Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Italian, not Math, Mary!

I just took an on-line Italian quiz.  No, I wasn't merely wasting time.  Although I did have other things I wanted to be doing today. 

My Louisa is hoping to be a foreign exchange student in Italy next academic year.  She's learning Italian using Rosetta Stone.  But since Italian isn't one of Rosetta Stone's more commonly requested languages, it doesn't come with any supplemental materials, such as worksheets, tests and quizzes.  So I'm dinking around in the virtual world today, trying to find something she can use to reinforce what she's learning. 

I studied Italian for two semesters in college. But I don't really remember anything.  Or at least not much of anything.  I had also studied German for three years in highschool.  Highschool level language studies progress at a much slower pace than do college level courses.  I think a foreign language sticks with a person better when done at a slower pace.  

I traveled to Germany immediately after having studied Italian in college.  We stayed for three weeks with a family who spoke almost exclusively German.  When I first got there, I kept saying, "Si," rather than, "Ja," and, "Buon Giorno," rather than, "Guten Morgen."   But by the time we went to Italy at the end of our six weeks of traveling, I couldn't remember any Italian.  Almost nothing!  I think the German I learned in highschool resurfaced during my three week stay in Germany, and fully chased away any Italian I had managed to absorb during the previous college semesters.

Good thing many Germans travel to Italy for their holidays.  Most Italians we needed to speak with spoke German pretty well.  So between their second language skills and our own, we communicated more easily than in either Italian or English. 

So I'm not really much help to Louisa in her Italian language studies.

But I did have a pretty good classical type or college prep education, and I have always been a huge reader.  From that combination I have a little bit of ability to connect words that sound alike, or have similar roots, and can often make a reasonable guess at the meaning of isolated foreign words.  Especially in Italian or Spanish, since they have so many similarities to Latin, which is the root of so many of our English words. 

I can guess at German and Norwegian words or phrases for a different reason.  Since they are not romance languages, they don't get their foundations from Latin.  But they have similar roots to the English language (it's the whole Anglo-Saxon thing, I guess).  So they often just sound similar to our English words.  Guten Morgen, for example does not sound too much different than Good morning.

But I digress, sorry.  I'm a word geek, I find languages very fascinating.  When I was young I wanted to learn all the languages in the world.  We had a retired neighbor whose surname I can't spell correctly, so I'm not going to try.  He's just going to be, "The neighbor."  He had worked, I believe, for the national government (maybe state department) in some international capacity.  The neighbor had collected over his years of service a good number of languages.  Something like eight or nine.  I always held him is awe because of this talent.    

The neighbors were the kind of older couple who kept a little dish of candy just inside the door.  They liked for us kids to come over and visit.  We'd ring the doorbell and visit a few minutes and leave with our little piece of candy.  But behind the polite little visits with The neighbors, underneath the desire for that little piece of candy, was always the idea that this man was very cool.  He knew lots of languages.  Wow!

With that whole language thing in mind, just to see how I could do, I tried my hand at this Italian language quiz of common phrases at Quiz Tree a few minutes ago.  I did have a little help from Joe, who also does not speak Italian, but is a bigger language geek than I am.  He didn't help me with all of the questions, but for a few I couldn't decide between the two more likely answers, I'd ask his opinion. I think I got all the questions correct.  The little answer blinked green when I answered all of them. 

Just to be sure that I was interpreting the quiz blinks correctly, I just did a test and yes, it blinked red when I intentionally answered one wrong. As you can see from the screenshot I took of my quiz scores, I got the following results.

Think about that a minute.

Score: 640/700
Accuracy: 100%

Hmm.   Joe's response, "It's Italian, Mary, not math!"

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