Language Learning in Milan

I can remember neither the moment nor the occasion – but there was a point when I clearly saw my life’s biggest goal.

No, I don’t need to see a 1000 places, they can’t make me hear 1000 recordings, and I won’t read their 1001 books before I die.

Class of 2016: my wonderful interesting, sophisticated, talented, and creative co-students
and our sweet teacher Claudia (kneeling in the middle).
In the back you see my class mate Ji Hun Yeo from South Korea who came to Italy to study – take a wild guess – lyrical singing. One time we had the great pleasure to get a mini-concerto.
Click here to enjoy it, too.

My goal in life is to be fluent in ten languages when my time has come.
If I were happy with elemental knowledge, I’d be already there. But ‘fluent’ is key, consequently, I’m taking my Bildungsurlaub serious and do brush up the dusty basics.

After Rome and Izmir, last year I intended to study Portuguese in Lisbon. Since this didn’t work out due to the school’s neck cutting prices, I was rather indecisive. And I was indecisive until there wasn’t much to decide anymore, therefore I ended up in Italy again. This time in Milan.
Being disenchanted by the first two bummers, I chose renting only a room, no strings or families attached. But faith was kind and surprised me with a landlady that turned out to be a very classy, highly educated retired teacher – after all she was all I had unsuccessfully expected from my guest families during my first two language vacations.

There is much less ancient art found in Milan than further South, but in return there are exquisite modern venues financed by big companies such as Fondazione Prada or Pirelli’s Hangar Bicocca – creative, stylish, cool. Of course there are the renaissance and baroque paintings to be admired at the Pinacoteca di Brera (I’m willing to appreciate sites just for the term ‘Pinacoteca’ – already the sound promises beauty) and divisionism and Italian neo-impressionism at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.

And obviously there is must-see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at the church Santa Maria delle Grazie. But don’t think you can just waltz in there whenever you like. You have to either book online or call a hot line days ahead. You have to pick a precise visiting time – and we’re talking minutes here. Supplied with your personal booking number you need to show up thirty minutes ahead to pick up your ticket and eventually you’re waiting on a wooden bench with the dozen of people who booked your time slot, too. Due to the tight time slots there are at least two groups waiting at the same time together, feeling competition, eyeballing each other suspiciously. At the designated time, a guide – or rather guard – shouts your number and everybody is pushing towards a sliding glass door. It’s like a frigging high-security wing – one door has to close behind the group before the next opens, and this goes on and on, and then you’re finally standing in the refectory marveling at the fresco. You have fifteen minutes, that’s a lot to marvel at one single fresco, even if you take a couple of pictures and turn to the other wall from time to time. But the ticket is 12 Euro so you marvel till you can’t marvel no more to get your money’s worth. After 13 minutes the guard finally releases you from by now mindless staring, announcing that in two minutes the next marvellers will get in. Again, on your way out you have to pass some security door systems as if your escaping a quarantine laboratory.

Da Vinci’s ‘Cenacolo’: staring for 80 cents per minute.

Regarding my Italian class, it was again the eclectic mix of students from around the globe that impressed me the most. It was like Luciano Benetton put us together to incarnate his ‘United Colors’ campaign:

There was Paolo, whose name was certainly not ‘Paolo’ since he’s from Taiwan, but in class they called him Paolo. Very classy, very camp, and on top of it all brilliant, he gained a one year scholarship for Germany and made the most of his stay in Europe by first learning Italian.

He was sitting next to Gamze, an aerial Ottoman beauty from Istanbul, formerly studying economy in Harvard. Beautiful Gamze with this melancholic expression on her face despairing over the events of Summer 2016 back home in Turkey.

Then there was Paula, a sumptuous Brazilian looker, putting up with two hours on the train every day just to come to class from the lost village whereto she had followed her Italian love.

Jorge from Medellín who despite obvious lack of sleep from heavy partying managed to have a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and more energy than any of us. Must be a Colombian thing, because when Carolina, a Franco-Colombian journalist, joined the class, it was like a whirlwind whipping us all up.

What a contrast to the cautious, restrained Asian school mates like Vittoria (again an Italianization of names, I guess), studying fashion, writing poetry, searching and finding herself in a million poses and selfies. Best buddy with gorgeous Bo Jing, a design student of flawless beauty – face like an Asian film star (was it you the main lead in ‘Hiroshima mon amour’? Oh no, that was in 1959 when probably even your parents weren’t born yet).

Rassa, a worldly and refined Lithuanian, doing simultaneous translations at the European Union in Luxemburg.

I could go on and on and list outspoken Johanna, a bel canto student from Düsseldorf and Ji Hun who seemed to be taken by surprise by his own overwhelming talent and all the other exceptional talents and personalities.

And what brought us together was the joy or necessity of learning Italian – Babel was a brilliant idea after all.

By the way, I finally did have the chance to brush up my Portuguese. No, it was not in Lisbon – that’s far too expensive. After all, I picked Rio de Janeiro where I learned for two weeks in a one-on-one-constellation before heading for a road trip to Southern Brazil.

Did you enjoy this funny little story? Here you can read what happened at the other destinations:

The Language Learning Trilogy. Part 1: I don’t claim to be an “A” student…bye:myself in Rome

The Language Learning Trilogy. Part 2: I don’t claim to be an “A” student…bye:myself in Izmir

The Language Learning Trilogy. Part 3: I don’t claim to be an “A” student…bye:myself in Milan

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