How serious are we about learning Italian?

Pretty serious it seems.  I wandered into the kitchen (dining room, lounge) the other day and saw the note below taped up above the kitchen sink.  It’s the stuff we need to learn this week – the irregular verbs avere and essere and all their various permutations.  Sigh.

The note on the wall.

Learning Italian

I never realised that learning Italian was a competitive sport.  But around the cottage this is starting to be the case.

Jean's homework.

We had our first lesson last Friday and were plunged into the realm of verbs – both the regular and the irregular.  I must have been away the day they covered all this in school so not only was I learning Italian I was also learning the structure of language – in Italian.  Suffice it to say I don’t think I’m going to be a star pupil.

My lovely wife, however, was taking it all in, chipping in with useful comments and questions and making copious notes along the way.  After an hour my brain was full and our tutor, Mauro, realising that nothing more was going in asked us to do a little homework for the next lesson.  Nothing too taxing but homework none the less.

We adjourned to a bar around the Campo in Siena for a well deserved drink and discussion.  We were pleased with the lesson and with our choice of language school.  Yes, there was some homework to do but, let’s face it, we didn’t have a lot else to do.  It should be easy – no stress.

Yesterday morning I rose at my usual time of 10am, refreshed my cup of tea in the kitchen, and wandered out to the verandah.  There, hunched over her notes with cigarette in hand, was my wife furiously scribbling homework notes, completing sentences, scouring the dictionary for nouns, and  filling page after page with perfectly executed Italian.

Now to put things in context, I’d spent upwards of 15 minutes the previous day sitting by the pool jotting down some random notes which I thought might cover the homework.  I had included a rather good doodle of an Italian villa on a hill with a Cypress tree next to it – not strictly part of the homework but I’m sure I would get extra marks for it.

I could see where this was going and I wasn’t going to stand for it.  The last 24 hours has seen a flurry of activity as notes are made about notes, verbs are conjugated and nouns are possessed and repossessed.  Conversation has been non-existent and the only sound has been the occasional sentence said aloud in italian to test pronunciation.

Alas I fear it is all to no avail as every time I sneak a look at Jean’s work I see myself drifting further behind the pace.  My only hope is that time honoured excuse – the dog ate my homework.

Now, where is Daisy?

Back to school

There’s a degree of nervousness around the cottage today.  It’s the first Italian lesson this afternoon which means a double stress.  Firstly we have to apply our brains to something other than – pool day or not a pool day – and secondly we actually have to be somewhere at a pre arranged time.  Almost like a meeting.

But as with all things Italian there is a twist.  And the twist was an invitation we got from our language school to lunch last Wednesday.  It was an opportunity to get to know the staff and some of the other pupils before starting lessons.  Everyone bought something for the meal and we spent 2 hours chatting in a mix of Italian, English and occasionally other obscure languages as required.

The students are all nationalities, ages and backgrounds.  Everything from an Australian art student brushing up her Italian on the way to the Venice Biennale where she is one of the hosts at the Oz site, to a retired Irishman who was taking a group from one of the local Sinese contrada to have lunch with the Irish ambassador in Rome on Saturday.  He had learnt Italian at the school previously and was just taking a few “top up” lessons in anticipation of the visit.

Anyway, enough of this writing, I must go and get my school books ready.