Wednesday, 4 June 2014

On Learning Italian In Nine Months

Source (Meaning: a true journey is not in finding new places but in having new eyes)

So I just finished my last exam this afternoon (I need a moment to celebrate that the months of revising are finally over!!.... until next year but we don't talk about that), which happened to be my Italian exam. Now I know I've written about it here before but this year I stupidly bravely decided to do an Italian AS level in one year. Let me be clear about this, I'm still not completely sure how I agreed to it and was thinking it was a great idea. However, here I am, nine months down the line, having completed an AS Level - not that I have any idea whether I'll get a good mark in it. To be honest though, that's not really the point for me, not with this subject. Anyway, as I've decided that that's the subject I'm going to drop next year, I wanted to write about this crazy but amazing experience, so here I am.

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of my last lesson with my lovely tutor who's half Italian and half French, she told me that she thinks what I've done in the past year is a miracle. Now, I can't claim to be fluent at all, and yet, to an extent, I think that I could possibly get by in Italy if I had to. Still, I'd never thought of it like that, that what I've done in the past year is a miracle. To me it had seemed like the product of a lot of bloody hard work and frustration on occasion. But sitting there, listening to her tell me that she's never before had such an experience and having had hours of conversations with her purely in Italian I realised that even if I fail Italian in marks this year (which I really hope I don't), not only have I had an incredible experience but I really have fallen in love with a language.

It's odd because studying a language is unlike any other subject I take (the others being history, politics and philosophy & ethics), or would want to take if I could. I'm used to very essay-like subjects and they're what I can do and what I know. I managed an A* at French GCSE but sadly, that was mostly down to memorising techniques, not linguistic talent. I'm usually naturally quite a hard-worker with a strong work ethic but when it comes to languages, I find it much harder to motivate myself. In learning a language you're spending your time learning how to speak, read, write and listen all over again, and I think something in me finds that intrinsically odd.

Despite how difficult I've found it and the times when it has made me want to scream and cry, looking back a year ago, or even more frighteningly, looking back nine months ago, my vocabulary comprised of 'buongiorno' and 'ciao'. Now I can conjugate verbs into seven different tenses, know a lot of irregulars, idioms and can (albeit limitedly) read, listen, write and speak in Italian. I, of course, still make a lot of mistakes and am far from fluent, but I do think that's a pretty big achievement.

Without really thinking about it (which I probably should have done), I took a huge risk this year, and whatever the result come August, I really am quite amazed at what I've managed to do with the help of three fantastic teachers. And I'm so grateful for that and this entire experience. It's safe to say you shouldn't be surprised if you see me in Italy as soon as is humanly possible for me...

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