Thursday, October 6, 2011

Snookie is my italian teacher

The sun is a little spotty today, meaning that the normal blue sky is dotted with clouds with even more in the distance. The weather reports have ominously been predicting the long-overdue-but-still-sad end of summer for a few days now. This weekend, I'm afraid, is it. The weather drops from 82 and sunny to 68 and cloudy, and the bargain traveling tourists who got a cheap flight and great room rates for coming to Italy in October will find that their weather luck has run out.
I, alas, have nothing interesting to report from my peaceful little corner of the world save for the winding down of the season and the weather. Unfortunately, though I lament that there is nothing to do here for the next few weeks, it's not for a lack of trying. Since Italian restaurant workers are paid much differently then American restaurant employees (the main difference being that they are, in fact, PAID), they have signed contracts agreeing to work a certain amount of hours for a certain amount of time that are paid ahead of time. The Cantina is expectedly slowing down since it's almost the second week of October, but workers are still obliged to work the same hours they've signed up for. This means that restaurants still stay open just as late, save for now I can spread out my Italian homework in the corner of the restaurant with no one to bother me, save for the occasional drunk tourist stumbling in to disturb the bartenders.
For me, it can be a welcome diversion as I am now teaching myself Lezione 15, which covers the non-stop excitement of the past conditional tense. As fun as it is in English, phrases like, "I would have gone to the party if he had had it on a Sunday", imagine it in this cobweb of grammar they call the Italian language.
I can speak, a little more every day, now, and though I'm still firmly denying to my boyfriend that I "speak" Italian, as we sat last night discussing what to order at dinner, in Italian, he stops, gives me a LOOK and comments, "For someone who claims not to speak Italian, I want to know what you'd call the language you're speaking right now."
Point, Manuel.
It's actually coming along more then I thought, and though I have these days where I can't even remember how to conjugate a regular "-ire" verb, I think my Italian is about where it should be. Silvia commented that maybe I'm learning too much, and I agree that may be the case, but learning a language doesn't work like that. Certo, it's probably better to sit in a room and practice the present tense of every verb until it's burned into your brain, then go on to the past tense (tensES in this language), future (S) and so forth, but when you live here and have to communicate with people it doesn't work like that. When I need to know how to say something and it's an answer I don't understand, I trudge home and look it up, then do some workbook exercises on how to use that verb, phrase, etc. When someone asks me "Potrebbe portarmi un menu?" I might get the gist, but you can bet on the fact that as soon as I get home I"m going to figure out what in God's name "potrebbe" means. All of this adds up to something of a unique way of learning the language, and a confusing one at that.
The irony of all this is that we still don't have TV, but I can get MTVItalia on demand on my computer. Watching Italian TV with subtitles is great for me, as I can read, listen and understand all at once. Here's what's funny - the only show they have is Jersey Shore. As an American from New Jersey, I never watched it. Not even once. Here, I'm glued to the screen. A learning tool, albeit a ridiculous one. I bet Snookie has no idea how useful she is, academically speaking. GTL in Italian is PLB, by the way.
But all things considered, I'm doing pretty good. My spelling in English, however, is drastically declining, as is my grammar, since I'm surrounded by fantastic people struggling to speak MY language in THEIR country, so I can't expect too much. It must be hilarious to listen to a conversation between Ema and I, which might take 5 minutes for me to get out 2 complete phrases in Italian, then her try and string together something in English.
My grammar in Italian might not be exemplary either, but I can make myself understood, which is no small feat. An e-mail to a yoga studio about classes was answered promptly, with no issues understanding the Italian I rapidly typed out - it might even have been correct. More then that, as Manuel and I ate last night in Sestri Levante (another town on the Ligurian Riviera, about 40 minutes to the west of Monterosso, towards France) the waitress explained the specials in Italian, and I understood. I ordered on my own, and was able to answer her questions on my preferences on my entree. I'm not exactly ready to give a speech to Parliament, but I did finish a riveting page turner written for 5 year old Italian kids about a little boy named Uri with a lisp, who can't make himself understood to adults around him. As Manuel's aunt keeps telling me, in her rapid fire of Italian, "piano piano". Step by step.
And even though it feels like an ending to the summer, it feels something like a beginning too...especially now that I can say it.

1 comment:

  1. American TV may be part of the reson why the rest of the world thinks Americans are crazy. I am glad that Jersey Shore has finally developed some value for somebody !