10 February 2008

Ancora sono una studentessa.

“Again I am a student.”

Adverb position optional; subject pronoun unnecessary; first person singular positive form of present indicative tense of infinitive “to be;” indefinite singular feminine article; singular feminized version of noun “lo studente” to correspond to my gender… blah, blah, blah!

I have completed my first week of a month-long corso intensivo in Italian at Instituto Venezia. I feel the same about school now as I did when I was a kid: I hate it.

“Aw, Ma, do I hafta go?”

I have grown quite fond of my little Venetian mattina routine. Disrupting it to be in Campo Santa Margherita by 9:00 a.m. is a major pain, especially when my fellow students drag themselves in around 9:15, 9:20, thus robbing me of about 3 euros worth of class lessons and teacher input in each session. It’s the same thing after the break – so that makes 6 euros a day spent for nothing.

“The teacher doesn’t like me…”

The first day I nearly got my hand slapped. My crime was reaching for my well-worn English-Italian dictionary. (Scusami! I was raised to look things up when I don’t understand them!) Instead the class spent ten minutes in a ridiculous “Charades”-style pantomime of the Titanic sinking, and then there were some stick-figure drawings... Five seconds and a peek at page 301 would have told me sopravvivere means “to survive.” She also made a "shame on you" face when I expressed irritation at an inane 10-minute discourse – remember, in largely incomprehensible Italian! – on the debatable health benefits of “Raid Bool” (say it out loud), with my fellow students adding their own stumbling, ever-uncorrected two cents: “Uh…er, hm… Um, uh…“ Another euro or two down the drain. And this is the daily norm, not an exception.

“…and the other kids are mean to me.”

Well, maybe not mean. But sometimes clique-y (a few are in the last of their four weeks and thus are very cozy and snarky together) and often impatient with those of us who refuse to nod our heads and say we understand something when we don’t. I try to play nice when we must do our lessons together, but I wonder why there is so little camaraderie among us. After all, there’s no prize to be won here except fluency.

“And the dog ate my homework!”

OK, that didn’t really happen, but I did lose a page of it in a Xerox machine. That was no fun the next day when my turn to recite came up. Che figura!

I’ve always thought the Tower of Babel story, meant to be a cautionary tale about ambition, is instead the perfect illustration of the uncaring selfishness in a puny deity’s cold heart. My long struggle to become fluent in Italian has certainly enhanced that view. Being hamstrung by language differences only creates painful misunderstandings and needless distance between us, the wingless folks down here on Earth. (Certainly this has been true for my non-English-speaking ragazzo and me!) But I want to fly.

So, to re-phrase a favorite New York joke, “How do I get to Heaven? Conjugate, conjugate, conjugate!”