First day of school – for me and Baby Tello!

This September I joined all the kiddos out there by going back to school: language school that is. After eight months of living here with not enough progress, it was time to buckle down and learn Italian! Over the course of four weeks I spent 80 hours dedicated to improving. And since good classes are hard to come by in our small town, that meant over a two hour commute one way. I actually spent longer on buses and trains each day than I did in the class I traveled to and from, but it was worth the investment!

The classroom that was my destination looked a little different than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to in years past. Unlike others I’ve sat in, here there was a poster on the wall with images of various types of pasta, textbooks which were literally in another language, and a small group of students from around the world who joined me at an oval table.

Our teacher was a delightful Italian woman who always came to class enthusiastic about imparting her mother tongue to all of us no matter how we jumbled our words together! Not only was she kind, patient, and fun, but she took a real interest in our bambina (little girl)! Every day she was sure to ask with special interest how baby and I were doing. Throughout the month she shared my joy over this amazing miracle inside me and took special care of me by keeping the sick kids as far from me as she could and letting me break the rules about eating in class :).

It was bittersweet as my time in those classes came to an end. In the beginning I expected to leave each day feeling defeated and dumb because of how little I was comprehending. Instead, I went from being elated the first week at how much new understanding I was gaining, to determined to get better, to a new found knowledge of how much I have left to learn! I am nowhere near fluent at this point, but I have made great strides. Thanks to those 80 hours with a terrific teacher I now understand loads more of what I hear and am more able to communicate simple ideas with my Italian friends and neighbors.

Now, it is essential that I keep progressing through self study and practice with the Italian speakers I meet everyday. Doing so means being willing to make a fool of myself in public when I stumble over my words. It means taking pleasure in the small victories (like when I understood 60% of what the doctor said at my recent appointment instead of 30% at the one before)! And it takes effort to carve out time for study that could easily be taken over by lots of other things. However, it’s all necessary in order to escape the place where I will always be looked over by my new(ish) community as ignorant and incapable due to my inability to communicate what is in my mind and heart.

So, if I’m honest about what motivates me it is a combination of reasons. It’s partly about self preservation; protecting the pride that takes such a beating when day after day the language barrier hinders me from completing the simplest tasks independently. It’s also about a desire for real relationship with the Italian speakers here; to be better able to serve the people God brought me here to bless. And there is even the realization that our little baby girl will pick up the language so fast once she starts talking that I can use all the head start I can get! She has probably already heard more Italian (from the womb) than English since her developing ears began to hear the outside world just as I was beginning my 80 hours of language school! Oh well, tutto bene (it’s all good)!

Ciao (bye) until next time!

-Erika

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