Friday, February 17, 2012

Finding my place in free Italian class

Wednesday, February 15
It turns that my first free language class for immigrants today is just a placement test. After a 20-minute bike ride, I find the right government office and join some 30 plus students who listen to Ilaria speak rapid Italian, explaining that we must fill out a form listing our names, addresses, passport numbers and cell phone numbers. Then we will take a two-page exam, which we must do entirely by ourselves, and we will be placed in a class appropriate to our level that meets next Monday and Wednesday in the afternoon, or Wednesday and Friday in the evenings, depending on either which is more convenient for us or how we do on the exam. That last part I am not quite sure about.

She pauses a couple of times to say, “Avete capito?”  Have you understood? A couple of people nod, so she continues, but my experience as a teacher and with human nature informs me that a number of people probably don’t understand but figure they can just follow along to see what other people are doing.

When she passes out the information forms, she calls out a number of different languages, because the questions have been translated to accommodate various immigrants. There are forms in Chinese, Arab, French, English, Romanian and a few others. The test is only two pages long, but it has a number of irregular verbs, nouns, prepositions and adjectives, so it will probably serve its purpose and be quick to evaluate.

While the classes may be large and I will only be in Padova long enough to take four lessons, it is something I feel compelled to do. It will at least give me some closure for my efforts of 10 years ago, when I tried to sign up for this class but was denied by some ironical regulations. I couldn't take the class without a permesso di soggiorno, but in the office granting this permission to stay in Italy, the officials did not speak English, meaning that I had to speak Italian to obtain permission to take a class to teach me Italian.

In any event, Ilaria does not ask for a permesso di soggiorno or even to see our passports, so it seems the government has relaxed its requirements.  “Ci vediamo lunedì,” she says as I hand in my test and leave. 


  1. I know what you are saying about human nature and saying I dont understand. Happens all the time. Nice writing.


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