Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Parli Italiano?

I certainly don't, but would like to.
The co driver is enthusiastic too especially since we intend to return to Italy for a long term stay in the near future. Our first trip to Umbria back in 2005 where we stayed in and visited out of the way places convinced us that more than a basic tourist knowledge of the language would be of great benefit.
My only other language is German (and sometimes American, when the need arises). Foreign languages don't come easy to me and it was quite a struggle to become proficient in the one. I can see a number of my readers from Germany nodding knowingly here (At least I tried, Dieter!).
During the same 2005 trip when in Germany, I was amazed how much I remembered and how easy the language came back. Being able to 'convince' a couple of locals to move from our pre booked train seats between Frankfurt and Mainz was a good testament to the training of the Inlingua Sprachschule in Koeln (Cologne), not to mention the patience of my work colleagues. I would also throw in a little teutonic assertiveness learnt in the corporate environment a few kilometers to the north of that city.
Universities of the Third Age, or U3As as they are more often called are voluntary, non-profit organisations which aim to offer older people low-cost educational opportunities which operate in a pleasant, supportive social setting.

There are no formal entry requirements, no examinations and no "awards". U3As are basically self-help groups built on the premise that collectively older people have the skills and knowledge to provide learning opportunities for themselves. In fact the word "university" in the title is used in its earliest sense ie. a community of scholars who get together to help each other in a learning/social experience.
U3A is a world wide organisation with groups in many countries. There are more than 3000 groups spread over all continents. The U3A movement in Australia per head of population, has the greatest number of groups in the world and continues to expand.
Most of the groups in Australia are community based and we have one in our town and they are running a beginners Italian language course.
We have enrolled and had our first lesson. Our teacher, Sam, is of Italian heritage (like so many residents in this once thriving fishing port) and the class has ten enthusiastic students.
We are trying to learning the alphabet, numbers up to 100 and days of the week and months as homework. The Internet is proving a wonderful tool in this endeavour. Lots of video/audio lessons can be easily accessed, especially on YouTube.
By the way, did you know the Italian alphabet has only 21 letters, not 26?
So we are ahead already!

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