When I first started singing lessons at age 14, I was introduced to those standards of voice training, Vaccai’s exercises and Schirmer’s collection of 24 Italian songs and arias. At this stage, I was singing Italian phonetically – I knew the general gist of the words from the translations, but in expressive terms it was much like playing Mozart arias on the clarinet (which I also did around that age). Then at university I took Italian classes for 3 hours a week for a year, thinking it would be useful for someone taking voice lessons (and actually, interesting for someone who liked studying languages).
It was some years later again when I returned to the old Schirmer volume to revisit songs I had learned in my teens and had the bizarre experience of going through the motor actions I had learned to create the sounds, but now understanding the words I was singing. Bizarre and rather fun, I should add – I always enjoy the sensation when bits of my brain that hadn’t really connected before discover they have something in common.