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Sunday, November 13, 2005

But I do speak Italian !

When I first arrived in Italy I had a very limited Italian Language vocabulary. This did not stop me from looking for a job, however.
I figured that since Internet Cafes are mostly frequented by tourists, many of which speak some English ranging from fluent to a few words, I could work there.

At the first internet cafe I found, I asked if they were hiring. The girl at the desk didn't answer me, but asked me for my CV (resume).
I handed it to her, she looked at it and then asked me, "Do you speak Italian fluently ?"
"No" I replied. "I am currently taking Italian language classes though."
And she replied "We are in Italy. You have to speak Italian fluently." And of course I did not get that job. I did not get any job that day. Not a big surprise there. She was right after all.

Today, 3 years later I went to a local market.
I saw a table with some beautiful jewelry. I saw the seller, and in Italian I said, "Good morning. Are those earrings real silver ?" and he answered me, not in Italian which I know, but English, an English that was unintelligible even to me, a native English speaker.

I'm not sure what he said, but it sounded like. "Make make mine blue. Twelve euro."

I really didn't understand the answer (except for the price) so I repeated the question in Italian.
"Are those earrings real silver ?" "Make make mine blue. Twelve Euro!" he insisted, as he gestured at me to try them on.

I am sure that he heard in my voice when I first spoke to him in Italian an English accent. Everybody does.. He was probably only trying to be nice to me.
Maybe he learned English somewhere and just wanted to practice it. Who knows his motives for trying to speak in English to a person that addressed him in Italian, but it was 10 AM on a busy morning.
I had things to do, and so did he. I was not in the mood to play a guessing game.

I finally said, in Italian "I don't understand. Please speak Italian" and he did !

It happens to me so many times when I go to the touristy areas in Italy that I ask for something in Italian, and I get a response in English. It's not worth fighting anymore.
I usually just go with the flow. If people can understand me, and I can understand them, life works.
After all, language is just for communication, and if you can communicate, it doesn't even matter if they are the same.
But sometimes it pays to be a little rude and insist on speaking Italian.