Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speaking Italian in its Native Habitat

So I thought I’d report on how my few weeks of intensive study of Italian paid off in the wild.

Very well, thank you.

I got to use my new language skills almost immediately, in the train station at the Rome airport. A very nice lady came over and asked me in Italian if this was the train to Termini (downtown Rome version of Penn station). She was confused because the train was supposed to leave at - she rattled off a time of day, and here it was - rattled off another time of day. I responded with a fluent shrug since I hadn’t thought to learn the phrase for, “I am also confused.” I went to listen in as she asked someone else. The train did indeed go to Termini.

I spoke in Italian frequently, asking for directions, buying bus tickets, saying good morning, good afternoon, etc. I was surprised at how many Italians do not actually speak Italian, as they had not idea what I was talking about.

Somehow, hard to believe, many key phrases I needed were not in the standard tourist phrase book. Such as "Can you please fill this thermos with hot water", or "How do I get to the hot springs?" And I really hoped it didn't come out as "Would you please fill the thermos with water from the hot springs."

I think I only slipped up by using Spanish a few times. And my Pi just used Hebrew once.

By the end of the trip, even my Pi was Bongiorno-ing and Prego-ing with confidence.

The speaking Italian highlight of the trip came in the city of Saturnia in Tuscany when I booked a room in a charming B&B where no one spoke English.

I smoothly told the guy behind the desk “Vorrei una camera doppia per una notte con bagno per favore.” (I would like a double room with a bathroom for one night, please.) To which he replied, … Actually I have no idea what he said but he handed a woman who worked there two room keys and sent us to take a look.

Both were fine. I asked the woman how much they cost a night. To which she replied, … I was eventually able to figure out … that I needed to ask the guy downstairs.

So we went downstairs to ask the guy, “Quanto costo?” To which he replied … I have no idea what he replied but we made him write it down and fortunately they use the same numbers we do.

He drew us a map to the hot springs, and then told us a lot of other stuff to which we nodded politely. And the next day we figured out was probably something along the lines of "We are closed tomorrow" and "Where to leave the key because the office will be locked."

I also attempted to speak English in Manchester, but that is another story.

Cascate del Mulino a Saturnia

No comments: