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Get fluent, properly.

This is Oliva Italia speaking - my newfound Italian identity. What’s going on, Olive? I might hear you ask. Well, girls and boys, in 10 days’ time Oliva Italiana has an interview at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education to train as an *MFL teacher. But they don’t offer Mandarin. So voilà, here we are, trying to get fluent in Italian in 10 days.

I’ve approached languages differently from my linguistic peers, mainly because I absolutely loath grammar. I like to breathe a language, to explore right into the cracks and adopt the mindset of the people. I’ll outline exactly what I’m doing in detail later, but essentially, I am taking an entirely creative approach to my Italian journey, and having a ton of fun in the process.

The following three exercises won’t take long. Find yourself a cosy space, carve out an hour or two, get some colourful pens, make a nice oat latte, andddd breathe. These are intended for learners at the very beginning of their language journey. They seek to deepen your relationship with your new language which, in the long run, fosters stronger intrinsic motivation to sustain you through the tough times.

1/ Create a persona.

Identity is overlooked in the school curriculum. (Petit digression: When I become an MFL teacher I am going to shake things the f*ck up.) Creating an identity in your target language is SO IMPORTANT. The only thing I knew in Italian before I started was “tutti fruiti”. I have no idea where it came from, but it sounds great. I Google translated how to say Italian Olive, and it came back Oliva Italiana. To me, that also sounds great. Very musical, very passionate, very Olivey. 🫒 And hence, Tutti Fruiti with Oliva Italiana was born. See my personal IG for more on this.

  1. Buy a new notepad & design the cover with your new persona.

  2. Persona brainstorming: create a new name for yourself using inspiration from your target language.

  3. Imagine yourself speaking that language. This persona seeks to enrich who you are; the new language will elicit parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

2/ Breathe the language.

Now that you have created your new persona, you can start to explore the soul of the language. I rave about chunking: learning entire sentences of a language (derived from songs, idiomatic expressions, Netflix series etc). With Italian, I learned 5 expressions that resonate with me, and 12 words that do not exist in English.

By doing this, it allowed me to start understanding Italian culture (feels like pasta is at the heart of everything lol) and how Italians think. As my language skills develop, I can adopt this mindset (as Oliva Italiana) and I’ll speak like an Italian, not a Brit who is learning Italian. These first initial words can be found here.

  1. Search idioms / common expressions and learn 5 by heart.

  2. Search words in “x” language that do not exist in “x” (English) and learn 12.

  3. Reinforce vocab retention through Quizlet, or writing small notes around the house. I might get the below tattooed on me somewhere I love it that much.

🇮🇹 Veni, vidi, vici.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 I came, I saw, I conquered.

3/ Visualise. Manifest.

My favourite thing to do when starting a new language journey is sketching a multilingual timeline. The timeline allows you to visualise the time it takes to integrate a new language into your life, and to accept that it can be a long, yet beautiful process.

But such is life that we do not know what is around the corner. The timeline allows you to manifest this motivation - if you see the language journey sustained over the long run, and refer back to your timeline, it will help motivate you towards reaching your end goal, whatever that might be.

For me, learning a language looks like the growth of a tree. I sketched my languages in the following colours: English ⬛️ | French 🟦 | Mandarin 🟥 | Italian 🟩 .

  • ⬛️ English is the core, and will always be the foundation of my soul.

  • 🟦 As I become evermore emotionally involved in France, the language, its people, and way of life, I feel my roots becoming French. Overtime, I imagine French protecting and cushioning my soul; I like being Queen of Franglais and the side of me that the French language brings out.

  • 🟥 Mandarin. Hmm, well those who know me personally know that my love-hate relationship with China is volatile. I walked away from this language, but expect to come back to it at some point in my life - likely for work. Financially, China enabled me to stand on my two feel and granted me flexibility, so I owe it that.

  • 🟩 Oliva Italianaaaa!! Starting Italian aged 28 is proving FUN. The use of Italian? Beauty. Enjoying the way of life, the food, and bringing Olea to Italian education.

As these languages collide at the end of the timeline, they become a big mix. Ultimately, that is my soul, blended by all these beautiful languages and the parts of me they draw out.

By Olive, Founder @ Olea Education


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