How to learn Sicilian (or any other minority language) and …dream big!

As I was born in Naples, hence Neapolitan and speaker of this language too, when I run into Fran Norris’s Instagram profile and saw the tremendous effort and passion she was putting into learning Sicilian, the language spoken in Sicily (which is not a dialect but an actual language) I had to know more about her.

Fran’s story is the second of the series How Learning  A Language Can Change your Life”  (here was the first one!) where successful language learners share their experiences, setbacks as well as the wins they’ve experienced throughout their language learning journey.


Fran Norris (and the lovely Sicilian landscape in the background)

Fran is a wonderful example of tenacity and determination as she managed to learn Sicilian despite the lack of resources and without needing to move to another country to create the result she wanted. She lives in Australia, born to Sicilian and Australian parents. She has become obsessed with everything Sicilian, learning the language, the people, culture, music and especially the food.

Read Fran’s story to discover:

  • One of the most beautiful reason why starting learning a language
  • How to practise the language you’re learning if no teachers or resources are available
  • How to ditch the excuse “I have no one to speak my second language with” and actually start making progress!
  • How to build and rebuild your confidence in speaking your second language.
  • Why  listening to your foreign language is so important for your speaking skills.
  • How learning language can actually impact your life positively and make you DREAM BIG!

Why learning Sicilian or any other minority language?

Fran is an incredibly dedicated  language learner who -like many of us- started learning a language to connect with a culture and a reality she felt deeply attracted to, which included her family in Sicily.

Fran started learning Italian 8 years ago.  As her father, who had passed away, was Sicilian, she wanted to visit his hometown in Sicily to also meet her relatives there.

After years of visiting Sicilia and trying to communicate with her relatives it dawned on her: although Fran’s relatives could understand her perfectly well, she was not understanding them as they were not speaking Italian. So, eighteen months ago Fran started learning Sicilian language.

One of the most beautiful reasons why one can start learning any language is building a connection with other human beings. And this was exactly Fran’s motivation

How Fran has become a confident speaker of Sicilian (and how you can use her strategies too)

Last year in 2017 Fran decided to return to Sicily.  She had only been learning Sicilian a few months, but she was all excited about spending time with my relatives chatting, in Sicilian of course. 

Here’s how Fran’s describe her first conversation with her relatives in Sicilian,

“When finally we were together I started to speak and my excitement turned into terror.   I wasn’t ready and in their excitement they resorted to speaking the pure Sicilian and so, so fast.  I froze up solid, my confidence level plummeted and words could not describe my embarrassment.  So I decided to go back to speaking Italian, but it was like  I had forgotten it, I had let it go while concentrating on learning Sicilian, I just wanted to cry.  It was nothing like I imagined.”

I bet everyone can identify with this feeling. Me included. However, although building your confidence in speaking your second language can be challenging, Fran was seriously determined,

“During that first week in Sicily I listened to my favourite podcast to get my Italian back up to scratch and to rebuild my confidence.  After a couple of weeks things turned around, I started to understand, I was finally understanding them!  I was in heaven!”

Another lesson’s learned from Fran: listening is one the most important skills that you can develop to allow yourself to tune into the language you’re learning.

Listening is also the skill that will indirectly build your confidence in speaking that language little by little. So, do not underestimate your listening practise. Even passive listening (for example, listening to songs or podcast) over time can bring you unexpected and amazing result.

How to learn Sicilian or any other minority language (and speak it!)

When asked what her main struggle in learning Sicilian was, Fran talks about the lack of resources for Sicilian as she couldn’t find any teachers, materials or online resources. However, as she says,

Persistence pays off.  I was determined not to give up,  and after some months of constantly searching I finally found a teaching book and dictionary on Amazon.  I then managed to find a Sicilian teacher on a Facebook site supporting Sicilian learner and now a online Sicilian site.”

And just when everything seemed to come into place Fran had to face another struggle: finding material at a higher level than beginner to learn Sicilian.

So Fran is now organising interviews with native speakers to practise her listening skills and learning grammar! Are you one of them? If so, make sure you contact Fran on Instagram (“nonna1810”) right here, You can also find Fran on YouTube channel right here,  where she’s documenting her “Sicilian Challenge”

How learning a language can have a positive impact on your life

One last this I asked Fran was how learning a language positively contributed to who she is and does today in the world, and here’s what she said:

“I really enjoy language learning, I can really lose myself in it.  Being part of the language learning community has allowed me to make friends with people from all parts of the world. I feel that it’s enriched my live, also for my husband.  Our mornings start listening to Italian radio and daydreaming of one day moving there.”

“You’ve gotta dream big, something that I never thought of doing.”

And here’s Fran’s encouragement to all those who are not sure whether to start learning a second language or don’t feel ready yet,

“Just do it!!  I put off [learning a language] for many years thinking it was beyond me, what a waste off years.  It opens you up to other cultures and lifestyles, it’s so fulfilling and satisfying.  It costs nothing but some of your time.”

What an honour has been to have this wonderful lady over at The Language Rose blog.

Fran, you are a role model to all language learner out there. And your story will give a little kick in the bum to all those language learners who complain about not having anyone to practice with.

Fran is the living evidence that you can actually learn ANY language as long as you want it.

Now, Fran and I would love to hear from you

The reason why I wanted to tell Fran story was to spur you into action.

In the comment below let me know what is the next step you’re going to take RIGHT NOW that can help you to practise the language you’re learning and that will also help you to get to the next level?

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Learning a language is just a matter of finding the time (aka have it embedded in your routine) and have a strategy into place for it. Fran managed to find both: the time and the right strategy. And you can do it too! And if you need some inspiration and motivation, come back to Fran’s story and remember that I’m also cheering you on all the way.

Happy learning,


P.S. If after Fran’s story you’re all fired up to start learning your second language, and want some more actionable steps to help you succeed, download my FREE ebook “How to Become Fluent in the Language you Love”. It’s right here.  In there, you’ll find my personal 30+ strategies that  helped me start learning, practise and become fluent in 3 different languages (so you can do it too).

P.P.S.Are you going to travel around Italy and need an Italian crash course that help you learn basic vocabulary and build your confidence in speaking (but on your terms)? You should have a look at my Italian Conversation For Travellers right here! Let me know what you think!

P.P.P.S. Did you really like Fran’s story? Then, it would mean the world to us if you could share this story using the sharing buttons below! Especially if you know someone who can help Fran to learn more Sicilian! GRAZIE MILLE FROM BOTH OF US!!

Did you know I have a free ebook where I share my personal strategies that I used to become fluent in English, Spanish and French.

You can grab it for FREE right here


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