I am Patrizia Bettella, I was born and raised in Padova (Padua, Italy) a Medieval city of 200,000 30 km inland from Venice. I moved with my family to Milan at age ten and studied at the Catholic University there. My degree was in Foreign Languages and literatures and I majored in English and German and minored in Spanish. Languages have always attracted me also because I was exposed to other languages very early in life: my family spoke Venetian dialect and I studied English and Latin in Junior High and High School. During university I travelled often to the UK and Germany to improve the languages and I really believed I would move and settle in Germany, a country that I really love. In fact I got to Canada through a German connection. I met a Canadian in Germany while taking a language course in Cologne. After graduating I took my first trip to Canada and truly discovered the New World. I felt I was living in one of those American movies: large cars, wide roads, opens spaces, pristine landscapes. Struggling to find the elusive permanent job in Italy, I embarked in the adventure of doing a master at U of A and later a PhD in Italian Studies at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Along the way I met my Edmonton-born husband and settled in Edmonton but always hoping to go back to Europe. I have taught Italian at the U of A, at Hopkins and at U of Calgary. I have never really added up how many students I have brought to complete courses in ltalian, but they are certainly in the thousand and I am extremely proud of this. I feel like and ambassador for my language and culture. I am privileged to be doing research (now on the first woman graduate in the world, who studied and lived in my hometown!), presentations and publications (my book on The Ugly Woman) that allow me show the impact of Italian culture overall. I have been teaching many language and culture courses, and I have also taught literature courses such as “Women in Italian culture” and “North, South and regionalism in Italian literature and cinema”. What I like about teaching Italian language and literature is the opportunity to pass on to my students the curiosity for this rich culture, the ability to widen their perspective and to instill the passion for the language. I am grateful to my students because every time I go to class they help me revive my native language and suspend the feeling of nostalgia for Italy that still lingers in me.
What is your favourite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is the energy and enthusiasm I see in the students who learn a second language. I am always amazed to see students who started with absolutely no knowledge of Italian and finish the first term already being able to carry on a simple conversation and to write some great paragraph. For me that is extremely rewarding.
What is the last book you read and loved?
I read and loved Elena Ferrante’s novel L’amica geniale translated already into English as The brilliant friend and into several other languages. Ferrante is the latest literary sensation in Italy and abroad!Nobody knows her real identity, and yet she is writing these absolutely marvelous stories that are so well-written and absolute page-turners. When you begin reading you do not want to put the book down and can stay up all night just reading on.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
There are so many places in the world that I have not visited and some are very close to Padova (Italy), my place of birth; so I would like to travel to the Italian island of Sardinia, for its crystal clear waters and its ancient culture and language; but on a wider scope, I would also like to visit China, because I have many Chinese students who learn Italian and I am very intrigued to learn about their culture.
What three words best describe your experience as a teacher?
Excitement, pride, and hard work.
What is your favourite word in Italian?
My favourite word in Italian is ‘abbracci’ which means “hugs” the sound and the meaning are all Italian: Italian friends and family members hug each other when they meet, after some time away, but even when they see each other on the next day; it is a word that conveys the warmth, affection and familiarity that I always feel in Italian people.