Thursday, September 18, 2008

Learning Italian

One of the things hindering my ability to feel fully at home in Florence has surely been my inability to speak Italian. I didn't speak any Italian before coming here, after all, I chose Italy because of the job, not vice versa, and I didn't have much chance of learning the language beforehand since I was busy finishing my dissertation. I did manage to pick up a couple of phrases during the time I've been here, but those have been limited to absolute basics, and definitely not enough to carry on even a simple conversation.
Back in May I found the website for the language center of the university and emailed them several times, but never got a reply (their website is not very helpful). Now that the new semester is starting again for the students, I thought I'd give it another try. This time, there was an online form with which you could register for the classes, so I did that, not actually knowing anything about the classes. But I got a confirmation email soon thereafter, and so I had someone to contact. I soon found out that the classes were starting later that week and that I needed to send a fax from my institute confirming my employment and that I should come the next day for a consultation. I showed up the next day and talked with a friendly person at the language center, who told me that they didn't actually offer total beginner's classes, but only post-beginner (level A2 in the European classification), but that I could probably take those. He said I should take a language/grammar test the next day, though, for which I'd have to register with the secretary. Being the bureaucratic country this is, she absolutely couldn't register me, though, since she hadn't received the confirmation fax, and since the next grammar test would only be held end of September, I wouldn't be able to register for this round of classes, either. Somewhat discouraged, I nevertheless ended up getting the confirmation letter from my institute and tried faxing it to the language center, but that never worked. A few days and many unsuccessful faxes later, I emailed the secretary again to confirm that the fax number they had given me was correct. I now received three emails in rapid succession: 1. I would need to come in for another consultation end of September, 2. I could bring the letter to their office in person, and 3. An apology for the previous email, and that I was now registered for the classes, of which the first one had already taken place and of which the next one was the next day.
The next day, I arrived at the class, and it seems like I wasn't the only one who had had trouble -- all of the classes had been reshuffled after the first lesson. Luckily, I don't seem to be the only one there with very little previous knowledge of the language. So now for the next five weeks, three mornings a week, I'm off taking these classes, and hoping to become at least somewhat conversational.

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