For every foreign student that masters the Italian language, there are surely two that leave with barely a word.
Although learning the language of love may come easier to those studying for Italian degrees, or Spaniards, the linguistic gap has little to do with ability.
There are - as The Local discovers - some key pitfalls which university students repeatedly make early on.
“Often, when people come on exchange they go out with other exchange students and don’t learn the language. This is a mistake everyone makes, including Italians who study abroad,” Christian Cibba, who organizes a language exchange in Rome, tells The Local.
Taking the easier option and socializing with fellow foreigners may be fun, but it certainly won’t help students learn Italian.
Thankfully, fluency will not be found in a grammar book.
“You can learn all the tenses and grammar rules you want, but if you don’t use them in daily life, they don’t stay with you and you forget them.
“The best way to break through, in parallel with studying, is to get to know Italians and go out with them. Go for a pizza with them, joke with them,” Cibba says.
One of the main complaints foreign students have, however, is the difficulty in meeting locals.
As a result, three years ago Rome’s Romit language school started organizing weekly tandems where foreigners and Italians could practice their language skills.
Now co-organized by Cibba and attracting around 50 people each week, the language meet-up is one of the main ways foreigners can improve their spoken Italian.
“It helps a lot; students start here and slowly improve,” Cibba says. “It’s really easy to meet both other foreigners and Italians who want to meet foreigners.”
While socializing helps foreigners pick up expressions used in daily life, students can improve their formal Italian with a TV.
“Watch films in Italian with Italian subtitles at first; they help with learning the pronunciation. On TV presenters also use the correct pronunciation,” Cibba advises.
Going beyond the bar and the sofa, we’ve compiled the best five guides to take students’ language learning to a new level: