Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

I’ll Show You Mine


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I have finally got myself a language exchange partner.

Sadly not the 6ft, raven-haired, dark-eyed hunk of unruly Italian masculinity that I had been hoping for; more a 4ft10, brown-haired, dark-eyed slip of Italian womanhood, but very welcome nevertheless. Especially in light of the fact that I seem to get away with conversing in Italian far more than she gets to practise her English.

Being single girls, and of roughly the same age, most of our conversations in both languages so far have been about boys. She has been giving me the low-down on Italian men – confirming most of what I had originally suspected, and I have been making stuff up about British ones.

Not having been anywhere near one since I was eighteen, my fictional Brit seems to have taken the middle ground somewhere between…

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Down Wiv Skool


Weary Wanderings for Wednesdays!

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I loathed school, I mean really really loathed it. Even now – seventeen years after my torture schooling ended (bloody hell that makes me feel old :-() – when I find myself on the wrong side of the gates, my heart beats wildly and I struggle to catch my breath until freedom has been safely regained.

Knowing that I would have to spend several days traipsing the hallowed halls, filled me with not a little trepidation.

So as a panic-reducing displacement activity, I attempted to distract myself by studying the idiosyncrasies of Italian school life…

Most noticeable is that Italian children talk A LOT. The noise levels in the classroom, in the dining hall, in the playground, and indeed anywhere where there is more than one bimbo italiano are excruciating.

They also find sitting still for longer than…

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A Translator Very Good Am I


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays!

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

For a few days I fielded some rather odd questions from Fiona;

Fiona: Would you say ‘a sea borough’ or ‘a sea district’?

SV: What the…? Let me have a look at that.

Fiona: No, no. It’s ok. I’ll get you to check it afterwards.

I struggled to concentrate as she redirected her strange questioning to an Italian colleague, X;

Fiona: X, would you say ‘the San Marco palace is made revived on the will of the Filippi’s family’ or ‘the Filippi’s family made will the San Marco palace to revived’?

X: Ummm… I think the second one.

SV: ?@!*!@*?!

Needless to say, the document ended up on my desk, and after tearing my hair out over it for less than a day, I was treated to the following haranguing;

Fiona: Why are you taking so long to…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (final part)


Memories for Mondays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

My frustrations were somewhat alleviated by the arrival of ten other English speakers to help prepare the summer camps.

All ex-tutors from previous years or actors from the school theatre tour, they brought a much-needed breath of fresh air and sanity. Even Shrek seemed to find it in him to generously overlook their exuberant English-Speakingness; copping sly squeezes of the pretty girls and jovially slapping the boys on the back.

So having spent a fortnight stapling sheets of paper and stuffing them into 250 plastic folders (in funereal silence, Fiona’s orders – she objected to the fact that I was conversing with a colleague in Spanish because she couldn’t understand what we were saying) I was allowed to escape the office and start training with them.

After a few days singing the camp song (a ditty so mind-bogglingly…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (part two)


Flashback Friday!

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

After the ‘business trip’, the director asked me if thought I would be capable of taking over that side of the job.

Ummm, how can I put this…

I think I would probably be as capable as the next man of zigzagging aimlessly round the Italian countryside, wasting hours and hours and hours due to sheer incompetence before talking rubbish to Italian parents for half an hour. However, despite being aware of the very great honour bestowed on me by the assumption that one day I might be a suitable candidate for filling the great man’s shoes, I had to decline. Leaving (and paying someone to look after) Pooch for five days out of every seven, for an itinerant life of tedium was not exactly what I had in mind.

That having been explained (in words not dissimilar…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (part one)


Tired Old Tales for Thursdays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

A little over three months ago I saw an advertisement for some sort of office job in Italy. This was lucky, because any sort of office job in Italy was exactly what I was looking for. The company even had an interesting concept to sweeten the bitter pill of shackling myself to a desk once again – English theatre productions in Italian schools, and English summer camps in Italy.

I applied.

The first blow was the monthly salary. I had been prepared for the fact that Italian salaries were very low, but this was worse than peanuts. Even monkeys would have politely declined.

Then the director told me that if I took the job I had to stay with them for a reasonable amount of time.

“That’s ok,” thought I, “truthfully I had been considering nine months, but…

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Living on a Whim part one


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays – a trip down memory strada…

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I am moving to Italy!

Now, I am extremely well acquainted with the whole moving scenario, but this particular shift in location has a sense of inevitability that was perhaps absent in most of my previous moves. It somehow lacks the frisson of excitement associated with my usual style of launching myself ‘dans la vide’ on little more than a whim and a prayer. Could that be because I have been pondering this for at least the last seven years? Does that mean that this relocation actually constitutes a well-considered plan rather than a thrill-seeking mission? How could I have missed the signs? It’s time to face up to the truth! MUMMY, YOUR LITTLE GIRL IS GROWING UP!

Up until the age of eighteen, I lived, to all intents and purposes, a pretty average life – premature expulsion…

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Linguisting it up a little


The twelve-month (possibly even less for Hubby) countdown to Blighty has begun, so we have at last had to get down to the task we’d been putting off for so long: turning him into a speaker of English.

Now this might sound like a doddle, especially given that English happens to be my mother tongue. “Just speak to him in English all the time” is the advice most people offer, “he’ll soon pick it up!” Which is great in theory, although a little less great if you have important domestic information (and occasional snippet of gossip or declaration of spousal affection) to communicate to one another in the paltry hour or two we get to spend together most days.

Plus English is currently Maya’s strongest language, and we worry that if she hears her father addressing me in it, however stiltedly, she might well be tempted to abandon using Romanian with him altogether.

And then there is the fact that Hubby and I have always spoken Italian together, even though it is neither my nor his mother tongue. Attempting to change the common language after five years not only feels stiff and unnatural, but it also carries the risk of us losing our hard-won Italian once we are back in the UK.

Luckily I am a qualified (in so much as very short TESOL course qualifies one for being qualified) teacher of English as a foreign language, so for a bleary-eyed hour every evening, we now sit at the dining table and work our way through a chapter of Essential Grammar in Use -the first in what is quite simply my favourite series of EFL books (heaven would be finding similar guides for all those languages I still hanker after).

Thus I am doing my bit; and if Hubby takes on board my implorations to listen to UK radio on the way to and from work, make the most of the original language button on the Sky box and actually pay attention when our daughter (or indeed any English speaker) and I are nattering, I am hopeful he will not die of starvation should I be forced to send him into the wilds of Northamptonshire a month or two before we are able to follow.

But that is not the only attempt at linguistic advancement currently taking place in our house, for I am contemporaneously trying to up my game in Romanian.

Admittedly I do have one advantage over Hubby in this, as learning new languages is one of my most favourite things to do as opposed to a reluctant necessity. So I do pay attention when he is nattering to our daughter (or indeed any Romanian speaker), and I am keen to watch Romanian television or listen to Romanian radio when I have the occasion, even though vast swathes of it go over my head.

Other than finally being able to indulge in a decent chit chat with those of my in-laws not conversant in Italian, another motive for increasing my level of Romanian is to help Maya get more exposure.

Because whilst her Tati spends as much time as he can interacting with her, and we try to ensure at least some Romanian cartoon time, she hears precious little of it elsewhere. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and his adult relatives use a Romanian/Hungarian dialect, although they speak Romanian to their children; apart from the sister-in-law in our village, who speaks to her two in Italian. So if I am able to hold even simple conversations with my husband in Maya’s presence, it will hopefully add a little something to her currently rather one-dimensional Romanian-language experience.

Of course if any of us end up communicating coherently in any of the three languages after all this, it will be nothing short of a bloody miracle 😉

The Root of All Evil


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Greetings, Dear Readers!

This is just a quick note to apologise for my shocking lack of commitment to Status Viatoris in recent weeks… A plethora of brand spanking new activities of the money-earning variety has been keeping me on my toes and distracted enough to banish any flicker of literary creativity to the most rear of back burners.

(Coupled with the fact that the miserable state of my bank balance has forced me to give considerably less time and attention to non-profit making endeavours – AKA blogging 😦 ).

The postcards have not yet arrived back from the printers, but when they do they will be taking up (hopefully temporary) residence on the proud shelves of Ci Vuole; the Antique/Bits’n’Bobs/Souvenir emporium that has been the most important of my projects over the last three and a half weeks.

Despite the lack of foresight involved in not getting the shop back up and running long before the busy summer season, I am actually very happy with the progress that has been made since being summoned for (unofficial) managerial purposes  at the end of June. Local maps, books on local history and the extremely popular one Euro table have joined olive oil soap, pot pourri, candles and an impressive collection of pewter, antique furniture and assorted knick knacks in order to provide tourists and locals with whatever their hearts may desire.


(I am still waiting for the local jams, honeys and other delicacies, still trying to source some tasty Italian sweeties and still trying to decide whether or not to rape my nostrils with a selection of scented candles – the item most requested by seemingly olfactorally-challenged locals).

Slotted in between Ci Vuole opening times, I now also boast some language students, the exact sort I attempted to court two years ago, but who apparently needed the intervening twenty-four months in order to assess whether or not my linguistic credentials were to be trusted.

Or something.

Teaching this time round is an entirely different ballgame from my experiences eleven years ago in Spain – perhaps because I am not planning it as a full time activity; but probably also because my dubious levels of maturity have since been inadvertently  tinged by a degree of patience.

Disconcertingly, I also find myself in the position of having more foreign students wishing to learn Italian than Italians after a smattering of English; but despite owning up to an utterly imperfect grasp of Italian  (pun a happy coincidence), they so far profess to be happy with my attempts at imparting the language.

(And who knows, may be the grammar overload will eventually push me into speaking an Italian un-bastardised by the French and Spanish I currently have spinning around up top).

So it is due to the inconveniently time-consuming, but sadly necessary evil known as the acquisition of hard cash that Status Viatoris may suffer from occasional periods of neglect over the following weeks. That said, it (and you) will never be far from my mind and I solemnly promise to splash these pages with fascinating tit bits and gossipy nuggets as and when they occur.

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer and I would just like to send very much love to the fabulous Mr and Mrs F, Status Viatoris readers extraordinaires, and now the proud parents of a simply exquisite baby boy.


Status Viatoris

and Pooch (who although not busy at all, nevertheless remains singularly disinclined to get off the sofa in order to fulfil his blogging responsibilities).

Floundering Fluency


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Chatting briefly to a friend’s mother on Skype over Christmas, I was the subject of an observation that hasn’t ever been levelled at me before: “I can’t believe how English you sound after so many years abroad.”

Well it is an undeniable fact that I am English – as opposed to US American, Scots, Kiwi, South African or other. But not only am I boring old English, I also speak my mother tongue with a total absence of any regional lilt: my pronunciation of the English language is probably as standard as it is possible to be.

Thus linguistically there is really nowhere to go and certainly no accent to lose…

But there is plenty to gain, or at least there would be if I moved to an English-speaking country or region with a vastly differing mode of parlance. In fact if ever I spend any time with those whose English differs from my own, I quickly and unconsciously begin to imitate their speech – perhaps another symptom of the desire to fit it through assimilation.

The point is, however, a moot one as for the last sixteen years I have primarily lived in non-English speaking countries. That is not to say that my English language skills haven’t been affected; far from it, I’m sorry to say.

I’m sure I’m not the only polyglot whose mother tongue spelling has deteriorated at an inversely proportionate rate to the amount of foreign vocabulary acquired. I frequently mourn the fact that I used to be an ace and intuitive speller – just saying a particularly tricky word out loud would enable me to jot it down correctly. Now I have to rely on the vagaries of spell-check to ensure I am not penning a load of bollocks – the different phonetic patterns one is forced to learn when getting to grips with new languages seems to mess with the linguistic software installed during those formative years the ear was being fine-tuned to process the spoken word.

Then I am often let down by verbal pronunciation – mainly of “new” English words that I may have seen written down in books or on the internet, but which due to my minimal contact with English-speakers, I have never heard spoken aloud. People unbothered by additional verbal cues would probably be able to have an educated stab – I am simply left floundering.

Even words I am long familiar with are sometimes mangled by dodgy mental pronunciation screening – usually called into use in a situation where I am having to switch between languages – leading to mortifying moments such as the time I referred to an epitome as an “epi-tome”.

Stoopid brain.

Last but not least is the peppering of speech with foreign words; sneakily authenticated by the simple application of an English accent, and the ever devious “False Friends” – English words, which although almost identical to  a foreign one, often have a vastly different meaning.

All in all I have come to the conclusion that I am not actually a very good linguist at all. It may well be that I can pick up foreign languages with relative ease, and even authenticate accents fairly successfully, but given that my brain has proved itself singularly incapable of maintaining standards in even my mother-tongue – a language I spoke exclusively for eighteen whole years – I really don’t hold out much hope for the other three…

This is Status Viatoris, who just heard only the other day of a man who speaks ten languages. TEN languages! How on earth did he have time to learn them all? How on earth does he practice them all enough to keep them active in his brain? I am extremely envious, but resigned to the fact that that will never be me 😦 in Italy.

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