How can you revive a language that you have not spoken for 20 years?

Italy is one of the countries I call home. Between the age of 2 and 10 I lived and went to school in Roma and Padova. Yet, my family spent a lot of time in the expat community. This encouraged me to focus more on developing my English skills, rather than Italian. It has been 22 years since my family moved back to Sweden and 19 years since I last set foot in Italy. In the meantime, I have hardly used the language at all.
Recently, my spouse’s relatives invited us to join them on vacation in northern Italy. Now, I had no more excuses, but could I still speak Italian after 20 years?
We decided to take a budget flight to Milano and take a local train from there.


Traveling by train from Milano to Rimini early in the morning.
As we waited in line for the airport shuttle, we noticed and Italian couple behind us. They were struggling to understand an announcement in English. I wanted to help and blurted out some words, freezing in mid-sentence. I had no idea what to say!
Frustrated, I started reviewing Italian vocabulary on my smartphone. I continued to do so until it was time to get on the plane.
We landed in a humid and warm Milano with thick cloud cover. As we took a bus to the city center, the weather became more troubled.  Lightning from a silent storm created a natural light show above our heads as we walked to our hotel.


Natural laser lights in the clouds.
After checking in at the hotel, we went to a local restaurant. The waiter welcomed us in Italian and I responded in kind – and kept going. Somehow, I made it through the meal without relying on English. I improvised with rusty, broken Italian, a broad smile and gestures. The waiter must have thought I was crazy, but we got what we ordered and the food was delicious.
I have decided to keep speaking Italian, but will use some modern tools to avoid making a total hash of it. These tools include:

Google Translate
The Italian Verbs Conjugator

Reviving my Italian has been a daunting challenge, but so far, so good…


One Comment Add yours

  1. erinwrote says:

    Languages are such a fascinating brain trick – and so interesting how our skills ebb and flow depending on exposure. But they say it’s like riding a bicycle, right? You never forget, you just have to start up your practice. Best of luck!


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