Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ciao! Come va?

Breaking News

I am learning a new language - Italian

Why, you may ask, would I in my seventh decade of life attempt to learn a foreign language?  The short answer would include three reasons:

1. It's a beautiful sounding language
2. I'm hoping to visit Italy and stay for a while
3. The culture of Italy is bellissima!

However, my secret ambition is that I have always wanted to be multi-lingual.  I think it is tied to my desire to see the world.  I am a native speaker of English.  In high school I studied a "dead language" - Latin.  I was an average student of Latin, but I definitely benefited from its study when I took up Spanish in college.  After three years of formal study of Spanish and several months working among Spanish speakers in Tucson as a community organizer for the UFW, I consider myself fairly fluent in Spanish.

There were a few other attempts at foreign languages throughout my life and into my 40's.  I did self-study of Russian, learning a non-Roman alphabet and some pronunciation of Russian words, but I never took classes so it went nowhere.  I took Japanese for a very short time at a community college in San Diego.  Both of my daughters took Japanese in high school and I had several girlfriends who spoke Japanese, so I thought it would be fun to learn.  I learned  a few phrases and then dropped out of that class.

My TESOL Certificate
When I was 49, I decided I would like a second career as a teacher overseas in English language schools.  I enrolled in an UCSD-Extension certificate program for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  Our courses of study included the study of linguistics and theories on language acquisition. Learning a new language is a real challenge for adults. Our brains are very adaptive to learning speech and symbols from birth to about 7 years old.  But after 7, studies show our brain changes, becoming "hard-wired" in understanding the world in the the  language we are brought up in.  Before the age of 7 is an ideal time to learn more than one language.

I never did go overseas to teach English, but I have tutored adult ESL students for 15 years.  At the local community college where I tutor now,  I saw a poster advertising a Spring semester course in "Elementary Italian".  I haven't taken a college course since 2004 (when I was in an MBA program at the University of Phoenix in San Diego).  I found out that we senior citizens got a nice discount for community college classes (only $5 per credit) so I applied and registered at Central New Mexico College for the Spring, 2015 semester.  Our teacher at the local community college is from Rome and she is an enthusiastic teacher.  It's not easy, but it is fun.  My husband approves because he thinks that learning a foreign language helps fight dementia.

Another aspect is that I can appreciate better what my ESL students are going through. I think I am a more sensitive teacher because of my personal experience.

Ron and I in Sardinia, Italy 

In Firenze (Florence), Italy
I found out that a local Italian-American cultural club has regular conversation groups every week.  After I finish this class, I plan to join one to keep improving my language skills.  Then, who knows, maybe my husband and I will go to Italy and stay a while.  We stopped at five Italian ports-of-call when we cruised the Mediterranean in the fall of 2013 but I found that these short visits were a mere appetizer leaving one hungry for the full meal.

I've been studying Italian for 3 months now, going to class twice a week.  Each day, as I practice my Italian and learn a bit more, I am excited about the possibility of one day Ron and I going to Italy for a long term stay!  Ron loves Italy and wants to show me places he has been.  I'm hoping that I can learn enough Italian to help us navigate the country and its customs.

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence spanning across the Arno River.  

A market in Palermo, Sicily

The coliseum in Rome

Sistine Chapel in Vatican City
A street in Naples, Italy

A view of Naples harbor

Porto Cervo in Sardinia


  1. Your are totally amazing and to be commended Vicki. And not to discourage you in anyway but when my 5 year old granddaughter arrived from Ethiopia she knew two worlds in English. A year later she conversed on the phone fluently with me in English. I on other had tried to learn French a year before we traveled there at age sixty and was barely conversent though my Visa Card help a lot in sticky situations...;)

  2. More evidence of the need to expose our young children to learn foreign languages before the age of 8.