Anyone who has gone through the process of learning a new language knows that it is a huge commitment. Even a week without practice can set you back a month in terms of understanding, so constant practice is necessary to improve and retain what you learn.
So, imagine me - strolling into a conversation group after 6 months of no Italian (aside from the occasional arbitrary thought in the language). As a member of Baccano Italian Club here on campus, I am expected to be a leader, a teacher, etc. But as I sat in Crimson & Whipped Cream sipping on hot tea, I could physically feel the mental strain of trying to remember vocabulary words and conjugations, piecing together thoughts in strange fragments. I found myself filling in gaps with words from Spanish, my second native language. I essentially created my own language, Spanglishtalian.
On the positive, I had a fabulous time. It was neat to reawaken the part of my brain associated with language learning, to refresh my memory by crowdsourcing knowledge from the new friends surrounding me. My own favorite part of conversation groups is the mix of people, everyone from native speakers and professors of Italian to those who haven't yet conjugated a verb in their beginner class. It fosters a great notion of collaboration, helpfulness, and the pure joy of learning and conversing with other humans.
We do our best, switch into English when necessary, and experience the odd sensation of telling familiar stories with new words.