You have been studying Italian for a while and you are fluent or almost fluent, BUT… then again, the same mistakes keep cropping up during your conversations and you want to get rid off them. Listen up and let me know what you think!
Usually, students (myself among them) who speak more than one language tend to make some slips every now and then especially if they are tired. This is quite normal when we learn a language as adults. Our brain doesn’t have specific areas designed for specific languages as it would if we were raised with two or more languages since birth. Thus, our best option is to ‘carve’ pathways inside our brains so that, once we start a sentence and have our communication goals set in our mind we automatically know what pathway we have to follow. I will give you a couple of examples. One of my students, who was fluent in Italian for a long time, used to be afraid of using hypothetical constructions in Italian even though she knew the grammar as well as I did. The problem was that she found it very difficult to put together her words as she was always anxious to finish her sentence and pass the ball to the next speaker. Italian hypothetical constructions work exactly like in English: se mangio il gelato ingrasso (if I eat ice cream I put on weight), se vincessi alla lotteria comprerei una casa (if I won the lotto I’d buy a house), se ci fosse stato il sole mi sarei abbronzata (if there had been the sun I would have tanned). The problem is that when you have to put together many words in a language that is not your native language it feels heavy and unnatural. To tackle the problem we just worked on our pathways by repeating the same constructions over and over. In Italian we say that ‘la goccia scava la roccia’ (many small drops wear away the rock) and it is true! Repeating the same grammatical constructions several times a day, with different lexical meanings, helped her to dig her pathways. It became automatic for her to pick the right words as she started speaking. She became familiar with these long sentences and they were not heavy or unnatural any more. Brava Maria (not her real name!).
Some other students have difficulty when they have to say this type of sentence ‘studio italiano da X anni’ (I have studied Italian for X years). This is because this Italian structure is different from the English one. In Italian we use the preposition da (from) and the present tense, while in English you use the preposition for (per) and the present perfect. It is very difficult for a student to stop translating, but, again, I would recommend ‘la goccia scava la roccia’. Once the rule is crystal clear in your head, you should start making up thousands of sentences several times a day until you are able to do it in your sleep. After a short while it will become automatic for your brain to use the present tense when you are asked ‘da quanto tempo…’. Provare per credere (try to believe).
These are only some examples, I could tell you of many more, but why not try it for yourself and let me know how you get on.