Like many energetic small animals, Roomie doesn’t like being in the car.
Yesterday morning we let her take a plastic guitar with her. She was engaged, plucking at its steel strings, for at least ten minutes of the twenty-minute trip, then kept herself occupied banging it on the passenger seat in front of her for a few minutes longer, so didn’t start wailing until we were nearly downtown and could credibly start with the we’re nearly theres.
She’s young, so of course doesn’t like being strapped in. But she especially doesn’t like it when we speak English up front, which is probably nothing to do with her size.
My Italian wife, Stefi, and I have been speaking English together for a quarter of a century, and while I always speak Italian to Roomie, I’ll often lapse back into English when adressing my remarks to the adult beside me rather than to the cargo bay behind.
When Stefi and I talk directly to Roomie she appreciates it. When we’re chatting together in Italian, things stay quiete(r) behind us.
But when we lapse into English, the cage begins to rattle and jump and the snarling starts!
Roomie likes to listen, and understand, or try to. She absolutely doesn’t like to feel excluded, whether deliberately or unintentionally.
Which brings me to the point: a lot of club members resist including regular (ideally daily) Italian listening practice in their study programs.
There are always more important things to do, like making lists of unknown words and their translations, or maintaining their Duolingo ‘streak’ (when our teenage son has been in the bathroom, we get long brown ones down the back of our toilet bowl…)
But ask yourself – how did you learn your native tongue?
On an app?
By sitting at the table with a dictionary?
The usual objection to “You also need to practice your listening” is “But I don’t understand!”
Which, if you think about it, is precisely the point.
Roomie gets some of what we say in Italian, especially when we’re talking about her, how good or bad she’s been, how pretty she looks today, why she has to stay in her cage while we’re driving, and so on.
When the conversation is in English, though, that ‘some’ falls to ‘almost zero’. She has picked up ‘hello’, ‘bye bye’, and ‘happy birthday’, but that doesn’t get her very far in figuring out what’s being said up front.
Months back she was ‘almost zero’ with Italian too, but time happened and these days she’s probably on or above the linguistic curve for furrry creatures of her size.
What happened between then and now to get Roomie from ‘almost zero’ to ‘some’?
1.) People around her mostly spoke Italian.
2.) Time passed.
At some future point we’ll inevitably have to start spelling things out, so as to keep what we’re talking about from her flapping ears:
“Shall we stop for a G.E.L.A.T.O on the way home?”
Another advantage of listening to the adults talk is that you begin to get an inkling of what they’re talking ABOUT, which is often stuff you would be unaware of.
It never ceases to amaze me that students will, for example, want to learn Italian, but take not the slightest interest in what Italians are thinking and talking about.
They want to learn a FOREIGN language just so they can talk about themselves???
The language and the culture go together, at least in part. A large part, actually.
Imagine an American who’s learnt to read and write fluent Japanese, but lunches each day on burgers and coke.
Or an Italian who’s mastered American English, but didn’t bother to learn what NFL, NBA or NHL stand for, so struggles to follow conversations in the local bar.
If you want to learn (and don’t forget to ask yourself WHY you want to learn):
- Listen to the adults talking
- Listen to what the adults are talking about
- Accept that you’ll understand at best just some of what’s being said
- Let time pass
Don’t forget this week’s new ‘easy reader’ ebook, a simplified version of Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera Turandot, which includes quotes from the actual libretto!
First performed in Milan in 1926, only after Puccini’s death from cancer, the story is set in a mythical Peking, capital of China. The ferocious, but fantastically beautiful Chinese princess, Turandot, daugher of the aged emperor, is set on avenging an ancestor who was kidnapped by a foreign prince. With the reluctant agreement of her father, she sets a condition for her own marriage: any man who wishes to marry her must come to the palace and beat a gong, then answer three riddles. If he succeeds, he wins a bride, and an empire! But those who cannot answer her riddles correctly will have their heads chopped off, already the fate of many would-be suitors…
Begin with this ‘easy reader’ ebook before watching the actual opera, or simply use this original Italian reading/listening practice material to add a little variety to your study program.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 6 chapters (based on Puccini’s Act/Scene structure) to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
How do I access my ebooks?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
Did you read/listen to Tuesday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
For want of better options, that counts as ‘listening to the adults talking’.