The “why” of any goal is an important anchor to keep us steadfast when we encounter challenges. Language learning can be fun, but it can also be frustrating and embarrassing, not to mention slow and time consuming.
My goal is to reach the A2 Level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) scale by the time I go to Italy this September. That gives me about 5 whole months, which is more than enough time according to Benny the Irish Polyglot, who travels the world learning languages in just 3 months.
I first learned about the CEFRL scale when I was a teaching assistant in France and I think it’s simply brilliant. You can self-assess your language level by answering a few simple “can do” statements. At the A2, or “basic user” level, a speaker can communicate about familiar/routine topics, express wants and needs, and share personal background information.
So, why Italian?
When I was in grad school at the
Monterey now Middlebury Institute of International Studies, one of the professors gave a speech about following your heart despite what is popular. This really struck a chord in me. He talked about how it’s trendy to study Chinese or Arabic because those are the languages currently deemed critical for national security and international business, but he chose to study Italian because that’s what he was passionate about. It’s all about choosing a language that is useful and meaningful to you.
These are the top five reasons why I resonate with Italian:
1. It’s in my blood. I may be a born and raised American girl, but I’ve got Italian heritage. I also have German and Irish heritage, but I feel the strongest connection to my Italian roots. This may be because my German and Irish ancestry go back several generations, but my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States as adults and were already entrenched in their Italian ways. They lived in an Italian community in California, and never learned to speak English fluently. Consequently, my grandfather didn’t learn English until he started elementary school. Although my grandfather has been gone for over thirty years now, the essence of the Italian family bond is very much alive.
2. To honor my grandfather. I really wish that my grandfather had taught his children Italian. However, post World War II, Italian was still stigmatized as the “enemy’s language” and to be truly American you had to speak English. Besides, my grandmother couldn’t speak Italian, so I completely understand why he didn’t pass it on. I see Italian as a lost family heirloom that I’d like to recover.
3. To be able to connect with people when I visit Italy (or maybe even live there again?!). Italy is the one place I’ve been to that I want to return to again and again. I think as a visitor in a foreign country it shows respect to speak the native language. Not to mention one of the reasons I like Italy so much is the people. In my experience, Italians have been nothing but gracious and patient while I trip over my words.
4. I love speaking and hearing Italian! I even prefer how my name sounds in Italian (the double “L” in Kelly gets emphasized). Also, Italian doesn’t have any weird awkward sounds like French (the other language I have studied). Italian is just plain fun to speak.
5. It’s good for my brain. Research shows that learning a foreign language can help you stay as sharp as a tack. It’s like gymnastics for your brain.
Andiamo! Next I’ll share some of my language learning strategies, resources, and share my progress.