My name is Hannah Phillips and I am a junior at Duke University. I am studying Evolutionary Anthropology on a Pre-med track. I began studying Italian at the beginning of my sophomore year. In elementary school I took French. In middle school I continued to study French and also started taking Latin classes. In high school I only continued to study Latin. When I got to Duke I wanted to study a spoken language instead of Latin. Based on feedback from my peers I decided on Italian. I have really enjoyed learning Italian. I even got to apply my knowledge this past fall semester when I visited Rome while studying abroad. Also, where I live in New York has a very large Italian-American population. Many of the grandparents of my friends were immigrants from Italy. Most of my friends speak some Italian or studied it in High School. This all contributed to my decision to study Italian at Duke.
The picture on this page was one that I took myself while in Rome. While I did not study in Rome, I spent 4 days there with a few of my friends. I loved exploring the city with my friends. I found both my backgrounds in Italian and Latin to be extremely helpful while in Rome. Many people did speak English, but signs, menus, and more were mainly in Italian. I was able to travel around the city with ease. I also applied my knowledge of ancient Roman history to better understand the many historical sites around Rome. It was a really amazing adventure.
My time in Italian class:
At the beginning of my Italian studies, I was not very invested in the class. I was trying to fill my requirement and did not immerse myself. I soon found that it was more beneficial and fun to get involved in the class and participate fully in all the aspects of learning Italian. In Italian 101 we often talked about Italian stereotypes that are apparent in American culture and common misconceptions about Italian culture. We also participated in fun activities like recreating scenes and singing cheesy Italian songs. The singing really helped my pronunciation. In Italian 102 we focused more on grammar and ability to speak and write fluently. The many oral assignments helped my fluidity and I soon was able to think of new sentences and speak them correctly on my own without having to write them out or translate them from English. In Italian 203, we rounded out my Italian education by focusing on culture, speaking ability, and writing ability. With only a few additional grammar lessons, I was able to practice the knowledge I already had from the previous semesters. I also enjoyed learning about fast food in Italy, the Italian school system, and museums in Italy and America.
My struggles with Italian:
I have studied 4 different languages in my schooling, but none at a particularly intense level. It is because of this that I have struggled with Italian. I often confuse languages and misspeak. While I was abroad for a semester in Denmark between taking Italian 102 and Italian 203, I was required by Duke to take Danish. Danish is a very different language from Italian. It has strange sounds that are very difficult to make and the grammar structure is essentially the opposite of Italian. There is no formal or informal structures and most things to not have an assigned gender. After studying, speaking, and constantly hearing Danish, it was difficult to come back and speak Italian with ease. Besides this problem, I have also struggled with pronunciation and speaking fluidly. I often get caught up in the details of the grammar and this prevents me from speaking with ease. I hope to practice more in the future and improve my speech.