Predictive Text


You may recall – those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while – that I am learning Italian. I started about six years ago, but it’s an ongoing process and will continue to be so.  However, I can now hold a conversation in passable Italian on quite a wide range of subjects1, and I often talk to my Italian friends on Skype, or exchange a few words with any Italians I can lay my hands on while out and about in England, because the thing about a second language is that if you don’t use it, you really do lose it.



Those of you who were paying attention may further recall that my dearly beloved OH promised me faithfully, about two years ago, that he would also learn Italian. We were in Italy at the time and I think he got fed up with being left out of conversations which he couldn’t understand. After all, how did he know what I was saying to the handsome young waiter to make him smile so?2

And lo! We got home, and he did not learn Italian. He completely and utterly failed to learn more than odd word. And, I admit it, I have been teasing him about that and kind of (sort of) nagging him (just a little!) about fulfilling that promise and bloody well learning it. And a few months ago he decided that … well, alright then, he would. And he booked a week in Florence at a language school specialising in teaching Italian to foreigners and chose a class for beginners over fifty, and that’s where he’s been this week.


He found it quite hard going, because neither of us realised that this language school’s approach to teaching Italian to foreign students consisted of speaking purely in Italian with a lot of gestures. This might work for the clear-eyed and clean-limbed youth, but for the over-fifties? Uh .. perhaps not. And what’s more, there were only two people actually over fifty years old in the class, which was mostly composed of much younger people, and they hadn’t thought fit to inform him of this.  However, when OH and a few others startlingly failed to miraculously grasp the meaning of the lesson which was being taught in a language they had actually come to learn and of which they had no understanding, they were given some extra, one-to-one teaching and he did in fact come home knowing a little bit more than when he left.  But I still think it was a swizz.


The dictionary up there? I asked him to get me the Oxford-Paravia Italian-English dictionary while he was in Italy because it costs over £200 here, and it turns out that the reason for that is that it’s out of print. This dictionary (Il Ragazzini) was recommended to him in a bookshop, and my friend Paola endorsed this recommendation, so he risked a hernia to bring it home for me3.


Predictive text? Well, when his connection has been up to it, we’ve been Skyping to keep in touch. The screenshots in this blog are from one of those conversations. Enjoy!


1 Yes, I really can! I can, for instance, discuss the state of the world, how to cook culurgiones, the fact that English people consider a certain Italian ex-politician to be a buffoon, and why twin grand-daughters can be dangerous. I can also relate the story of the Pirate’s vegetable garden.   I might not always do it in very good Italian, but people can usually understand me.  That in itself is a minor miracle, considering the topics listed above.

2 Usually it’s something along the lines of ‘Is the pannacotta made with fish gelatine?’ or ‘do you have any egg-free pasta?’, but I admit, it can stray quite a long way from there, given time and encouragement.

3 It is a hardback, it measures 18cm x 25.5cm x 8cm, it weighs a ton, and comes in its own slipcase.

7 thoughts on “Predictive Text

  1. Valerie Daggatt 25th April 2016 / 11:12 am

    I spent about ten years trying to learn Italian and now I’ve forgotten most of it. I wasn’t very good, I’m afraid. It was the same with German. One thing I discovered was that I learned more by being in the relevant country. Husband wouldn’t even consider moving to Italy. One thing I did discover was that not everyone has the sort of brain that will stretch to a different language. It made me feel better!

    • Jay 25th April 2016 / 2:49 pm

      It’s true that not everyone’s brain is ideally suited to learning a second language. I think OH is finding it very much harder than I did, although that could be his perception, because I am so much further ahead than he is. It’s also true that with languages, the old maxim ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ is absolutely true. I know that if I stopped listening to, speaking, reading and writing Italian, I’d forget it scarily fast.

      I agree, too, that being in the county where a language is spoken is the very best way to learn – but taking holidays in that country can keep a language fresh! You could perhaps go to Italy once or twice a year? 😀

      • Jay 25th April 2016 / 2:49 pm

        Oh, and German I just could not get my head around at all!

  2. Valerie Daggatt 26th April 2016 / 10:24 am

    Jay, we went to Italy twice a year…. smiles. Unfortunately husband died this year so it’s unlikely I’ll ever go there again.

    • Jay 26th April 2016 / 2:01 pm

      I am so very sorry about your husband. My sincere sympathy.

      I often wonder if I would continue to travel if my husband were to die before me and I suspect the answer is no … but I do have bereaved friends who travel more, if anything. They must be very strong.

  3. liz 14th May 2016 / 1:03 pm

    I am very impressed. Our attempts to learn Italian stalled but we need to begin again as we’ll be spending 3 weeks in Italy in late summer where our new grandchild is due to be born. I fear I am like OH though.

  4. Rob Lenihan 23rd May 2016 / 2:23 am

    I took Italian in college and I’ve forgotten everything I learned–which wasn’t much. This is particularly embarrassing as my mother was Italian.

    Speaking another is a fabulous skill, though, and it’s supposedly helps keep aging minds sharp. Which means I should probably get a job at the UN.

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