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.

Losing my mojo


When does it cease to become rest and recuperation and become mere laziness, I wonder?

Since I picked up this bug in November, I have been unwell quite a lot of the time and still don’t feel great. After struggling along for a week trying to pretend everything was normal1, back in those misty autumn days, I decided I had to change tactics and rest.

So I stopped walking the dogs2, I stopped cooking, I stopped getting dressed for the day, and I stopped reading my Italian translation of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’. There were, of course, other things I stopped doing, but stopping my reading in Italian was a milestone. I simply did not have the mental wherewithall to struggle with it, because yes, it had become a struggle. I also had to stop talking on Skype because .. well, I didn’t a voice worth listening to, and when I talked much, I’d go into paroxysms of coughing and couldn’t stop. For much the same reason, I stopped exercising, too.

Of course, once I’d stopped struggling to read in Italian, I stopped all other Italian studies as well. It’s quite true; when you’re so unwell you keep falling asleep on the couch wrapped in a blanket, it’s pointless to try to concentrate on anything because you simply can’t do it. So, no reading, no writing, no talking, and no games in Italian. I skipped over the posts on Facebook in Italian, and I put away the Italian books and got out an English one (it was a Harlequin romance which just goes to show how unwell I was3).

Once or twice, when I felt a bit better, I opened up Skype and conversed with a couple of people. Then I went downhill again and could barely cope with English again.

And now here we are in January. I’ve just had a chest x-ray because I am still coughing. Nowhere near as badly, but yep, still coughing. No results yet – I won’t get those till next week, so I have plenty of time to convince myself I have lung cancer or TB, or a tomato vine growing down there or something4.

From time to time I have managed to read a short text in Italian, and I no longer have to be in bed by 9.30pm because I’m dead on my feet on the couch, but I still struggle a bit.

But here’s the thing: I no longer know if I’m struggling because I haven’t been exercising properly or stretching my mind, or if I’m struggling because I’m still not over this wretched thing. I might open up Skype tonight and see if I can hold up my end of a conversation. I did manage a short chat with two lovely Italian girls in the Milano Bar yesterday while shopping in the lovely market town of Stamford, and I haven’t forgotten absolutely everything I know, which is nice, but I’m a bit nervous of going for a protracted conversation in the same way that I’d be nervous of trying to walk into town (a matter of five or six miles), or climb the Tower of Pisa. Just the thought of that makes me want to go and lie down.


The other day, I promised to dust off the treadmill, and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t do it. Instead, we found ourselves vacuuming and moving furniture in preparation for a visit from the Grandtwins and it was quite enough exercise, thankyouverymuch. OH thought so, too, and went so far as to forbid me to have anything to do with the treadmill whatsoever. So it’s still stacked with boxes, though one is now nearly empty. I have at least been trying.

The day before yesterday I decided I was about ready to pick up my Italian reading again, and I couldn’t find that damned book! ‘Il Mistero Del Treno Azurro’ was nowhere to be seen. I looked high and low. I looked everywhere … Finally it was run to earth yesterday in a shopping bag – I must have taken it somewhere thinking I might need something to read, and it never got put back on the shelf because of my lack of mojo (see title, above).


I guess now I have no excuse … but I might have to start again at the beginning again. How am I supposed to remember who did what to whom after all this time?

Oh well. I suppose I’ll need something to do while I’m in hospital getting the tomato taken out of my lung.

1 Whatever the hell ‘normal’ is.

2 It’s very hard to walk a greyhound who likes you to run with him when you have hardly enough breath to walk across the kitchen, so I let OH do it. ‘Let OH do it’ being a euphemism for ‘refused to go outside at all’. When he went down with it, too, I had to help with the dogs, but I’m pretty sure that’s what made me ill again.

3 I knew I was feeling a little bit better when I graduated to Georgette Heyer. Later I moved on to Katie Fforde, but I’m not sure it’s actually intellectually superior to Heyer. However, now I’m reading Terry Pratchett, I know I’m making progress. I’m getting the jokes and everything!

4 I’m really, really good at this. I’ve had so much practice, you see.