My #1 Mistake in Learning Italian

Damien O'Farrell
3 min readDec 2, 2022


When I moved to Italy in 1988, I didn’t speak a word of Italian. To be fair, I had no idea that life would bring me to the Bel Paese; if I had known this, I would have done at least a 90-hour intensive Italian language course before coming here.

As the years passed by, I was learning Italian as I went along, which was fine, but it was ultimately not taking me towards my goal, which was to speak Italian as well as I could possibly could. For this reason, I consider it to be the number one mistake I made in my move to Italy. I didn’t mind having an accent, but I most certainly did not want to be seen as the foreigner who was making the same mistakes in Italian after years of being here. Accents, in many cases, can be improved, if you work with a professional specialized in this area of language attainment.

Finally, in the mid-90s, I took the plunge, and I started working privately with an Italian teacher, and as they say, I finally started cooking with gas in Italian. Let me explain why this made a difference.

· I had a personalized course based on my ability to absorb the language and the opportunity to focus on my specific goals regarding Italian.

· Italians may be forgiving of foreigners when they speak Italian, but I learnt quickly that they really appreciate those that take the time to learn their language well, especially in a business context.

· It allows your teacher to make notes of where you need to concentrate and to address these weak points in a future lesson.

· You get to ask questions in real time, which is invaluable and accelerates the learning process, in my opinion.

· There is human interaction, which cannot be replaced by online courses, or self-study programs.

I can honestly say that if I had my time back, I would have started lessons with an Italian teacher as soon as I set foot in Italy. Even now, I still do a refresher lesson every now and again, so that I can make sure I am putting my best foot forward.

Learning a language is a commitment, some people learn faster than others, but I can honestly say that working with a qualified and trusted teacher makes all the difference and is worth the investment.

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Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in providing high-touch immigration, destination, & coaching services in Italy.