You never really know what you got till it’s gone is such a true statement. There are so many things that I took for granted my whole life growing up in America, one being that my native tongue is English, which is the language that the majority of Americans speak. Now I am on the flipside of that and I am slowly (but surely) navigating my way around a city where I don’t speak the language that everyone else does and that can be…terrifying? But also very exciting. It’s been a while since I’ve learned a language and it’s been invigorating. There is something so interesting about a language barrier and trying to figure out how to communicate without spoken word.
This past week, a couple of friends and I went to a small restaurant near campus and the chef was our waiter and (of course) he only spoke Italian, with little knowledge of English. He told us in broken English that he was going to make us a lunch special for 15 euros. It was such an amazing lunch and even though we didn’t really speak the same language, we all felt like we had come out understanding each other (plus we got free gelato too, which was amazing.)
Another language thing I’ve had to deal with and experience is having teachers and professors that are Italian. The language barrier in class is sometimes difficult, especially if it’s not your Italian class but an actual academic course. I am taking History of Italian Cinema and our professor is Italian and I find it to be (sometimes) difficult to understand what he is saying. However, I think the class is so great and I am so happy it is being taught by a native Italian speaker because the history we are learning is his history, and that makes it so much more contextually important. All the movies we have watched have had English subtitles, which in itself is so interesting, because I always think there is something lost in translation when you aren’t watching a movie and hearing the language and understanding what the person is saying in their mother tongue (especially because certain words or phrases don’t necessarily always transfer easily into another language.) But as my friend in the class pointed out, it’s also amazing that even though we don’t speak fluent Italian, we still get the same emotion and feeling from scenes that an Italian native would. Sometimes language isn’t needed to convey an important scene, which can also apply to real life. I’ve realized you can understand the language by understanding the people, because in reality, we’re all humans having human connections.
I am so happy that I chose Firenze because it is a smaller city (compared to it’s bigger friend, Roma) and a lot of the people (especially if you go further away from the touristy places) only speak Italian. A large reason I chose Firenze was to gain a better understanding of a culture, especially one that doesn’t speak the language I have known since birth, because like Flora Lewis says, “Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” For me, learning Italian has been an exploration of not only Italy but myself as well. My favorite things to learn are phrases that they have here in Italy and how to use them. I can’t wait to have a deeper understanding of the Italian language and to *hopefully* be able to be somewhat fluent by the end of my trip. One thing I look forward to, which is kind of a goal for myself, is to go on a solo trip somewhere in Italy and to not feel nervous or scared, because I will be able to use my language skills and knowledge of Italy to get around. Until then–I’ll keep doing my exercises in Allora and practicing speaking with my friends.
PS: Check out that insane sunset from one of my classrooms!! I mean, I’m from California, but damn, I haven’t seen a sunset like that in a long time. Bellissimo!