27th March 2017
An aunt of mine learnt German without studying or classes; but by spending a few months in the country. She learned “by ear”. I have nothing but envy for people like her.
Others must study: grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation-through-phonetics. For them, languages are logical, rule-based and can be calculated. I don’t have enough brain power (or focus) to perform that kind of calculus at the same time as speaking. And I doubt their intitial premise.
Personally, I need a little grammar (through study), reinforced through practise. I no longer have the patience to memorise vocab or conjugations. (At any rate, my sieve-brain forgets them as fast as I can learn them).
I can do a lot with a handful of verbs, some nouns, a few adjectives, and as many prepositions as I can get my hands on. Throw in an emotive face and unrestrained hands and communication is within your reach.
The first full day in Bologna was a baptism of fire. I was impressed by the teaching at Cultura Italiana (and I’ve been known to be fussy with language courses). The building was an ancient one in the heart of the city. The staff were welcoming, intelligent, charming. The class was approachable and challenging.
My classmates were mostly there with a similar passion for travel and learning. A couple of young university students completed the class. (One offered her condolences when I told her I was the tragic age of twenty-six!).
I didn’t last past lunch before trying my first ragù bolognese in its home town. In a small caffè in a side street, I ate tagliatelle and had a glass of red.
After another stroll and a coffee (al bar), we had a tour of the town centre followed by un aperitivo: a pre-dinner drink with a snack. The offering varies from crisps and olives to bread, cheese and hams. Stretch it out through dinnertime and it becomes an apericena.
I didn’t have time to apericenare however; I was meeting two Italians for dinner. They took me to Osteria della Tigre, owned by an Italian singer, Cremonini; the girl with us, holding out hope he might yet show up and perform an impromptu set for the diners.
On that front, we were disappointed. But the food was rich, flavourful and hearty. I had a breaded chicken escalope, with panna and prosciutto. A warm embrace from a cosy venue.
And the conversation was entirely in Italian! My parts were broken and had the occasional French/Spanish/English word thrown in. But on the second or third attempt, we mostly understood each other.
I went to bed that night full and pleased with myself.