Back in February 1997 I decided to learn Italian and I purchased a great text entitled Teach Yourself Beginners Italian by Vittoria Bowles. Over the years this was followed by Teach Yourself Italian, a travellers' guide & tapes, an interactive computer programme, lots of language guides and a set of CDs. Always I came back to the first book which had all you really need to get some grasp of the language.
On and off over the last 18 years we have dabbled in the language and visited Italy multiple times.
As the years went by it became easier to survive without speaking any Italian at all. Train tickets can be purchased from a machine which 'speaks' English and accepts credit cards, the village market is being overtaken by supermarkets (even self check out!), and more Italian people are learning English and are keen to show off their language skills.
But that is no excuse! Last year's five week stay in Panicale showed us how generous the people are and how they try harder to communicate with us than we were trying to communicate with them. A lovely old gentleman who sits at the corner responded to our simple question with a barrage of language way beyond us. To our 'Non capisco!', he just smiled and continued on with great enthusiasm. In the end we did work out what villages were on top of the distant hills ... but that was pretty poor on our part.
So we have signed up for lessons to learn how to speak Italian. Once a week we are travelling to Melbourne for our lesson at the Centre of Italian Studies in Carlton. This involves three hours travel each way by car, train, bus & tram ... but we are determined.
Our teacher, Maria, did not speak a word of English for at least the first 20 minutes. What a good way to start. The lessons are very interactive with the other 10 class members and there was nowhere to hide so I had to forget the nerves (well, sort of) and get on with it!
Each level goes for 10 weeks - we shall see how we progress in that time but we hope to fit in the second level before we depart for Panicale this year, and hopefully show some improvement in our oral skills in the Italian language.