‘Il Circolo di Conversazione Italiana’

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West Boylston group shares love of Italian language

Isabel Marinus
Photo/submitted

By Barbara Allen, Contributing Writer

West Boylston – Are you someone who, once upon a time, studied another language in school? Have you, now and again, considered dusting off those language skills and refreshing your knowledge? Or do you love to travel, and want to learn a new language to enhance your travel experience?

But, once you have learned it, how, you wonder, will you maintain your fluency?

“Il Circolo di Conversazione Italiana,” (the Italian Conversation Circle) hosted twice monthly by the Beaman Memorial Library in West Boylston, was established over 30 years ago in response to just that question.  Founded by West Boylston resident   the “Circolo” offers the opportunity for group members of all ability levels to practice their Italian conversational skills in a friendly, non-judgmental setting.

Marinus, who was born in Ecuador, was multi-lingual by the age of 14. Her father worked for the United Nations and the family lived in several countries over the course of her young life. When she was seven years old, they moved to the United States, to Maryland, where they stayed for three years.

Although Marinus recalled not being able to understand a word that was spoken on her first day of first grade, she and her siblings were quick to learn English. So quick, in fact, that Marinus remembered her father saying, “One day we were speaking Spanish, the next day, English.”

Early on, she learned the importance of preserving language. Although Marinus and her siblings spoke English with their classmates, friends and with each other, they were required to speak only Spanish at home.

Three years later, her father was transferred to Rome, where Marinus and her family lived for seven years. Another language, Italian, was added to her repertoire.

“The brain has enough space for many languages,” asserted Marinus. “In Italy, I spoke Spanish at home, English with my brothers and sisters, and Italian in the streets.”

She and her siblings initially attended an English school while they lived in Rome but, because of the expense, were required to transition to a French school, where yet another language was introduced.

Marinus eventually relocated back to the United States, where she met her husband, completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees, and raised a family.

“Seeing how difficult it was to maintain this fluency in languages as the years went by, I decided to address the situation by creating a space where I could speak and listen to my endangered languages with some regularity,” wrote Marinus, on an early website for the group.  “The idea of Circolo was born.”

The group originally met at Marinus’s home, but later moved to the library location.

“The Beaman Library strives to be a welcoming and open place for members of the community to connect with others and pursue their interests and is a natural fit for the Circolo: Italian Conversation Circle,” observed Library Director Anna Shaw. “The Library is thrilled to be the venue for the ‘Circolo.’”

The group, which meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.,   varies in size from week to week; some participants attend for a few weeks or months; others have been coming for years.

Andrew Noone of Worcester, has been a steady member since the early days of the Circolo. Noone, who had been awarded a Florence Fellowship through Syracuse University to study art history, loved his Italian experience, and wanted to continue with the language when he returned from his seven-month h stay in Italy.

“The semi-monthly practice [with the Circolo], as well as daily study, helps me to keep it alive,” he noted.

Sudbury resident Adeline Bujnowski is another long-time member. Born in Italy, she later moved to France with her parents. There, during World War II, she met her husband, an American serviceman.

“I used to speak Italian with my parents always, but they are gone,” said Bujnowski. “I go to the Italian Circolo, [to] speak our beautiful language and do not forget. I will keep going as long that I can travel and meet good friends.”

Although Marinus is the founder and facilitator of the group, she insisted that she learns more from the members of “Il Circolo” than they learn from her.

“I am continuously learning from the group, the stories that surface through conversation, and the materials that are brought in to keep the interest alive,” she said.

“Each language brings a new perspective,” continued Marinus. “Each language also shows you how beautiful your own language is.”

To learn more about “Il Circolo di Conversazione Italiana,” contact the Beaman Memorial Library, 8 Newton Street, West Boylston, at 508-835-3711.