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What Kindergarten and Learning Italian in Orvieto, Italy, have in common

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It seemed like a good idea at the time. Luigi, my Italian husband, had just booked our seven weeks stay in Italy. That’s when I got the “good” idea of attending a language school in Umbria.

I bet you’re thinking – why can’t my Italian-speaking husband be my teacher?

We tried. It was safer for our marriage to forgo that idea.

We planned to travel to one of my favourite cities in Italy, Orvieto, a picturesque medieval town perched on a volcanic rock plateau in southwestern Umbria. The village is a mix of charming medieval and modern Italianesque-shops. I love the fact that one can stroll leisurely through the historic centre without dodging Italian drivers.

town green structure

Photo Credit: valtercirillo

With this in mind, I searched for a language school and discovered a place that sounded just right. Perfect. As the location of LinguaSi, learning the Italian language in Orvieto wasn’t going to be a problem. With just a few emails, I was registered for four days. There was no backing out.

Do you remember your first day of Kindergarten? You didn’t know how to read or write, and it all felt so foreign that you just wanted to go home to your Mama?

Luigi walked me to my first day of Italian Kindergarten. As we walked down Corso Cavour towards my school, my insecurities kicked in. An inner voice screamed, “WHY do I need to learn Italian? I have a translator!” I reminded myself that it would be nice, at least, to understand the Italian language, even if I am too shy to utter more than a few words. At best, I could follow a conversation.

Italians tend to be verbose. When Luigi asks a stranger for directions, the conversation can last a good twenty minutes. After five minutes of language instruction, the only two words I recognize are sinistra or destra (left or right); my eyes begin to glaze over.

architecture Orvieto Duomo

Photo Credit: sferrario1968

Back to my first day- Luigi leaves me as we enter the front gates and I am on my own. This is a new feeling for me in Italy. He is my security blanket and I take him everywhere. My security blanket just walked away to enjoy a fresh espresso and a warm brioche. What? Who’s idea was this anyway? Oh, right…mine.

To my relief, the school is small enough to make it feel safe. Chiara, the secretary, whom I know from our numerous emails, is a friendly face. I am shown to my classroom. Oh no! It is low season for the school and I am the ONLY student! I have no fellow students to hide behind. I want to be having that espresso and warm brioche with my security blanket.

My teacher, Alessandra arrives and life at LinguaSi begins. I like Alessandra, but I am very nervous. Just my luck…one of the first things Alessandra stresses is the correct pronunciation of Italian words. Especially those with what I call the “drum roll” R’s. I have never been able to drum roll my R’s. She repeats the drum roll a few more times. I try again. It starts to feel extremely warm. Okay. Forget the R’s. We move on to simple phrases and the room temperature returns to normal. I actually enjoyed the rest of the class.

After my first day of Italian language lessons, I left my security blanket at home and walked all the way down Corso del Duomo and Corso Cavour by myself. I left early so I could enjoy Orvieto as it awakens. 

After my first day of Italian language lessons, I left my security blanket at home and walked all the way down Corso del Duomo and Corso Cavour by myself. I left early so I could enjoy Orvieto as it awakens. I walked by our favorite pizzeria and saw fresh pizzas ready for the morning “snack.”

As I passed a barbershop, I observed four or five locals loudly solving the political problems of the day (one was wildly waving a newspaper). I walked behind an older lady dressed in heels and nylons returning home from the grocery store and I thought, “If I have to wear heels to shop for groceries, I guess I will never look like a local”. Sigh.

wine food meat

Photo Credit: pastel100

My classes at LinguaSi were from 9:30 – 11:00 in the morning. Alessandra conducted the class solely in Italian, with her perfect rolling R’s, only interjecting English when I looked totally lost. At the end of class, she would assign my homework, which got stuffed into my bag until late in the evening. My afternoons and evenings were my “total Italian immersion” lessons: eating Italian food, drinking Italian wine and walking with the Italian locals of Orvieto, Assisi, Spoleto, and Deruta. Homework? What homework?

After four mornings of classes, with an excellent teacher, I wish that I could report that I can utter a few Italian words. Well, I’m worrrrrrking on it. Now, where did my security blanket go?

LinguaSi,  located in the historical centre of Orvieto, offers both group and individual Italian language courses. Group classes normally have 5-6 students, never more than 12. Individual classes are arranged according to the needs of the student. All LinguaSi teachers are University graduates with degrees in teaching Italian as a second language. In addition to traditional classroom time, students can also take part in cooking lessons, ceramic workshops or other group tours arranged by the school.

Italian Language School in Umbria

 Header Photo by hirisflower

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This article has 3 comments

  1. Erica

    Super cute story! I’m still working on my Spanish after 8 years in school!

  2. Bobbi Lerman

    I loved this, so funny.
    Orvieto is one of the Italian hill towns I like the most.
    I loved the part where you talked about walking to your class as Orivieto woke.
    That is one of my favorite things to do ( I don’t speak Italian either)

  3. lee

    Nancy,
    that was delightful. i did the same language attempt at Sorrento Lingue while on sabatical in 08′ the analogy to first day of school is perfect.
    i return to Italia every year and will look into the school in Orvieto, thanks for the info.

    this summer i am driving across the USA and visiting your island and as many others as have ferries or bridges. Any suggestions on where to go and spend a few weeks?

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