The Italians give me grief, let me tell you. I still adore this country and the Italians but I suspect that many Italians actually speak more English than they are letting on – even if it’s just a tiny bit. Yet, despite my smiles and charm they are refusing to utter a word of my native language. Sure, in the hotels and tourist spots, most Italians can speak enough English. But in the supermarkets and small shops around Testaccio, where I’m renting, or in Laurentina where I work, nah, nada, nope, zippo.

I can utter more words of Italian than I could last year but not enough to get by. It makes you feel quite vulnerable being in a country where you can’t speak or understand the language. So I’m fed up dear reader and am resorting to Italian lessons. There’s an Italian lady in the Testaccio area who not only speaks English but specialises in teaching foreigners Italian. I’m there, pronto.

I have wanted to learn a second language for quite some time actually. It keeps the mind active as you head into the twilight zone of old age. I learnt Indonesian for six years in high school. That was way back in the Jurassic Park era and I can only utter a few words now. Useful words like cat, red, table. I also learnt Russian for four years at University back in the 1990s and can ask how you are, count one to ten or drink to your health. Za zda-ró-vye! Whoopeeeeee!

My step-kids are French so it might make sense to learn to say more than ChampsÉlysées, Longchamp or Chanel. I very much like the sound of the language even if the French seem to be choking on their words half the time. But, let’s face it, French is a declining language. Before you leave a nasty comment, read this. Maybe I should learn Spanish given that around 300+ million people world-wide mutter it. To tell you the truth though, I don’t like the sound of it.

It would make total sense to learn Mandarin since gazillions of people speak it. I don’t mind the sound of the language but I’m not really interested in learning it. No idea why. But Italian! When you hear the Italians speak: it’s with such passion and cadence. Full of temperament. To my ear, it sounds graceful and rhythmic.

It’s funny to talk about whether a language sounds beautiful or harsh. I know when I first heard Portuguese (my hubby’s native language), I didn’t think it sounded pretty. Whatever that means. And I don’t really like German (despite the fact that English is a West-Germanic language and the two languages share many words). I mean I can utter sauerkraut, kindergarten, angst, Volkswagen and one of my favourite words, kaput (although I think the Germans spell it kaputt).

I was pondering these profound issues the other morning when two things happened that stitched the deal – for two days in a row, the guy that makes my morning cappuccino served up cute messages on the froth; and a Dutch chap I know at work said to me “you should learn Italian…here’s the number of my former teacher in Testaccio“.

In the face of such omens, it is clear that the universe is telling me Learn Italian (even though only around 62 million people speak it worldwide and I’ve never met an Italian in New Zealand or heard it spoken there).

 

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