I Tried Reading a Book in My Target Language and You Should, Too

Last semester, on a whim, I signed up for an Italian language course thinking that I would end up dropping it and getting into a Spanish class within the first week. Instead, I fell in love with the class, the language, and the culture of Italy, and now, I’ve declared the language as my minor. Since I started studying Italian, I’ve wanted nothing more than to become as fluent in the language as possible, and a little over a month ago, I took the next step to stretch my limits: I checked out a book from the library that was written in Italian, La via del sole by Mauro Corona.

I admit that it was an ambitious goal. After all, I’d only been studying this language for about seven months, I only knew two of the four major tenses, and this was a full-length novel written for adults. I had no illusions about how difficult this task would be, but I was still determined to prove to myself that I could.

My first thought when I started reading this book was that its word choice gave a better look at how the Italian language is spoken colloquially in a way that isn’t really studied in class. This made it a little more difficult to understand because these phrases aren’t exactly something you can plug into Google Translate (but that’s what foreign language professors are for). Something else that I noticed was I had to get used to translating sentences into English because the structure is somewhat different in Italian. The more I read, though, the smoother the process became.

One thing that really surprised me was the ease with which I could follow the main storyline. That’s not to say that there weren’t any mishaps along the way (I definitely had to go back and reread a couple of parts), but for the majority of the plot, I was able to keep up. I was also glad to notice that, by the end of the book, I didn’t have to stop and check WordReference for every other word. I was able to read and comprehend more without relying solely on a dictionary.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable and satisfying experience for me. The moment I finished the last sentence and closed the book, I felt so accomplished, and I’m still running on the excitement it left me with. It’s inspired me to check out more books in Italian, and it’s deepened my understanding of the language itself.

If you’re studying a foreign language, I highly recommend you check out a book for yourself and give it a try. Who knows, your own knowledge might even surprise you!