Monday, November 17, 2003

Language is about communication. Whether they are written or spoken, heard or read, dialogues and – if it were a real word – polylogues are the essense of language.

So I wasn’t optimistic when I walked into my first Italian lesson this morning to find the room arranged in lines of tables facing the teacher’s desk at the front. There weren’t spaces for ink pots on the tables but, as it transpired, they wouldn’t’ve been out of place. (Is it ok to write wouldn’t’ve? I’ve seen it before but I’m not sure about it. Answers on a postcard.)

The feared monologue duly happened. I didn’t say a single word in the whole lesson apart from a token effort to join in the repeat-after-me exercises. Yes, that really did happen: she read, we repeated. Otherwise it was a procession of grammar exercises and explanations on the board; I thought I’d left this behind with the passing of the hated Mrs. Head when I was eight. If I’d taken a photo of the scene it wouldn’t have looked right: for two hours my life felt as though it was happening in black & white.

I can’t see me going back. Although I learnt things – it’s much easier to find the motivation once you’re in the classroom – it’s not an efficient use of my time (especially at 9am on a Monday morning): a good private teacher could get me through everything we did today in five minutes. Having said that, relative to the other students (I think, I didn’t actually get to talk to them) I do have advantages: I speak decent Spanish, I have an excellent grasp of the workings of my own language and I’m University-educated. The reason I think this last point true and worth mentioning is that these were free lessons for immigrants provided by the council. Sadly they’re not for me.

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