A common complaint amongst Italian self-taught learners is that their reading and writing skills are quite good, but their oral and listening skills are lagging way behind.
This is partly because Italians speak fast, and attempting to listen to the radio or TV shows from Italy can be disheartening, but also because attempting to have a conversation with someone in a different language can be incredibly daunting.
I am a huge believer in finding someone you can practice your language with (whichever it might be), for several reasons:
You can practice talking about your interests
And you will probably only do this by meeting a native or near-native speaker and trying to talk about things that are relevant to you.
It’s very important for me to have my students talk about the kind of things they would normally say to friends and acquaintance. One example is vivid in my mind: I had a student who was quite shy and self-concious about his ability to speak Italian, and I was struggling to get him to talk about anything in any meaningful way.
That was, until he said he was interested in art and started talking about his favourite Italian sculptor. He was suddenly able to tell me about the sculptor’s life story, and went from agonising over every spoken word to talking passionately about something he was truly interested in.
By the end of the lesson, he was clearly a lot more confident than when he started, and it was a wonderful transformation for me to see.
This is one of the main reasons conversation practice is so important: it’s the only way for you to talk about the kind of things that actually interest you, and this will ignite confidence and passion in your learning experience.
It forces you to talk about everyday things
When you meet someone for the first time, you’re unlikely to start talking about global warming or whatever topic is in chapter 7 of your textbook.
Meeting a native speaker for the first time gives you a sense of the kind of things you might say when you meet someone for the first time in real life, and you realise what everyday words you need to learn to get by, should you ever go to Italy on holiday (for example).
I generally start any lesson with a new student by asking them to tell me a little bit about themselves in Italian, so I can gain an understanding on their fluency level. From here, it’s generally very easy to set the pace on the kind of topics we can or should cover.
I love this job and it’s great to watch people growing in confidence as they realise they are having an actual conversation with someone (regardless of their level).
I would encourage all learners to find someone they can practice with. In this modern age you will find someone who can help.
I am on a site called Italki.com (I have already written a post about it) and if you fancy signing up to it and booking a teacher or community tutor, use my affiliate link! It’ll give us both the equivalent of $10 after you have a lesson, and you can use said bonus towards another lesson.