Sunday, June 19, 2011
We’re about to start our second week of Italian language classes at Madrelingua school. Roberto is in the low intermediate class, while Cinzia is advanced. We pretty much knew that before we ever got here, but the placement test the school gave us when we registered confirmed it: Roberto 23/44 correct, Cinzia 41/44.
Every weekday morning we walk about six minutes from our apartment to the school, stopping along the way for a cappuccino and pastry. We probably pass 8 or 10 bar/cafes where we could get excellent coffee, but Impero and Severio on Via dell’ Independenza are the current favorites. Here’s the portone for the school (and a dozen other enterprises and apartments in the building). Class starts at 0930.
One story up from the street are the modern classrooms and offices of Madrelingua. The school is truly international. Last week between our two classes there were students from Germany, Sweden, Brazil, the Azores, Spain, China, Japan and the U.S.A. It’s no wonder that all business and class work is conducted only in Italian. It’s the only language everyone has in common!
Grammar occupies the first two hours of the day. Last week we distinguished between passato prossimo and imperfetto; covered imperativo, futuro semplice and futuro anteriore; and struggled a bit with comparatives among other challenges. That can be hard work, so every day at 1130 the whole school, including all the teachers, troops down the street to a bar/cafe for a hit of caffeine and perhaps a small panino. We sit in small groups and carry on social conversations in Italian while savoring a pleasant habit of life in Italy.
About noon or a little after we return to our lessons until 1330, when normal instruction ends and the traditional Italian lunch period starts. Both of our classes have been reading articles (at different levels of difficulty) about social conditions (workplace equality, stay-at-home adult kids) and lifestyle topics (food, film). On Friday we also had a little test that involved both writing a letter to a friend and reading comprehension. I did great on the comprehension. I haven’t gotten my graded letter back yet, but I’m afraid it might have been mine that got the instructor laughing uncontrollably.
The school also organizes activities outside of class to help us feel comfortable in public and to have some fun. One day after class ended about 10 of us went for lunch at a nearby osteria, a simple neighborhood restaurant. Bread, salad, a plate of pasta, dessert and wine. It took the better part of two hours, but we didn’t need dinner and it was very reasonable. Another evening about 6 p.m. we went with one of the staff to a bar near the Piazza Maggiore for drinks and what the bars call aperitivi. This actually amounts to a buffet of vegetables, salads, cold meats, pastas, and various savory bites—which are free when you buy a drink. Another evening when we didn’t need more for dinner—though we did find space for some gelato. The school also organized a cooking class and dinner, but that will be the subject of another entry coming soon.
This week will probably be our last at the school. We should be in pretty good shape to improve on our own after that and to function comfortably in Italian society. And the cool thing is that to eat like a king you only have to be able to speak to the padrone of a ristorante as well as a 5-year-old does—and I think I’m getting close.