Many students ask me: I’m always getting stuck when speaking Italian, why?
Native speakers, as well as students of Italian get stuck. But why does it happen?
As you may already know, I like to create analogies between learning a language and learning to play a musical instrument.
Because language is music. And also because the guitar coach I attended a few years ago is the main responsible for how I learn and teach languages today. But this is for another article.
Types of speaking
First of all let’s clarify what speaking a language means.
Of all four skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) speaking is possibly the most complex and difficult to control.
Firstly, we can speak in a “prepared” way, when we plan a presentation we have to hold in front of an audience.
Secondly, we can speak spontaneously. The goal of most people is definitely to be able to speak spontaneously.
Speaking Italian spontaneously is like improvising on the guitar.
Let me explain: What happens exactly when a guitarist starts playing an improvised solo live on stage? Is he really “improvising”? Is he really playing random notes?
The answer is no!
You might have the impression he’s playing something he has just “invented”. In reality, every time he improvises, he is using musical phrases and notes he already knows and has already learned.
The same thing happens when you want to speak Italian.
In order to speak Italian you should have a library of words, expressions, and structures ready in your brain‘s database.
Speaking means using instinctively what you already know and what you already have memorized.
Challenges and Solution
Here we go with the first challenge. Our brain is not as precise as a computer’s hard disk.
Normally, a PC always manages to recover a saved file on the hard disk.
The human brain is much more unpredictable and complex. So, even if in theory you memorized a word, there is no absolute certainty of being able to recover it when you need it.
Every time you speak and you try to improvise, you’re performing.
And since we are human beings and not computers, emotions, both positive and negative, play a crucial role during your performance.
The negative ones will try to sabotage you. Unfortunately very often they will succeed. Fear, anxiety, shyness and shame can make you speak worse than you are actually able to.
This can happen even in your native language. Do you know why?
Because it’s a matter of personal emotions, that are not necessarily related to language. If you are shy of nature, you are likely to be shy in all the languages you speak.
The big difference is that the database of your native language is larger than the Italian one, and therefore, you are more flexible and don’t get stuck so easily. You have multiple ways out, when it happens.
For this reason, I will not advise you to try to relax while speaking Italian. It is certainly good advice, but impractical.
In general, to avoid getting stuck when speaking Italian the simplest and most practical advice is: Continue to give input to your “Italian brain” by listening and reading a lot. And, of course, try to perform, that is to speak regularly.
The bigger your Italian database, the more flexible you will be and the less you will get stuck when you speak.
Now, I have a question for you: Do you often get stuck while speaking Italian? Let me know in the comments!
Become a rockstar dell‘italiano.
Listen to the related podcast episode in Italian: Perché mi blocco quando parlo italiano?