If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

07 April 2006

The best things in life are free...

"You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library" (Matt Damon playing Will Hunting in the eponymous movie)

"Education is hanging around until you've caught on" (R. Frost)

"You cannot teach a man anyhing; you can only help him find it in himself" (Galileo Galilei)

I have made frequent mention of my struggling Italian. Well, here's the thing about that: I am fairly confident that I could speak much better Italian than I currently do, using any of the following techniques:

1) Watch only Italian television *(which I do, save for the occasional DVD'd episode of Grey's Anatomy or Lost. Check!)

2) Refuse to speak in English to anyone (Except, hmmm. I have this pesky 40hour a week full time job, headquarted in America. They'd get a little peeved. Plus, I do have friends here from other countries - UK, Germany, etc, and often we are all just lazy - it's easier to converse in the common language that we're all a bit more proficient in than to struggle through in Italian).

3) Stop traveling out of Italy for long periods of time. (ref. 'pesky job,' above)

4) Be disciplined enough to spend three hours a day memorizing verb tables. Even one hour. Anything. If I could learn just through the osmosis of having books on my shelf, I'd be a genius on so many topics!

5) PERHAPS, have taken any sort of a class, ever. Guilty on this one. No, I have never taken an Italian class (here or in the US). For a while, my excuse was my unpredictable schedule. Now, I think I may just be generally opposed to the idea (ref. the gospel according to Will Hunting, above).

See, in a chat with a new friend, he mentioned that he's spending 42Euros per session for a 2 hour class, twice a week. Not-independently-wealthy-me does a quick calculation: That's $50 a class, $100 a week, $400 a month. (plus, for me, the minimum $10 per session for gas and parking fees to drive back and forth from class). I'm relatively confident that my approach is nearly as effective:

Allocate that SAME amount of money (or less!) to do things like buy new friends a cup of coffee, glass of wine, lunch, dinner... and ask them to only speak to me in Italian, and correct me when I say something stupid, and answer the nagging questions about when I really use the conditional tense of the verb, or whatever. Spend time talking to the bartender at the coffee bar. Especially in a small town, I'm amazed at people's willingness to teach. The beauty of this is the making of friends at the same time, classic two birds with one stone. And we can talk about real life useful things, like how to prune the salvia in my yard and what to expect during holy week... not 'where is the library' (which they teach you in every foreign language class and phrase book but I have yet to use). And I can go at my pace, not that of the slowest student in the class.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying it's necessarily the most efficient or structured method, but in a world of limited time and money, I do suggest it is an effective one. It just requires a little less shyness and a little more tenacity.
What do I have to lose?

Yes, Frost and Galileo would be proud: I'm hanging around until I find my inner Italian, one interaction at a time.


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