Learning Italian, and the Beauty of Language

"Chicken Feet," the most recent art installation in the University of the Philippines
[Week 2] “Chicken Feet,” the most recent art installation in the University of the Philippines
Learning a new language is beautiful— you not only learn a new way of speaking but an entirely new way of looking at the world. This was exactly how I felt learning French when I was in undergrad, working out the beautiful differences between it and English and marveling at the fluid sounds required just to say a simple bonjour. It was two years after my first French lesson at Alliance Française de Manille that I was able to read my favourite French book, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, in its entirety and from then on I knew I couldn’t turn back.

I learned basic German with GoetheInstitut Philippinen, and dabbled in Mandarin-Chinese with the Confucius Institute. I never quite reached the same fluency with German and Mandarin that I did with French, but this didn’t stop me from appreciating just how differently these language systems required me to think, from the all-important nouns in German to the lack of past and future tense in Chinese verbs. Knowing this, I get a little glimpse into how native speakers of these languages view the world, and hey, managed to read a few children’s books in the original language while I was at it. I am of the belief that there would be fewer misunderstandings in the world if more people learn languages different to their own.

While In Australia, I enrolled in an Arabic class which was handled by Muath Amayreh from The Australia Middle East North Africa (AMENA) Centre. Now with Arabic I get another completely different world view. The script is different from anything I had ever encountered before, and even with knowledge of English, Filipino, French, German, and Mandarin, Arabic required some sounds that my throat didn’t want to give up easily! And it was beautiful. Unfortunately, by the end of 2012 I had to graduate, end my classes, and return to the Philippines.

To my great surprise, the PhD offer for Rome arrived and to my even greater surprise, I found myself once again inside a classroom on the first day of Livello A1 at Società Dante Alighieri (SDA). With absolutely zero background in the language, I thought it would be difficult, but perhaps because of fluency in French and thanks to the fantastic teaching skills of Lorenzo Laroza and happy classmates, picking it up was a breeze.

The basic structure is just the same as French, ESSERE and AVERE are simply ÊTRE and AVOIR, and besides voi not being equivalent to vous— a mental link that caused me much accidental conjugations during the first days— both languages seemed gloriously lexically similar. All I needed to do was memorize, memorize, memorize and always check the difference. Italian words are written as they are pronounced, a welcome relief, and even though I still can’t roll my r’s, I was told that I had “la erre alla francese” and would just be mistaken for a northerner.

Of course, only having two months to learn a foreign language is not exactly the best situation I could have found myself in, nevertheless I can only do everything I can! Everyone here at SDA is wonderful, and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher— I should know, I’ve been doing this language thing for quite a while.

(Anyone who wants to learn Italian should contact Ate Rose at 759-2016 or +63922-8326831. The SDA office is at Unit 45/4th floor, Zeta Building, 191 Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City, in the same building as the Italian Embassy.)

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