Tonight we ate dinner with our soon-to-be-landlord and his family. We've met together several times, but this is the first time we met together for dinner as families. The husband speaks English well, his wife speaks very little. And of course, I'm studying Italian.
Our daughters are the same age, and each is learning the other's language. They are getting along better and better! Play IS the universal language. The first time they met, I handed Emily my phone with a translator app. They went from being shy wallflowers on opposite sides of the table, to walking the corso (boulevard) hand in hand giggling and sharing the phone back and forth - that afternoon! Now they are able to talk and giggle and play! They were on an adventure in the restaurant last night hunting monsters. It's so neat to watch this multi-cultural friendship blossom!
There is a commercial on the AFN (Armed Forces Network) TV programming that is about a young woman in Germany ordering chicken from a food stand. She has her German/English dictionary in hand, and she orders her food. Then she goes on to the worker of the stand to stay, "Oh! The chicken looks good and smells bad!". He looks at her with a funny look and then laughs it off and hands her the plate of food.
The commercial says you host country nationals appreciate you trying to speak their language even if it isn't perfect. This I have found to be very true in Italy. Maybe it's the hospitality of the southern Italian, or maybe it's just human nature. But when you try your best to speak even some Italian, it is appreciated and respected.
Tonight I received a great compliment. My landlord's wife said, "You've only been here five months. You speak good Italian!" Trust me, I don't speak well. But I humbly ask for people to correct me while I try. I throw it out there. I ask, "Come si dice _____?" or "How do you say _____?". And then try to remember.
I am not working while we are here in Italy so I do feel that part of my "job" is to learn how to get along in this country with my family. And not just get by, but rather to thrive. I am thirsty to learn because we have met so many wonderful people and I hope that eventually my personality will show which is the essence of who we are.
And many Italians want to practice English. So it's a win win for us! Going the extra mile and learning the language. Big keys to living in Naples!