Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adventures with Italian... and, as always, Spanish

Part 2: Milan

After a rather uneventful (and happily so) flight to Milan, I was at last in Italy. I took a bus ride to the central bus station, and talked to an Italian who knew neither English nor Spanish. It was tricky, but Spanish served me well. I was able to ask him questions in Spanish and he was able to answer in Italian. Pretty awesome. That's what I was hoping would happen.

I decided to catch a later train to Venice so that I could wander around and pretend that I was Italian for awhile. Thankfully, the "looking Italian" part went pretty well, as I have that genetic advantage of having Italian descendants on my mother's side of the family. Check. What usually thwarts such illusions is the fact that when I open my mouth, the language I'm most likely to speak is not Italian. Sure, I know some words and phrases like molto bene! and ciao and grazie, along with foods like linguine, spaghetti, ravioli, etc... but those are not likely to sustain me in any situation except for buying pasta in an Italian supermarket.

I talked to as many Italian people as I could, always asking first if they spoke Spanish because... boy do I hate letting people hear me use English! I don't know... I guess it's just a part of me that wants people to see that, although my language is not perfect, I am putting in the effort. I always feel that, as an American, I have to represent my people well. I want other people to say, "Hey, maybe all Americans aren't bad after all... that one was trying really hard to speak our language." We (native English speakers) have the luxury of having the world at our fingertips. We don't have to learn other languages. We let other people learn ours. I like to struggle through to show that I appreciate how much work the rest of the world does to bend over backwards to talk to us. Anyway, enough of my soapbox rant... I had a few people thinking that I was a Spaniard... including two native Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic that I later met at the train station when I bought my tickets.

Here is a picture of the first place I stopped in... a little Milano cafe with a sign bragging of soymilk accommodations in their caffeinated beverages. Be still my beating vegan heart.

Then I stopped at a bookstore to enjoy their air conditioning and found a few gems:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Apparently schiappa (skee-AH-pah)** is someone who is incompetent. Not a direct translation, but pretty fun. Love it.

Then I happened upon this book, which, to my best knowledge, is entitled "Vegetables: Cooked and Raw." Now, all was going just fine, each page with a giant picture of a vegetable, until I turned to this page. The pages went something like this: Carrot, tomato, artichoke...squid? What?! I wish I had been able to read it to see the justification for such an obvious blunder. Last I checked, squid was filed away under "c" for "certainly not a vegetable." Apparently, according to Italians, I am wrong.

More to come. Ciao!

**Thank you to my friend Justin for steering me correctly on my Italian pronunciation.

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