How can you revive a language that you have not spoken for 20 years? – Part 2: Lessons learned

Although it has been 20 years since I last visited Italy, a lot has remained the same. The food is still awesome, the weather is still warm and the Italians themselves are still as chatty, hospitable and proud as ever.

Can you revive a language that has fallen into disuse?

The simple answer is a resounding “yes,” but that masks the challenges that any language-learner will face. Reviving an disused language or learning a completely new one is emotionally taxing and not for everyone. Fortunately, the rewards are well-worth it – helping a friend communicate, finding your way without GPS or ordering your favorite gelato from a local mom and pop vendor.

Over the time I spent in Italy, I did remember (and even learn more!) Italian. But I also have to admit that it wasn’t always easy. I struggled with the grammar and even if I could make myself understood, it would often be nerve-wracking at first. It takes time to summon the courage to keep trying when you know you sound foolish.

There were a few points that I found particularly helpful:

  • Keep talking, even if you feel foolish – it is the fastest way to improve
  • Listen to people or just the TV – the more you listen, the more you will pick up
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes – the sooner you make them, the sooner you will get it right
  • Have some support – when you get frustrated or overwhelmed (and you will!), the support of a friend or loved one will boost your confidence and get you back on track

I will keep working on my Italian. The wealth of tools available in today’s digital world makes it both inexpensive and accessible. I might even get a language buddy to practice with.

More about that in a later post…


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