I’m now going to plug Traveller’s Italian, dubbed, ‘Italian in Six Weeks with Elisabeth Smith’. I’m all about this teach yourself audio book and hastily add that I have no vested interest whatsoever. It might surprise you to hear, then, that I’ve ground to a near halt at week three. I feel like I’m in a never-ending game of snakes and ladders: every time I climb that nice long ladder up to square 60-odd I land on the cheeky snake and am sent back to square 1.
In my game, I’m trapped in a continuous loop between ‘Signore Pavarotti’ (“non, non, Gino Pavarotti, purtroppo”) meeting ‘Tom and Kate Walker’ on a plane, (not the same Ryanair Flight as poor Tom was on last week, I trust – six hours’ delay at departure gate… the idyll shattered – but that’s another story), and Kate Walker hampering hubby’s plans to watch sport on television in favour of dragging him shopping for shoes which were “un pochino care ma costano lo stesso in Inghilterra”*. I’m in this loop because, having started my own journey with Elisabeth Smith some, ahem, three months ago, alongside packing up the house and arranging our relocation, various other family members have hopped on board, each with his or her own demands of our trusty Traveller’s Italian course, viz.:
H. delights in asking to put ‘Italian with NOT Elisabeth Smith, but Elisabeth Smith’s helpers’ on while we’re in the car: dubbing it thus having observed during our repeated cycles of weeks one to three that the smooth talking Elisabeth Smith only pops in once a week to give us our ‘good news grammar’ lesson, thereafter retreating while her unnamed helpers chivvy us along to “speak Italian – fast and fluently”, “speak more Italian” and not worry if we get the endings a little wrong. Like her perfectionist mamma, of whom more later, H. is reluctant to move on until she’s identified the meaning of almost every word in all conversations.
Tom, taking the brunt of the financial workload and nobly commuting to enable this amazing adventure, is clearly going to have the hardest time speaking any Italian, let alone Travellers’ Italian in six weeks with anyone, Elisabeth Smith or not. Nevertheless, he’s keen to give it a go when we are in the car, and stepped on board, but only last week, hence the slippery snake back to square 1.
P. furiously denies capability of learning any Italian and insists on pointing out numerous birds of prey (a large number of which transpire on further inspection to be pigeons) while I am desperately trying to be a “fast and fluent” learner and get my endings right. Alas, my perfectionist tendencies send me slipping down a baby-snake to the beginning of week three even when I’m on my own on a walk such as that of The Absurd Incident of the Dog in the Morning. Please note that, in other situations, P. manages “fast and fluent pronunciation” of all local place names…
La Principessa of course is the outright winner – “a fast and fluent learner” with no concern whatsoever about her endings she is babbling away with a host of new intonations, waves to anyone who so much as murmurs ‘ciao bambina’ in her direction and has already wised up to some Italian musts such as ‘buona’ said with a finger in the cheek to mean ‘it’s tasty’ of food. She doesn’t care whether we’re on week one or six, but when disgruntled in the car, her cries rather impede one’s ability to ‘speak out loud’ as urged at all times by Ms Smith’s helpers. That’ll be back to the beginning of week three for her type A personality Mamma, then.
So, why am I so hot on this book? Apparently I’ve only learned 289 words, but boy are they the right 289. Little did I know how useful it would prove to hear the hotel owner worry that the shower in the room Kate had booked was broken, but perhaps her husband could fix it? ‘Rotto’ (broken) and ‘riparare’ (to fix) are probably my top two words: when we arrived our oven was broken. The shutter on the main door wasn’t quite broken, but needed fixing. The only fan in the house is almost broken. P.’s shoe has broken. In a month, I’ve had quite a bit of fixing to sort out. What with ‘rotto’, ‘riparare’ and ‘ho besogno di’ (I need), I’ve virtually conquered Tuscany. Couple that with ‘non ho abbastanza soldi’ (I don’t have enough money), and the odd ‘possiamo’ (could we) and ‘vorrei’ (I would like), I’ve even managed to sound semi-polite when asking for things. ‘Not Elisabeth Smith’ says I’ve only 161 words left until I finish the course. We’ve already learned a little of the past tense. Who knows what I could achieve if I manage to make the leap into week four. Watch out, I might start blogging in Italian…
* ‘A little expensive, but they cost the same in England.’
NB Interested parties might note that Elisabeth Smith’s courses come in 11 different languages… no more excuses!