I have always been interested in languages. At primary school, I learned Welsh and always enjoyed speaking it. When I went to secondary school, I started learning French. I loved it. In my second year, I chose to study Spanish. It always seemed like a fun option, such a lively language. I remember my dad trying to encourage me to study German instead but I thought it was an ugly language (sorry if any Germans are reading this!). Needless to say, after my first lesson, I was hooked. This love continued on through university, where I did a joint honours BA in French and Spanish. It was during my year abroad that I had my first real experience of teaching, but that is for another post.
Now, 5 years after finishing university, I have lived in various places in France, Spain and the Canary Islands, passing via Dubai and ending up in Italy. Ah, Italy. As I have already said, before moving to Sulmona, I had never even visited Italy on holiday and the only word I knew was ciao! This had to change as I would be living on my own in a small town where, I soon found out, very few people spoke English. So how did I do it? Well, I couldn’t afford a private teacher and the Italian lessons put on by the local adult learning centre were all during my work hours. So, I had to go it alone. I started off using the website Memrise and the app Duolingo. Memrise is great for learning vocabulary but Duolingo is definitely my preferred method. Since I started two years ago, the app has improved significantly and they now have a fantastic website. I also bought an online course through Groupon. It was only 12 euros and I probably wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t on offer. To be honest, I didn’t use it as much as I should as I didn’t have Internet in my first flat. This meant that I had to stay late at work to do any studying (or go in earlier – unlikely!).
I have to say though, the thing that helped me the most was my background in languages. Knowing English, French and Spanish helped me a lot at the beginning, especially with vocabulary and sentence structure (Italian grammar is similar to Spanish). What didn’t help, though, was the dialect. Italy is full of dialects. In fact, if you travel 15 minutes up the road from Sulmona to Pratola Peligna, their dialects are very different. Obviously, everyone speaks Italian (except perhaps a few of the older generation you might bump into in the market) but on a daily basis, you may find yourself encountering some words that you won’t find in the dictionary.
All in all though, most people I have encountered have been very patient with me and always try to do their best to help. They’re usually pretty friendly round these parts and I find a smile goes a long way. Except with the man at Fastweb but that’s another story for another day!