We can’t deny the fact that Italian and Spanish appear to be extremely similar languages. But according to what an Italian who has approached the Spanish language or a Spaniard who learnt Italian may have experienced, such similarities can both present an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time, especially in vocabulary and pronunciation.
To mention a personal experience, during my trips to Spain and Mexico, for example, it felt pleasant and quite gratifying for me to put in a word or even handle a conversation in the Spanish language, despite the fact that I had no clue on how to conjugate verbs and I might have invented several new Spanish-sounding words.
In fact, although pronunciation and sounds are quite similar, when it comes to applying the right grammatical rule or verb tense, the situation often gets more complicated.
This implies that, although on one hand understanding and getting your point across may seem pretty simple and easy to accomplish, on the other hand saying or writing a sentence correctly requires a consolidated grasp of the language grammar. Not to mention the fact that it takes a huge effort to resist the innate temptation to use one’s own native language when approaching a translation. Considering the two languages we are talking about, the above phenomenon is pretty likely to occur, and it’s even more confusing since words that look alike sometimes are in some cases equivalent, hence they may actually have the same meaning.
To undeceive the tricky false-friend relationship between these two neo-latin languages, the number one rule would be to do constant practice, ideally with a native speaker. Second, but not less important, would be to win against the laziness of looking up in a dictionary all of the new words and expressions we may stumble on while at the same time making sure to double-check those words which seem already familiar to our own range of vocabulary.
So, whether you are an Italian speaker travelling to Spain or a Spanish speaker in Italy, remember to always refresh your knowledge with the mentioned tips or you might have a hard time being understood by an intransigent interlocutor.