Thursday, April 28, 2016

Overcoming Language Barriers

Here is a conversation I’ve had approximately 50 times ((slight exaggeration)) since coming to Italy:

“Gabriella Marzullo…your name is Italian and you look Italian, are you half or something?”
“Yeah I’m actually 100% Italian! My dad was born here.”
“Oh cool so you’re fluent!?”
“Haha no…not yet anyways.”
“Wait what?”

Every time I have this conversation with someone, I just have to laugh. Obviously my name is Italian and I look Italian, so it’s natural for people to assume that since my dad was born here, I speak fluent Italian. I then have to go on to explain that we never actually spoke it while I was growing up and I’ve only been learning it for a year. Although I’m not close to being fluent, I have to say that my Italian has vastly improved since I first arrived. From taking an intensive language course my first two weeks here, to taking a cooking class where we can only speak Italian, and visiting relatives in Southern Italy who speak little to no English, I’ve really been pushed out of my comfort zone to think of different ways to say something so I can say it in Italian. Although I may butcher it sometimes with broken Italian, I’ve found that about 85% of the time, people will understand what you’re trying to say, and more importantly- they appreciate that you’ve tried. 
Buona Pasqua! Enjoying Easter dinner with my relatives in Southern Italy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about Italians being rude to them. Sometimes that can definitely be true, especially in a metropolitan city like Milan, but usually those same people who are complaining are people who only speak to Italians in English and expect them to understand. I’m not saying you have to be fluent in Italian to live here, obviously I’m not, but making the effort and even pulling out google translate in times of need makes it easier for the locals to understand you so they can help you.
Can we just appreciate these lush green hills? I wanted to dance around like Julie Andrews but I restrained myself.
First time meeting my 2nd cousins! 
Conversely, the first time I went to the café next to my apartment, my Italian was just awful and I ended up saying everything in English. Ever since then, they only speak to me in English. Although I love to practice my Italian any chance I get, I think it’s really sweet how they go out of their way to make me feel comfortable by speaking English. Which reminds me, I haven’t been there in a few weeks... I miss their pistachio cream filled croissants... BUT I DIGRESS. Just try your best, anywhere you go. When I went to Paris and said a few phrases in French, everyone was so kind and told me how cute they thought my accent was and appreciated my sad attempt at French.
See, they even put a smiley face in my cappuccino!

Also, I’m not sure how often these happen in the United States, but if you’re studying abroad in another country where you’re learning the language, I suggest going to a language exchange! I’ve gone to a few, and even though it’s intimidating at first, it really helps me practice my Italian. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people from all over the world! :D


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