I went to Spain when I was 18 to spend a couple of weeks with my pen friend & her family & I had to listen carefully as the family all spoke Spanish continuously with the odd English translation now & again as only my pen friend spoke any English. I did find that listening to it constantly started to make me think in Spanish which felt weird.
It did encourage me to keep going trying to learn Spanish which I've done on & off for the last 50 years but I still haven't mastered it. Main reason is I find other things to do so it's been more off than on. My accent isn't too bad but I think you have to live in a country to become reasonably fluent. I have no chance of that now!
In March I discovered I had to do two Italian tours this summer, I never get Spanish ones where I could have some practice! So I thought I'd have a go at learning a little bit of Italian. I bought some CDs, a dictionary & found a couple of websites. The CDs are by Michel Thomas & they are quite good, I keep them in the car & play them repeatedly. I still haven't got past lesson 10 as it's quite difficult when it's just spoken & you can't see the words.
This is where the websites come in useful. They are very good as they make you type answers in Italian as well as English and they have the phrases spoken in Italian for you. They seem to recognise where you make mistakes & keep repeating those bits for you. I did borrow an Italian grammar book from the library as I like to check things out. Another resource I used was Coffee Break Italian which has 15 minute weekly podcasts available on the radiolingua.com website. You can download them free or find them on iTunes.
Have to say I've found it quite difficult. I'm sure it's because of being older. I find I just can't memorise the words easily. I have to keep going over them again & again. However I'm not giving up!
I did try using a few expressions when I was in Desenzano, always said buongiorno, buonasera, grazie etc & asked for my room number in Italian. It was wasted really as they spoke such good English but I like to try. I've been trying to do a couple of sessions every day picking up some new words & going back doing some revisions. Have to say I'm really enjoying it which is a surprise. I just hope I can keep up with the sessions, I'm no linguist I know but at least I try.
Hopefully I'll be a bit more confident at speaking a little more when I get to the Italian Riviera at the end of September.
If anyone is interested the two websites I've been using are:
They have a range of languages to choose from and they're free! There are premium versions of the sites but you don't have to buy into them.