The desire to learn a second language can be born of necessity or personal circumstance. I had the all American childhood. My parents, like most other first generation Mexican immigrants, came to this country for a better life. They left behind a culture of poverty, unemployment and cartel violence; the country that they loved couldn’t offer them any hope of financial security.
I grew up speaking English at home. My father wanted my siblings and I to fit in to this new country easily. We ate meatloaf instead of barbacoa, sandwiches instead of tacos. None of us could speak more than a few words in Spanish. They were surprised yet supportive when I took an interest in my Mexican heritage as a teenager. I had always felt slightly different from my American peers, something was missing. I was fascinated by what I learned and for the first time I was proud of my roots. I decided that since I was an American Mexican that I should and would learn Spanish.
It took me several years to become almost fluent. Learning Spanish remains one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. When I finally mastered the grammar and had reached my desired level of fluency I felt that I was “done”. I was testing at 98% and there wasn’t really anything left to study, just the fine tuning process that comes with years of constant practice. I missed my active studying routines, I wanted a new challenge!
I decided to choose a new language to study. I made a list of languages that seemed interesting or useful to me. My initial list was: Chinese, Arabic, French and Italian. I researched each one, sort of a test drive of the language and culture. I determined that it would take me a long time to be able to read and write Chinese. Arabic wasn’t a language that I would be able to use locally. French and Italian were similar to Spanish, so I assumed they would be easier for me. In practice, the similarity was more of a headache than an advantage. I made a lot of mistakes because I expected French and Italian grammar to work the same way that Spanish grammar does (and that is NOT always the case!). In the end, I had crossed all of the languages off my list. I was out of ideas.
Then a funny thing happened. During my research on the Italian language and culture, I had fallen in love with opera music. The beautiful narratives of the opera touched me and my interest continued to grow even after I initially rejected the idea of studying Italian. It was my love of the opera that eventually inspired me to study Italian in earnest. The difficulties that had once seemed frustrating were now “worth it” to me. The music led me to the culture and the culture led me to the language, no list required! I needed to study Italian for the love of Italian and that, my friends, is the best reason to study a language. If you don’t love it or you don’t have a driving and legitimate need to learn it then you probably won’t.
If you would like to learn Italian, Yago has a list of Italian courses