Italian (lack of) Conversation

A month ago, I attended an Italian conversation group at Jesmond Library. As expected, it’s certainly been a challenge. Being a conversation group, rather than an actual class, most attendants already speak pretty good or excellent Italian, and the way the group works is to literally sit around a table and have a good natter. Or, have a very focused listen, if you’re a first-timer with practically no Italian, like me.

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I have to say, that first session was a challenge. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, but, as predicted, I didn’t say a word. I did manage to follow some of the conversations though, once I had an indication of the initial context. Each member had brought a news item, and gave a summary of it in Italian, leading into a discussion about the topic with the rest of the group. I couldn’t contribute, but having a quick glance of the article in question meant at least I wasn’t left out in the cold. Turns out the rapid reading of the phrasebooks, and all those episodes of Montalbano, means I can understand more than I thought, even if I cannot join in.

My second week, I decided that I had to try and participate, and so found an interesting article on the BBC news website, here. After all, it’s a bit of marine biology, it seemed relevant. A rare shark, found off the Welsh coast. I managed to get some key phrases down, thanks to online translation, and went off, armed with my notes. Happily, I managed to get across the key elements of the story, and apparently my accent isn’t bad (all that TV watching works then!), so definitely something to work on. Still no joining in of conversations, but for most of the time, I can keep up with the topic, even if not the detail. Last time, we had discussions of weddings, Harry Clasper exhibitions, Da Vinci in Sunderland, and messages in bottles.

Sadly, due to levels of workload at the moment, making it back on a regular basis isn’t going to happen for me, but it has inspired me to keep going with my languages. After all, according to the Twinstitute a couple of weeks back, learning a second language can help increase brainpower, as well as lowering your brain’s ‘age’, and helping fight off dementia in later life.

How are you at a second (or third) language? I love Italian, and am currently trying to improve both that and Spanish, ahead of trips this year. Somehow, even reading the text makes everything feel sunnier!

One thought on “Italian (lack of) Conversation

  1. Having lived in France for 22 years and taken a lot of lessons, my French isn’t bad. And I was delighted to read a while ago that learning another language can stave off dementia. I learned Italian at night school for a couple of years ages ago. I don’t have much occasion to use it, although we had some holidays where it came in handy. I can still read and follow written Italian.


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