Sunday, February 14, 2010

Layla in Italiano

Last week, while visiting one of the producers that I work with, I met another ex-pat living and working here in Sicily. Hayley met her husband in England and they moved to Sciacca seven years ago. I feel bad, because I kind of gave her a hard time when she told our clients that caponata was sort of like "English chutney" and I pointed out that caponata probably outdates chutney (although I was thinking of chutney as coming from England - I didn't take into account it's roots). Anyway, after the presentation, I spoke with Hayley about her experiences here in Sicily - I was especially interested about how she became fluent and more importantly, how long it took her. It would be worth mentioning at this point that I am incredibly impatient when it comes to learning a new skill - in my life I've taken sax, drum, piano and guitar lessons, but I couldn't stick with it for more than a few lessons. I remember my third guitar lesson vividly - I wanted so badly to be a virtuoso, for my teacher to say "you have been blessed with a gift!" - that I couldn't stand struggling through the basic chords. I wanted to be playing "Layla" and instead I was mired in the drudgery of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

Back to Sciacca. Hayley was great - as I've found most ex-pats, she was more than willing to talk about her experiences and offer sage advice to the new guy. She talked about going through three stages - the first stage, when she first moved here, was simply being able to survive and communicate on a basic level. She said this took her a couple of years. After that, the second stage, was when she was comfortable enough to find her own voice in Italian. This was something that really struck me - it seems simple, but I think I needed to hear someone else say it. I'm not at that point yet, but I'm trying to do more to engage people and not simply shy away from conversation. Finally, Hayley said that the third stage for her was becoming fluent. I hope it doesn't take me seven years, but I've grown to accept that these things don't happen overnight.

Since I moved to Sicily, I've tried all kinds of ways to study vocabulary words and nothing really seems to work - it always seems forced when I just sit down and write flash clads. I've decided to kill two birds with one stone - since my family (for some reason) likes to hear from me on this blog, I am going to start keeping track of new words that I learn. The nice thing is that I can add a few words at a time and save the draft - when I have ten or so words, I'll post everything. Of course, for my Italian-speaking friends, I am bound to make mistakes - please don't worry about correcting me in the comments, or by slapping me across the face with some baccala while yelling "Get your act together!"

In order to keep this blog from becoming completely boring, I'll try to work in a story or an explanation why I had to look these words up in the first place.
Words for today:
amabile (ah-mah-BEE-lay) - lovable (or with regard to vino, sweet), tender, nice, amiable (well that makes sense...).

friggitoria (free-gee-tore-REE-ah) - a shop where they sell an assortment of fried foods. That's what it's called? At least now I have a name to go with the place that's fattening me up!

merenda - meh-RAYN-dah - an afternoon snack or break. I like these!

fluidificante - flew-ee-deef-ee-CAHN=tay - this could be one of my new favorites - not only because it sounds like what it describes, but because I learned this word by using the wrong word in its place. I went to my friend Domenico's bar the other night to watch the Manchester United - A.C. Milan match and I showed him my list of calcio terms. I filled up a couple of pages in my moleskine notebook with words and phrases that would help me become a better ultra tifoso (Italy's version of the hooligan). My old favorite phrase was "Autogol clamoroso" - which is basically a shocking own goal. Domenico, fascinated by my nerdiness, quickly noticed one mistake - I wrote terzino volante to describe an attacking defenseman. Terzino was correct, but Domenico said that you would never really say volante - in fact, the more appropriate phrase would be terzino fluidificante. I've got a lot to learn about calcio in Italy, but spending some time with Domenico was a great learning experience - I made a mistake and then learned the more natural way to speak. Maybe learning "Layla" wouldn't have been so tough after all...

1 comment:

  1. This is a good way for me to study too. Keep those vocab words comin'!