I came to Italy to start Sapori e Saperi Adventures, a business giving people gastronomic tours to small artisan producers in Lucca and the Garfagnana, and I needed to speak to the locals. None of them spoke English. I had learned Italian 30 years ago, but by now had forgotten more than I’d learned. I thought I could get it back by studying my old grammar book, but I soon found myself totally tongue-tied. Every time I wanted to say something, my brain would start asking which tense the verb should be in and whether the adjective agreed with the noun. I didn’t have time to attend a class, and anyway, I needed something that would get me speaking in private where only I knew if I made a mistake and I would have a chance to correct it. A friend of mine recommended Rosetta Stone.
The first thing I noticed was that very quickly my comprehension improved enormously. I could even begin to understand the people in my village who speak a million miles a minute with a strong accent. At the same time my confidence was increasing, I didn’t feel afraid to ask questions and join in conversations. In my business dealings I can ask more precise questions, give clearer descriptions of what I need from my food producers, cooking teachers and drivers, and so I get a better service from them. And I can find out more about their families and their personal interests, which means our relationship improves and I learn more about the local culture and food. Finally, I can speak and understand well enough to interview some of them and write their stories for a new English-language magazine here in Tuscany, so other people will learn about these wonderful people and the delicious food they produce.
I started with Rosetta Stone by subscribing online. I figured if I bought the physical package, it would sit in a corner and I’d never use it. With a subscription that will end in six months, you’re always aware of the time ticking by, which spurred me on to do a little every day, which I’m sure is the best way to learn. Now that I’m hooked, I’ve bought the whole package — levels 1 to 5, which will cost less in the long run since I don’t have time to study a lot each day. I’m sure it won’t gather dust on the shelf. It’s far too useful for that.