Learning a language can be life changing. Can’t you believe it? Keep reading and you’ll see!
This is the first of a series of articles called “How Learning A Language Can Change your Life” where successful language learners share their experiences, setbacks as well as the wins they’ve experienced throughout their language learning journey.
You’ll see how learning language can cause a ripple effect in someone’s life by bringing about opportunities and transformative life experiences.
My first host is Michele Frolla.
When I run into Michele on Instagram and her beautiful pictures featuring her travelling around the world, my hunch was that she had a story that had to be shared. And so it was.
Michele was named after her Italian grandfather and she had always felt a strong bond with him. After his death, something into her clicked and she decided to start learning Italian seriously.
Little did she know that learning Italian would be the beginning of a love affair with languages and travel. She moved from Australia to Italy, where she lived for 3 years, and was inspired to start a now popular travel blog (with a linguistic twist) called The Intrepid Guide
Over at the The Intrepid Guide, Michele helps travellers better connect with destinations by providing free travel phrase guides with destination guides. She is also the author of the book Learn Italian FAST. Her native language is English and in addition to Italian, Michele also speaks French and a bit of Afrikaans.
This article is all packed with Michele’s smart advice and inspiration that can help you learn the language you love – especially if it’s Italian.
Keep reading to find out…
- How to push through the limbo of only being able to understand a language, but not speaking it.
- Why it doesn’t matter that you’re speaking slowly in your target language the first time you start speaking to people
- Michele’s way to get used to pronouncing the Italian sounds
- How learning Italian contributed positively towards her personal growth
- Why you don’t need a magical gene to learn a language – and it’s NEVER too late!
- Michele’s personal tips to keep yourself engaged in the language learning process.
Michele started learning Italian as her first language because of her Italian roots. She was named after her nonno (grandfather) Michele which is like saying ‘Michael’ in English.
“This name was the start of my interest and connection to the Italian language. Growing up, my dad would take me to visit my nonno, and even though he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Italian, I felt a strong bond with him because I was named after him. I began to felt embarrassed and annoyed that I couldn’t communicate with him properly so I made my dad teach me some phrases. It wasn’t until my nonno passed away that something clicked and I wanted to start learning Italian seriously. Thus began my long love affair with Italian and languages.”
When asked how she felt when she first started learning Italian, Michele says something that you may resonate with quite a lot,
“My brain knew what it wanted to say but it couldn’t quite connect with my mouth. I knew the grammar but the confidence and practice to say it held me back.”
“This is normal in the learning process. The trick is to force yourself passed it by just saying something, just to break down the barrier. If you don’t push passed this, you risk staying in limbo of only being able to understand a language, but not speak it.”
“In the beginning it’s tough.”
“You feel like you’re boring people or holding them up while you process in your head what you want you to say. Eventually, you realise that people are more patient than you think, especially when they can see you’re making an effort to learn their language.”
“The more you speak the more you will improve because the process will get quicker and quicker.”
Michele admits that the hardest part as a language learner was having the confidence to put herself out there “by opening my mouth and trying to piece together a sentence outside of the classroom.”
“In the classroom, conversation goes at a much slower pace” she adds, “so it’s easier, but out in the real world you have to learn how to keep up with the natural speed of things. Once I was finally able to string sentences together in conversation, I became more self-conscious about my accent and pronunciation. I can definitely hear my Australian accent when speak but then sometimes Italian’s will tell me that I have a Roman accent which puts a huge smile on my face.” And this is definitely a huge win! Well done, Michele!
When asked what made her kept going despite the challenges she says, “During the learning process, I fell more and more in love with Italian and that’s what spurred me on. I only wanted to become better. Another reason is because it’s in my nature. When I put my mind to something I have to do give it my all and put in 110%.”
Perseverance and patience always wins in language learning. That’s another “YAY!” for Michele!
Michele also mentions specific linguistic struggles she had to overcome when learning Italian as well as French and the Afrikaans. “When I was learning Italian I had to learn how to annunciate,” she says, “Australia’s have very lazy tongues, we hardly use it! When you see an Italian speak, their mouths open and move a lot more in comparisons. So it felt very strange for me to suddenly have to open mouth and wrap my tongue around all those lovely vowels. When I was studying French, suddenly I had to pay more attention to the different accents otherwise I wouldn’t be understood or misunderstood. When it came to Afrikaans, I struggled with word order as it was so different from what I had experienced with Romance languages.”
The bottom line is this,
“Every language comes with its own challenges and they will be different for everyone. The key is to find what helps you work through them.”
“If a textbook, teacher, explanation, or tool doesn’t help you overcome that obstacle, keep looking! Don’t stop. Seek out people in Facebook groups, talk to a different teacher, keep asking questions, talk to other learners and see if they can help you understand it from a learners perspective. Eventually, you will find what works for you.”
Finally, when asked how learning a language contributed to what she is and does nowadays in the world Michele says,
“It was my love for Italian that made me want to switch my life in Australia for living in Italy. I lived in Rome for three years and did a lot of growing up. I became more confident and independent. Being able to speak Italian helped me to make friends with people whom I would never have had the chance to meet otherwise.”
“There’s something about speaking another language that brings people together other than just the meaning of the words. The world becomes so much more interesting when you speak another language. It’s the key to unlocking different cultures from your own and connecting with people.”
“If I wasn’t interested in languages and made it a priority to learn them, my perspective and experience of the world would be very different and one-sided. I wouldn’t have the ability to see things from a different cultural point of view. Knowing another language has helped me to be more empathetic towards others in general.”
It’s because of languages that my blog The Intrepid Guide has a linguistic twist, otherwise I’d just write about travel.”
Finally, this is Michele’s advice for everyone who is starting learning a language or would like to!
“It’s never too late or too early to start.”
“You don’t need a magical gene to learn a language, anyone can do it. Learning and speaking another language opens you up to so many opportunities and experience you wouldn’t have otherwise had. From the friends you make, to the banter you have with locals whilst on vacation. Who knows where it will take you. You might even move to the other side of the world!”
“My advice is to keep the learning process as diverse and as interesting as possible.”
“Use different resources and tools, really mix it up. Read books, watch movies in that language (with or without subtitles), go to classes for the social aspect, go to language exchanges and practice speaking, get fun books on idioms and slang, listen to podcasts, read armchair travel books, and play music as you get ready for work or on your daily commute. I like to say that variety is the spice of language learning life.”
Thank you so much for this wonderful insight, Michele!
If you’d like to know more about Michele, visit her website The Intrepid Guide where she shares her passion for languages and travel by bringing them together in detailed destinations guides and free travel phrase guides.You can also find her on YouTube and connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter .
Now we’d love to hear from you.
In the comments below, tell us:
- What’s the biggest insight you’re taking away from Michele’s learning experience and how can you turn that insight into action?
- What language are your learning and why?
Share as much detail as possible in your reply. Your story or comment may be exactly what someone else needs to be inspired to learn another language.
Thank you so much for reading and sharing your voice.