Prepare yourself for a real bummer of a post. In fact, you should probably not waste your time by reading this.
I'm feeling pretty uninspired and demotivated about language learning. I'm not sure if this is something that will pass, or if ultimately it means that this just isn't the hobby I was hoping it would be. I started working on Italian for real exactly 2 years ago. I've already reached my initial goal of being able to easily understand almost everything that native speakers say in real life or on TV, which is great, and I plan to maintain this ability if for no other reason than it makes life much easier when I interact with my husband's family and friends.
However, I don't seem to be able to make improvements in any other area beside listening. Things that seem to work for everyone else don't seem to work for me.
I have 2 main problems when it comes to speaking:
1) making grammar mistakes/not knowing how to use some verb tenses and constructions properly which severely impacts my ability to express myself.
2) I don’t phrase things the way I should. I still do too much literal translation even though I don’t think in English when I’m speaking Italian. I have trouble even with everyday conversation that I've heard and said hundreds of times. It doesn't flow. It never feels automatic. Even after what feels like an obscene amount of CI (both from TV and real life, at this point probably ~2,000 hours) this never gets better. I simply don’t absorb speech patterns. I think this inability is at the heart of why I’m not a good language learner. Even my husband is shocked that I can listen to things repeatedly and then still say them wrong.
After multiple failed "immersion" attempts in the past, I've been periodically trying mini "immersions" at home where for a one day or a few days I only speak in Italian. During this time, I only read/watch/listen to Italian, AJATT style. Rather than improve, without fail I get steadily worse until the experiment ends, or I'm forced to cut it short because my speaking ability degrades to the point of only being able to muster one word answers. Speaking more paradoxically makes me worse every single time. Yet all the advice I keep finding about how to get better at speaking involves speaking more. When I do that, it backfires. I'm at a loss.
I wanted to finish my Practice Makes Perfect course book before trying to do some writing again (because otherwise I just keep making a ton of the same annoying grammatical mistakes, reinforcing them in the process), but working on the course book is torturous and I've been avoiding it. To be honest, I don't even want to write, the idea of it feels like a punishment, so maybe that's contributing toward the avoidance of finishing the course book.
The other reason why I’m stuck in the book is that I’m actually trying to learn what’s in the chapters instead of glossing over things, and I’m at an impass working on present tense conjugations of -ere/-ire verbs for congiuntivo/subjunctive. There’s tons of exceptions and I can’t memorize a simple pattern like I could with -are verbs. This is only one tiny aspect of applying congiuntivo and I can’t even make it through present tense verbs.
The little I've been able to do in the book has been very useful, but I'm stuck. Even if I chose to ignore the congiuntivo quagmire, it’s taken me ~8 months to do 10 chapters. I hate grammar study, I hate attempting to memorize verb conjugations, I hate doing Anki for more than a few days at a time. The problem is I don't assimilate things from listening or reading in a way that I can then use them myself, so I need some direct instruction to fix problem #1, but I simultaneously reject it.
Every time I come across a suggestion that might have a chance to help me improve in some small way, it either failed in the past or the idea of doing it is so awful that I can’t bring myself to do it seriously.
-Speak more > makes me worse
-Write > I keep reinforcing the same mistakes, didn’t help when I did it in the past, even when I got corrections. This is why I stopped and decided to finish the grammar book first.
-Do FSI> the idea makes me want to kill myself (hyperbole). I can’t even finish my current course book.
-Relax, don’t worry about, you’ll improve with time > nope, didn’t happen
So I will suspend updating this log for awhile until I have something useful to add. Maybe I'll return to it with renewed enthusiasm after finding some kind of magical fix. In the meantime, I'll just keep treading water with watching TV and listening to podcasts. If anyone has advice that’s different from things I’ve already done, I’m willing to try anything new. But unfortunately, I think I’m just not cut out for this.