With my third year in college rolling around, I figured that school would be the same old, same old; Pick the simple classes. Probably ones that I already had some knowledge about and knew I could pass easily. Sick of going with the usual art-history related classes, something occurred to me - why aren't I trying to challenge myself? I had a complementary block open and one goal that I always seemed to be putting on the back burner: to learn Italian.
To be honest, I was terrified about whether this was actually a good idea. Could I keep up? Did I really want to do this? Stopping myself from stressing out before school even started, I said to myself 'You've wanted this, so why not just do it? You wanted a challenge and this is it.'
So on the blog today, I decided to write about my experience of learning a third language in college!
One of the main reasons I wanted to take this Italian class was to learn about my heritage. When someone asks where you come from, most people have something to show for their ethnicity- maybe they speak fluently in a foreign language, have a cool wardrobe that reflects their heritage or can trace their family history from a bunch of decades back. Well, I for one knew next to nothing about my own roots. In my mind at the time, being a third-generation Italian meant nothing if I could only say 'Hi, How are you?' and count to ten. That's hardly a conversation fit for catching up with relatives.
Photo cred - shelbyinflorence
Fast-forward to the first day of class- we all filed into the classroom, waiting to meet the teacher. I have to admit, I always felt intimidated by other Italian classmates that I ran in past semesters because they always seemed to be fluent in Calabrese and Sicilian. So not only were they raised in the culture that they were born into, but they could go back and fourth between English and the most complex dialects Italy had to offer without a hitch. So what happened next when this random Science teacher walked in was kind of a surprise.
Totally trying to draw attention away from the fact that he'd gotten the wrong room number, he asked who of us were actually Italian. 'Well if you guys can already speak Italian, isn't that cheating?' he had said with a smile. I wasn't the only one nervously nodding and for once, I realized, I wasn't the only Italian in the room who didn't actually speak the language.
From then on, the first couple of classes were a blur. Lesson one was the basics: 'Hello, My name is..., How are you?, Goodbye, etc'. Luckily, it was a bit of a freebie because I had picked up those things over the years. Don't get me wrong, I knew that the whole process wouldn't exactly be a cake-walk, but I definitely hadn't expected all of the studying the class required. Sometimes, I wondered 'Is it too late to cut this class?' One day we could be talking about something like feminine vs masculine and then another lesson would be how to order a coffee. I think I can safely say now that if I ever travel to Italy and want to order some fancy espresso, it wont be a repeat of that Eat. Prey. Love scene where Julia Roberts practically gets run over by people ordering coffee.
Photo cred - mint-rainbow
As it turns out, even if you aren't the strongest speaker when it comes to French, learning a new language might actually fix that. Did you know that a lot of Italian grammar is similar to French? Because I knew one of them already, catching onto Italian verbs was ten times easier - plus, it was a great refresher for the things I'd forgotten in French.
What I've learnt about taking a third language in college, is that the more you panic, the harder it gets. The secret is to just relax because once you do that, you realize that you know a lot more than you thought when you were stressing. Once I got over that, studying became ten times easier and now, class isn't so difficult. Instead of 'Crap, how can I memorize this?' the more I learn now, the more I want to know.
The Italian culture is a beautiful one and even if I hesitated and doubted a ton at the start, I don't regret it at all now. There are so many benefits that come with having another language under your belt whether it be for personal reasons, travel or work. I'm proud to be a third generation Italian and having the motivation to learn the language because I care about my heritage enough. Just like I'm proud to be bilingual in an awesome, multilingual city that's painted with countless people's cultures and stories.
Photo credit - Visual Empath
I would completely recommend picking up a new language in college or university next semester! Learn about your roots like I did and find yourself appreciating a whole new culture. And hey - it's something cool to add to your resume next time you walk into an interview right? Was it stressful at times? Definitely! But when were motivated enough, any goal is possible.