Non Parlo Italiano

In Language, Florence, Art of Travel Spring 2016 by Grace1 Comment

The language barrier: one of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad, especially in a country where the primary language is not English. As Americans I think we sometimes forget that we do not have the only language in the world. Yes, most countries do speak English, but while living in this country I would like to at least try and give the respect of attempting the language. I love languages. I may not be good at learning them, but I sure as hell love observing them in action. I love to listen to the foreign words, and try to decipher what the facial expressions and physical movements are saying. This is particularly fun in a country like Italy, because everyone speaks with a lot of passion. I know zero Italian so I look forward to starting my Elementary Italian class with fellow lost souls. Of course I do not expect to become fluent, but I do hope to gain a better understating of the language.

Before coming to Italy I tried using the app Duolingo, which is very helpful if you commit to use it daily for 15-20 minute sessions. This last semester I could barely find the time to breathe, let alone worry about picking up a second language.

The other day I had my first comical, in a way, run in without knowing the “Italian Way”. My friend and I ordered lattes at a nearby café, and what we got was warm milk. When we expressed this wonderment with why our supposedly caffeinated lattes were missing the crucial caffé, it was explained to us that we must remember to order caffe latte, not just latte, since that means only milk. After being told this difference by three different servers, I swear to the Florentine gods that I shall never again make the huge mistake of just ordering a latte.

It does help that most people I have met speak English. While I am settling in this is a great bonus, as I do not have to struggle too much, but once I get into my Italian language course I hope to stop using this luxury as a crutch, and will one day be able to hold a semi-coherent conversation in Italian.

Today I had my first Italian class. Although I know I won’t be able to conquer the language in a week, my professor has so much enthusiasm that I now believe in myself and taking on this beautiful language.  I think learning the language, messing it up, and trying again will be one of the best experiences while in Italy. It is the messing up that creates the hilarious experiences that I will remember once back stateside. Our professor stated that while we are studying here, we are all Florentinian, which made me feel very proud to be studying here. Even if I don’t know the language (yet), I do know that for however brief this experience, I will be able to say that I, at one point in my life, I was Florentinian.

*The image attached is me exploring campus


  1. Hi Grace! I’m jealous that you have the opportunity to flex your language skills. I took Italian in New York during my freshman year and was surprised by how quickly I picked up the basics. If I can do it in NY then I’m sure you’ll become more fluent than you expect. I think it’s also cool that your professor is already recognizing you as Florentinian; usually other people discount study abroad experiences because they think living in a place for four months doesn’t count as truly living somewhere. But it really does! Four months is a long time when you’re adjusting to a foreign way of life. Have a great time at arguably the most beautiful NYU campus; I look forward to reading more of your posts and seeing lots of pictures!

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