Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cultural Lessons 101

So having been in Italy a month tomorrow 11-4-09 ,or as they write here in Italy 4-11-09, I have started learning quite a bit about Italian culture as well as my own and about myself.

1) I am impatient. Most people who know me say, "Crystal you must have a lot of patience, you do..."

Well I am not patient and God is taking the time to show me this being in Italy. I was told by some of my teammates that waiting is a part of Italian culture. When I was getting my paperwork done the longest line I waited in was maybe 30 minutes, and I thought to myself that is not too much different than the states. Well on October 14, I signed up for language classes at the Anglo American School (they teach mostly English to Italians). That day they gave me a list of what books I would need for the course. I went to the book store and they had the work book I needed but not the text book. I talked to the lady at the counter, she spoke a little English, and she informed me the book had been ordered but the bookstore was waiting on the Greeks. Humm... we are still waiting on the Greeks.

That same week, actually before I went looking for the book, my roommates were kind enough to go to the local internet provider, FastWeb to sign up for internet. Well we got internet yesterday, November 7, and in the mean time, I was very frustrated with the waiting.

So lesson number one is I have a lot less patience than I thought.

2) Language is very important to what we do on a daily basis. I can't emphasize this point enough. My first day in Italy I went to apply for my codice fiscale and my permesso. While I was doing this I was given very simple forms to fill out. It needed information such as my name, birthday, and passport number. Stateside if the same form was given to a parent of a student who did not know much English I would not have thought twice about the possibility of such a form being difficult. The information it was looking for was simple. Alas, having had my experience here in Italy, I now know the simplicity of the information required on the form does not matter, if you can't read it.

3) Second languages are hard to acquire. Prior to my experiences here in Italy, I served as a teacher in Texas, where I had English as a Second Language, E.S. L., teaching certification. In training for such a certification the professors I had shared with us many strategies based on tons of research for ways to help students acquire the ability to speak and understand English. Some were rather simple things such as where a student were to sit, or making sure to use pictures with words to help ground the words meaning. Some were a little more strategic such as having cloze passages, or passages that would leave out only key words for the ESL student to fill in. All that said, my Italian teacher used some of the same techniques when teaching Italian to non-Italian speaking students, including me. My assessment, they may help, but very little in the beginning stages of language acquisition. For the first few days I could listen in class for an hour and a half and understand little to none that was said. Having now been in the country for a month, and having been in 8 classes, I can every now and then think, "Wow, I know all the words they just said, now give me 10 minutes to think of what they mean." I will keep you posted to my progress this year.

4) Moving to a country is different from traveling to a country. When I go to visit a place, I am concerned with the best sites to see and the best food to eat, and maybe learning a few words from the host country. Moving somewhere though, I look at the sites to see every day, and say I have time to see that later, now where is the grocery store. You see the restaurants all around and think maybe I ought to try that sometime, but that tonight I think I will cook at home. You hear the language and say I want to be able to have a conversation with the people I see here and not only the ones who speak English.

5) Culture relates to how people view things, including religion, it is a part of their worldview. Now, it seems to me that having done research in college in a field that hinges on peoples worldviews I didn't expect this realization to slap me across the face the way it did. Yet, it did. When I was on campus last week interviewing students about spirituality and culture, it was interesting to contemplate how culture influenced some of the answers we heard. I will be posting more information about this on another post. This point will affect my work throughout the year, and how we reach out to the Italians.

6) This one is not so serious, but I will share. Italian is similar to Spanish in the fact that verbs change have suffixes that change based on if the verb is being done in first person (I), second person (you), him or her, us, we, or them. I hope that makes sense. It is hard to explain it. However, I was working on homework for class one night and it strikes me, in Texas I would phrase that as "Ya'll,” so do they have a plural form of you in Italian? The answer is yes. The word, noi, which literally translates as we, really means plural you, or in Texas, YA'LL! Yes!

I am sure that as culture surrounds me I will continlue to learn about Italian culture but also a little more about myself, and I will keep you posted!


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