Using Italian is harder than you think!

Buongiorno and hello from Pisa! (In fact, it’s more like “buona notte” in this time zone.)

I arrived into Pisa about 5 hours ago. Let me say once again how much I love Air France. I wish they operated domestic flights in the U.S. I’d fly with them over United or US Air or just about anyone (except maybe Southwest). Their customer service is invariably cheerful and polite, they give you useful things like eye masks and ear plugs on long flights (hear that, United?), and they serve you A++ food (on the airplane food scale). None of the “I’m sorry your overcooked pasta is ice cold, our food heater isn’t working” excuses I got from United when I flew to Japan earlier this year. No, Air France gave us flavorful chicken, roasted potatoes, veggies, a salad with what I think was pate, juicy grapes, and chocolate dessert for dinner (plus bread, of course) and then sliced meat, cheese, yogurt, fruit cocktail, and a croissant for breakfast. Yum!

My language efforts have been less satisfying. I essayed some exchanges in French with stewardesses, with mixed success. Once reaching Italy, though, it’s been even harder. I’m very, very slow with the very, very little Italian I know (made even slower because French keeps popping into the forefront of my mind when I try to compose in Italian). By the time I get halfway through a sentence, the other person has already switched to fluent English. It’s easier that way, of course, but I also feel embarrassed at making them use my language in their country. (However, I suspect that they don’t really care and just want me to hurry up and order my pizza.) The owner of my B&B picked me up at the airport and offered English smalltalk. He asked me where I worked, but didn’t recognize “NASA”, “space”, or “rockets”. It was surprising to realize how difficult it is to explain where I work even in my own language! I finally hit on “we send people to the Moon”, which he got.

Google, however, recognizes that I’m coming from Italy and is automatically using Italian to communicate with me. Yikes!

I had some excellent veggie pizza (artichoke hearts! zucchini! by the way, I find it funny that my dictionary translates “zucchini” (Italian) into “courgette” (English) — courgette? I had to look it up. My online dictionary claims it’s British, of all things (not French?) and refers to… zucchini.) and then walked over to the Leaning Tower. It is beautiful at night! (Thanks to Alberto Mayer for this photo; the tower is at the far right.) They have a floodlight illuminating the lower side, and lights on all of the other fantastic old buildings as well. Despite the darkness and hour (probably 8:00 p.m.), there were quite a few people strolling around the wet grounds, including a large Chinese tour group. Tomorrow I plan to go back, this time with a camera… and maybe I’ll get to use some Italian at some point!

1 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Michelle said,

    December 12, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    Ciao, Kiri!

    We had a similar experience in Italy, in the cities… I suppose it’s good for business to know English (because then they can communicate not just with Americans, but with Brits, French, Germans, Japanese, …) We got to / had to use more Italian in the countryside – even there most people we encountered knew a few phrases, but there were times that our limited Italian was actually better than their limited English. Sometimes we ended up in a pidgin of sorts. ;) The French countryside was similar, but harder, because our French vocab was more limited and our French pronunciation is atrocious!

    Have a wonderful time – you’re certainly making me want to go back to Italy!

  2. Marcy said,

    December 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Yay travel blogging!

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