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27 December 2007

No, I wasn't keeping my head down about my AS exam result. I got a B which was very satisfactory all things considered. Two people in the group got well deserved A grades, and there were two other Bs as I remember. Was my own B truly, honestly deserved? Um... yes, I think so. I definitely put the work in. I think it did represent quite well the standard I'd reached. There are two reservations. One is that an AS grade only represents half of a full A Level. It'd be nice to have the whole thing, and the rest of it includes the Literature component I have every reason to think I'd be competent at. But it would be another year of slog, and it would be somewhere else, with a new setup and a new teacher to adjust to. What's more, it turns out that the B grade only counts toward the full A Level for another three years. So I wouldn't put any money on it happening. Listening to the other members of the group, there only Maria seemed to be trying to organise a further course for herself. We had later communications from the College about a conversation course for this year. But it was for Monday mornings, at the College itself, half an hour's drive away. No, I'd mentally signed myself off from Italian, for a while at least. I wanted to crack on with the Finnish.

Two reservations, I said. The other rather melancholy feeling is to do with the point of it all. Yes, studying Italian is a very good end in itself, and I may do it again. But I know I can take exams, and pass them (mostly!). I know I've covered most of the basic grammar. With revision, I can write and read a bit, and maybe stumble through some simple spoken words with a patient Italian. But raising my head from the books, I know if this means anything I need to experience real Italian in real Italy. If and when that happens, I hope I still have something in the tank. Last week Fabio Capello was gving his first press conference as the new England manager. He says he's going to learn English in a month; at that point he'll probably speak better English than some of the team. But for now he is using an interpreter. I watched the conference on BBC 24 so it was unedited and I could hear his Italian. I must admit, although I could follow little bits of it, overall my understanding wasn't good, which gives me some perspective on my current standard; he was obviously speaking good clear Italian. I kind of hope he holds off speaking English in public a little longer, I'd like another chance!


14 July 2007

It did become a bit of a grind. Shame, because most people do an evening class for enjoyment, and you don't mind some hard work, but you want to relax a bit as well; however, when you're doing an AS course in one year, just one evening a week, this is how it has to be. The exams seemed to go okay, I wouldn't say more than that. The oral was very frustrating. I really got into the subject (of calcio), I had loads of good stuff to say, but it was the nature of the test that I managed to get very little out. A couple of questions I didn't get at all. At least my introduction was good, but that's a speech you prepare beforehand. As for the listening test, I was dreading that, because there's so much scope for time management problems, when you're having to wind and rewind the tape machines. But I got it spot on. Whether I got the answers right is another matter of course! As with the reading and writing test. Those two exams were on the same very long afternoon, after the listening. Afterwards I was shattered but relieved as well. Crossed fingers that I have the pass I want; the results come out in a month's time.

I suppose I should be writing about the language, not the exams. I think my standard did continue to rise. Right to the end, I was still learning new points of grammar, especially to do with the subjunctive. My vocabulary improved a lot this year too. But here's the eternal problem with exams: the course is over, and I haven't thought any Italian since. No plans to travel to Italy, and none to do a class next year either. The Italian girl from Roma down at the chippy has gone home. But there is Paola at the Finnish school to test me :)


27 February 2007

Since half term we've moved into exam mode, and we're now very aware of the Summer target dates. We're still doing new topics and grammar, but it's becoming a bit more of a grind. We've just been asked to choose the topic for our presentazione. I'd been complacent; apart from a few obscure interests, ie. unsuitable for this purpose, there isn't anything I'm really into. To do with Italy, which it has to be. And it is in fact a very long time since I made my one brief trip to Italy, to Venezia. So I'm going to do calcio, because I'm interested enough to be able to research quite happily, and as a topic it ticks all the boxes, including current social issues.

What about the language itself? The grammar book we've been using is quaintly old fashioned, but I've been going much more throughly into areas only superficially dealt with at GCSE level, matters like pronouns and prepositions... Not easy, Italians seem to make certain pronouns, ci in particular, go a long way, doing several different jobs ...and into a few new verb areas, most recently the subjunctive. In our last couple of homework essays, I've been throwing the subjunctive in to a degree which would get me lamped if I did it in English. I mean, I'm thinking of the annoyance that is provoked by hedging around and not making a clear statement. The last essay title was, 'C'è troppo violenza in tv?' You think I was going to provide a simple clear cut answer to that one?

PS - an example this week of linguistic confusion. The circumstances, going over an exercise in class, were frustrating because my mistake wasn't at all obvious to me until people started laughing; I had written a sentence about 'going out' using 'sortire'. No, that's the French. Sortir, that is. The Italian verb is uscire. Huh. And huh again.


10 October 2006

There are a dozen of us taking the AS Italian course, half of the group familiar from before. It's a half hour drive away, and unlike the earlier GCSE course, these are three hour sessions starting at 6, which has taken some adjusting to, what with making my tea much earlier and then having to drive through thicker traffic to get there. We've had three lessons so far and we're dealing with various topical themes. Last night it was computer use, and I found myself in one Q&A session revealing that I had a web site; luckily we moved on and no one asked me later what it consisted of, because I then remembered I had these pages prominently featured all about my language classes :) We're also going back to basics, using an old grammar book which because it's out of print we're being given in photocopied form. This means I'll have to spend time on organising my notes. Not one of my strengths. On the up side, I seem to be retaining much of my previous knowledge and while my relative fluency varies from time to time - especially when she's caught me with a surprise question - overall my Italian seems to be becoming usable. The main downer for us all is that we definitely start to flag at the two and a half hour mark, as I could see looking around the classroom at that point, and also hear, when certain people with an otherwise good standard of spoken Italian began stumbling.


8 August 2006

Imagine taking up English, from scratch, and straightaway plunging into Shakespeare. That's basically what I did with Italian. My very first acquaintance with the language was with Dante and La Divina Commedia.

This was not a sensible way to go about things, but at the time the point wasn't to learn a language. I was at university, studying at the Department of English and Related Literature. I had a minor change of course, which suddenly meant I would have to make good on that 'Related Literature' bit. I figured that since I didn't have a French 'A' Level, I'd be at a huge disadvantage if I took one of the French papers on offer, but Italian on the other hand wasn't so common, so I did the paper on Dante. I didn't do very well; looking back on it, I'm amazed that I even managed the grade I did, what with handing it in late after an all-nighter. There was a so-called intensive Italian Course available in which I was well out of my depth, taught by a proud lady who took the view that her methods worked brilliantly with everyone, and if you weren't up to it, you sort of became invisible.

You would think from all that that I must have had a miserable time and how come I ever wanted to look at a word of Italian again. Yes, I can't quite understand it either. I did flounder, and weaken my overall grade, and I didn't enjoy struggling with the basics. And yet. One thing is that I dimly understood why Dante is regarded as one of the greatest figures of world literature; and the other thing is that like so many people I just love the sound of Italian. You sort of get why Italians are more interested in socialising than most other nations. If I was Italian I too would want to talk all the time.

Years went by. In various places I lived, I often attended Italian courses, which I generally enjoyed although I still found the learning difficult. I managed one brief trip to Italy, to Venice one freezing but beautiful February. I spoke a tiny amount of Italian, without much confidence. When I moved here, I naturally had a look to see what was on offer, and found myself on a GCSE course down the road. And somehow I started making progress. One novelty was having a native English teacher, which I suspect meant she understood some of the difficulties. And it was a nice group which got on well. I got an A*!!! This last year some of us carried on with an intermediate year, with a view to doing the 'AS' course from this September. This'll be a challenge, because I've never been up to that standard in any language so far. Who knows, in due course, I may be up to reading La Divina Commedia...

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
Che la via diritta era smarritta...

Apologies for any mistakes, that's purely from memory. The quote seems to fit my language learning. My straight way ahead had been forever smarritta; but there are signs I may be emerging from the obscure wood of linguistic confusion. (Shame he can't do that with his English, they all say :)


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