Friday, January 21, 2011

Saldi (Sale)!

As a note in response to my last post, Italy does have after christmas sales...they just don't start until after ALL the holidays had finished, which here means the second week of january. All the store windows now have signs announcing 'saldi' and at H & M I bought 2 belts, a pair of shoes, a dress and a hat for 30 Euro!!

January has been flying by at warp speed. I started my next round of italian classes on the 10th and like the last time, the first day consisted of writing a test and speaking with one of the teachers to determine which level you belong in. I finished level 2 in December and had been studying a lot with my other workbooks and cds, so I was secretly hoping to maybe skip up a level. However to my surprise, after speaking with the teacher and reviewing my test, he felt that I should skip two levels, up to level 5 (there are only 6 levels at this school)!

I was a bit hesitant and asked about level 4 but he said that in level 4 they would be teaching grammar that I already knew, as I had just demonstrated on the test. So, level 5 it was! It's been really challenging and has since made my 3.5 hour tuesday night class feel easier in comparison. When it comes to reading and writing, I'm really on top of it, but with speaking and listening I'm not quite there yet. The key is lentamente.... (slowly).

I speak slow because I need time to think about each successive word I'm going to say and make sure that the endings agree and make sure I put the words in the right order....... I can understand well when someone speaks slow and clear but at normal speed the words mush together before they reach my ear. However over the past months I've observed my brain's progress with picking up on more and more information when listening to italian at normal speed. I'm also starting to hear meaning in the lyrics of the italian songs I bought on itunes (from italian bands: dente, zero assoluto, and fabri fibra (italian rap!)) which I have been listening to on repeat for months. Quindi, piano, piano (So, slowly, slowly).

I've also discovered a valuable resource thanks to someone telling me (although I can't remember who...),, where you can meet people for language exchange in your city. In my case I'm able to meet up with Italians who are learning English, and you take turns speaking in both languages. This is amazing because it's free, mutually beneficial, and you can sympathize with each other about the difficulties of learning a new language. So far I've met with 2 people, Francesca, an economics student from Sardinia (an island in italy) and Giuseppe, an engineer from Calabria (the same region where my great grandparents were from).

Francesca and I sat in the sun for 2 hours in Piazza Santa Croce last saturday for our conversation and she gave me some grammar corrections and also words of advice for language learning. She spoke english really well and quite fast so the corrections I gave her were very few and minor. Her boyfriend is American so she's had lots of english practice. Giuseppe and I met for an aperitivo (the italian term for a cocktail which includes a buffet) last sunday and he told me some entertaining stories (in italian). I tried my best to follow along but if I got lost then he would clarify the situation in english. It was helpful for me that his level of english was closer (although still better) to my level of italian. The conversation was less about correcting each other and more about understanding, which at this point is what I need, to just practice speaking without getting caught up in the grammar.

When I met him on the website his profile said that he liked salsa dancing and I had wrote to him that I also liked dancing but I hadn't done salsa before. He replied saying that he could teach me sometime if I was interested. So, as we were finishing our drinks he asked if I was up for salsa that night as there was a place he knew that had salsa music on sundays. I hadn't planned on it and wasn't dressed for it, but as I'm always up for dancing I said certo (sure)!

My first salsa lesson consisted of 'one, two, three' with the right foot behind, and then 'one, two, three' with the left foot ahead. 6 seconds later I was being spun all over the dance floor and hardly missed a beat for the rest of the night. Incredibile! Giuseppe kept saying. He was in complete awe that I was keeping up with his 6 years of lessons. The truth is, as the guy leads, I was only able to keep up because he knew what he was doing. I just kept doing 'one, two, three' 'one, two, three' (or in italian uno, due, tre) with my feet, relaxed the rest of my body, and shut off my brain in order to follow the fast turns and direction changes. It was really so much fun!!!!! I hope we can go again this week when Giuseppe returns from London. No salsa isn't italian, but the italian's seem to like it as there were lots of people there dancing and practicing. Amazing!

This month I have an extra roommate, an extra Rosie. She's american, from South Carolina, studying art restoration here in Florence. A friend of my english Rosie, she found herself without an apartment when plans for housesitting her friend's apartment fell though last minute. It's been nice having a house full of girls to laugh with. We make fun of each other's slang terms and pronunciation of words. Although she doesn't really have a southern accent, we bug american Rosie for saying 'y'all' a lot!

An old coworker of english Rosie's was visiting Florence for a few days last week and we met up with him on Friday evening. They worked together in a pub in Dorset (in rural england) but it turns out this guy was originally from Hussar!!? What the??! (Hussar is a tiny town very close to the town where I'm from, Drumheller, in rural Alberta) His family moved to Manitoba when he was 12, but it's a pretty crazy coincidence to meet someone in Florence, who used to work with my roommate in England, and yet is from nearly the same small town as me. Strano (strange)!

I was so happy to hear some news about the package I've been waiting for for the last 2 months, which although isn't the greatest of news, I'm just relieved to know the package hasn't vanished, which is what I was preparing myself to hear. The package is being sent back to Toronto. They couldn't tell me what the problem was but they did say that I'll get my 140$ postage fees back only if the problem was the fault of the italian postal service. If it was a problem with the address written on the package, then I won't get my money back. We verified the address was correct numerous times but we'll see what they say upon delivering the package back to Firas in Toronto. I'm just glad my favorite yellow shoes will be safe and I will look forward to reuniting my feet with them in July:)

I managed to get another copy of my daytimer printed here in Florence, EXACTLY how I wanted it, even despite having to explain everything in italian! The first price I was quoted was 30 Euro but then I asked if there was a way to make it cheaper (c'e` un modo fare piu` economico?) and I'm not sure what he changed but all of a sudden (all'improvviso) the price became 16 Euro! Nice! Maybe he was giving me the tourist price initially, haha. Many things work like that here.

Sometimes when I've been studying italian a lot and then start writing or speaking in english again I realize that I've changed my sentence structure and word order to resemble the italian form (which then sounds like bad english)! So funny. My poor brain, trying to make sense of things. I'm definately keeping it on it's toes.

I was really surprised this week at my Tuesday class, when we were reviewing the past perfect verb form (which I'm quite comfortable with at this point), many of the other students were having trouble. I realized that I've been deceived by their fast and confident speaking, into thinking that they were also speaking grammatically correct! This has been a good example for me, to be less conscious of making mistakes and just spit it out. The more you speak the better you will get, so like many things, the hardest part is to start and not be self-conscious of saying something incorrect (i just realized this sentence rhymes, haha!!). My perfectionist tendencies will hopefully lose the battle against my will to speak. The worst that can happen is a misunderstanding, which often happens anyway, even when you speak grammatically perfect!!!

I guess I didn't slow down to smell the flowers in these last couple weeks as I didn't take any pictures! However, here's some oldies which I don't think I've posted before. The picture at the top is of the ponte vecchio (the old bridge) which one day was set up as a driving range for golf with greens floating in the Arno river! I know my dad will appreciate:)


  1. Jen you are a superstar skipping up to Level 5! Glad to hear your hardwork and dedication are paying off :) The salsa dancing sounded like so much fun, hope you can start going more often! xoxo

  2. Hi babe! Lucky me I went salsa dancing again last night:) Love you <3