Babilonia in Taormina, Sicily
If the Spanish Doesn’t Kill Me the French Will
Just when I’m starting to get the Spanish under control and am speaking mostly Italian, the school is flooded with French speakers. Their accent is so heavy at times and their Italian sprinkled with French, that I can’t tell which language they are speaking. It becomes a real problem because it’s enough French that my mind wants to switch over to French.
I was leaving school today and I ran into two classmates, one French and the other a German speaking Swiss woman who also speaks French. They were discussing our homework assignments and the difference between how pronouns are used in Italian and French in French. I agreed with what the Swiss woman was saying and the French woman continues on in French. I tell her I really can’t speak French here because it just mixes up my Italian, but now my Italian is also peppered with French. Then the Swiss woman asks me something else in French, knowing she should be asking me in Italian, but she too has confused her languages and can no longer tell which language she is speaking. What a Romantic mess!
Changing of the Guard
This week we have different teachers than last week and it is amazing how a new teacher has completely changed the classroom environment. The grammar class that seemed so chaotic last week, with the students asking question after question and not understanding anything, has become calm and organized.
The activities really haven’t changed that much. We still have grammar homework that we go over at the beginning of the class. But somehow the explanations are clearer, the instructor has a more patience and at the same time a more authoritative demeanor such that the class remains under control.
I had planned to take another long walk this afternoon to help walk off some of Aurelio’s fabulous pasta that I eat every night, but more thunderstorms are passing through. More time to work on the blog and study Italian.
Svezia and Svizzera
It turns out that there really aren’t has many Swiss students as I thought there were. There are two countries that we call Sweden and Switzerland that are Svezia and Svizzera in Italian. It didn’t figure out my error until the second of week of class when we were discussing how different countries deal with their gypsy populations. Some of my classmates are actually Swedish not Swiss.
My New Friend, Anita
Anita is a new Swiss (not Swedish) student in my class. She comes from a small town outside of Zurich, which turns out to be very close to another small town, Appenzell where Don and I have visited not once, but twice. It’s a Rick Steves destination. She is a small person, not that she is so short, but more that she is small boned, thin and delicate, with longish ashen colored hair and a kind demeanor. She speaks thoughtfully in a soft voice with animated facial expressions, always thinking carefully before she speaks. Not surprisingly she is school teacher.
Instead of working on my blog, ANKI flash cards or my homework, we spent the afternoon chatting first at lunch at the school, then walking up to see the views from Madonna della Rocca and finally at the Wunderbar café on Piazza 9 Aprile, with a fabulous view of the sea. Walking back from Madonna della Rocca we ran into Jean Pierre who happened to be looking for me. Of all things, he wanted to know if I had taken a picture of the lady bug that we had seen at Mt. Etna the Saturday before. He was writing an article for a Canadian science magazine and his editor wanted to see the lady bug. I did take one, yes he could have it and he said it might even be published. I don’t know that it is so good. We’ll see.
Anita and I continued on to the café happily continuing our conversation in Italian. We have about the same level of fluency and help each other with vocabulary and grammar as we speak, but not so much that it impedes on the conversation.
At the piazza there weren’t as many people out as there have been on past evenings. There was, however, a wedding at the church next to the café, with the elegantly dressed guests passing through the piazza. We discussed all kinds of things, mostly about our families, difficulties in learning a new language and differences in customs between countries. For example in German speaking areas, the custom is that when you clink glasses, Sie mussen in die Augen schauen (you must have eye contact). I knew this from my time in Germany. It is actually harder to do than you might think, because you have to keep track of your glass and look at other person at the same time. But once I became proficient at it, I continued the practice even though it isn’t the custom in other countries. I actually notice now when people don’t in die Augen schauen.
With the sun getting low and the dinner hour approaching, we said our goodbyes and made plans to discuss an outing for Sunday, her birthday.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Taormina, Sicily page.