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I started working on the translation in english of my graduation thesis: The Language Network – 2.0 dynamics and SLA (second language acquisition), and I hope to share it with all of you at the last in a couple of weeks.

It deals with the numerous points in common between the web and the language systems, offering a new perspective on SLA.

Should you already be fluent in Italian or just curious and impatient, here you can find it already in Italian.

As soon as I’m done I’ll publish it here on the blog, maybe on a separate section, don’t have it well figured it out yet.

I already got myself a job at the University for Foreigners of Perugia thanks to it, so in the next future I’ll be working on bringing it to life.

Stay tuned.

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Everyday life in Italy is made of getting to the university library looking forward to taking a look at the newspaper (considering that yesterday our prime minister has been sent for trial accused of paying a minor for sex and then trying to use his influence to cover it all up…) and finding out that we don’t have newspapers today, because the newsstand we get them from is closed, “he has the flu”. I asked for explaination: there’s a a bunch of other newsstands, couldn’t we get it somewhere else? The answer, of course, is no. Only with that newsstand we have a deal with, it’s not that in cases like this someone can get 5 euros, buy the newspapers somewhere else, and get reimbursed by the university. At least officially, this is not possible. Nobody worries about the fact that our university is supposed to be the lighthouse of Italian language and culture, and that today’s news could be relevant to our country. Nobody makes a phone call? Nope.

Later, one of the library attendant comes to talk to the one supervising the reading room (who also happens to be the supervisor of the whole library team, a group of 7 people): he just wanted to inform him, just to let him know, that on the web site of Rai Sport there’s the live streaming of the Perugia soccer team game. Then he leaves. Back to the office, to the computer, supposedly. I stare at the guy. He looks at me, frankly surprised: “What? What is it?”

I swear this is all true.

I feel stupid as I try to find the words, while he stares at me. If I were a foreigner it would be easier, maybe. As an Italian, knowing “as things go”, it feels like ripping culture apart,underlying what is obvious for everyone. Nails on a blackboard. “Isn’t he working? Isn’t he supposed to be working?”

He looks back at me. I violated culture, and we both know. I think I embarrassed him. He’s the supervisor, after all.

He looks at me. This time it’s him who has to find the words. “What am I supposed to do?” And I don’t have the strength to go beyond this point. I go back to my papers. He goes back to whatever he was doing. The embarrassment remains.

Just to give a frame to all this, I am collaborating with the office, on their request, for 150 hours. Again, it is 7 of them, and they have enough time to watch soccer games. I try to be efficient in whatever I am asked to do, and especially with students who ask for books or something else. I still spend most of my time just sitting there, studying, because there’s not much to do. What did I get called for? Couldn’t I go do something more useful? The same guy who came telling us about the soccer game just the other day told me he had a huge pile of books to inventory.

If you really want to know it all, ours is not even an open-shelf library! If you want a book you ask the attendants, but you can only get the books in the morning; if you ask for them in the afternoon, regardless of how many people are in the office in that moment that could go get them for you, you’ll get them the day after.

It’s normal. It’s everyday life. Like for a smoker two packs a day are normal, I guess. It is. Every Italian knows it is. Worse. Every Italian feel it is, feels like there’s nothing he can do about all this.

Something else that is normal for all of us, and I almost forgot to mention, but it all this could actually make a difference: at the university there is no Wi-Fi Internet.

No Internet, no newspapers, what difference does it make? Daily life goes on in Italy. Employees have access to the net, of course! Dude, the game is on!

Today in class one of my teachers made an interesting comment.

The course I am taking with her is the first one of two parts; as the first part is ending, next week we are supposed to start with the second one, which on the paper in going to be hold by a different teacher. Fact is, this other teacher has also the resposability of an important administrative job within the university, and as it happened already in the past in similar occasions, she won’t be coming to teach the class much, leaving the job to the first teacher, the one we have worked with so far.

Even though I am not sure about it (I will try some further investigation, stay tuned), I suppose that even though technically it is not her teaching those hours, she will of course get paid for it. But probably not in an official way.

Here we are. This duplicity always did and always will baffle me. It is something absolutely necessary to understand in order to live and operate in this Italy. There is a formal way and an informal way. The way things should be done “in theory”, and the way things work “practically”. And practically EVERYTHING works like this.

When I asked my teacher if the second part of the course would be actually hold by the “official” teacher or by her, the answer I got was something like “No, well, of course she’ll do it” (the other teacher), but then in other occasions mentioned the fact that she will be probably doing a lot of the teaching for it, and even asked confirmation to us about the classroom we are going to see each other for that.

I find it truly fascinating. Living in Italy gives you the constant thrill of a never ending Schroedinger’s paradox, keeping you in good mental shape with Bateson’s double-bind-like situations.

It’s culture for us. For others, maybe, border-line schizofrenia.

I’m a grad student at the University for Foreigner of Perugia.
My field of specialization in promotion of Italian language and culture and teaching Italian.
So far, I have always complained about the approach with which the cultural aspects of the courses were tackled. Too much literature, too much of a humanistic concept of culture: in order for students to integrate their linguistic skills with cultural competence it was simply silly to teach to them about the Divine Comedy or Claudio Monteverdi.
Culture should have been intended and seen from its anthropological and sociological point of view, culture as the way a group of people sees and interprets the surrounding world.
But culture is forever changing and developing, so it cannot be studied as a set of rules, but it can only be observed in how it developed so far, and simply observed.
I have always perceived this lacking of ability in recognizing what point of view over the culture was more useful for a language learner as a huge limit to the course I am attending, but recently, I am finally developing a new point of view over it.
I can truly say I feel like I am looking at it with brand new eyes.
It is an indirect message, and one has to pay particular attention in order to see it. It’s a see-through message, and only readable from a particular point of view.
Their humanistic approach IS part of the culture.
How the courses are organized, how a student has to deal with the institution through interacting with offices or teachers, the role that students, on their side, take towards university. Simply the way things are done. It’s all there to be studied and learned.
I wonder if anyone inside the university is aware of this, realizes this, understands the cultural value of all this.
Even when we protest because we are sick and tired of they way things go, we are wearing a cultural mask and taking part in the show. It’s all part of the show, of the plot, of the culture. Cultural characters.
Today at around 1pm it started snowing a little. No big deal, if you have any experience with snow you do understand that since this is Italy and it’s march even the worst snowfall ever is not going to last long. It’s simply too warm.
From a few flakes, it quickly picked up and became a windy and flurry day. In a couple of hours everything was covered in a soft cover of snow.
It was just pretty and unusual.
Not for Perugia, and Italians here.
Being a hilly city, some roads tend to be a little steep. And it is exactly where every single Perugian who owned a car decided to drive by. Maybe one inch of snow caused total panic. My house mate himself, as he reported to me by calling me on the phone, managed to go UP the hill (usually the hardest part) in order to get out of the neighborhood, but then got stuck immediately as he got into via fonte coperte, the way DOWN the hill. He was going to work, and he had to put chains on in order to get down from the hill. Still don’t know how it ended.
I had class at 4, so by 3.15 I decided to start walking and head to university on foot.
On the way up, all the roads were filled with cars taking part in an endless line, some of them honking. Buses, of course, were stuck as well. Police cars were here and there organizing the traffic or dealing with the occasional accident, and I also happened to hear a siren from far away, I couldn’t tell if it was an ambulance or firefighters.
Anyhow, it was chaos. And trust me, if someone is even just a little bit used to Italian normal city traffic and talks about chaos, he knows what he’s talking about.
The walk allowed me to observe all this, and taking me just a little longer than usual also lead me to university on time for class. I was a little wet, but I had made it.
Once I got in front of it, though, I noticed the door closed.
I admit I naively thought they had simply closed it because they did not want the snow to blow inside (the whole whopping inch!); as and Italian, I should have known better how to read that sign.
I rang the bell, and the lady at the desk answered.
“Hello, could you open the door please? I got class.”
“There’s no class, they have been canceled.”
“…what you m…all of them?”
“They have been canceled.”
“…ok.thanks.”
Right behind me, a couple more guys arrived, and I told them. One had just come by 40 minutes of train to get there, and he wasn’t too happy about it.
A girl said the had just checked the website, nothing had been posted to say classes were canceled.
Hours later, as I am writing these lines, still nothing has been posted.
I took a screenshot of the home page of unistrapg.it , both for the english homepage and the italian one: nothing.
I even developed my own idea on how this all happened.
How come they decided to shut everything down for a little snow?
Here’s my shot: a teacher calls he won’t make it. Ok, no big deal. Maybe we’ll send someone to tell the students that will show up. Another teachers calls. Happens. Then another one, and another one. It’s just easier to call everything of for today. Call the different buildings and tell them to shut everything down.
I was told later that they didn’t even wait for the period to be over: they ran the announcement telling everyone simply that classes were called off, and the building was going to close.
For.
An.
Inch.
Of.
Snow.
Gotta love ’em.
I took a pic with my phone for you to see I’m not kidding. You can barely see cars because it’s the very city center and it’s mostly closed to traffic.

It is all part of the show, it is all part of the culture.

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