When learning to speak a language like a native, you will need to forget your native tongue. Spending time in Italy speaking only Italian will help you speak as a native. If you want to read Italian, you can pick up an Italian newspaper and read the section that interests you most. The goal is to increase competency in Italian. To do that you must learn to think like an Italian, which means you will need to take off the training wheels so to speak. Get rid of those helpers, which are holding you back and hurt more than they help.
For instance bilingual dictionaries are a crutch. If your goal is to speak Italian, speaking English to your friends will be a waste of your time. You don’t want to make grammatical comparisons between English and Italian because it won’t help you achieve your goal. Every language has rules and forms, which are unique and sometimes illogical. If you want to speak with competence, translating back and forth in your head before speaking or reading is a fool’s errand, which will not get you anywhere.
Too many people consider language as a science and get tongue-tied. Students of the language obsess over details. Italian can not be dissected, instead of just speaking the language and interacting with native speakers. They should be imitating them and copying them in order to learn the language. You need to let go of your ego and pretend you are an actor by trying to sound Italian. Books with something to memorize turns off most students and these books are not useful.
The best piece of advice someone can give to anyone studying Italian, regardless of the level of study, would be to stop thinking in English. To competently speak Italian you have to forget about English grammar. You will not be able to translate literally and construct sentences according to English grammar.
One important fact you should know is that all languages are not equal and are not interchangeable. If languages could be interchangeable, translation would be extremely simple and straightforward. Learning another language would boil down to nothing more than learning to substitute one word for another.
The fact is each language differs in very important ways, in grammar as well as vocabulary. Each language has a unique way of looking at the world. No one can become fluent in a language until they stop translating and simply think in the new language. Each language has its own distinctive medium of thought.
You must let go of your fear of making mistakes. Your goal should only be to communicate. You really don’t want to sound as if you have a PhD in Italian grammar because not only will you never accomplish that, but there are very few Italians who can speak that well in their own language. But all Italians can communicate their emotions, fears, wants, and needs. The one thing that will hold you back is using English as a crutch and being afraid of opening your mouth wide enough to speak the language.
Don’t be discouraged, but many of the language learners just don’t seem to understand the concept and they never will. It’s a lot like taking dance lessons. You can take lessons from an expert with the cut-out feet and numbers on the floor to show the steps, but without rhythm, you will never get it right. You will end up looking like a klutz no matter how hard you practice or the number of lessons you take.
Memorizing scripted responses when learning a foreign language does not work. The majority of the textbooks for the beginners have several pages of dialogue. The dialogue is stiff and is a conversation you won’t have even in your own language. If you ask a person one of the questions from that dialogue and they don’t answer according to the dialogue you memorized, then what?
You are lost and have no idea what to say next. This is not learning the language; this is memorized scripts. Unfortunately with scripts, not everyone has the same script you do; leaving you with the inability to respond to unexpected answer.
When it comes to learning Italian or any other foreign language, you will want to speak it as well as you can speak English. Memorizing scripts don’t work, which means you have to learn how to formulate sentences in Italian just as you can in English.