The passion, my tutor tells me, is in the vowels. I contort my face to sound the various 'ays', 'ees' and 'oos', but I can't help feeling a bit of a fool. And so my initiation into the Italian language begins.
It's not a language for the faint-hearted. I won't get away with a mumbled word ending; Italian's a language to be spoken with conviction and a gesture or two. For me, the pronunciation is the hardest part, particularly with distance learning. I tried to learn Japanese many years ago. My teacher, a Japanese lady, spoke English with a Japanese accent peppered with the occasional word of broadest Lancashire. Very strange. I remember trying out my new language skills on a Japanese friend. She did try so hard to be polite and understand me. Sadly, my 'hello, how are you?' was just a step too far.
It's lucky I've got La bella lingua to inspire me as I make my baby steps. If I tire of Colloquial Italian, I can enjoy some colourful Italian idioms. Florentines, apparently, call a blowsy woman an 'unmade bed' and an aging cavalier 'a tired horse.' Boccaccio was a buona forchetta, a big eater or literally a' good fork.' I can read about the tre corone, Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch, before returning to my grammar book.
Una birra...due birre...
Well, everyone has to start somewhere.