The Andiamo! program was recommended to me as the gold standard in online Italian lessons. Having recently finished all of Netflix, I enrolled in their introductory course because who knows? Maybe international travel will be possible again someday. I learned molto, in particular from the videos following “John and Maria.”
I was deeply confused by one thing, though: why didn’t John and Maria have sex?
I’m not saying that I wanted them to have sex. In fact, it would be strange if the characters from a foreign language instructional series did have sex. Stranger still, though, is to accept the behavior of John and Maria as that of two characters who do not ultimately have sex. By the end, I found their lack of sex so distracting as to take me out of the lessons entirely.
Look, these are two people who met randomly on the street. John asked for directions to the train station. Maria’s reply? “I will go there with you.” Okay, if she was already headed in that direction or something, sure, maybe. But even generously assuming that, these two perfect strangers then proceed to tell each other everything about themselves. Where they were born. What kind of weather is their favorite. Which hair color their extended family members have. “I just arrived in Bologna,” John confides with a smile. Then why are you going to the train station, guy? But they’re too lost in the moment to let these inconsistencies matter. Soon, they’re standing in front of the ticket counter loudly reciting their phone numbers to each other.
This is a basic meet cute. The table is set, so the audience is naturally going to expect dinner to be served. Unfortunately, this is a reality the curriculum writers completely neglect.
Or are they just messing with us? Because the conventions of cinematic romance only proliferate from there. John and Maria are suddenly inseparable, spending all their time at cafes and piazzas and pizzerias and other cafes, discussing the days of the week, or describing their clothes to each other. They find these inane conversations completely engrossing; as far as we can tell, there is nothing in their lives besides this. The moon is absolutely hammering both of their eyes like a pizza pie the size of Mount Vesuvius. And yet, somehow, that’s not amore?
A hesitant intimacy begins to blossom. “What time do you shower?” John casually asks. “After my sport,” Maria beams in reply. “You do sport?” “Yes, I do sport. I like it.” Two attractive people in their prime, wandering around a museum together, sharing their daily hygiene routines. It’s magical—or it would be, in the hands of language instructors with even the most rudimentary narrative competence.
Finally, John makes his move, inviting Maria to his place for lunch. She brings her friend Bianca, a mopey third wheel who only highlights the crackling electricity between our two main characters. Bianca wrinkles her nose at the antipasto, explaining that she doesn’t like gorgonzola. Maria laughs. “I, however, like to eat everything,” she declares slowly and deliberately. John gives an oddly granular tour of his apartment. “This is my armchair,” he makes a point of saying. “This is my oven.” Maria is having none of it. “Take me to the bedroom,” she demands. Swear to god.
What do you think happens next? Do John and Maria crash against the bedroom door as their bodies meet, shattering the tension that’s been building since their first fateful encounter? Does Bianca swig all the wine before slipping away, wondering why in the world her friend invited her in the first place? I’ll tell you what happens: niente. John shows off his floor lamp, then they all just sit down and eat lunch, rattling off the names of different foods like this deeply charged and awkward moment didn’t just happen.
In the next video, John takes a trip to the post office, and that’s it. The course ends, and we’re just left hanging. Are we supposed to believe that this is how disinterested acquaintances behave? I guess it’s possible that they had sex off-screen. But then it never once comes up? It’s completely insane.
If this isn’t satisfactorily resolved in Level 2, I’ll have to say basta and find a different free online language course with better character development.