Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Day One

We started our four week course in Italian this week. Monday was a short day…Art took a test to determine his placement, and I, as an “absolute beginner, was simply given some basic information about the books I would need, various discounts available with our student card, and general Perugia info. We were invited to sign up for a group luncheon, and then a short tour of Perugia that afternoon, but we needed to get back to San Venanzo to see what work was being done.

Art’s test was graded, and he was told that although he still needed practice, he could join the intermediate group. He said there was a BIG jump from the absolute beginner to the level he was placed in, but unfortunately, there is nothing in between. We both have two hours of grammar, starting at nine, then 2 hours of conversation after our break. He was told that he could move to my group for the conversation if he needed to. One of the reasons we picked this school was that we had been told they were so flexible in moving students according to their needs and abilities.

We walked up the street (and I do mean UP!) to the bookstore and bought our books. We were surprised to see that we both had to buy the same book. I’m sure Art’s group will start in the middle, while my group will begin at the beginning!

I am still feeling quite nervous and insecure. Of all the absolute beginners, I am the absolute-est! The others in my class include two other American women. Kris lives in Bergamo/Sante Fe and is a furniture designer. She has been here on and off for several years, I think, so she has picked up bits and pieces along the way. The other Americana has lived in Spain, and her husband is a Spanish language teacher. This makes her way ahead of me too! The others in the class are either German or Swedish, and of course they are already bi-lingual, at the least, because they all speak very good English. So that leaves me, whose command of a second language consists of counting to twenty in Spanish, and the five words my son taught me one year when we were on vacation!

Day Two

Classes began today in earnest. My teacher, Roberta, is patient and helpful. I was afraid that she would refuse to speak any English, but she wasn’t that rigid. We learned the Italian alphabet…if you have to spell something, the letters are pronounced differently, so that’s important. We learned a few basics, then spelled and wrote our names on the board. We read the dialog from the book, and it was pretty basic. Hello. What is your name? My name is… I am from America. I am here to study Italian, and so on. Then it started to get complicated. Verb conjugation was now required, along with a basic knowledge of the words for “I”, “you”,“he/she”, “we”’ “you” as a group, and “they”. THEN you have to learn which verb word goes with which noun!!! By the time the first session as over, I was so stressed out I could barely function!

I walked out into the hallway, and met Art, who was talking with a girl from his class. Her husband is in the more advanced level, and he has been telling her that she should have learned Italian before they moved over, just like Art told me! Art tells me yet again how he kept telling me I should have studied too, and I know that if he tells me this one more time, someone will get hurt! Number one, maybe that’s true, but it’s a little late now, and holding this over my head will definitely not put me in a good mood. Number two, I definitely don’t have the aptitude for languages that he does. I think he got the point. Then I went back to my classroom and tried to breathe deeply but only succeeded in having a mini cry. I’m sure I’ll have a major breakdown before the week is over.

The conversation part of the morning went okay. I managed to get through the things I was asked to say, but I was still worried about the verb conjugation. Art was in my class to see if it would be too easy for him. Although Art did much better than I, I think he did learn a few things. His teacher from the earlier class met him in the hall afterwards and asked him if my class was too easy for him. That was a tough question to answer, since he had nothing to compare it to! She then suggested that he try the more advanced conversation class tomorrow for comparison. I am hopeful that he can hold his own, and if not, that he doesn’t feel embarrassed about moving back down.

I have homework, but Art doesn’t. He tries to help me, but I am just so far behind him, and I feel as if they expect you to already know so much, that I am quite discouraged. I think that Art is right…a lot of it is simply memorization, and I guess I will just have to work harder. The jackhammers are going when we get home, so it’s not exactly conducive to study. Finally, I complete my assignments, and then try to write the verb tenses we have learned…all two of them! And I keep looking up the same words over and over again! It will be a very L…O…N…G four weeks!

Footnote: As I am typing this, they are interviewing people on TV about the unusually cold weather we are having…apparently the entire country is affected. And of course, we are still without heat. We bought our own space-heater, so that we can return Wendy’s. We carry the heater with us from room to room, and keep the doors closed once we are inside!