Being a communication major and someone who grew up bilingual, languages have come fairly easy for me to learn. I’ve been here for a month now, and while my Italian vocabulary and pronounciation has improved greatly, I have yet to try to structure any sort of full sentence on my own.
It’s been amazing how much my brain has been absorbing. I’m fascinated by languages and enjoy being in a room where everyone is talking very loudly in a language I don’t understand. There really is something to be said for being able to remain silent in a room of chaos. I have to say that it is absolutely amazing how many people are at least billingual if not trilingual and most people have a better understanding of english than we (Americans) probably know of any other language. Even those who only speak a few words and haven’t spoken english since they were children learning it in school, as adults in their 30’s or 40’s can still manage to recall enough words to get their message across. Three years of french in high school for me and I don’t think I could survive in France using just French. As Americans we are incredibly lucky that so much of the world is familiar with english. It’s really not fair to them, but I am thoroughly impressed by the people I’ve met here.
My Saturday mornings have been spent drinking tea and studying Italian. I’ve been reading italian children’s books with the children, except Giocamo has surpassed my abilities and often is impatient with me so he just reads the books for me. It’s been really fun trying play with the children even with a language barrier. I am more motivated to learn to speak so I can play with them more!
As the days go by I am beginning to recognize more and more repeated words and within a context of a conversation I have a pretty good understanding of what is going on. The problem is the enormous listening effort I have to put in. It’s hard to concentrate for so long. I have noticed that somethings that come easier to me, like food/dinner words (go figure) I’m started to hear without effort. For example we’ll be at dinner and I’ll be munching away on whatever deliciousness Valeria made and I’ll hear Corrado ask for something to be passed to him. And without thinking, evening mid-bite, I’ll grab whatever it is that he needs. It’s funny when Valeria gets excited when I understand things. Other times I just tune out the conversation and float in my own world of thoughts. It’s nice sometimes.
I am loving the lunch/dinner conversations I get to observe. A lot of the times these conversations end up in a discussion about politics. An underlying tone of where the economy is going and some groans from all. It almost seems unfair to me to be experiencing something so wonderful when most of the country is worried about the current economic situation and next generation. I suppose its the same story here and back home as well. New college graduates with no jobs to pay off the enormous debt they have. I had an interesting conversation with a woman named Gea, from Holland the other day at Luisa’s brunch about this. I told her I almost felt bad for being so happy as an outsider in a place with so much trouble ahead. She told me not to feel this way and that if I make the best of the situation I am in, that is all I can do. She said it wasn’t my choice to be born or raised where I came from and that being positive with everyone I encountered, I made their lives better.
All I do know is that I am extremely thankful for everything I’m experiencing. From the long saturday lunches to playing freeze tag with the children. Italy is a beautiful place with so much heart and passion. I love it.