I speak four languages - English, Spanish, French and Italian. I have a degree in Modern Foreign Languages and Oxford Trinity qualification to Teach English as a Foreign Language. Take the leap and start learning today!
About meOriginally from Wales, I now live in Abruzzo, Italy. I run a small language school where I try to have a positive impact on people's lives. I love learning languages and teaching English. I believe all humans have the power to make a difference but it's up to us to choose what that is.
Today's insight is a little long but worth it.
Stop Apologising for Your "Broken" English (or any other language)
When I first moved to Italy in January 2014, I spoke no Italian. Zero. Niente. I realise now that the reason I could do this was because of the power and privilege being a white British woman afforded (and still affords) me. Basically, white British (American, Canadian, Australian) people can go anywhere in the world without a problem, even if we don't speak the language. After all, everyone speaks English, right? Wrong.
Now, I'm a linguist so I certainly didn't move to Italy and not plan on learning the language. I was working long hours into late evening most days so I was trying to teach myself Italian in between lessons where I taught English to Italians! Even though the original plan was to be here for 5 months, almost seven years later, I'm still here. When I first arrived, every place I went into, be it office or shop or train station, my introduction was always "I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian. Do you speak English?". Well, I'll tell you now that the response was always "No". Cue me using broken Italian to explain what I wanted.
This went on for several months, always the same routine. I'd apologise, ask if they spoke English, accept the inevitable, then make myself understood. Perhaps the situation would have been different if I'd moved to a big city like Rome or Milan. I probably would have met plenty of people who spoke English but then again, I'd have never learnt Italian that way either.
One day, I can't remember exactly when, I decided to stop apologising for my Italian. After all, I spoke three languages (English, French and Spanish); I had nothing to apologise for. Now, I would like to point out that during this time, only once did someone get annoyed at me for my lack of Italian - a call centre worker for an Internet company. It wasn't because I had encountered bad attitudes that I decided to stop apologising; it was because of what it was doing to my self-confidence.
Every time I apologised to someone for something that wasn't my fault, it chipped away at my self-esteem. I had nothing to apologise for. No, I didn't speak great Italian, but I did speak three other languages and I was learning. Also, every time I asked someone if they spoke English,it took a learning opportunity away from myself. If they'd said yes, I would have lost the chance to improve. It was self-sabotage at its finest.
So what am I saying? You have absolutely no reason to apologise for or feel ashamed of your bad/broken/poor English (or French/Spanish/Arabic). You are doing something that a lot of people will never have the guts to do. You are putting yourself out there and learning something new. There will be times when you feel foolish (like the time I said "penis" instead of "pity"). But that's when we learn. After all, you can't learn to juggle without dropping a few balls!
As a teacher, one of the biggest mistakes my adult students make is focussing on grammar. Often they think if they learn the rules by heart and do all the exercises, they'll be able to speak English. Unfortunately this isn't true. The only way you can learn to speak another language is through...speaking! Don't wait until you can say the perfect sentence because if you do that, it'll never happen. Nobody likes to feel stupid but mistakes are proof we're learning. Nobody learns to juggle without dropping a few balls!
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