Olly Learns Italian – Week 8: The Honeymoon Is Over!

The “Honeymoon Period” is something I bet you’re familiar with.

It’s a phenomenon that’s usually used to talk about newlyweds.

But here, I’m talking about a different kind of love…

Love with a new language!

In language learning, the “Honeymoon Period” is that feeling of elation in the very beginning, where you experience the joy of communicating in a new language for the first time.

It’s almost like an out-of-body experience where you find yourself using new words, in a weird order, with unfamiliar sounds…

And yet somehow managing to communicate with the person in front of you!

It’s as if you’ve performed a superhuman feat by transforming into a new person, with a new brain, and a new way of looking at the world…

And it feels great!

Soon, however, you come crashing back to Earth with a thud.

The End Of The Honeymoon

The magical “Honeymoon” phase is over.

The magic and joy has been replaced by tiredness and frustration.

The novelty of your first speaking experiences has worn of.

Instead, your new language turns its head, looks at you, sticks one finger up, and says with a smirk: “Hah! You thought you knew me… but actually you know NOTHING!!! Mwuhahahaha….”

The language then turns on its heels, and runs off at 100mph.

You begin a long, weary journey of trying to catch up, in the hope of one day getting the better of him.

Sound familiar?

It does? Thought so.

In fact, I’ve just had an ugly reminder of how this feels in my Italian.

To read more about how I've been studying, the materials I've been using, and to go back through all the previous project updates, please visit Italian Mission Control.

A Psychological Battle… With Myself

Olly speaks Italian

The “Honeymoon Period” in a new language ends abruptly and predictably shortly after you begin studying.

For most people it takes around 2-3 months to happen.

But in my case it happened after about 5 weeks.

In fact, it happened immediately after my first week of speaking.


I was delighted after my first week of speaking Italian with Martina.

The long month of input had been incredibly effective, and I had proven to myself that I was able to communicate and enjoy a conversation in Italian.

That felt great!

But as I moved into the second week, my mindset was turned upside down.

At first, I was impressed by how many words I knew

But I quickly became frustrated by all the words I didn’t know.

(And the ratio was clearly 99:1!!!)

At first, I was pleased to see how my grammar was making sense, and getting the job done…

But I quickly became aware of all the mistakes, and my complete lack of awareness of Italian verb tenses, verb conjugations, use of the subjunctive, etc. etc.

At first, I was happy to hear that I had a “good accent” when I spoke Italian.

But I quickly got irritated at my Spanish accent that was clearly sneaking through.

You get the picture.

Heightened Awareness in Your New Language

I’m sure you know what this feels like, but have you ever thought about what causes it?

I think many people make the assumption that the language is “getting harder” at this new stage.

But that’s not it.

The language was always just as hard. Nothing’s changed.

It’s you who’s changed!

And what has changed specific is a thing called “heightened awareness”.

With heightened awareness, you’re far more aware of the many elements of the language than you used to be.

In fact, the end of the Honeymoon Period is a fantastic sign of progress!

But it sure doesn’t feel like it.

It’s one of many examples of how language learning is a psychological battle we fight with ourself.

Anyway, in the last few weeks of my Italian project, I’ve experienced a whirlwind…

It might sound like a lot to happen in only 2-3 weeks.

But I suspect that the intensity I’ve been approaching this project with has meant I’ve experienced what might be 6-12 months of study in normal circumstances… in a few short weeks!

The Solution: Get Out Of Your Own Way

Olly speaking Italian

I just said that I emerged on the other side.

But what does that mean?

This has been interesting, and may also be a learning point for you if you’re currently struggling through a plateau, or a loss of motivation.

You see, there were a whole bunch of things I was unhappy with…

These are, of course, three BIG things.

The kind of things that entire courses and curriculums are often devoted to “solving”.

But in my case, they all resolved themselves naturally!

Take grammar for example.

To sort out my verb conjugations and tenses, I could have gone out and bought a bunch of grammar books and spent the next 6 months working through them until I “know Italian grammar”.

(Most people do just that.)

But instead, I just focused on the basics of my “input-based” method.

And sure enough, as I looked back on my week 7 speaking video from last week, I noticed a huge improvement in the accuracy of my verb tenses and conjugations.

(Note: I did do a couple of specific exercises to work on my grammar – more info on that in the video.)

Now, it would be very difficult to draw an exact connection between the activities I did and the improvement in my grammar.

Most likely it’s a combination of everything.

But the clear lesson here can be summarised by a classic quote, often attributed to Mark Twain:

mark twain quote

Point is… so many things we worry about in language learning work themselves out naturally over time.

All you have to do is focus on the basics:

Those are the basics as far as I’m concerned.

And it seems to be working so far!

So, that’s it for this week.

There’s a lot more that I didn’t mention here, but it’s all in the video, so please watch that if you haven’t already.

I’ve got another 4-5 weeks left in the project.

And at the very end will be a trip to Italy, which I’ll be bringing you along with.

The destination is a secret.

But I promise it’ll be worth the wait 🙂

Please leave any comments and questions below!

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