Monday, January 12, 2009
First Day Of Class!
Our last day of freedom before classes start. It's been a blur. I don't really understand how much time has passed anymore. I don't feel like I was in the US last week at all. People feel like they've lived here for "months." I guess we're doing a good job with our immersion program...
Usually, everything is closed on Sundays so the whole town came out to walk down the main street and hang out in the piazza. There were roasted chestnuts on the side of the street and someone was playing the music from Amelie on an accordian :). Its wonderful how everyone comes out for a passegiata.
On our last night, four of us got an aperitivo. Supposedly, it's a very common thing to do in Italy.
Then we went to this "seceret" brewery/restaurant that a Stranieri-alum told us about (but didn't want other people in the group knowing about her favorite spot). It played wonderful music. I don't even know what genre it was - balkan/"retro swing"??? (kind of reminded me of Andrew Bird's older bands. Either way, it was wonderful.)
1st day of school [at least I got a week more vacation than Pitt students did]!
I have to say that I've never come into the start of a semester with a feeling of necessity like this. For once, these classes were not requirements for my major but a means of self-expression and almost "survival." I also felt that I *had* to go to class in order to get better and that a lot of this couldn't be done on my own. This is an area of study that is used in my everyday life, here at least, and is completely relevant to my environment. Also, not to sound completely cliche, but there was such a feeling of optimism in which you actually understood how the city is your classroom.
Anyways, blah, blah, blah. I had to be in class and was ready, after having a lot of downtime here so far, because I've been very frustrated and need to get better with my Italian if I'm going to get anywhere here.
We got a tour of how to get down to the school yesterday but it was a bit of a walk and my roomate and I were very afraid we'd get lost. Little did I know that the rumors were true - Italian teachers never come on time (she was 20 minutes late the first day!)! Even though I was joking that I was the only silly immersion girl who is studying in the beginning-level, I have to say that it's wonderful to be the only American student in my class. My class had 8 people in it: students from Spain, China, Japan, Lebannon, and Afghanistan!
It was hard to jump into my first class, let alone one that's four hours long. Granted we do get 10-15 minute breaks at the end of every hour (I hope they're not smoke breaks for those Italians! [Quick, funny side-tangent. Supposedly the gyms in Italy are a joke. The women get dressed up in really short, shorts and get all made-up for the guys while their instructor is smoking a cigarette, telling them to do a few more reps so that they can finish and have a smoke-break => flirt with the guys.]) Anyways, I can't say it that after seeing my professor that it wasn't hard to miss Signor Russo. She just wasn't anywhere near as a dynamic performer for the class. It is still such an interesting concept to me to see a language taught solely in the language you are learning. I made me think back to my first Italian class freshman year of high school where Signor Russo was amazingly able to get the names of objects and simple phrases across to students who didn't have any prior experience with the language. It really takes a good teacher to be able to do that.
What I could tell from this class, which I think is especially unique to the A2 level, though I'm probably very biased of course, is that we come from such a unique range of proficiency. Students in A1 have no prior experience with italian and students in higher-levels took a placement exam and are seen as at least being adequate with the language. I believe we're just the rest of the students who greatly vary from having a lot of background with grammar but not being able to speak to students who were brought-up hearing the language and can speak but have no sense of grammar. It accounts for an already diverse classroom environment to begin with.
To be frank about today's class, I thought it was very easy. She started from page 1 in our Italian 1 textbook and she briefly explained a picture telling the story of two foreign students taking a train into Florence and introducing themselves to an Italian woman. Then we spent the rest of the class taking turns reading the dialogue, answering comprehension questions about the story, breaking apart the sentences and matching articles with the noun, understanding how to greet people and tell things about ourselves, using prepositions, and working on forms of "essere."
I don't really know how to feel about the class yet (I know it was just the first day) but the advisors and the students in the program and I were talking and I think we all agree that when it comes down to it, anyone can do grammar. What's really important is to be in the level that you feel most comfortable speaking in because that is the hardest skill to learn how to do. I just miss my textbook from high school and need to find a way to get it (I don't know how students who didn't have the more "objective" training that I got from my textbook would understand how she introduced concepts in class [and had to explain simple vocabulary words to the class in Italian without making it more difficult for them!] but a lot of that may be a flaw with the American way of teaching a language. It's something to think about. I am most likely at fault for clinging to my book and my grammar charts and vocab lists so much and, most of all, need to stop translating everything in my head into english and really try to focus on thinking about the usage of the word in the context of other Italian words. It was just so easy for me to almost mindlessly do the exercises in high school where I was basically following a pattern for verb endings, etc....).
That's enough for today. Here are pictures of the university!
And more pictures from the walk back!
Buona notte! I have 9 hours of class tomorrow and it all starts at 8am!