You won’t learn a language in a book…

…but maybe you can learn it in a song.  Don’t let your inability to speak the language of your study abroad destination keep you from going – here’s another way to pick up some useful phrases.

I studied Italian for all of  6 weeks before leaving for study abroad in Italy.  Up until that point I had taken 4 semesters of Spanish (I don’t even think HU offered Italian now that I think about it).  That said, how did I become proficient in Italian in less than 4 months??? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t in a textbook 😉 We had an awesome Italian professor who would teach us idioms (especially the bad ones), refuse to answer us in English, and played games with us in Italian.  Perhaps one of the most fun things we did was learn Italian pop songs.  I would find myself singing the words and not even knowing exactly what they meant – but you can pretty much guess based on the mood of the music.  Eventually we would go over the meanings, but the important thing is that I was “thinking” in Italian.  Because I was exposed to all different uses of the language, and not just repeating phrases we learned in a book, my brain was much more quickly re-wired to learn the language.  Although reading books in other languages- even textbooks- will help you read and possibly write the language pretty well, what’s the use of a language if not spoken? Especially a language as beautiful and expressive as Italian. 

Next week when I get back from Atlanta (remember NC4GE’s campaign launch party is tonight!) I am going to start teaching my little sister and brother Italian pop songs.  I mean, the songs they listen to on the radio are pretty sad for an 8- and 11- year old to be walking around singing them.  If they are just going to repeat what they hear on the radio why not teach them something in the process.  The younger you are the easier it is to learn a language. And if you’re surrounded by it all the time, you’ll definitely start picking up phrases and words (by osmosis perhaps). Just imagine if your Pandora or iTunes was always playing Italian songs, if you watched your favorite moves dubbed in Italian (I did this with Coming to America – hilarious!), and even your ringtone was Italian – you would have to learn SOMETHING – and isn’t that more fun (and I bet more effective) than exercises in a textbook?

Here’s one of my favorites from a band called Lunapop – Un Giorno Migliore (The Best Day): 

And any discussion of Italian music without mentioning Andrea Bocelli would be useless so here’s one of my favorites – Con Te Partiro (I’ll Go With You):