My Second Time in the Hot Seat

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Today was the first day of Italian class at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. I eagerly arrived at 8:30am in high spirits while simultaneously inundated with apprehension–what started as a tiny pang grew increasingly more apparent with each step I took towards Piazza dell’Orologio. I had taken a week-long class at this very same school during my 2012 four-week Italian adventure so I knew the cause for the apprehension: the oral component of the placement test.

Here’s how it works: after completing the written part–which consists of a series of multiple choice and fill-in questions–they grade it, then summon you up to sit in the front of the classroom for your oral test. This was beyond terrifying the first time around because despite the fact that the examiner and I spoke at a low volume, the entire class is made privy to your conversation, hence my dismay the second time. Also, I think that since the word “test” is associated with this system, I couldn’t help but find something invasive about the procedure. No one else sees your written answers so why should they get to listen to you?  I know the test isn’t a matter of pass or fail–it’s just to see where you should be placed so you can thrive and excel–but I still find something unsettling about it (even though the examiners are extremely kind and never make you feel stupid).

Today was my second time in the hot seat and I have been dreading it since the moment I decided to enroll last week. However,  today there were two hot seats set up at the front of the room because this time, two teachers conducted the orals. Needless to say, this was a  huge relief because each group eclipsed the other’s spotlight and since multiple conversations were happening, none of the other students-to-be paid any attention.

My turn: the examiner asked me what I was doing in Rome and I told her all about how I moved here, was renting a friend’s apartment in Monti, I walked to school this morning, and have been teaching some English in addition to picking up other projects. This was all in Italian of course.

Hai lasciato il tuo lavoro?!” she asked me if I left my job in New York, her face a mix of shock and awe.

Si, l’ho lasciato,” I confirmed with confidence. (I wasn’t even sure if that pronoun was correct…Italian pronouns–coupled with prepositions–are the bane of my existence–but more on those some other time.)

Overall, we had what I would consider a dandy conversation.

As for the written part, I forewent my weekend plans of cramming because I realized that I would only be cheating myself. My Italian skills have diminished over the last year or so and even though all the rules and words are in my head somewhere, I wanted to enter the classes at a level where I would feel comfortable and not overwhelmed. Well funnily enough, I got placed in Level 4 B2, which is high intermediate and coincidently, the same level they placed me in last time.  So what this means is that I did well. (Not gonna lie…there was a part of me that would have been really disappointed if I did worse than last time which is the reason why I had planned to cram, so I was just tickled pink about my placement. I had passed!)

My first lesson: the dreaded passato remoto (remote past) verb tense. I couldn’t help but laugh. Anyone with whom I have discussed la bella lingua can vouch for me when I say that I despise this verb tense. Despite the fact that I have learned it many times over, it just doesn’t want to stick. Plus, the abnormally abundant amount of irregular conjugations also adds to the challenge of mastering it. So perhaps the passato remoto is actually a perfect place to start here in Italy–second only to i pronomi & i le preposizioni. Hopefully this time around, the 1,972nd time is the charm.

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