Posts Tagged With: Learning Italian

Pronounce Those Endings!

Hmm, I wonder where the forks are?  “Dove sono le forchett….”  Le forchettE sono lì.   LE FORCHETTE!  Errrrrr how embarrassing to have my pronunciation corrected by a five year old in a fancy hotel breakfast room.  Of course we were in Tuscana the birth place of the Italian language.  Learning Italian has been challenging for me. It has also provided the entire village of Pontelandolfo with comic relief.  From school children to shopkeepers to old men playing scopa – everyone corrects me and giggles.  Some also roll their eyes and wander why they have to repeat a word 5 million times in order for me to remember it.  Yes, it does take a village to teach this old dog new tricks.  Hmm, that adage, “You Can’t Teach an Old Dogs New Tricks,” has really never resonated with me.

First of all – DEFINE OLD!  Go on – I dare you.  Secondly, learning a new language keeps the brain young and active.  Thirdly – well – I started to learn Italian when I was 50.  It has been 17 years and I’m still learning.  I hear you – why didn’t she listen to her grandmother?  Why didn’t she learn Italian as a child?  Why?  Because growing up in rural agrarian Somerset County, New Jersey I never heard Italian.

86950-PH-GFB1-034 Unlike the kids growing up in urban pockets of Italian families, I never heard Italian.  Not one of the five Italian families in Flagtown, New Jersey spoke Italian within my ear-shot.  My grandmother, aunts and uncles – all born in Italy – spoke unaccented standard American English.  I thought that was the norm.  I didn’t know that some kids grew up in duo-lingo Italian American families.  DUH!

When I was older I asked Zia Caterina why not one member of our family spoke Italian to us.  There were two reasons – one was survival.  They needed to assimilate to get jobs and not be picked on.  Aunt Cat recalled the taunts of dumb dago or wop and the smack she got on the head from her first teacher in Dundee Lake (Passaic County) because she had just arrived and didn’t understand English. Simple, they had to be American so they had to learn English. The second reason infuriates me.  I was born just after World War II – that period of time when Italian Americans were put in interment camps.  Yup, just like the Japanese.  Fear of Mussolini’s ties to Hitler and Fascism ignited the ignorant and Italian immigrants – many of whom had sons serving in the American military were whisked from their homes and locked up.  No one talks about it. Italo-Americano refer to it as  Una Storia Segreta – the Secret Story.  Italian Americans couldn’t have a wireless radio.  They had curfews. My Uncle Nick, who was too old to be naturalized with my grandparents, was threatened with deportation.

I’ve seen a few documentaries on this period and they incite me.  Today, when I hear politicians talk about opening up interment camps and building walls I wonder how many Americans know their history and understand what that means?  Not every person of a race or a religion is evil.  Hell, my family wasn’t evil.

enemy

My family took the signs to heart and “spoke American.”   Actually, they spoke English better than lots of folks I have known.  They were so good at it that Italian may be in my DNA but it isn’t embedded in my cervello. Studying Italian is a challenge that grounds me in my past and opens doors to new beginnings.  In New Jersey, I study with other Italophiles at Dorothea’s House in Princeton.  For total immersion in a fabulous ocean front city, I head to Alghero, Sardegna and Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera.

Learning the language has introduced me to parts of my heritage that I have embraced and history that has both saddened and intrigued me.  My Italian – as rough as it is –  has helped me research my family tree, become part of the fabric of the village and make new friends on both sides of the Atlantic.  I figure, I am not too old to learn and if I wasn’t learning and exploring my brain would turn to mush.

Ci Vediamo!

 

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Categories: Practical Matters - Living Abroad | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Learning Italian in Sardegna – Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera

Learning a language can be an onerous activity – especially if you are in your garret reading your verb lists by candle light.  I studied French for 4 years in high school and can barely buy bread in Paris.  Italian wasn’t spoken to me at all – well pass the mapeen and sta zitta – but that was it.

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My first real brush with the language was after my first trip to Pontelandolfo – in a year when the dinosaurs roared in tongues over the earth.  I was twenty-something and had come to visit the village of my heritage with my Aunt Catherine and two cousins.  We assumed that since Aunt Cat was born here and left when she knew the language well that she would be our translator – NOT.  She spoke the arcane dialect of Pontelandolfo.  I knew we were in trouble when we landed in Milano and she asked a question to be told “we don’t speak Spanish here.”  Thank the Universe I had a trusty Berlitz phrase book with me. 

I played with learning Italian but didn’t get committed until 1999 – the year I returned to Pontelandolfo with my family tree in hand and found my dad’s first cousins.  When I got home,  I went to Brookdale College, Somerset County College and finally Dorothea’s House in Princeton.  All experiences had their pluses and minuses.  Next, to nudge Jack into learning the language I researched immersion schools in Italy.  I would go to websites, send an e-mail and hear nothing.  Or worse, I would call – all saying they were multi-lingual – and no one spoke English and could tell me about the place.  Than I found Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera!  The school is located in Alghero on the magical island of Sardegna.

Love the school. Could I win the lottery and stay here?  I spoke with one of the directors, Nicola, and was assured that the classes were small – which they were capping out at about six people.  She speaks multiple languages flawlessly.  She told me about the teaching staff  – think Ph’ds who aren’t yawners.  The facility was up a flight of stairs in the heart of the old part of the city.  That location puts the school in the middle of the art and culture that makes Alghero fabulous.  It also means you are within walking minutes of the sea.  When she told me the price – I was sold!

On a sunny May day, Jack and I packed a notebook and pens and headed for Sardenga.  The sea surrounds the city, May means fewer tourists and cheaper airfare. We were not disappointed in our choice of schools or the location.  

Why didn’t someone tell me when I was younger that studying language in the place the language was spoken not only makes great academic sense BUT – you meet really cool people.  People who like to travel like we do – sans reservations, sans itinerary.  Just go, explore and do!  The people we met in our classes – Jack and I weren’t together – I was a bluebird and he was – well – on the little bus – anyway the people were GREAT. 

Jack has no idea what Mascha is saying.

Jack is studying – but who – I mean what?

We met two smart pithy women from Germany, a tall handsome Dutchman, and a really interesting guy who lived in Dubai but was from Tasmania!  Instantly, we all bonded over caffè, were forced to speak Italian or – gulp- English.  Since of course, everyone else spoke their language plus English. 

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Caffè and Conversation Between Classes

Since I can’t keep two languages going in my brain at the same time, the small full immersion classes worked for me. The faculty not only had advanced degrees in languages but I swear were all actors.  You have to be a an actor to communicate with six wildly wicked adult students who want to learn your language but really don’t understand a spoken word. 

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Jack gets personal attention from a great and talented teacher.

The classes focused on both grammar and conversation.  The homework did not make me pull out my teeth.  Every moment was very interactive.  No one wanted to put their head down on the desk and snore.

Smile guys the audienc is clapping.

Check Out Who Sings With the Professional Classical Group? – Yup, our teacher!

Not only does the school have a great graded curriculum, but they made all of the living arrangements for us too.  We rented a charming house for the two week course that was right in the heart of the historic center of Alghero.  That meant close to world class bars, restaurants and shops.

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Our New Dutch Pal Cooking Dinner at Our House.

Marion, another Berliner, sows up fo the last pizza party.

In a great local joint with our new found school pals.

Every morning, following the narrow cobblestone streets, we would walk to the school.  Classes ran for about four hours every morning – with a break to speak to the locals and have caffè.  Then we would find a charming place for lunch, Jack would go for a walk and I would sit, stare at the sea, pretend to write and drink Prosecco. The school also ran cultural immersion classes I took a cooking class that was scads of fun.  The hunky chef owns one of the local restaurants.  We started out shopping and then back to his kitchen to prepare a meal that we then ate paired with fabulous local wine.

Last time I swim with the dolphins.

The Tuna Was Really Fresh!

Note our Chef/teacher in the backgound  - cute too.

We Were Shucking and Yucking in the Kitchen.

Jack and I were so in love with the place that I convinced pals from Dorothea’s House to come too.  We went back one January – which means during Epiphany – the city was alive with holiday spirit and the staff of Pintadera made sure we knew what was going on and participated. 

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La Befana Was Everywhere!  Even Lots of Women Dressed as La Befana!

I would love to be in Alghero every January – anybody want to send me?  Huge gangs of men dressed in black and sporting berets moved as one up and down the narrow streets singing in tight harmony.  Children raced from one La Befana to another asking for treats.  The spectacular theatre featured free live entertainment.  The Living Manger Scene really touched me, the actors were all persons with disabilities who took their roles seriously and were applauded by all.

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Living Manger

There was so much to do and experience that sometimes “my dog ate my homework” for the next class at Pintadera.  The extras that the school provided included a wonderful walking tour of the historic center filled with tales of the season.  Another fun filled extra was a class on the use of your hands when speaking Italian.  No – we did not learn how to flip the bird – that is not – OK maybe they do it  – but it is not Italian.

Chiara uses those gestures when we are BAAAAAAAAD.

How About A Class in Italian Hand Speak!

Through shaky lenses we discover it might just be...

Great Bar Beneath January Apartment – All LOCAL Wines and Foods

In May the city is filled with sun and walking on the sea wall is magical.  In January it gets dark a lot sooner but walking on the sea wall is still magical.  I felt like a princess wrapped in a cloak an walking the castle walls looking out to sea, waiting for my prince to return.  There was so much life in the city during the holiday season that it was impossible to feel cold.  Also, it wasn’t as cold in Alghero in January as it was in New Jersey.

Why aren't the lights in Flagtown this cute?

Sea Wall At Night!  During the day I stared and stared.

Go to Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera and create your own story.  http://www.pintadera.info/

Associazione Culturale
Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera
Vicolo Adami 41
07041 Alghero (SS)
Tel: +39 079 917064 / +39 079 983311
Mobile: +39 328 885 7367
Skype: pintaderalgheroP

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Practical Matters - Living Abroad, Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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