Learning Italian: Update 1

Buongiorno à tutti!

As of today, I’ve officially been learning Italian for 6 weeks without spending a dime on language learning material. I’m doing this to become as fluent as possible for my pilgrimage to Italy this spring. If I really want to get close to that, I may need to invest a little bit of money.

There’s actually a possibility that the pilgrimage may be canceled (more below), but I’m continuing to study as though the trip will go on!

Since my last post, I started using a few new materials, including Duolingo. When I started the app on December 20th, I tested at 16%. As of today, I’m at 36%. Honestly, I think 36% is extremely generous for my level of Italian. I’d say I’m more at 20%. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see the number go up.

Midnight Mass in (half) Italian

Obviously, the fastest way to learn would be to go to an Italian-speaking country for several months. But since that’s not feasible for me (hello job), the next best thing would be to surround myself with Italian speakers.

Unplanned, our Christmas midnight mass turned out to be half in Italian: all of the music, the second reading, all the prayers and half the homily (then priest is from Italy). I picked up words here and there, but I was definitely lost most of the time.

There was a healthy group of native Italian speakers and I loved hearing them proudly recite the prayers. The mass inspired me to learn the prayers in Italian and keep studying. One of the deacons encouraged me to come to Italian mass on Sundays. Italian is such a beautiful language!

Making Time

Making the time to study Italian about an hour or more everyday makes me realize I can make more time to pray. It’s all about the commitment. In this season of my life, I have much more “me” time than I probably will in years to come.

Maybe this sounds crazy, but studying Italian feels almost like a spiritual practice. I’m preparing for my pilgrimage, and in a small way studying Italian is helping me to get ready to encounter Christ more deeply when I’m there. I want to feel embedded in the culture and be able to enjoy the Vatican in its native language. I’m Roman Catholic after all – so why not learn the language of Roma?

Resources

l’ve been using a smorgasbord of Italian programs to learn – and I’ve realized there’s no one-stop shop.

  • Duolingo for reading and vocabulary (free app)
  • Michel Thomas beginner CDs (from my library)
  • Pimsleur beginner CDs (from library and my grandpa’s own collection)
  • Italianissimo BBC series on YouTube (from the 90s)
  • Coffee Break Italian podcast (free version)
  • News in Slow Italian podcast (only 10mjn and there’s a partial transcript of the episode so you can follow along)
  • BBC Online Italian Language website

Italy?

The tour company I signed up to travel with informed me last week that the trip isn’t “guaranteed” yet — because of a lack of travelers so far.

Initially, I was really bummed, considering how much I’ve been preparing by studying, but then I thought, “OK I wanted to learn Italian anyway so not all is lost.”

I then got an email from a Catholic group about a young adult pilgrimage to France and I thought, “Maybe this is where I’ll end up.”

Still, I was slightly panicked, partly because I didn’t want to wait too long to book a flight and partly because I wanted enough time to give notice at work for time off.

So I went to Adoration and talked to Jesus about it. I’m not going to pretend that Jesus spoke back to me in humanly words, but I left with a feeling of, “it’ll work out either way. If not Italy, then France.”

Just feeling that gave me peace! And you know what? I later got an email from the tour company saying the Italy trip looked “very promising.”

Prego

Italian is a holy language. Here’s proof: Prego means “you’re welcome” in Italian, but it also means “I pray.” So every time someone thanks you, it’s like you’re praying for them in response. I love that “pray” is part of the daily language!

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