Italian Study in Italy

Italian Study in Italy

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Learning another language is never easy. Well, I can’t really talk from vast experience. I once spent two months studying Spanish in Mexico when I was in my twenties but that never got me to any real level of fluency. It did allow me to get around reasonably well and I’m still surprised that I can have a rudimentary (VERY rudimentary) discussion with someone in that language. NumbersThis mostly involves the whereabouts of the nearest bathroom. However my Italian has now significantly surpassed any facility that I ever had in Spanish. However it is still not nearly enough. After all how much can you learn if you are only in class a couple of hours a week. Even with the most diligent self study it’s hard to ever get to a modest level of fluency. So the best bet is to go somewhere that everybody is speaking Italian all of the time.

Once upon a time I did just that. I had saved my vacation and bargained with my boss to take a month off from work in the slow time of the year in hi-tech. So that was from Thanksgiving to the end of the year. I went to Rome. I learned a lot of things. One of those is that Rome gets damned cold in the winter. You see all of those movies of sunny Italy and don’t realize that there will be puddles of water that have frozen overnight in the streets. Another thing that you learn is that energy must be expensive in Italy because the apartment building heat is only on during the mornings and evenings. You learn to roll the shutters down at night to conserve the little heat that exists and open them in the morning to get as much warmth as possible from the sun. And for this language learner you learn that one of the pitfalls in being with a bunch of other students much of the time is that they all speak English. As a low intermediate student at best in a class of similar students we found it almost impossible to speak Italian when not in the classroom. We did try it a couple of times and gave up within minutes. We just didn’t have adequate vocabulary. Still we all made a lot of progress.

I also learned another thing. I learned that a month was not enough. It was sad to go back to work when I thought that I was just at the edge of a language breakthrough. But I couldn’t stay for that next month which would have, I think, made all of the difference. Still it was a wonderful experience to meet other students from all over the place. I think that the class was 10 or 11 students. Only three were from English speaking countries and I was the only American. The others two were from New Zealand and England. The remaining students were mostly from German speaking countries and another was from some arabic speaking country and one from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

I always wanted to go back and now I have the time and resources to do just that. About a year ago I decided that would be a worthy goal so I started studying again. I studied independently for several months and that seemed to work reasonably well – up to a point. That point became when I reached a level at which I really didn’t know if I was doing my self assigned homework right or not. I had a decent textbook and just went through it, doing the exercises as I went along. Somewhere in the area of congiuntivo (the conjunctive verb tenses) I realized that I was getting lost. I found a tutor who could help some but that was spotty and expensive. Then I found that there were Italian classes given in Berkeley, not too far from where I live, and signed up. I’ve been in class there now for almost a year. Still, that two hours a week is not conducive to any great leaps forward. I do, by the way, highly recommend the school, Italingua. For more information you can click on this link. 

Still the dream has persisted to return to Italy and study. I’d like to study at least two months. In addition I want to have more immersion in the language so I’d like to stay in an Italian household rather than in a student apartment. These arrangements are available and part of the selection criteria for such a living arrangement is that the Italians speak little or no English. So one is forced to speak Italian for survival as well as pleasure.

One of my goals is to understand what the heck Roberto Benigni is saying in his routines. There are a bunch of videos of him available including one that I cannot embed because they have disabled the embed function but you can watch it by clicking here. I can understand a little bit but you can see that he is really cracking everyone up.

So now I have my tickets, I’ve made travel arrangements and sublet my apartment for 3 months. More in the next post.

One bit of advice. Do not take italian lessons from an englishman.


3 Responses to “Italian Study in Italy”

  1. Doak Says:

    Are really heading off to Italy to do an immersion program?

    I haven’t kicked the Italian addiction yet and probably won’t until I do 2 or 3 months in Italy myself, so if you’re heading to Italy I’d like to hear all about it.

    I’m about 6 to 8 months away from doing the same.


  2. Joe Says:

    Yes, Doak, I am finally doing just that. Four hours a day and five days a week. I will be doing another post in August to describe more of the details. I’m glad to hear that you are starting to firm up plans of doing the same. I will surely be doing some posts from Italy as well so I hope to have some more comments from you.


  3. Italy Bound - Dreaming In Italian Says:

    […] a recent post I talked a bit about studying Italian in Italy. There are the obvious advantages of being in a place where everyone is speaking Italian. It is […]

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