Alberto & I spent a beautiful day in Venice today! After a chilly, grey first week in Italy, spring is finally here…and so are my seasonal allergies, but I’ll take it if it means we get to enjoy beautiful sunny weather and wisteria.
I’ve been trying to take advantage of speaking Italian as much as possible while I’m here, but it’s actually harder than it seems! Alberto speaks English fluently and so do many Venetians…I have to force myself to speak Italian. Sometimes that means making mistakes or stumbling over my words to get an idea out that would take me seconds to do in English.
Today at a bacaro (a Venetian bar/restaurant where you can get drinks and finger food called cicchetti), I chose a polpette di zucchine a fried zucchini ball) not only because I thought it would taste good, but also because I thought it would be easiest to pronounce out of the choices. I said zucchine several times, and the server didn’t understand me. I felt crushed because if an Italian can’t understand me when I say zucchine, which is so close to the American zucchini, then what hope do I have???
Then, on our way home we stopped at the grocery store. I was standing in line while Alberto went to grab another item. The woman in front of me mumbled something to me, at least that’s what it sounded like because I didn’t understand a word! I finally guessed that she was asking if I wanted to go in front of her since I only had two items and she had a full cart. I was so taken off guard that I couldn’t even utter a word and just looked at her like a deer in the headlights!
I was feeling a little bummed about my Italian blunders today, when Alberto pointed out that when I am not sure of what I’m saying in Italian, I whisper it. This was such a revelation to me because maybe the bartender today didn’t misunderstand me…maybe he just didn’t hear me!
I’ve been to Italy enough times that the culture doesn’t shock me as much as the language does. It’s easy to be lazy and rely on English even here. There’s even American pop songs on in the stores 90% of the time!
Learning a language definitely requires you to practice humility, swallow your pride, and make mistakes. Today was a reminder to speak boldly because trying is better than not trying at all.
Have you ever had language shock before?1