Let’s go make a walk

Garrett, don’t you mean take a walk?

Yes. Yes I do. I didn’t mean to say “make a walk”. I also don’t mean to say “Can you please spend the candle?.” “I need to stamp these documents from my computer” “She should system her priorities” or “Last night I took a beer at the bar”.

The thing is, as my Italian improves my English is starting to make crap. Dammit! I did it again!

When I first arrived in Italy (almost 5 1/2 years ago now!!!), my Italian was very poor. I could say a few things like “Hello” “How much?” “Where’s the bathroom?” “Pizza” and “Stop staring at my crotch”. You know, the basics. Though it’s true that I did study Italian in college, it’s also true that I wasn’t a very good student. I somehow managed to get Italian credit for a course that I took where I wrote all the essays in English. How the hell did I do that!!??!

Basically, 85% of my Italian I ‘ve learned “strada faccendo” (by doing – literally “doing the street”). I picked it up during my time in Italy from friends, colleagues, on television, at the bar, on the bus, and in the piazza. I think by this point I could teach a revolutionary new Italian language course to beginners called “Move to a country where you don’t know the language and make a life for yourself: 101”. It’s definitely the best way to learn!

Not having a grasp on the language when I moved to Italy was pretty difficult at first. My power lies in my speech, and without it I felt powerless.

I’m a real communicative guy. What I may lack in other skills I make up for by … well … talking. I know maybe this sounds weird, but if I were as super hero, my special power would be talking. (Look! Up in the sky! It’s The Amazing Talker!) I’m just really good at it. I can be very convincing, sincere, poignant, and charismatic when I talk. Before you think I’m getting a big head, please let me specify that I suck at plenty of things… I just happen to have a lot of success with talking. As a matter of fact, that class where I got Italian credit without actually studying Italian was probably because I talked my professor into thinking it was a good idea.

Not only do I excel at talking, but I also do it to excess. I have trouble sitting through a film without talking and I drive my boyfriend bonkers by talking until I fall asleep at night, and then continuing the “conversation” as soon as I wake up (I use the word “conversation” lightly because I don’t really need anybody to respond in order to keep me going)! I talk so much that when I was young my Mom gave me the Mr. Chatterbox book from the Mr. Men series. I’d say it’s pretty fitting. Certainly better than getting Mr. Shut Up Already!

All this being said, I felt really frustrated at not being able to express myself in Italian. I had a hard time saying what I wanted and being understood. It would drive me crazy when I had something funny to say or wanted to contribute with my own winsome comment, but my language skills prevented me from doing so.

As is natural, the more time I spent in Italy and the more I surrounded myself with the Italian language, the more I improved. They say that you are really starting to understand a language well when you dream in that language. Though my first dream in Italian was pretty cool (despite the fact that in my dream I was making grammatical errors and my roommates were correcting me), for me, the tell-tale sign that I was getting the hang of the language was when I started being funny and making people laugh in Italian, and not just in that “listen to the silly foreigner with his American accent and cute lil’ grammatical mistakes” way, but in the same way that I can be funny in English (and I am a laugh riot in English!).

Nowadays, my Italian is pretty darn good. Sure, I make errors and my accent will never go away no matter how hard I try, but as my mind gets used to Italian and the language comes flowing out without me even having to think about it, I find it difficult sometimes to switch back to English! I make verb mistakes (ie. let’s do a meeting) and sometimes I even forget words in English (ie. Just ring my … uh .. my campanello … no, wait .. my doorbell) . Often times I have to ask myself “Wait, do we say this in English?”

I really hope that I don’t start having problems expressing myself in English, or next time I come back to the States I’m just going to have to make all my jokes in Italian!


18 thoughts on “Let’s go make a walk

  1. That’s happening to me too, I’ll have been here 2 and a half years next month, and the more time goes on the more I find myself speaking English through Italian grammar, or using words/phrases translated from Italian that we don’t really use in English like “infact” or “in the sense of”!

    My accent won’t ever go away either, but I do have a bit of a milanese accent at least!

    • Oh! Spot on with “infact”, my Welsh friend! I say that all the time! I hate that one!

      I used to have a Bolognese accent, but I’ve picked up a bit of a whiney Milanese one now too! 😛

  2. I can perfectly understand you. Now that I’m learning German and get in there pretty often, I find myself in the typical situation when I would like to get into a conversation, but before I can find the right words or wording, the moment has passed. So, I pass most of an evening with friends just listening, with very little contribution to the talk. sigh!

  3. You certainly are a laugh riot in English!! I’m so proud of you for how far you’ve come, and impressed. One of my top ten things to do before I die is to live in Italy for (at least) a year… maybe baby Zoey and I can learn Italian together!! Miss you.

    ❤ Jess

    • Look at you, supporting the sh!t out of me! Grazie!!

      We have a sofa-bed for guests… Obviously you guys would get the bed, and me and my boy would cuddle up on the sofa-bed! 🙂

  4. ciao garrett ! hai conmiciato a parlare inglese maccheronico.. cattivo segno : stai davvero diventando italiano! a proposito di inglese maccheronico,
    guardati questo video e fatti quattro risate ..

  5. Pingback: 6 March Top 10 posts from the bloggers in Italy | italytutto the blog about the blogs in Italy

  6. Hey Garrett-
    This is a really fun expat blog & I like reading about your adventures in Milan. I am actually a writer & moderator for BlogExpat was hoping you would be interested in a new project where we will feature expat interviews. It would entail a brief questionnaire with a personal introduction, questions about being an expat, and a picture.
    If you are interested, please let me know and I will send the questionnaire. We are excited about the launch of this series and hope you can be a part of it! In any case, keep up the great work.

  7. It happened to me when I first came here (and I already spoke some Italian) and I’ve seen so many go through it. When ever I went home my mother would laugh at me and point out my English errors – a big one for me was forgetting to use the possesive ‘s’, but then it all settled naturally. It helped that English is my professional tool so I use it everyday (translator) and I have some good friends that are mothertongue speakers so I can use the language regularly and I keep my Italian up bot at work and in my personal life. But sometimes some funny words and phrases creep into my conversation. My favourite is the literal translation of *conosco i miei polli – I know my chickens – to say that I know what I’m talking about.

  8. garrett, ciao, guardati pure questo video che ti farà crepare dal ridere…!!
    gli errori vanno anche nel senso opposto :
    spesso mi trovo ad usare ” supportare ” ( da to support )
    in italiano invece che ” sostenere ” e mio nonno,
    che parla quasi solo dialetto brianzolo, mi guarda strano..
    🙂 ciao, un bacione, silvia

  9. I can sooooo relate! Sometimes I feel guilty about teaching English because I have forgotten our funny expressions and sometimes literally translate from Italian to English like you said! Even spelling has slipped in the past few years! But I also know so many English speakers that are negated when it comes to speaking Italian.. so I guess we can be proud that our need to communicate and integrate has taught us how to be fluent! love your blog

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