A rare Saturday article, to compensate for there having been no articles on Wednesday or Friday, the first time I’ve missed writing to the club on one of the regular days for many, many years.
I often tell my students, by way of encouraging them to read and listen more to the language or languages they’re learning, that were they to find themselves in a Chinese prison with no prior knowledge of the language, they’d no doubt pick up the basics fairly quickly. There’s the obvious advantage of full-immersion in a community of native speakers, along with the dubious extra ‘benefit’ of not having any escape. Learn to communicate in Chinese, or don’t communicate. Punto e basta, as Italians say.
An Italian prison can be hard to get into, of course, but not to worry – there’s another option, and one which is more palatable, with clean beds, good food, and friendly custodians. You still have to learn the language to survive, and just as in gaol, you get plenty of speaking and listening practice.
You guessed it – I’m writing this from the stroke ward of an Italian hospital, where after an exciting ambulance ride on Tuesday afternoon, I’ve been spending a few days improving my medical Italian. As you can see from this article, I’m now back online and back to work, but it’s certainly been instructive!
On arrival everyone was speaking to me in English, on the basis that as I was clearly unable to speak Italian (or any other language at that point), I likely wouldn’t understand it either. Fortunately, once the medicines and ‘intervention’ had cleared the clot in my brain, I was able to form sentences again, at which point the flow of enthusiastic staff keen to show off their English to their colleagues completely dried up. So the rest of the week was Italian only, plus some dialect, as I’m in a ward where the average age of patients is around 85.
For example, I was just this minute hearing WWII reminiscenses from the eighty-nine-year-old in the bed opposite. Which was not only good listening practice for me, but I assume a welcome distraction for her, a break at least from the weeping and wishing her stroke had finished her off.
So there you go – the two best places to learn Italian for free. Obvious benefits aside, I’m hoping to be let out by lunchtime, so it’ll be back to listening to the radio and reading newspapers (for my Swedish, French, Spanish, Turkish and so on…)
Talking of reading and listening, one thing I had planned for this past week was to publish and promote the ebook version of our Summer Series on Il Medievo.
A lunedì, spero.