Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quando a Roma...

I have been in Rome for two weeks as of tomorrow morning.

So, it's about time that I start blogging on a more consistent basis. I hope to update every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. So check back on those days (and possibly more often if I have the time!) for new posts!

My time here has been quite an adventure so far. I've learned a lot, I've struggled with Italian, I've been lost more than I've been found and I've begun to fall in love with one of the most ancient cities in the world.

Something I have come to appreciate while being here is communication. Not until we are somewhere where we cannot communicate do we truly realize how essential it is to everything we do. To order food, ask what time it is, get directions, or even find a bathroom you have to communicate--and when you can't speak the language, you are suddenly severely disabled.

So in order to avoid being disabled through communication I took Italian last semester and I am currently taking Italian while I'm here, as well. However, I wanted to put what I am learning into practice and so I have gotten involved in a program called Extreme Language Exchange at the Mate Bar in Trastevere, a small district in Roma with lots of trendy boutiques, bars, cafes, and gelaterias. It's a trendy and hip place, but the program is what drew me to the area to begin with. After finishing my second session tonight, I know that it is something I am going to continue to attend throughout my semester so that I can practice speaking and listening to Italian instead of just reading and writing it in class.

The moment I knew that working on my Italian was paying off occurred today while waiting for a bus. As a quick side story, since I've been here I have yet to be mistaken for an American as long as I am by myself and I keep my mouth shut. Whenever I've been waiting for a bus, or standing in line at the local pizzeria or pasteccheria people immediately use Italian when speaking to me--which is a good feeling because it makes me feel like I am doing a good job of blending in instead of sticking out--but it's frustrating when I have to respond with, "Mi dispiace, non capisco. Non parlo italiano. Parlo inglese." ("I'm sorry, I don't understand. I don't speak Italian. I speak English.") It's at that point that the person who just moments before mistook me for an Italian, rolls his or her eyes and wanders off to speak to another person nearby. However, today was a breakthrough, for as I was standing at my bus stop to get to school, I had a man come up to me and ask, "Questo autobus va a Via Carini?" to which I momentarily paused, about to respond with my usual "Mi dispiace," only to realize... I understood him! He asked if this bus was going to the Via Carini stop... and I knew the answer! "Si, signore!" I hastily replied while he stood there looking slightly puzzled at my enthusiasm. I just smiled, walked over to a seat, sat down, and silently praised myself. Not only had I actually LISTENED to what this man had asked me, but I had been able to understand it, and respond! It was quite rewarding... even if slightly anti-climactic in terms of my response... a simple: "Yes, sir!"

However, being in a country where the primary language is not English has taught me a lot. It has made me work harder at listening to people when they speak on top of asking them, "Puoi parlare lentamente, per favore?" ("Can you speak slowly, please?") Slowly but surely I am learning, and I know that if I continue to place myself in situations where I need to speak in Italian or listen to people speak to me in Italian, that I will improve my ability and grow more confident in my speech.

Whenever you find yourself in an unfamiliar and foreign place, do you feel intimidated by language barriers or cultural differences? How do you handle yourself in these situations? What do you do in order to "blend in" or feel comfortable?  Have you made an effort to learn the basics of the languages of the places you've traveled?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...