Middle Class Problems: We really should learn some Italian for our fortnight in Puglia ... but which level to opt for?


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The Independent Online

The fortnight in Puglia is now booked, and the prospect of a little dolce vita and a lot of vino is proving sustaining in the dark winter months. But wouldn't it be marvellous to speak more of the language this year, to find out what the local people really think of Berlusconi, to order the food that isn't on the menu?

It's but a brief passeggiata to the adult education centre for a crash course starting shortly, so the only challenge left is to pitch the right level of learning. With "Quattro birre e quattro panini, per favore" pretty much under the belt, it's time to move things up a notch or two. But do you apply for Conversation Extra, or Further Steps, or the sophisticated-sounding Un Caffè e il Giornale?

Some courses call for an existing GCSE, but what if you know your way around la lingua a bit, and are sound on Boccaccio, if hazy on verb endings? You've picked up enough to know that if you don't pronounce both "n"s in penne, you've ordered a plate of penis, but fall apart in the search for the past subjunctive of riconoscere.

The temptation is to aim high, because past experience has taught you that fellow students enrol for the most convenient class, time-wise, rather than the most appropriate for their ability. And also, that everyone else overestimates their own skills.

So as not to be held back in the Intermediate class by those struggling with uno, due, tre… best go for the top-tier fast-track Super Advanced and hang on tight. It's good preparation for the driving, anyway.