Thursday, February 10, 2005

Swimming the Linguistic Seas

I love Italy. It is a fact of my life that I have an unending fascination with the history, the architecture, the art, the beauty, the food...so much of what makes up the incredible fabric of this culturally-rich country. It is a dream of ours to one day live there for at least a couple years. To do that, of course, I will need to learn the language.

I have gotten my feet wet during trips to Italy, learning key phrases and conversing in a stunted kind of way to get across my meaning. The Italians have proved themselves incredibly patient with this linguistic slaughtering on my part, smiling and nodding and assisting me frequently, even pretending that I am quite conversant, offering complimenti on speaking Italian molto bene, completely ignoring the fact that I am desperating grasping my dictionary and spitting out pigeon Italian, unable to twirl the r's or get my tongue around the double dipthongs.

I waded into the language a bit further by taking a beginner's Italian class a few years ago, but I still do not have a real indepth knowledge, or even the ability to converse in full sentences, which I really need in order to make the most of our travels, and our hopeful residency there.

So when my dear husband saw a listing for a Conversational Italian class through our local university's continuing education division, he began in earnest to "strongly encourage" me to enroll, mostly to alleviate the pressure to be bothered with the language himself, thus assuring he can continue to rely on my linguistic skills, however meager they may be. "Just do it," he said and thus continued to "encourage" (well, pester) me. So I decided to take the plunge and dive into the rather advanced Italian Conversation class. I'm in over my head. I belly-flopped into the deep end and now find myself desperately treading water.

The other classmates are far more advanced, understand much more, and have a much better grasp of grammar than I. They have been formally learning the language for several years and easily, confidently converse using the imperfect, the past tense, the future tense, indirect object pronouns...all of which are murky waters for me. They give me pitying glances when I try to translate sentences. But I will not let their linguistic arrogance deter me. I shall mutter and grunt out phrases in the present tense, such intelligeable statements as "When I am in Italy two years last ago and me go to north and it is much snowing....", and I will not let their tortured looks of incomprehension stop me!

I just hope that in the midst of this determination I don't get a cramp and sink to the bottom. But for now, and maybe for the duration, I'm gurgling and snorting sea water as I try to keep my head above water. As I listen to their superior flow of words, I may begin to learn more. They may even help me swim the doggy paddle instead of treading in one spot searching for a life preserver. At least that is my hope. If not successful, you may find me on shore, traveling Italy while muttering disconnected Italian words. In the present tense only, of course.

Copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

1 comment:

Lynn Schibeci said...

I love Italy, too, Valerie, and really enjoyed reading your blog today. But what about that subjunctive?! Lynn