On Saturday, July 19th 2014, I completed the exam for A2 level of Italian Language Course, which marked my journey of 160 hours (in over of 10 months) in learning Italian language. As I have completed the A (Basic) Level, I would like to write a note to memorize this accomplishment.
Before jumping to the part: why Italian? I’d like to share why I like to learn a new language in the first place.
It is started when I read an article in a teen’s magazine when I was a college student about the research result that people who can talk 2 languages or more, possess lower risk to suffer from Alzheimer and dementia in the old age. You can google about this topic right now and you will find at least a dozen of similar article. So it stroked me, because I have seen old people with Alzheimer and dementia in my family and neighborhood and it was very difficult for them and also people who took care of them. So at that time, I already determined to learn as many languages as I can.
Maybe you’ll ask why you learn more when 2 is already enough. Well, at that time I am already able to speak 2 languages fluently: my mother tongue: Cirebonese and my national language: Bahasa Indonesia. I have also studied English since my middle school up to university, so in total I have learned English for 10 years! But to be honest, I did not use it regularly until I start to work, where English is the formal language used in the company I work for. That was the time when I realize that to master another language gives me a lot of advantage, especially an international language like English. It’s not only the fact that I can perform better at work or I can communicate easily during travel abroad. But for me, most importantly, it opens the door to the new cultures, new knowledge, and new point of views that it is impossible to absorb by reading a translation. And to know and to understand these whole new things are an excitement for me. And the great thing is because I am not a native to the language, even after 17 years of involvement with it, I can always find a new thing to learn, for example a word or a phrase that I have never heard before.
Then, back to the first question, why Italian?
I have already revealed in my previous posts that I am a huge fan of Juventus, so I think, subconsciously that must be my first motivation. Everything about Juventus and Italian football fascinates me, so to be able to talk the same language as they do and receive every information on their original language is my long lasting dream. The second reason, I honestly think that the language sounds very beautiful, la lingua di piú bella nel mondo, the most beautiful language in the world. For me, it is beautiful literally in all conditions, whether it’s just a regular conversation or even during angry situation. These two reasons alone are good enough to make me spend 4 hours of my time every saturday. I don’t even flinch to the fact that Italian is only spoken by 62.1 million people (0.88% of world population), so even if I master this language someday, it will not give me too many advantage to my career, for example. In my opinion, every single thing that makes me happy in life, no matter how small or even useless it is, worth my time, energy and money.
A question that might popped-up is why starting now? If I was so fascinated about it, why didn’t I start earlier?
I have tried, actually. I started to buy some easy Italian conversation books when I was in school/college. I have managed to memorize a few words, but then I easily forget them because I never used them. I have also tried to sign-up free online course when internet became more reachable in the following years, but then I skipped it as I was tied to other urgent activities. That was the time when I realized that I have to follow old-school method, classroom, just like I always did. I finally determined to sign for the course, when I was sent away for a rotation job which made it impossible for me to attend the course continually. It was unfortunate, but it’s better late than never, right? So, I signed the first level (A) of the course at Italian Culture Institute (Istituto Italiano di Cultura/ IIC), located at HOS Cokroaminoto Road, South Jakarta
This institute is funded by Italian Government, therefore the course fee is relatively cheap, IDR 1 – 1.3M for 1 level (40 hours). And because it affiliates to Italian Embassy in Jakarta, the completion certificate is signed by the ambassador himself. Other than IIC, I don’t know other place which offer Italian course, apparently it’s pretty rare in Indonesia, because when I googled for other place closer to home, I couldn’t find one.
Ok, now, we get to the point where I share my impression about this language after I actually learned it in a classroom for 160 hours.
Well, I have to admit that Italian is more difficult than English. But to have a good background in English has helped me a lot to learn Italian, because there is a lot of similarity between English and Italian words, examples: Experience = Esperienza, Certainly = Certamente, To disturb = Disturbare. So, the way I do it was to think about what I want to say in Bahasa Indonesia, translate it to English, and then translate it again to Italian. For me, the process is faster that translate the word directly from Bahasa to Italian. However, since quite some time, in my mind I have been practicing to always think directly in English, so I hope it can cut down the processing time in my brain. Another thing, I also often gamble with it, if I stuck with some words that I have never used before, I use the English word and modify it a little bit to sound more Italian 😀 – I can tell that it works sometimes, but some other time I sound so ridiculous, so be careful with this approach!
So, English has been helpful with Italian vocabulary, but about the grammar, Italian is way more complex. At least I can point out the following major differences:
1. Each Italian noun have a specific gender: Maschile (Male) and Feminile (Female), and the article, adjective and plural form will change following the noun’s gender.
(1) Il ragazzo è carino (the boy is cute), I ragazzi sono carini (the boys are cute)
(2) Lo zaino è pesante (the backpack is heavy), Gli zaini sono pesanti (the backpacks are heavy)
(1) La ragazza è carina (the girl is cute), Le ragazze sono carine (the girls are cute)
(2) L’arancia è dolce (the orange is sweet), Le arance sono dolci (the oranges are sweet)
2. Italian verbs change (conjugate) according to the subject, in addition to the tenses. And there are too many tenses.
Example: To eat = Mangiare
(1) I eat = (Io) Mangio
(2) You eat = (Tu) Mangi
(3) He/ she/ you (formal) eat = (lui/lei/Lei) Mangia
(4) We eat = (Noi) Mangiamo
(5) You (plural) eat = (Voi) Mangiate
(6) They eat = (Loro) Mangiano
The subjects are put in bracket because normally it is omitted since the verb itself already reveals the subject. Note that above example is a regular verb, for irregular verbs, they do not follow the pattern of regular conjugation, so we have to memorize them. I will not share about the tenses yet, maybe in my next post.
3. There are a lot of words which have a lot of meaning, depend to the context.
(1) Gli means ‘the’ (plural masculine article), but gli also means ‘him’ (indirect pronouns)
(2) Ci means ‘us’ (direct/indirect pronouns), but also means ‘there’
While about the pronunciation, unlike English, Italian words are pronounced as it’s written. So it’s easier because Bahasa use the same approach. However, the alphabet pronunciation is not exactly the same. For example, Italian does not use the letter K, J and Y.
The following is a chart that I obtained from Ngag – and guess what? Italian is categorized as EASY here 😀 so it makes me wonder how it will feel like to learn the HARD one. According to the chart, it requires 575-600 class hours for English speakers to achieve language proficiency. So it seems that I still have 415 hours to go!! 😀 CORRAGGIO!!