• Alexandra Wendt

Throw Perfectionism Out the Window When You Learn a New Language


I'm at the point with Italian where I know most of the grammar--at least what's used most frequently--and now it's time to practice and get used to, well, speaking and understanding the language.

Image credit: olilynch on Pixabay.

This is hard. Really hard. At first I told myself it was because I've only been learning Italian for eight months--and not even eight consecutive months--and while that's definitely part of it, I knew there was something else holding me back. I figured out what it is.

I learn by memorizing textbooks and quietly processing and absorbing all the information on my own. Being an "active" participant in class, group activities and projects and presentations, are my worst nightmare. While I got much more comfortable with those sorts of things in college and can do them just fine now, my natural inclination is still to hide in the library with books and notes.

This process is entirely not conducive to learning a language. Not when you're at my stage, at least. I realized that studying my notes isn't going to do it anymore. If I want to learn Italian, I need to practice it. It's like if I tried to learn my flute music by just staring at the music and memorizing the notes and never actually playing them on my flute.

And then there's another issue: I'm a writer. I'm used to language coming easily to me. I'm used to words being my strong suit, to being able to express myself well with them. And to not be able to do that is...foreign and frustrating. I want to yell at all the Italians I meet, "I PROMISE I CAN SPEAK AND WRITE ELOQUENTLY IN ENGLISH."

And, lastly, I'm a perfectionist. I don't want to speak Italian until I know it, but I can't really know it unless I start speaking it. Ya feel?

So what I need to do is throw my perfectionism out the window and just talk. Talk and don't care about my mistakes. (I would also note that I'm not great at making conversation in English, much less a foreign language, but this is already turning into quite the laundry list of I Can'ts.)

My Italian roommates kindly pointed out that Italian is spoken so differently around the country that they're used to hearing things that sound varied, so I shouldn't worry! I also figure that, even if my Italian is broken and full of mistakes, it's still more comfortable for many of them to hear it rather than English. (Speaking from the reverse perspective.)

I also recently learned of an app from my favorite YouTuber, Tia Taylor, called Hello Talk. I'm going to link to Tia's video below, because I think she explains it well. It's been great for someone like me because I don't have the pressure of practicing face-to-face, but I'm still getting exactly the kind of practice I need and the people I talk to can correct my mistakes so I can see them.

Do you have tips for learning a new language? What do you recommend to get over your perfectionism and pride? I'd love to hear your ideas!

~Alex

#languages #italian #study

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