Loosely translated…Learning Italian. We had taken some classes in 2004, right before our trip to Italy. You know, just to learn a little bit to travel with. Typical stuff, like "I would like a coffee.", "We have a reservation", or the ever popular "Can I live here, with you for the rest of my life and can you find me work?" We learned the months, telling time, how to count, pronunciation. Basic Italian. Very basic.
But, we are loosing it. Well, yes our minds, of course, but I meant the Italian language. Anyone who takes a language will tell you that unless you practice it, often, your chances of retaining it are slim. And so, we have no Italian speaking friends or family. Little by little we forget.
So, I started perusing continuing education classes in our area. Low and behold, we found a class that was beginning in a week. Ahh, perfeto!! And the best part is, it is an ongoing program..so we can keep going. Italian I thru Italian V. 10 weeks each. We are it in for the long haul.
Monday night was our first class. Italian I. And lets just say, it is not your basic, fun, just for kicks and giggles class. It is like a college course. Gulp. *hard swallow* I haven’t been in a college class for, well, um, lets see, the better part of 20 years. I am scared. I buy notebooks, I bring pens. I hope there is no final exam.
Our teacher is adorable. She is about 70, short wavy gray hair, glasses and about 4′ 2". She is from Sicily and has taught Italian here for about 40 years. She gave us a fascinating little lesson on the history of the Italian language and dialects. Then we got down to the nitty gritty. Let me just show you some of things we learned and what I have to look forward too…
- As far as pronunciation, in Italian you say what you see. Already easier than French.
- The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters. They don’t use j, k, w, x, y. Even better, less letters to memorize.
- In Italian, nouns are both masculine and feminine. Huh, words with a gender? Basically, if it ends in e or o, it is masculine. If a word ends in a, it is feminine. Generally. Uh, but there are always exceptions. We don’t have this in English. A word just is what it is, there are no body parts involved, no sexuality, no sexual tension. Oh, that’s right, Italian is a romance language.
- The stress on the word happens in the 2nd syllable, counted from the end of the word to the beginning. Like in Italia…e-taaal-ya. You carry the vowel a little longer. But..not all the time. Take Medici. You would think it would be meh-deee-chee. Nope, it is mehhh-di-chee. Stress on the 1st syllable. We asked our teacher how you would know. She shrugs her shoulders in true Italian fashion and said " You won’t know, till you hear it spoken and you remember it". Great. Clear as mud.
- We learned that there are not a lot of character or accents marks in Italian. The accent mark in Italian is usually misrepresented by an accent grave (è ), but it is truly more like a half moon sign above the letter (ĕ). The text books are lying to us- not a good sign.
- Last, but not least, we learned how to construct a sentence. I give you my first written sentence in Italian…
Compro il vino, il pane e la farina per la famiglia di Maria. Which translates to I am buying wine, bread and flour for Maria’s family.
Fascinating, I know.
We already have homework for next week. I have my own goal. How to say ‘Oh My God, what have I gotten myself into?‘…in Italian.