C2… this phantom high level of language proficiency… Being able to reach a “mother tongue” level is a pretty difficult path and it doesn’t matter how many times you’re going to check out grammars or hear people talking: many rules or expressions won’t ever remain impressed, or maybe sooner or later, but with some difficulty. What’s important is not to be discouraged, be aware of your level and work to improve it. Remember there’s nothing wrong with not being able to understand or express everything you want from the beginning!
Let’s overcome obstacles!
Here’s a list of things that may represent an obstacle in speaking and writing in Italian correctly. Think it over, ask yourself if you find obstacles as well, if yes, try to focus and work on them!
1. The common courtesy
Formal communication is challenging for many people, especially for students of Italian, since its use is counter-intuitive. In fact, it is “Lei”, with a capital letter, but so similar to “lei” (she/her) referred to a woman. However, in the courtesy form we use Lei also with men, but adjectives and participles remain masculine. Ok, it’s certain that if you use “tu” in a situation that requires “Lei”, for example during a conversation with a professor, your employer or an older person, nobody will get mad at you because people will know you’re a foreigner. That’s the point: people could see that you’re a foreigner. Practice this form more, use it when needed, and you’ll see how great it’ll be!
2. When to specify the subject of the phrase
In Italian, you use an implied subject in most cases, unless you want to emphasize the doer of the action. To specify the subject at the beginning of the sentence makes it clear that you’re not a native Italian speaker, and this doesn’t allow you to master the language. In most languages, however, the pronoun is necessary, so learning to omit it requires effort and time, but you’ll soon see that it’ll become natural!
3. Past tenses terrify you
You’re still not sure when to use the imperfect tense, the present perfect and the past tense, and if you use the wrong verb tense at the wrong time there may be some misunderstanding and it may sound odd to listeners. “Ho vissuto in questa casa per 10 anni” means that you no longer live there, but in different languages like English, the same structure (“I have lived in this house for 10 years”) means that you still live in that house. So, it’s very important to practice past tenses. An effective method is to read lots of books so that you can familiarize yourself also with the dreaded passato remoto (past tense).
4. To be, or not to be, that is the question
Shakespeare used to say that as well. Understanding when to use the auxiliary “essere” (to be) and when to use “avere” (to have) is always challenging, even at a medium-high level. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. Auxiliaries in Italian follow fast rules and watching movies and reading books can help you.
5. Masculine nouns ending with -a (cinema, problema, tema) irritate you
Since you’ve started studying italian you’ve been said that most of words ending with a- are of feminine gender, except for some words that are masculine, such as cinema. So pay attention to these words (usually, there problematic words end with -ma). Of course, everyone undestands you if you say “la cinema”, but it’s obvious that it’s not correct and everyone will notice that you’re a foreigner.
6. You still don’t know the rules for omitting the definite article
Why do we say “Vado a casa” instead of “Vado alla casa”? Fortunately, in this case we can help you with our video OMISSION of the ARTICLE in Italian.
7. Conditional sentences confuse you and you prefer to avoid them
Every time you start a sentence with a “se” and you immediately regret it and don’t know how to continue given all the options of conditional, subjunctive and indicative. The “good news”? This part of grammar still confuse native speakers! So it’s not surprising that conditional sentences in Italian cause you problems.
8. You prefer not to say that you like something
In fact, the verb to like in Italian can cause confusion, because you have to coniugate it differently based on what you like, not according to the speaker, as it happens in English. Because of that, you must be aware of that when you talk about plural nouns, like spaghetti, because the verb will be plural even though the subject is singular (“Mi piacciono gli spaghetti”).
9. You prepare yourself mentally for the conversation you’re going to have
This isn’t a proper obstacle in acquiring language proficiency, since it enables you to apply the rules you have studied peacefully and with no pressure. However, the world in which you have a conversation is full of pressure and it’s also possible that the person you’re talking with doesn’t follow the pattern you made up in your mind, so this exercise is helpful but shoudn’t be mandatory. Make conversation with yourself in the mirror instead, or recorder or even think out loud in the language you’re studying. This absolutely works!
10. You have difficulty in understanding accents
Especially if your mother tongue is not characterized by accents, these can be hard to comprehend, particularly in the writing. Just remember that the written accent corresponds to the raise of the tone in pronuncing a syllable, so if you know how to pronounce a word you’ll be able to undestand where the accent should be put. A further difficulty is given by the fact that if you’re writing with a non-Italian keyboard you won’t find the key corresponding to an accented letter, as with an Italian keyboard. So, to enter the accented letters in your online documents you’ll have to use the shortcuts. If your problem are regional accents, then don’t worry: often, even Italians coming from different regions struggle to understand each other. If you like a specific accent or you know you’re going to move to that region, you can focus on that one, listening to more resources created by people from that area.
11. You sometimes forget how to use “gente”
This happens to many foreigners! Remember that “gente” is a singular substantive, so it has to be followed by a singular verb: “La gente dice che…” (People say that…)
12. The “r” pronunciation
Even this caracteristic of sound enables to instantly tell if you’re a foreign student or a native. Even though the r “alla francese” (the French r) is a widespread phenomenon in Italy, the forein “r” is easily noticeable and it could take some time mastering this sound like a native speaker. The same goes for “gl”.
13. Dialects make you anxious
You might think that once acquired a high knowledge of Italian it will all go downhill, but when you face the Italian reality, characterized by dozens of dialects, you find out that it’s not quite true. In fact, dialects are difficult or impossibile to understand even to native speakers who come from a particular area. What we can suggest is to travel as much as possible to appreciate this variety. And don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong in asking for explanations if you don’t understand.
14. The sound of double consonants
Many languages don’t have frequent doubles as in Italian, because of this it can be hard to pronounce these words properly, but it’s important to do it in order not to cause misunderstandings (the animal “cane” is man’s best friend, “canne” may refer to fishing tools or plants). For this topic, our article can help you: do not get the DOUBLE CONSONANTS in ITALIAN wrong!
In this article we have seen particularly hard aspects to learn when you start studying Italian, but don’t forget that the Italian language has also easy things, for example the pronunciation is clear and lots of words are read as they’re written. Anyways, there is no bigger obstacle than the fear of learning a language!