I finally had my first Italian conversation. Woohoo!
After a week of training my hearing and pronunciation, and another week of training with Pimsleur, I thought I would be ready for a conversation. But man was I wrong.
Speaking real Italian in a real conversation with real people is real hard!
But I survived, and Idahosa told me that’s all I had to do. In this post, I will break down exactly what I did.
full episode list
- Ep. 0 | Introducing Mike
- Ep. 1 | Week 1 – Singing Practice
- Ep. 2 | Week 2 – Faking Accent
- Ep. 3 | Week 3 – Chatting w/ Strangers
- Ep. 4 | Week 4 – Script Building
- Ep. 5 | Week 5 – Blending w/ Locals
- Ep. 6 | Week 6 – Immersing in Italy
- Ep. 7 | Week 7 – Hacking Shyness
- Ep. 8 | Holiday Update
- Ep. 9 | Spontaneous Conversation
Italian Language Partners with italki
After making a profile, I searched for any native speakers who wanted to do language exchange in English and Italian. Then I sent each of them a message and organized the chat. A lot of them were more than willing to converse since it was hard to find native English speakers in Italy.
Once I had my list added in Skype, I had my own little Italian phonebook I could call upon for practice. Another great thing about italki is its convenience – there’s a wide pool of people to choose from. Like airbnb, there are even tutors who allow “instant booking” for lessons right away.
In total, I had six conversations and survived to about 15 minutes each. Of course, the other person did most of the heavy lifting.
By this point I was getting very good at mimicking Italian sentences with a good accent. But live practice with other people proved how little I was actually prepared for it.
I still stumbled over words a lot and struggled to say anything organic and had to rely on the other person to keep the conversation going.
I think that having some scripts ready would have given me enough of a push to keep basic conversation going.
Nevertheless, these conversations were helpful. I had instantaneous feedback on whatever I said and we could chat about whatever we wanted. The downside is that they were draining – I could only take so much of it in a day.
On top of that, I still kept at the regular regimen of walking Pimsleurs for about 1-2 hours per day.
Italian Radio and Music
Keeping in the spirit of developing my Italian ear, I added in more varieties of native speech. The first of these was an app called Radio.fm (iphone and android) which lists the top radio stations in any country you want. I began to supplement my morning routine with Italian talk news radio.
I chose a Talk/News Radio station because the hosts were speaking quickly, but clearly. I didn’t have this just playing in the background. To get the most benefit, I put headphones on with my eyes closed and consciously tried to pick out the words I knew.
Each day, I found that there were a few words here and there that I could understand.
When I wasn’t doing that, I’d play some Italian hip-hop artists on Spotify. Since it was music, this was a little less intensive and more fun than the talk radio but still beneficial. Once I found artists that I liked, all I had to do was setup this spotify station to keep more music in the queue.
I found this was most useful where I couldn’t do Pimsleur (like sitting on a bus or riding in a taxi). As an introvert, all these methods were great for training my ears without having to talk to many people throughout the day.
Italian Mission – Next Steps
The next steps ahead are to create my personal scripts. In addition, I’m shooting for at least one hour speaking (italki) and one hour listening (radio/music/pimsleur) each day next week.
If all goes according to plan, I should be able to speak on the majority of common conversation ‘introduction’ topics for at least a few minutes.
Once I’m past this point, I should have a huge confidence boost. It should be so good, people will think I’m a native speaker – at least for the first few minutes of conversation.
Idahosa tells me that I need to have these scripts ready by next week, where I’ll have as many in-person conversations as I can each day. The rough conversations this week were enough of a motivator to get me to Scripted Conversation as fast as I can.