Italian Spanglish and Some Art

Although I haven’t written about it yet, I have actually been going to school. The Villa Rosa is a pink building by the Piazza Savonarola where the food at the little cafe is better than every meal I’ve eaten at Whitman. The classes are (mostly) larger and have a very different feel to the classes I’m used to.

As far as the class atmosphere goes, Italian is by far my favorite. There are twelve people in the class and Owen is the only guy. Our teacher is very smiley and warm and quite literally wrote the book on Italian Language Learning – actually, she wrote all three books. Maybe it’s a mark of her abilities as a teacher or maybe I’ve just never learned a foreign language in a foreign place before but the way she teaches Italian makes a lot more sense than than how I’ve learned language before.

In french class there was a heavy focus on grammar and spelling. Here the focus is on being able to say what we’re trying to say. I’ve been largely ignoring spelling and writing down how things should be pronounced instead. For example, cucina (kitchen) is in my notes as [coo chi na] because that’s how it’s pronounced. As a side note, I have enough Italian to tell people that I only came to Italy for the food, which is probably all that matters.

Antonella (our professor) asked us if we had roommates. The point was to practice using the word compagno. Unfortunately for me and Owen, we decided to really stick to the distinction between roommates and housemates – somehow causing the conversation to spin completely out of control. I’m pretty sure compagno is a word that means both roommate and housemate, confusing us, the other students, and our professor who nobly tried to sort through a jumble of English and Italian words to figure out how we were living.

There is both a movie and a phenomenon called “Spanglish” in which speakers talk in a jumble of English and Spanish. Coming to Italy has (uselessly) showed me just how many french words I know. I could communicate everything I wanted to say in French and have begun to supplement french words for Italian words that I’m lacking – for anybody unfamiliar with the Italian language this is NOT helpful. Although Spanish and Italian have quite a bit in common French and Italian have very little. Truthfully, it’d be better if I swapped in English words for the Italian ones I don’t know, but that’s apparently not how my mind works.

Other students in my Italian class may think that I can speak Italian because they don’t understand any of the words that I’m saying except to know they’re in a foreign language. My Italian professor, however, is definitely aware that I’m not speaking Italian and has begun to look at me with an expression of bemused awareness. Truthfully, she might not understand a word of what I’m saying either, though she certainly pretends better than the other students.

Mondays and Wednesdays Owen and I have two other classes (we have all the same classes together in case anybody was wondering) Renaissance Art and Art History. The juxtaposition of these two classes led to an interesting discussion between me and Owen about teachers. In a ninety minute class our attention was bound to wander at some point or another but unlike our art history professor who pulls our attention back to him, our Renaissance prof did nothing to bring us back to him.

The first day of class Owen and I both thought that the course matter would be interesting enough to make Renaissance Art worthwhile, but twenty minutes into the second class it became clear that this wasn’t the case. We’re dropping tomorrow afternoon.

My history professor, on the other hand, is awesome. I can’t say I like him more than my Italian professor, because I like them in very different ways. She is warm and happy and seems like she likes everyone. He clearly bestows his approval very rarely, if at all. I’ve never been very excited about art, but this guy makes it cool. He’s very frank and dresses like an Italian man with leather shoes, sweaters and neck scarves (even though the’s originally from the United States). Part of why I like him, I think, is that he so obviously followed his passion. He came to Florence for study abroad, realized it was a great place to explore art history and stayed.

Every Wednesday our art history class meets outside the classroom. Today we met in the Piazza Della Repubblica (Owen and I were late which meant we didn’t get the fancy ear devices that amplified our prof’s voice so we had to stand close to hear what he and our TA were saying over the wind and screaming children – actually I stood close, Owen either has incredible hearing or wasn’t paying attention).

We wandered from there to the Piazza Della Signora (very close to the famous Uffizi museum) and spent the majority of the time talking about the sculptures in the Loggia. The Loggia is one of my favorite places in Florence so far. It’s full of sculptures that anybody can walk through. I’ll post pictures of these later we aren’t allowed to take them during class and our professor highlighted three main themes of the sculpture at this time.

  1. Marble sculptures weren’t actually white. The originals were painted, but Michelangelo and a lot of other people didn’t know this because when they discovered them all of the painting was gone.
  2. There’s a really cool balance between idealism and naturalism that can be seen on the sculptures. For example, many of the sculptures have blank individualistic expressions which is part of idealism, while a lot of the muscles are accurately portrayed – on this subject, actually our prof said something interesting about how the muscles themselves were also sometimes idealized. Although people can get their muscles to look like this today, with gym workouts and steroids etc., that wasn’t the case when the sculptures were made. This might seem self-explanatory to some people but I hadn’t thought about it and thought it was really cool to think of how body image has changed over the centuries. (Our prof focuses on this too and we’ll probably go into this with much greater detail over the rest of the semester).
  3. Okay, so it was pretty windy

Two sculptures from the Loggia dei Lanzi, the greenish one is a replica of a very famous sculpture

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