The Italian Jigsaw
We recently arrived back home after a tour of Italy spanning from Genoa in the north to Napoli via Pisa and Lucca. Armed with many more words and grammar constructions I thought that this visit would be more enjoyable as I would be able to converse with locals more easily. Hmm, I was very wrong. The reason for the title of this post is because it accurately describes the problem I had. A year or so ago I only had several dozen words and a few grammar rules to play with eg "a hundred piece jigsaw" but now I have a two thousand piece jigsaw that requires more thinking about and the glue that sticks them together is more complicated. there a many more options of how to say something. In short, I found it harder to speak in Italian this year than a year ago, troppe parole. I think that what Im actually saying here is that maybe its time to develop my own way of using the language, just like I do with English so Im interested to hear if any of you have had a similar experience of moving backwards despite moving folwards.
Maybe I can understand you.
I am Italian and when I was younger my English was not so good (well, not that now it's so wonderful) but I actually found it easier to speak because my vocabulary was so poor and simple that I hadn't so many choice to explain a concept... just basilar terms and go!
But then I experienced a whole year in the UK and my vocabulary increased, with synonims, verbs, grammatical particles, exceptions and so on... And now I'm always a bit afraid to use the wrong word, or the wrong connection for a sentence!
I think it's quite ironic that the more we know the more we have fear to make mistakes.
But I'm still practing day by day, with a reading there, an exercise here, trying to be a decent English speaker (hoping this text does not contain too many errors).
I suggest you to not give up and enjoy your passion. Learning a new language is both a challenge and a fun, and it deserves to be relished with care but also with levity.
Nobody will get angry with if you'll miss an article. Indeed, many Italians would be very glad for your effort. :)
Good luck and tieni botta!
Perbacco, your English is superb! And your understanding is "spot on" :-) (Sorry to butt in...!)
Ciao Maka. Good to hear your comments, as Linda said above, you understand the problem pretty well. You only made a few errors in your text but the main thing is that you are completely understandable which in my opinion is more important than grammar. Its also good to know that we have a native speaker keeping an eye on us.
I agree: the most important thing is to be understood by others. In the end, we all are on this site and learning other languages not to become teachers (oh, well, I think so) but to communicate. :) (My errors, shame on me! XD)
In my opinion, there is one very simple rule to remember, for every language:
mistakes don't matter, people will understand you. If they are nice, they will point out, which mistakes you have made.
Hi amico Muss. Can't help you re the one step forward and two back, unfortunately. It just takes relaxed persistence as we've said so many times before. Don't fight it, just learn it. Be positive! I will say, however, that you're a very lucky chap to have had such a fabulous trip, something I'd give anything to have experienced. Tanti auguri...
Ciao Linda, 70% of the trip was visiting my online language exchange partners, and if you pick the right time flying is almost for free. I know one day you will do it, so im sayin nowt. tarar.
Appen as not Muss, good to hear from u! Will be in Italy for Christmas so not long t'wait. Tara loov. L
Good to hear, well gel. Sadly for you all im back here again during the winter and spring months. ;-))
I understand your frustration Muss. As a young kid speaking nnapulitano and trying to jump into standard Italian.. I too had a jigsaw puzzle. Having people harp on me with rudeness did not help. If I grew up in Italy, it would be different, for I would have been immersed(no choice), tv, schools, all focusing on standard. I think the hardest part is maintenance. You move forward and focus on the new stuff, and slowly the old stuff moves a mile back. We are all trying to get to a point where we don't have to think. Like a trained boxer with a quick reaction, muscle memory takes over, there was no overthinking or self-doubt. Keep in mind you were all over the place in Italy - upper, lower, which are all different. Try not to be hard on yourself. Don't give up Muss.
Snap! I too am struggling with making the big step from simple written sentences to spoken conversation. I am still loving the words and the grammar, and just hope that one day my brain will connect with my mouth. I am glad you had a wonderful holiday.
Thanks Helen, Here is a little tip for you that seems to work for me. Admittedly not a perfect solution but it seems to work. I no longer try to translate on the fly, its just too slow, so I listen for clues in the words that are spoken by someone. For example if I hear a V in a verb or ato etc I know its of the past, and if I hear an R I know its the future. I find it easier to understand the overall meaning rather than the whole phrase. Im not a linguist or anything similar, but I think this is mainly what we do in our own languages, we are listening for verbal clues and important words to create a feeling or sense. All the Gluey bits of a language are secondary. For example “ Shop went yesterday” there is no glue but you know exactly where and when I went. You got the overall meaning.
Thank you Muss. I now realise that is what happened here in August. ‘My’ Italian family came for a week, and we got on happily, but not much glue. It all ground to a terrible halt when I tried to compose a beautiful lengthy sentence. I shall give your idea a try—- listen to get a first impression, before I plod through studiously later.
On second thoughts, Muss, having done the past subj just now, I do know what you mean! There's so much info going round in the head it needs sorting into "a simple sentence per tense" which is like what I'm like doing. Then add a tougher sentence and so on. I keep repeating them until the light bulb moment like happens? Sorting into bitesize pieces certainly seems to help. Ttfn.....
Ciao Muss, I hope you enjoyed your holiday.
Having more options for saying something, but also having more words for covering more topics of conversation, is indeed a progress, but it inevitably entails more thinking. Therefore, the more you learn, the more the whole speaking process is initially slowed down.
As long as you were able to correctly use the new words and constructions, it's not at all a failure. Speed or, better, fluency is something that can be acquired only afterwards, by practice, and it's a rather slow process.
All in all, it's better to take your time for thinking and then speaking slowly to broaden the range of conversation topics, than to use only a handful of sentences spoken at lightning speed for greeting people or for ordering something at the restaurant.
maybe its time to develop my own way of using the language
Yes, you can do so.
But remember that also others to whom you may speak will be using their own language style. In order to understand them, you cannot limit your knowledge of Italian to your own way of using the language, although you may stick with your favourite words and constructions when you speak to others.
I just got back from Italy, too, and I found the same problem. Too many ways to say something, all jumbled up in my head. I did best in crisis situations, like giving directions to a driver who was not familiar with our hotel. Suddenly, "diritto! Sinistra! Gira adesso!" were all right there, ready to be used!
I understand this so much. Im hoping its a sign that proficiency is in the making.
Maybe that is when we lose our inhibitions about making mistakes. Perhaps we should learn a new language in a state of total panic :-))