Thursday, April 07, 2011

Deragliamento/Train wreck
The Italian class that I (F) take at the library has been a bit of a disaster from day one. Even though we are all at completely different levels, come from five different continents, and have vastly different needs, the class is absolutely "one size fits all" or really in this case "...fits none." The structure of the class has basically been to try to teach the entire Italian grammar through reading examples aloud from a textbook written by the instructor.

Last Thursday we finished the book and so yesterday the instructor came in and started mumbling about how if we wanted, we could practice speaking by acting out different situations that we might be in like going to the pharmacy or buying something in a store. Then he went off on a digression about how there is a new law that after five years, foreigners have to take a written test in Italian for the long-term permesso di soggiorno and how difficult that would be, particularly for those of us who use a different writing system. After rambling a bit, he started to get frustrated that no one was answering the question that he had semi-asked earlier and choose what we wanted to do now that the book was done. Responding to his level of irritation in kind, the class completely clammed up and didn't say anything.

At that point, he opened the book back up to page one and started mumbling angrily something to the effect of now that we have been taught all of Italian we should want to use it. But by starting back on articles -- il, la, lo, i, le, gli = the and un, uno, una = a -- it unleashed the querulous Russian woman who thinks that articles are ridiculous since they get along fine without them in Russian (she's also opposed to the passato remoto and don't get her started on the trapassato remoto). Finally we got going reading the examples aloud, but then the teacher asked us to make examples of our own after reading the sentences out of the book. But rather than demonstrate, or asking someone more advanced first, he barked this at the less-fluent of the Romanian women who froze like a deer and couldn't get a word out. Unfortunately next in the circle were the adorable Bangladeshi mom and her son and the new Iranian guy, none of whom had a clue as to what all the mumbling and barking had been about, each of whom read their example aloud a bit haltingly and then looked blankly back at the instructor who was sinking visibly into despondency.

The whole vibe was awful. It even took out the Romanian woman who speaks fantastically. And I, who though I struggle to speak can preen like a peacock to show off my grammar, flamed out horribly with a sentence about a thief who stole a wallet.

The next class is today and I am on the fence about going back. Maybe we cleared the air and can start fresh, or maybe it will be another two hours of painful squirming awkwardness. I'll let you know.

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