It's been a quiet week on Lake Humanities Researcher (apologies to Garrison Keilor).
Every morning this week I hop on my bike and ride into Carlton for an intensive Italian language course. My long service leave starts in a few weeks, and I've always thought long service leave was a good time to learn something new. And because we have booked a few weeks holiday in Italy in September, and because I'll be in Siena for the Chaucer congress in 2010, and because Joel is learning, and because I love opera, and because I want to read Dante e Boccaccio in Italiana, there I am!
There are eleven in our group: they include an opthalmic surgeon who is taking up a job in Forli next year; a group of middle aged women like me who are going to Italy on holiday; a New Zealand vulcanologist, also going to do some research in Italy; and three teenagers from two different Italian families whose fathers speak Italian, but who have never learned.
Everything they say about studying more languages making the next one easier is absolutely true. My Latin and French aren't particularly strong (especially my Latin); and my French is much more readerly than conversational, but this background in romance languages certainly makes Italian feel familiar. I could hear it spoken every day in Melbourne if I walked down the right streets and went to the right cafes. These classes really put the emphasis on conversation, though, so it's a very different world from medieval languages.
When we are doing grammatical work, I feel perfectly at home, so that spending a lot of time on the difference between masculine and feminine definite and indefinite articles sometimes drives me crazy. Just learn the forms and move on, I think to myself! But repeating and repeating, in tiny fragments of conversation in groups does eventually help me put sentences together. And here's the thing: there are people in the class who've never learned the difference between first and third person, or who have never had to grapple with gendered nouns and adjectives, but whose ear is far better than mine, and whose confidence in conversation outstrips mine, too.
But I am keen to keep going, and have arranged to share a small group lesson with Kay, my fellow student. I'm going to practise writing a bit. And can I just say: I'm doing this without checking my books. I'll correct my mistakes in bold type...
Ciao, mi chiamo Stephania. Sto molto bene, grazie. Ho un gatto bruno; lei si chiama Mima. Lei ha diciotto anni, e ho cinquante-uno anni, e sono sempre contenta... cioe, noi siamo sempre contente. Amiamo mangiare il pesce.
E voi? Come state?