Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Studio l'italiano!

Britta Huegel

Dear You,
I did it - for the fourth week now each Monday evening you find me sitting on one of the dwarf-chairs of an Italian-German primary school in Berlin, trying to "parlare - parlo, parlai, parla" in that beautiful language, Italian.
I have to confess that I always looked with a sort of prejudice at women who started to learn Italian when advancing in life and years - those that I know were always at the shady side of forty
(hopefully reading books like "The Tao of Turning Fifty" or "Younger by the Day" - the latter an excellent book by the way, written by Victoria Moran). They were always members of a posh tennis or golf club, flirting somehow desperately with their coaches (insegnante for tennis or Italian - it was the same to them - only young he had to be, and beautiful).
Of course now, when I signed in at the Italian cultural institute, one of my acquaintances thought it illuminating and helpful to remind me of my beautiful Italian massage therapist.
'Innocent until proven guilty' will hopefully apply to me, too (and by the way: he speaks German, so why bother?)
Why bother indeed? 
(It is not that I have a trauma as the photo above might indicate, taken at one of my youthful stays in Italy, entitled : "All dressed up and nowhere to go" - in German we say "booked and unclaimed", which doesn't sound better). 

My reasons: 
- I love the language
- I want to train my brain, yep
- maybe we will at one stage of our life live in Munich, and then Italy is oh so near
- I want to read Fruttero & Lucentini in Italian

Those of you who know my deep passion for E.F.Benson might fear of having a "déjà-vu", entering my salotto:

'Georgie found Britta Lucia very full of talk that day at luncheon, and was markedly more Italian than usual. Indeed she put down an Italian grammar when he entered the drawing room, and covered it up with the essays of Antonio Caporelli. (...) 
"Ben arrivato, Georgio," she said. "Ho finito il libro di Antonio Caporelli quanto momento. E magnifico!" 
Georgi thought that she had finished it long ago, but perhaps he was mistaken. The sentence flew off Lucia's tongue as if it was perched there all quite ready. 
"Sono un poco fatigata dopo il - dear me how rusty I am getting in Italian, for I can't remember the word," she went on. 
(from: Make Way For Lucia)  

If you think, as many of my friends do, that it must be EASY- PEASY for me to learn Italian, because I'm quite fit in French, and less fit in Latin, and know those beautiful English words that have Latin roots, you are wrong. It isn't.
Take the word: "to repeat". In French: répéter. In Italian: ripetere.
See it at one glance? "ripetere" - but the French é instead of the Italian i is not easily erased from my mind.
But though I have to cram hard, it is fun - our (female!) teacher is an Italian who writes her dissertation on Kierkegaard here at Berlin's university, and she and my classmates are very interesting and funny.


20 comments:

  1. I admire you for continuing to improve your mind. Accomplishing something you have wished to do is a bonus.

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    1. Dear Emma, thank you! I think all bloggers are doing it - writing a blog is mind-work too. And pleasant as well.

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  2. Ciao Britta ….. I have so much admiration for you. It' not easy, learning a new language, especially when we get a bit older. Our son was really good at languages but I only manage French at school and our daughter was much better than me….. not my forté, I'm afraid, although, I always learn a few words of the language of the countries that we visit….Croatia was rather challenging !!!!
    Italy is one of our favourite holiday destinations so, maybe I should follow your example.
    Enjoy your new venture Britta and buona fortuna !! XXXX

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    1. Dear Jackie, you are so right: it ain't that easy as it has been before. (Query: what is?) The only consolation is that we learned a few tricks to avoid detours, hopefully - and might have a bit more discipline. I love your way of learning foreign language to be able to make a bit conversation in a foreign land. A friend of mine is from Serbia - I think the language is not easy to learn (in school I learned for 3 years Russian - but forgot very much of it - I would not die of hunger there, but could not speak about Dostoevsky :-)
      See you in Italy - people there don't mind when we are not perfect - that's what I like!

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  3. I think it's fabulous to learn something new... no matter how old we are, and for whatever reason. Learning new things and meeting new people keeps our minds alert, our spirits young, and our lives more enjoyable. Good for you!

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    1. Dear Susan, of course learning something new is not depending on age (though for most of us it takes longer). I am really astonished when I look at a page in my book the next day - after having really crammed in the grammar and vocabulary - and then get only half of it right. (If another person would tell me that, I would laugh inwardly - 'Four lessons, dear child!' - and then console her: 'Don't be that hard upon yourself!' With me that is a different matter... thought I would get mellower with age, but am still waiting...)

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  4. Good for you. Is there any harm in speaking Italian with a French accent?

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    1. Dear Joanne, I love accents! (And it was never my aim to speak English better than Queen Mum :-) For example I instantly adopted the word "pöb" - as my sweet French friends call a 'pub' so charmingly.
      No - it is the writing that annoys me. (Though, come to think of it: with the years passing on it doesn't seem to trouble me that much any more - look at my English here...)

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  5. Ciao Britta - I am sure that you will soon master speaking Italian - once you have one or two languages up your sleeve it activates parts of the brain that remain redundant for we lesser mortals.
    Arrivederci

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    1. Dear Rosemary, I'm not so sure about the "soon". The method of teaching is different today: lots and lots of conversation (which I love), but no recognizable system (I have to confess that I secretly bought an old-fashioned grammar book - I mean: how can I learn a language without being able to do declinations? Know tenses?)
      Of course I am a beginner - it reminds me of beginners studying Law: you have to explain one thing by using terms you don't know either... Well - I'll just hop into the water - caldo or fredo ...

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  6. You are my role model, doing this. Brava!

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    1. Dear Sue, I am absolutely sure that you are as ironic as I am (partly) in my post above. If not, I thank you, but humbly and strongly recommend the only female role model that E.F.Benson drew with real sympathy: Olga Braceley, the opera singer. Au Reservoir!

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  7. Britta: I commend you! For many years, I taught college in Europe and it was necessary to study foreign languages. It was fairly easy for me because, while my first language was English, my parents and grandparents spoke Italian, I studied Latin in school, I adopted a 5 year old Spanish-speaking child from South America, lived on the Canadian border where French was commonly spoken, and since my wife is half German, we visited often and I picked it up quickly. The answer: It is absolutely essential to immerse yourself into the culture if you want to pick it up quickly. Buona fortuna!

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    3. Dear JJ, I wanted to change one sentence (about me spending time in England which could sound ambiguously), but then everything was deleted.
      So I'll try again:
      I am very impressed about your knowledge of so many languages, and think it is a blessing when parents enable us to learn them early. Does your child grow up with English and Spanish? My 3 nephews do that with German + French - my brother-in-law is French.
      I agree with your advice to plunge into culture and country of the language one wants to learn. I do that every year - at least for a month I stay in England. Husband then visits me for a few days, but on the whole I stay on my own - in a place where I haven't been before (except London - but there I change the place where I live) and where I don't know anybody - a good way to find out whether one is still able to function on one's own.

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    4. Britta: For three years after the adoption, I spoke only Spanish to her, while the rest of the family spoke English. However, once she felt comfortable in school, she unfortunately lost much of her Spanish.

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  8. Dear Brigitta,
    Your passion for languages impresses and amazes me. I wish I had your aptitude for it. I shall be 65 this year and have not yet mastered English. However, my daughter-in-law is Vietnamese and I love to hear her converse with her father. In 10 years I have picked up enough vocabulary to understand one word in twenty. At this rate, I shall be fluent in 200 years. Very enjoyable post post!

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    1. Dear Geo.,
      hearing You say that you haven't mastered English is really funny! You are able to use the subtle notes of a foreign language to create poetry and/or deeply humoristic essays - now that's exactly my definition of mastership!
      To have a daughter-in-law from another culture must be fascinating! (I instantly snatched from Susan the word 'daughter-in-love' for mine - now people think that I am a prescholer in English).
      As to the post post: I often forget that I am in the World Wide Web - not writing a letter with my quill gliding over the laid paper...
      Geo., I jotted down a meeting in 2214 - come to think of it: even then I will not be able to understand Vietnamese -- I will still have to use my 'Broken English', as Marian Faithful so beautifully sings. One benefit: I don't have to write post posts then - I am sure we understand each other perfectly! As we do now .

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  9. Lovely! I am so happy to read this post and know you are in the process of adding to your language repertoire! Your zeal for something new and interesting is inexhaustible, B. I love it.

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