Sunday, 2 November 2008

Total Immersion Not The Answer

Ahh...what a momentous occasion! Today, I carried out my first full conversation solely in Italian!

This fulfilling event happened at a birthday party to which the family brought me this evening. Our hosts were two relatively wealthy friends of the family called Marco and Nicola who had welcomed over twenty guests to their grand household on the outskirts of Torino. (When I say grand, I mean grand...they have an entire hill to themselves, a massive front and backyard, and gates that open on their own at the front of the property!)

At the party were two ladies who spoke very little English. Armed with all of the idiomatic phrases and grammar Emanuele and Ludovica had taught me over the past month, I managed to speak quite fluently about: my nationality, how I had moved from one country to another five months ago, the languages which I speak, the languages which I DON'T speak - a.k.a. French - and why, despite the fact I received nine years of French education, I cannot speak a word. I surprised even myself because, up to that point, I had never been given the opportunity to use Italian without English as a crutch, mainly because everyone around me speaks English so well.

I think this experience has taught me that it doesn't really matter if you use your native language on a daily basis, because learning WILL occur in a second language environment regardless. Plus, using both it and a little of the second language prevents you, as a learner, from becoming overly exhausted.

So, in short, forget complete immersion. It is too darn tiring and will probably impede your learning rather than foster it! Rather, try mixing your own language with the second. If you do, you will find that all the stresses associated with language learning will fade away.


Anonymous said...

Grazie for your good & precious suggestions about learning a new language! I wish I could speak English as a second language......! But I'll do my best for that!

I renew my best compliments to you Heather for your interesting blog!

A presto!


heather-in-italia said...

Thanks Marco! I appreciate your kind comment :D You DO speak English as a second language already, so you have very little to worry about ;) Also, remember that small idiosyncracies in a learner's second language can be endearing to the ears!

amethyst said...

Wow Heather that's amazing! I congratulate you =D Sounds like you've come a long way since getting off the plane.

By the way I'm sending 'Bowling for Columbine' home to England for you - I got the address from your mum. I figured it's time I give it back, hehe. ;-)

heather-in-italia said...

Haha, I completely forgot you had it! But thanks for doing so :)

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