Walking the Via Francigena? Time to Learn Italian


Now that David has chosen the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome for our next long trek, there’s lots to consider and lots to do to prepare for this epic pilgrimage, not least of which is refreshing my French skills and, more importantly, learning Italian.

I have to admit, I love languages. I took French and Latin in high school and college both. In fact, I taught high school Latin for a semester. When David was heading to Africa on a climbing holiday back in the 1980s, we learned basic Swahili together (Jambo, Bwana!). When we were doing business in Germany, I took German lessons (Guten Morgen). When we headed to South America on Nine of Cups, I took Spanish (Hola) lessons and studied arduously. I think it’s important to try to speak the language of our host country …. even it’s not perfect. Hello, goodbye, yes, no, more wine please, where’s the bathroom … important stuff to know when visiting a foreign land.

It’s not an onerous task for me to learn a new language; it’s a fun challenge. David has many skill sets, but learning languages is not one of them … that’s always been my job. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to learning enough Italian to speak the language, at least minimally, when we head to Italy next Spring.

I started by scouring the internet to determine which on-line language course might be the best. There’s Rosetta Stone, Fluenz and Babbel and many others. PC Magazine did a review of the best ones out there, but I determined from the trial versions that these are not the way I learn. I need to see the language and understand its structure. I don’t want to waste time or effort learning useless phrases like ‘where is the purple hat?’ or ‘let’s have sausage for dinner’. I need useful vocabulary … lots of verbs and nouns and descriptors that will apply to our trip and a cogent way to string them together.

I’ve learned lots of short cuts for learning languages along the way and I’m sure I’ll be able to apply some of these to learning Italian. Certainly, my Latin background (at least what I remember of it) will help with the vocabulary. I’ve ordered a couple of language books plus a pocket Italian dictionary.


In the meantime, I discovered DuoLingo, a free language learning app that offers 33 language courses, including Klingon! I’ve been spending a half hour a day, learning Italian and I’m already making some progress (Buongiorno a tutti). I find the app especially helps with pronunciation. I figure once I’m fluent in Italian, I might move on to Klingon … you never know where our next hike will take us.

Of course there’s always more to planning a trip like this than just learning a bit of the local language. Read about Schengen visa extensions… or not.