If you can travel to a country where your target language is spoken, why wouldn’t you?

Why not?

You learn so much more than the language, by experiencing it in person with native speakers.

When I went to Rome in October 2019, I had been learning Italian on and off for the previous 4 years. In the year running up to my trip, I was intensively learning Italian. I even took online lessons via italki with a tutor for the last month before my trip. I felt that I was solidly intermediate, and that was proven when I tested into the B1 course at an Italian language school when I arrived in Rome.

But there was so much that I learned while I was there, that I hadn’t learned from the internet, my previous textbook learning, and from casual e-mail chats with my Italian friends. Learning how the local Roman dialect was used, what common slang words I was hearing from teens vs adults, how pistachio ice cream is actually pronounced, what a smartbox is, and what people actually make up the city of Rome (so many tourists! I’m aware that I was one of them).

Depending on where I was in the city, I was able to use my Italian more or less. In the tourist areas, they appreciated my Italian skills, but would still sometimes switch to English. Which can happen in a busy restaurant or shop, when they just need to handle a transaction. But if I took the time to walk off the beaten path and away from the major attractions, I could have a nice slow typical (and delicioso) Italian meal. Plus I was actually able to chat in Italian with my waiter/waitress that way.

At the airport on my way home, I stood at the coffee bar just outside of my gate, sipping a cioccolate caldo and enjoying my last few moments of playing an Italiana. I came home with a wider understanding of the culture (even knowing that I had only visited Rome, one of many Italian cities), an appreciation for real gelato, and with an idea of what I wanted to see next.

I also knew that I needed to work on idioms and expressions, learning more slang to have an easier informal conversation with someone, and to continue working on feeling more comfortable using the language. I was also happy with how my understanding on the past tenses had stood me well, how I was able to express myself, and that my accent was comprehensible.

Try new things and give a new country a chance! I always come back from my travels with wonderful memories to tide me over until my next trip.

Ciao e baci xx

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