And so it starts…


Mrs Sensible has finally put her foot down. Yesterday she informed me that she was resigning  from  her position as my personal translator.

I was a little shocked because when I appointed her to this important position, I thought she understood it was not a temporary position, it was a job she could keep for life.

Over the past few years, I have even allowed Mrs S additional responsibilities, these included translating my e mails and completing forms sent by the local council. 

I consider myself to be pretty good when it comes to staff moral and identifying when staff are, shall we say less than happy. However I seemed to have missed the signs that Mrs S was less than happy with her position. Over the past couple of weeks she has on occasions failed to keep me included in conversations with friends!! 

I thought Mrs S might be suffering from partial deafness because last week in a pizzeria she didn’t appear to hear my request, when I asked her to keep me up to speed with the conversation between 4 of our friends. When I suggested a trip to the doctors to investigate her apparent deafness, I was treated to a most peculiar look.

I hope Mrs S will realise the error of her decision and request to be reinstated, if she does I will of course be magnanimous and I won’t  make her plead.

However, I have taken steps to limit the damage of losing my translator. I have signed up for Italian lessons, I just hope my teacher has enough flash cards and the patience of a saint.

  

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92 thoughts on “And so it starts…

  1. That is a bit harsh Mrs S. Did she give you any notice? ;.πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜€.. But why haven’t you learnt Italian ? I am learning it ..only on computer . .not conversation standard though.

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  2. Surveys tell us that 62% of employees want to be respected and appreciated and that bosses are the key to employee morale. I think a complete and utter overhaul of your HR and Employee Engagement and Rentention Policy is in order. ( What a fun way to announce that you’ve finally signed up for Italian lessons….) πŸ™‚

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  3. Good for Mrs Sensible!! Time to knuckle down …us Brits are so lazy about learning a language and people have this idea that simply being in another country will be sufficient for the language to penetrate our brains and render us fluent. So not true (at least not for the vast majority). The only Brits I know who speak really decent Italian have studied at home, taken classes, used every possible opportunity and worked very very hard at il It is well worth it in the end and will enhance your stay here. I think Mrs S has been spoiling you for too long πŸ˜‰ She could take a leaf out of my husband’s book. When we first came here I could only speak a little Italian and we had a wedding to organise! Someone would spout about 5 mins of rapidfire Italian and I’d turn to my hubby to find out what had been said and he would say “She says no”. Needless to say I started to study pretty sharpish! Good Luck πŸ™‚

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    • I am dreading my first lesson, she is going to find out what an appalling student I am.
      I like your comment that learning the language has enhanced your time here, I find sunshine, pizza and wine enhances mine πŸ˜‰

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      • You will be fine (maybe a little wine before you start would enhance your lesson too, just a little mind!). Don’t expect miracles. Learning a language properly takes time and effort. If you put in the effort you will get results…I’m certain. I do a bit of English teaching here and have seen how that works out…there are no short cuts for most of us (few of us are linguistic geniuses).

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        • Thanks Ingrid, there seems to be a consensus in the comments that I need to increase my intake of wine πŸ™‚
          This is just the type of advice I appreciate and can follow. Do you think red or white wine would be more benificial? Perhaps I should start with white and move onto red if I see no improv men and as a last resort try a glass or two of grappa.

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  4. All I can say is…..Era ora!
    10 minutes a day on Duolingo will help a lot. I spend more than that and it says I am now 55% fluent. Getting half of what is being said is much better than none. I am also starting my third year of formal classes (sadly only on evening a week so don’t get much practice). Duolingo has really helped with my vocabulary and spelling.
    Hai piΓΉ tempo per studiare italiano di ogni tre persone che conosco.
    Probably not perfect but your dictionary should tell you what I just said.
    In about four years when I visit you in Sicily I hope to have a conversation with you and Mrs. S totally in Italian where she does not have to translate.

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  5. And for audio study, which I prefer, try to find the Pimsleur course. It is excellent! I am quasi-fluent after only 3 1/2 years living in Italy, taking lessons and listening to Pimsleur, and I don’t even have the advantage of an Italian spouse.

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    • I will go and have a look at the Plimsole course, erh Pimsleur course, I quite like investigating all the different ways of learning Italian and I feel uplifted when I purchase a new grammar book or dictionary (I now have a fine collection of dictionaries, from heavy ones that help to keep my office door open to pocket ones that are nice and easy to lose) It’s the actual sitting down and trying to remember all the grammar rules and understand why the Italian sentences appear to be constructed in a very strange way . I wouldn’t be in this predicament if the Romans had spent more time teaching the English Italian and less time building the garden wall for Hadrian!!

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  6. I can only imagine that learing to speak Italian is a virtual nightmare. I cringe at the thought of ever having to learn a new language. I have tried Spanish and I simply have no knack for it. I can say individual words but can not put them into a sentence. And I have been around lots of Spanish speakng Mexican who have attempted to teach me a bit of their lingo.

    For your sake , I hope you catch on really fast so you’ll be up to speed and know if anybody is taking about you. Huh, okay? πŸ™‚

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    • I know when Mrs S and her friends are talking about me because they roll their eyes, tut, shake their heads and emit long deep sighs.
      But this is all going to change, I am going to work very hard at learning this stupid language. I promise I will read the book my new teacher has given me (age 7-8 on the cover, I personally think she is being a tad ambitious) and I will learn the correct vowel sounds. And all this will start erh, after I have followed Sarah’s advice and had a couple of glasses of wine.

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  7. Good luck, PN. Mrs S has been eminently patient with you so far. My ex-h insisted that we speak only French when I first arrived in France so I could get up to speed with the language. It’s the only way really and has to be done.

    No sympathy from this quarter. πŸ™‚
    On the bright side, it’s a lot easier if you have a glass of wine to loosen the tongue. Maybe you should hang out more in bars and talk to people. πŸ™‚

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    • I think your suggestion regarding hanging out in the local bars is the best piece of advice I have received . It is so good I will print it and stick it onto our fridge. Ok I am now off to the bar to indulge in a glass or two of wine

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lia, if I follow some of the advice left in the comments, it should be an interesting first lesson, I had never thought that consuming three or four glasses of wine before a lesson would be helpful, but hey ho nothing else has improved my Italian so I am willing to give anything a go. πŸ˜‰

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  8. I feel your pain PN! A couple of times we sat down for meetings with our builders and Allegra just refused to speak, which left me fumbling around for words. I got through it though… just. Best of luck with the lessons (though I guess I should be saying that to your teacher really)!

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    • It is amazing isn’t it, If I was bilingual I would be amazingly helpful to all the unfortunate monolingual type people.
      This evening Mrs S forced me to phone the woodman to order our winter firewood.
      I am sure I have ordered 30 quintali of dry firewood, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if on Saturday he delivers 2 goats 1 donkey and 20 chickens

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      • If he does deliver those creatures at least you’ll be set for the winter with milk (goats), alarm clock (that donkey will bray at sunrise) and food (eggs and the chickens themselves) so the phone call would not have been a total waste.
        My biggest problem with Italian is that I can ask all kinds of questions, with proper pronunciation and inflection so that you average person assumes I’m fluent and they respond with rapid fire answers that my poor brain cannot possibly translate and that’s when (since I have asked for directions) I switch to English and say “just point”. Too sad but true.

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        • You are doing infinitely better than me, if the donkey brays at sunset he will find himself transformed into meatballs or some other delicacy. The Piermontese have lots of recipes for donkey

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          • I seem to have an ear for languages.
            But the main reason I’m doing better than you is that I’m really working hard at it. I have told my classmates that if they worked as hard at studying Italian, watching Italian films (and ignoring the subtitles) and listening to Italian music as I do they would not still be saying “see” instead of ci (pronounced chee) or “EEE” instead of Γ¨ (pronounced like English “ay” by the way) after six quarters in Italian class. Yes, it took me about two quarters to finally realize that the pronunciation key at the front of the book was there for a reason and I had better memorize it.
            Unlike English the vowels in Italian have only one way to pronounce them.
            And don’t blame it on your age….I’m 66 and I get out of my Italian study what I put into it.
            I know you can do it.
            By the way….I do all my studying and attempting to speak Italian without any lubricant….such as vino. Oh, you do know several Italian words….vino, grappa, cappuccino…I could continue with that list but I won’t.
            Just remember PN that we all love you and your attempts to learn Italian will keep us delighted with many hilarious blog posts for years to come. We are looking forward to it.

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  9. This post has certainly sparked a lot of interest 😊 and some interesting comments. Why don’t you go on duolingo ..I love it. Enjoyed this post a lot.

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  10. You have my full sympathies, I would be lost without my translator but having said that, I did some how manage on my own before he joined me here and he was earning the money for me to live here in France πŸ™‚ Problem is now I don’t get a chance to try and speak, and what I had learnt before has now gone by the wayside. As I get older the memory is going by the wayside as well so what chance have I got! Great post Diane

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      • I see my great friend from France has joined the conversation. πŸ™‚ ..I know exactly what Diane means.. and she did manage before πŸ™‚ . Diane and I are friends who met through blogging .. I will have to send you the link to our story. I had a fantastic stay with them …last year. πŸ™‚ .. My french improved then. I haven’t forgotten what I learnt . Well not all of it.

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  11. Hmmm…fellow PN followers…I can’t help but suspect that our dear PN is trying to pull his black wool over our eyes by somewhat exaggerating his incompetence in Italian! Giusto Pecora?! πŸ˜‰ I don’t know what Duolingo is or how it arrives at a % fluency without having authentic conversations with the student (sounds absurd to me) is but I have a feeling that if PN gave it’s rating technique a shot he might find himself better rated than he makes out?

    Anyway, PN another thing you could try (it helped me) was to arrange some language exchange sessions. Lots of Italians want to practice their English and so are usually open to this. You agree to meet one of these willing volunteers in a bar (your fave place) and you spend an agreed amount of time chatting first in Italian and then in English (for instance 45mins in each language). It doesn’t matter if your levels are not perfectly matched as each part is done separately. Your partner corrects you (something I think people can be embarrassed to do in other circumstances) and you take some notes to study later. I can be hard to be disciplined if you are already mates with your partner so it can be better to find someone you don’t know.

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    • Mrs Sensible claims I already send far too much time in bars under the pretence of improving my language skills, an Italian friend of mine told me his English improved dramatically when he was dating a pretty English woman who knew no Italian, he suggested I should follow his example but obviously with a pretty Italian who doesn’t speak English . It seems like a fabulous idea, I’m just not sure how to ask Mrs S if I can sign up for this type of one on one tutoring. Obviously I will hide her wooden spoon first.. and come to think of it it might be wise to temporarily remove all the sharp knives, pots and pans and any other things that might be hazardous to my health.

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    • Duolingo is a free online Italian learning program. It is not meant to be stand alone. I use it as a supplement to my weekly formal Italian class. I am sure that my 55% fluency is in reading and comprehension….not in speaking. It is great for reinforcing grammar, spelling and understanding spoken Italian. Many of the questions are “type what you hear” and then a sentence is spoken in Italian.
      If you start out not knowing anything of the language you are trying to learn then you won’t really learn much. They also have a version where you turn on you microphone and speak. And at one point they wanted me to turn on my webcam so they could see me. Since I’m often using it in my pajamas I decided not to do that part and for some reason they couldn’t hear me so I turned off the microphone.
      They teach hundreds of languages. http://www.duolingo.com
      And, no I don’t work for them. It is not a substitute for actually taking a class (preferably with a native speaker like I do) but a tool to use in combination with other tools.

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      • Sounds interesting! Does it test verb conjugations too? That would be interesting for me – especially for some of the lesser used tenses (or maybe they are “lesser used” by me because I can’t remember them!!). It’s much harder to learn a language when you are not living in the country. From what you have been saying, it sounds like you don’t live here (maybe in USA?). I was living in the USA when I met my Italian husband! Then we moved here (North of Italy). I attended group lessons at an evening school in Ohio before we left but they went very slowly and a lot of my fellow students found it very hard as once a week isn’t so much (plus my impression was that they had never tried to learn a language before so lots of the basic concepts – like word gender were totally weird to them) British have at least done a little French or Spanish at school so have an idea what to expect. You certainly have the right attitude, trying to grasp all the opportunities that you can to listen and practice! And I think you were dead right not to turn on the webcam (!whatever next??? ). PerΓ², dobbiamo solo convincere Pecora Nera che sarΓ  assolutamente vale la pena!

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        • First, yes, I do live in the US. I have been formally studying Italian in a once a week evening class for two years (just started our seventh quarter). It is only once a week and doesn’t meet during the summer but we (the students) meet for a once a week study group. Our teacher, Josefina, is native Italian. Before that I did what I could on my own with books, CD’s and such. I could say “Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano” with such a good accent people didn’t believe me. I have always listened to Italian opera, have started collecting CD’s by Italians such as Claudio Baglioni…and went to a Zucchero concert here in Seattle (which was almost like being in Italy as 3/4’s of the audience was Italian). I get Italian movies and TV shows and try to ignore the subtitles but….it would be really nice to have someone to speak with on a daily basis. Probably not going to happen here but if all goes well I’ll be living in Venice in about four years. And I had three years of French in college. Can’t speak it worth merde though.
          Duolingo does have tests for verb conjugations although you probably would not find the lesser used ones. I’ve hit a stumbling block as I have gotten to the “future perfect” which we have not studied in class yet…it’s eight chapters away but she says we will be on the conditional for the entire quarter. I can continue to review what I have already done as it reminds you to “keep what you have strong”. You can go online and look at it and try their test. I’m sure with living in Italy you will probably be beyond anything they have to teach you.
          Oh, and every now and then I try to post something in Italian on my blog. PN knows my blog. And since I have followers who do not read Italian it is translated at the end when there is an Italian post.

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          • Good for you, sounds like you are doing really well. The Future Perfect isn’t so difficult in Italian because it is very similar to the English version (as far as I can make out it has the same use and practically the same structure so it’s relatively instinctive). The conditional is MUCH more useful. Great that people actually think you are Italian!!! I have a terribly strong English accent and even if I just say a couple of words everyone immediately knows that I’m British!! In fact I suspect it sounds comical :-(( I have tried to change it ,but I think I don’t have the right ear (although I can mimic an Italian speaking English and this makes everyone chuckle!). I guess I will have to live with my poor accent – people understand me and that’s the most important part – but if I ever hear myself on tape I cringe!

            Where are you in the US?

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            • I am about a 20 minute drive from downtown Seattle but only a very short drive from SeaTac International Airport….taxi drivers hate me when I fly in from Venice at midnight and it’s such a short fare.
              Some of my classmates(there are currently six of us) have a really hard time not using English pronunciation rules…saying “ee” when they see “e” rather than “ay” and the ci/ch thing really baffles them. By second quarter I had that part down. But I guess wanting to live in Italy is a better incentive than just visiting for a few weeks…and I don’t have the advantage of an Italian husband.
              But luckily my teacher Josefina calls me her “stelle”. I’ve told the others they need to know how to say “teacher’s pet” in Italian.
              As long as you are understood in Italy, that’s the important thing.

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  12. πŸ˜€ Your posts never fail to make me laugh!
    Good luck learning Italian. You couldn’t be in a better place to learn it…
    (if it helps: memorizing lots of vocab helped me in the beginning. Even if you can’t get a sentence out, if you can get out the right words in some order you feel like maybe someone understands…now whether or not that was the case I’ll happily never know, but it made me feel better)

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    • It worries me when I can see them trying not to laugh, or when the puzzlement on their faces clouds over and is replaced by astonishment. it is at this point that I start wondering if I have used the words for meat of dog instead of meat of cow.

      P.S I am glad you enjoy my blog of madness

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  13. Since it seems wine may help you learn a bit of Italian, may I suggest a suggest a more effective brew – kachasu, a Zambian form of moonshine. It will make you grasp the language fast. I can even look for the recipe and send it to you so that you make your own. πŸ™‚

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    • Oh yes please, that would be great. Just don’t tell Mrs Sensible. I soak hard sugar cubes and seeds of aniseed in 95% alcohol, the sugar doesn’t dissolve and when dropped into an espresso they liven it up. And a brave man can try to suck them until they dissolve

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