When I saw the crowd gathered in front of the building I suspected that I was in the right place. Had it been in England, there would have been a nice straight queue (that’s a line in American English), but this was Italy and queuing isn’t a concept that has caught on here. Just to verify that I was in the right place, I summoned up my best Italian and asked a kind looking lady. She was very nice and smiled when I apologised for my Italian. It was one of those smiles that I know well; I have seen lots of them in France. I never know if they originate from my grammatical errors or from my charming delivery. I choose to believe the latter.
The doors opened, there was a surge and somehow we all got in. I looked for a sign showing me where to go, but saw none. I went to a counter to ask and yes, this was the right place and I should go in the direction of the “queue”. By this time there actually was a queue because the Italians had already made their way to the front, had their papers and were waving their hands around explaining their situations, leaving just us foreigners standing in a nice straight queue.
I had come to the “Agenzia delle Entrate” to get my “numero di codice fiscale” (basically a number needed to do any kind of financial agreement in Italy). I needed this to complete the contract on my apartment and I knew it would be a good test of my Italian skills.
When I arrived at the desk to receive my form, “Signor” explained it to me in Italian and I understood. I have to admit that it was a very simple form, but hey, I understood. I filled it out, another man checked it and we chatted a bit in Italian. Okay, he did most of the chatting, but I threw in a few “si”s and “oh, è vero”s. Then I went to a desk where a very nice “Signora” typed in the information and asked me a few questions in Italian and I answered in Italian. All in all, it was a relatively painless experience, pleasant even, because everyone was very nice and I was able to understand and communicate in Italian.
I was encouraged by this small success and the next day in class I noticed that I felt more relaxed and comfortable with the language even though I still made lots of mistakes. In language learning there are always highs and lows: times you think you have it mastered and times when you think you will never get it. It is important to celebrate the small victories. Hmmm…Maybe I should go to the “Agenzia delle Entrate” once a week just for a little boost of self-confidence.
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2 weeks down and all is well.