Over lunch my girlfriend asked me if I still learned new words in Italian. Without hesitation, I said, "Absolutely!" She was concerned because she said that even after being here for 5 years, she didn't feel as if she was as fluent in Italian as she expected. We have both separately lived in France for a handful of years and both felt that learning French was much easier. We both felt that after living in France, we were fluent and didn't learn as many words every day. It seemed the typical expressions and words were used over and over again, which is a little atypical of Italian.
I had thought about the Italian language a lot these past couple of years because I feel that it is a little more complex than French. Like my girlfriend, I felt that I kept learning new words all the time. Not just Florentine words and phrases, but also words that some people choose to use that others do not. So each time I met someone new, I had to learn their vocabulary as well.
In English and French, I feel the differences are a little slimmer. We may choose additional adjectives or adverbs to spice things up, but here people change verbs and even terminology completely to say the same thing. Some things can be very simple like the way to say that I like something. In Italian we say "Mi piace" while in Florentine, we say "Mi garba."
Another thing that makes the Italian language a little more complex are the verbs. From English to French, there was a bit of a hurdle for me because there were so many new tenses to learn. English, it turned out, was incredibly simple in comparison.
In French, people get away with saying things that aren't grammatically correct, but in Italian you have to have agreement with verb tenses. If you start in the past, you have to stay there whereas in French, they'll let you slide a little bit especially with the subjunctive case.
Another factor is the difference in how things are said differently depending on where you are. In Florence, for example, we say, "Si va allo stadio," which basically means that one is going to the stadium, but is meant to say, "Let's go to the stadium." In Italian, however, we would say, "Andiamo allo stadio."
I now have come to the realization that learning a language is a process, and that maybe the goal of having it under my belt, like English, is rather unrealistic. I'm happy to have conversations with Italians and Florentines about a large range of subjects without difficulty. I love that I'm always learning new words and expressions because it keeps me on my toes, and keeps the Italian language interesting to me.
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