Friday, July 10, 2009
‘Where did you buy your sandals?’ The question, spoken in Italian, caught me off-guard. Surely the elegant teacher standing next to the overhead projector didn’t covet my battered Clarks? My Italian may be rusty, but I can recognise ‘where’, ‘buy’ and ‘sandals’.
A glance at jewelled leather straps on the feet of a neighbouring student made me realise she didn’t mean me. However, I added ‘catena’ (chain) to my meagre vocabulary. If, come September, I need to find a chain store in Genoa, I’ll be OK.
When you learn a language you learn a culture, and ‘Consolidation Italian 2’ is a sartorial challenge, even before I try to get to grips with the grammar. The teacher has brought this class of lawyers, accountants (and did someone say she was a stockbroker), to their current standard and it’s pretty good. After the shoes, we moved on to peruse an interesting text about Italian newspapers, their history and political leanings. So it’s not just the long words in La Repubblica that put me off, as I'd thought.
But I wouldn’t even be in this situation if the Spanish hadn’t gone wrong. Classes often combine above Level 3, which what happened at Mary Ward, but it didn’t work well. I decided to change.
Thirty years ago I wanted to visit Pirandello’s ‘casa natale’ in Sicily and went to evening classes at Goldsmiths for about three years, so it’s the obvious choice, but what about the level?
The need to find a class coincides with the fatal blow delivered to my Frith Street Chinese class. So I have to find classes that a) don’t cost a lot b) don’t overlap c) are at the right level and d) are within 40 minutes travel of home. I’ve decided to switch to evening classes, to free up the daytime for writing.
It looks as if I’ll be doing Chinese, not Italian, at King’s College. It’s about the only place that offers the right level. The fees are manageable, because I can get a 30% alumnus discount. That’s something I didn’t know before.
Finances won’t stretch to Italian as well – I’ll have to find a class in an outer borough. Not easy when so many being scrapped. Still, at least I don’t have to go after working long hours at some demanding job. Will I feel comfortable in well-worn trainers, though?