by Megan Peck
Welcome to our newest advice column, where Italian Studies students from all levels and walks of life will provide you with some of their tried and true tips and tricks to learning and studying Italian! This week’s advice column will focus on me: Megan, an Italian Studies major at McGill University from a non-Italian background.
Let me paint a picture for you. A shy first-year year student not entirely sure what she would like to study just yet is faced with a choice upon course registration: she must choose a summer elective. Beginners Italian? She thinks to herself, as she looks through the seemingly endless list of possibilities. Hmm, I guess I can try it out. She registers for the course, unsure of what to expect. Come the first day of class, she enters the classroom and takes her seat at the end of the row. What am I doing here? Her mind wanders. I’ve never even spoken a word of Italian before; I’m going to make an absolute fool of myse-
The professor enters the classroom, a big smile on her face. Without saying a word, she sets her books on her desk and then immediately begins writing the following on the whiteboard: “Come ti chiami?”
She then turns back around to face the class, quickly examines the rooms, looks our protagonist in the eyes and says “Ciao, come ti chiami?” Of course she just had to land on me first, our protagonist thinks to herself. Her heart races, her cheeks turn bright red, her mouth slightly agape as she breathes heavily, deathly afraid of making a fool of herself in front of the class. She hasn’t a clue what to answer, but she clears her throat and musters up enough courage to reply “uhhh, mi chami -”
The professor corrects her immediately: “No, no. Mi chiamo… Come ti chiami?”
Way to go, making a mistake on the very first try, she thinks to herself. But she doesn’t let that get her down. She tries once more: “Mi chiamo Megan.”
The professor’s eyes light up, she smiles and congratulates Megan. From that moment on, Megan was determined to continue learning and perfecting her Italian, knowing that mistakes are totally normal and are only a part of the learning process.
* * *
As you might have guessed, that Megan is me, and what you just read is my baptism by fire into the world of Italian studies.
I am currently a third-year student majoring in Italian Studies at McGill University. As you may have seen, my journey to studying Italian was not clear cut; I was unsure of which path to take, and just very much unsure of myself, overall. At first, I did not feel like I fit the criteria to major in Italian Studies: I have absolutely no Italian origins, and the closest I had ever been to Italy was Café Roma in Montreal’s Little Italy. However, all it took to light the spark was a chance decision I had made about a week before the first day of classes; and from that moment on, I was determined to excel in the field I had chosen by exposing myself to as much of the Italian language and culture as I could possibly fit into my spare time. I began listening to Italian music, watching Italian films, and even listening to the occasional Italian podcast.
With that said, if there is one piece of advice that I may give to anyone wishing to study Italian, it would be to put yourself out there and expose yourself to as much of the language and culture as possible! Whether it be Italian films, reading books in Italian, listening to music, or even attending Italian conversation groups, I truly believe I have learned a great deal in doing so, because in general, I believe learning Italian – or any language, for that matter – must surpass the confines of the classroom in order for it to be truly worthwhile.
Triple E has helped tremendously in presenting me with endless possibilities to expose myself to the Italian language and culture through their many cultural events, courses, and summer programs. For more information on the different events Triple E has to offer to help you keep your Italian up to snuff, head on over to the events calendar or contact us at email@example.com. We hope to see you soon!