When I open my mouth…

16 Aug
Now and then someone asks me how I am doing in my effort to speak Italian.  I am far from fluent, but I am able to communicate in a basic manner. Our friend Francesco rated a recent email I sent him as an A- in Italian, but I think he was too generous. Maybe a B- would be fair. The good thing is I am self-correcting on many grammatical issues; the bad news is that I often realize I need correcting after I hit “send” or after I open my mouth.
The other day I told someone what he wanted, (vuole) when I meant to tell him what I wanted (voglio).  And today I had to run through all six possibilities in conjugating a verb (I, you informal, he/she/you formal, we, you plural, they)  before the “they” form popped out of my mouth while the Italian I was speaking to gaped at me wondering what was going to spew forth after my long pause.
This is a culo.

This is a culo.

A few weeks ago my niece shipped us a portable crib in anticipation of their arrival with a two-year-old. When I went to pick it up at the Diplomatic Post Office they commented on the big box we had received. As I try to practice my Italian there – and they indulge me – I told them it was a culo. Cue the uproarious laughter as I told them she had sent me a “rear end.” The word I was after was culla. So many opportunities to make a culo of myself.
 For my linguist friends, I think the International Language Roundtable would put me at a 2 to a 2+ on a good day. I am not certain whether wine helps or hurts my efforts.
This is a "culla."

This is a “culla.”

14 Responses to “When I open my mouth…”

  1. Julie Strickler August 19, 2014 at 00:36 #

    You’ve made me feel much better about once asking Parisians where the war was instead of where the train station was!


    • gooddayrome August 19, 2014 at 03:38 #

      That’s hysterical! I had a friend who once told a German family her potato (kartoffel) was broken when she meant her suitcase (koffer). Hope my German spelling is right after all these years.


  2. Marcia Kakiuchi August 18, 2014 at 18:25 #

    That is a great story about the crib. Even though I don’t know Italian, when I first read the word you said that was shipped to you, I was pretty sure it meant ‘ass’ as that is very close to the Spanish word for the same thing. I’m so envious (and proud) of how far you’ve come!


    • gooddayrome August 18, 2014 at 18:57 #

      Thank you Marcia! It is easy to be hard on myself, but I have come a long way. My niece speaks Spanish beautifully and it serves her well in Italy. But I cannot crowd my brain with one more language. Italian and English will have to do!


  3. Susan August 17, 2014 at 17:30 #

    Love that you have at least taken the initiative! And, by the way, it sounded to me like you can get along quite well with the locals!


    • gooddayrome August 18, 2014 at 05:06 #

      Yes, “me la cavo” (I get along), but not without challenges. If I keep up the progress I may be fluent by the time I an 85.


  4. Maorn Faulkner August 16, 2014 at 21:46 #

    Wine always helps, in my opinion! 🙂


    • gooddayrome August 17, 2014 at 05:05 #

      At least it makes one less inhibited…but not sure it helps my memory.


  5. Ruth August 16, 2014 at 20:58 #

    I think you are bravissima for doing so well in such a short time in Italy! For most of my years in Germany, I knew I was good mostly for comic relief. To this day I have to clamp down hard whenever an acquaintance whose offspring has had two years of high school German (French, Spanish, etc.) assures me her son/daughter is “Fluent!” Uh-huh. We know better!


    • gooddayrome August 17, 2014 at 05:17 #

      When we moved here I had taken a few quarters of Community College Italian and we had traveled here twice. I thought a “few months” with a tutor would polish me up and make me fluent. Ha! The more I learn the less I know.


  6. Christine August 16, 2014 at 20:45 #

    Love this post, Laurel. I am in the process of trying to learn some Italian myself. It is a constant struggle. It’s funny, isn’t it — I’ve always heard that English was difficult for non-native speakers to learn, but I think Italian gets the prize! Cosa pensi?


    • gooddayrome August 17, 2014 at 05:15 #

      Italian is quite consistent in pronunciation, but English is easier in terms of verb conjugations and most pluralization. I also have not run across the Italian form of homonyms (like wood and would or to, too and two). The need in Italian to change ending based on number and gender makes me more than a little nuts.


  7. ckleonard August 16, 2014 at 19:05 #

    All the Italians I know, love humor! Think of yourself as being a provider of humor to many you meet in Italy. I’m sure they are having such fun telling their families. You are brightening their days! Also, I think you are doing amazingly well and I’m sure all there are so appreciative that you are using their language.


    • gooddayrome August 17, 2014 at 05:08 #

      Hmmm, I had not thought of myself as a subject of dinner table tales. You’re probably right, Carolyn. Anything I can to lift spirits.


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