The Italian Job

So, every year I set myself various challenges. This I do primarily to stop myself from getting bored and also to give myself something to do in between writing, reading, teaching and dancing.  This year, as readers of this blog will know, I’ve decided to learn Italian.

Step 1:          Come down from my crazy Christmas high which was created by spending way too much time with fantastic friends, eating great food and generally imbibing outrageous quantities of mulled spirits.

Step 2:          Run around the house screaming in panic as I realise I’ve set myself yet another insane challenge.

Step 3:          Take several deep breaths of lavender aroma therapy oil then trawl through the internet to find a site to help me complete my challenge.

There was of course Babble. I shied away – the biblical image the name invoked was too strong and made me envisage failure even before I’d begun. Then there was the very useful Foreign Office site which provides a wealth of resources but contains a lot of information about official names for foreign office staff and the types of uniform worn by the armed forces, as well as formal and informal forms of address for these particular people. I decided this was possibly not the right site for me. So I went on another search and finally found Duolingo.

Duolingo kindly informs me of my progress on a daily basis. Now, 3 months along, it tells me that my knowledge of Italian stands at 34%. I distrust the algorithm as I’m certain my knowledge is nowhere near that capacity. In my estimation it’s probably more like 25%. The hardest thing I’m having to deal with is remembering vocab. Thank heavens for the flashcards.

For some reason my brain refuses to learn question words and I’m constantly referring to my set of post-it notes. Duolingo has a system which allows you to translate from Italian to English and vice versa. I can do this fairly quickly but cheat as I can check word meanings. I'm also an ace at the multiple choice component on the site. But the minute I attempt the timed exercises I bomb out. The days of the week elude me. So far I’ve only managed to secure Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Mmmm, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that together they make up the weekend. I leave you to decide.

Am trying to self-test as I go, but I’m not very strict with myself. I bet my students would be a whole lot tougher on me and direct me to LEARN all that vocab I keep forgetting.

One of my favourite sentences to date involves a monkey and jam which I just know I’m going to be using a great deal when I next travel to Italy. Another tells me that a snake is eating a spider – the law of the jungle played out even in an Italian lesson. But I’ve also learnt a crucial directive in Italian and I put it to you now folks.

Leggi I miei libri.

I don’t need to say much more. As an author it is the only Italian sentence I need to communicate my desires. I confess I’m tempted to leave the lessons at this point and not bother any more. However, I plan on persisting since I’ve still got to learn how to ‘blow the bloody doors off’.


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