Tuesday 21 February 2012

Si, parlo l'Italiano!

Lil-lil is at that exciting time in life, where the whole world is truly hers for the picking. Every option is available to her. Now she's at school, she's doing wonderful things like art, gymnastics, Italian, music. She's loving it and, best of all, the potential is there for her to enjoy and be good at any of them.

For me, it just reminds me of everything I didn't do so well at.

One afternoon last week, Lil excitedly told me how she was learning Italian and how brilliant it was going to be because her dad and I wouldn't be able to understand what she was saying. I then told her I could speak Italian and that I spent 10 years learning the language. It's true, I did. I even did it for my HSC (final high school exams).

Doing Italian for my HSC was one of the more silly things I've done in my life. For some reason I was convinced that learning a language would be brilliant and speaking Italian would really enrich my life.
In reality I never really enjoyed the classes and spent most of the time day-dreaming. Which resulted in the time when I embarrassingly replied I was going to "Al Pacino" rather "alla piscina" (the swimming pool).

My high school Italian teacher convinced me and four other girls that doing Italian for the HSC would be the greatest thing we ever did. I think she may have watched Stand and Deliver and thought she was going to turn us into Italian speaking freaks.

The moment it hit me that doing Italian as part of my final year of school wasn't going to be my moment of glory was when we turned up to the oral/aural exam. It was held in a high school quite a distance away, we walked into the hall and it suddenly hit us five naive little white anglo girls from the lower north shore of Sydney, that we were the only ones who didn't have an Italian background. We were competing against people who'd been immersed in the culture and language their whole lives. Our total exposure outside of class was reading the pasta menu at Pizza Hut.

It also didn't help that I never studied and the only homework I did was copied from the one girl in the class who actually tried. As I copied down her answers she'd try and explain what I was copying, desperate to teach me and I'd shush her away only caring that the homework was done and I wouldn't get busted. I really had zero interest in learning the language and a pretty bad attitude about the whole thing.

So once high school was over I tried to forget the little I'd learnt. The only time it came in handy was after a car crash just outside of Rome, other than that I've never uttered a word. I'm sure the girl who answered every Monday that on the weekend she went to 'alla montagna blu" has never had to use that sentence again. Every now and then Skip asks me to translate the Italian SBS news for him or asks what the neighbours are saying over the fence. I always fob him off with some "It must be a Sicilian dialect" excuse. Even living in the 'little Italy' of Sydney hasn't inspired me to tussle with the language again.

Now, Lil-lil is learning, she keeps asking me how to say things and little-by-little everything I spent the past 18 years trying to suppress is coming back slowly. Maybe I'll enjoy it a little more this time round.

What subject in school was a complete waste of time for you?


  1. French.
    Also thought it would be genius to do it for TEE.
    I left that written exam PUMPED. I wrote pages of French, man (homme). Every damn word I knew - or thought I knew.
    In god knows what pickled mess though.

    Lowest score of my six subjects.
    So low it was actually excluded from my TEE score.
    Whoops. Desole!
    :-) x

  2. Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant ...

    And as one of the mentioned girls in Rin's blog today I can vouch for every word written!!!

    Thank god for Idette and her homework ... and remember when we tried to get out of lessons all the time and play Tombola!!! and the time that Miss Del Sal made us get up in front of the whole school and sing 3 ridiculous songs in Italian ... this was the time of our school days when we were trying to be cool and trendy ...

    Many more I could remind you of so look out lovely


  3. Do you remember the Avanti books? Did you learn from them? Non mi chiamo Faye, mi chiamo FAAAYE. Ring any bells? LOVED Italian but was shit house at it. I was quite dramatic and used a lot of hand gestures so I fudged my way through. VERY funny post Corinne x

  4. Oh my god havent thought of those Avanti books for years ... Dario was the one always late but who was the one that thought he was the bees knees .... was his name Paolo maybe???

  5. Very funny and nice walk down memory lane with the Italian! I studied Italian Until year ten, can't remember a word of it! Chemistry though was my most useless subject! Only time I've used it is at trivia nights when there's a question about the periodic table!

  6. Must be Sicilian dialect? bwahahahahah, so funny!

    I wish I kept studying a language. At my school, we could pick from German, French, Japanese, Latin or Mandarin. I chose German in Yr 7-8 and French in 9-10. I could probably still recognise quite alot of french, but wouldn't be able to write it or converse in it. My brother in law is completely fluent in German which he learnt K-12. It came in handy, ONCE, when he was skiiing in Italy, on the border of Germany. Woop-de-doo!!!

    Good luck Lil-Lil, I'm sure she'll be ordering off menus in Leichardt in no time ;)



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