martedì 18 novembre 2008

Do You Speak the Lingo?

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me here, is the number of my colleagues, including people who have been in Milan for several years, who don't speak Italian. Not in the sense of not being completely fluent, but in the sense of being scared to say three words in public, because they've never bothered to learn. It is actually possible to live like this. These people work in an English speaking environment, make friends with people from work, and find an Italian speaker at work to help them out when they need to do something important like fix a gas leak, set up their telephone line or go to hospital.

There are several things that I find sad about this. The first is that it's actually possible to do this. It's not just anglophones who go all over the world expecting people to speak English to them, it's people from all over Europe. I've even had Italians ask me why I want to learn Italian. And all this in a country with an incredibly rich history and culture, a passion for talking and a language that is both beautiful and relatively easy to learn. God bless the French and their linguistic protectionism.

The second sad thing is that I feel sorry for these people. They live in an amazing, crazy complex and difficult country and they don't understand most of what's going on around them.

The last thing that I feel sad about is that I feel sorry for myself. I feel like I'm torn between spending time with friends from work, who I really like, and making the effort to go out, meet Italians and learn the language, which is what I came here to do. It's like two different worlds, and sometimes I wish they would just mix a little bit more easily.

This is something that I feel strongly about and I would really like to know what other people think. So here is my question: if you lived in Italy, how much would it take to make you learn Italian?

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