposizione’, but when I continued to write, autocorrect changed to another word, ‘prepuzio’. This word means something totally different. Instead of writing ‘the prepositions were difficult’, I wrote ‘the foreskin was difficult’. When I met my boss he asked me to explain what I intended to write. He refused to tell me the meaning of the word since he thought I was going to be embarrassed. I went back to my apartment and googled the word, and laughed out load! I thought that my boss had to feel a little hesitating about how I study Italian…
But it was my mistake. This is what you do when you learn a new language. Mistakes, but if you’re not allowed to make them, you won’t either learn. A quote I read once, in Swedish, goes kind of like this ‘Think wrong if you want to, but think for yourself’. Love it. So if somebody want to learn your language, speak to them in your language. If you want to learn another language, go to the country where they speak that language. If you want to practice, for example English in your own country, make a deal where you practice English with that person, but also where that person practice your language. It’s all about give and take. Don’t be the ‘nice waiter’ speaking English with a person who tries to speak your language. Of course, if it’s a tourist that starts to speak English with you, that person might be there for just vacation or work and will have no interest of learning your language because that person has an interest of focusing on something else.
It’s not easy to learn a new language, but it’s extremely rewarding when you can order things, ask for the direction and then finally, just to be able to have a laugh with people. This is magic and worth all the hours you put down!