|Hot chocolate here is thick like pudding... I ate it with a spoon. Great comfort on a cold, wet, tired day.|
At any rate, I have had lots of language adventures already. As they say, "Getting there is half the fun". This morning, I flew into Venice, where Carnival is going full swing. Hope I can go back before it ends to get a taste of this historic and famous event.
I flew Iberia, the Spanish airline, so last night I quickly found myself in my most challenging, multilingual context: having to use Spanish and Italian at the same time. Confusing!!! Before we took off, a young couple approached me and asked, in very effortful, quasi-Spanish, if I could trade seats with one of them so they could sit together. Turned out they were Italian, from Bologna. I really liked my seat, so I stayed, and thus attempted to converse with the wife in Italian off and on all night. Simultaneously, I communicated with the flight attendants in Spanish, and read my book in English. Things seemed to be going fairly smoothly until we reached Madrid, at about 5:40 AM. With just a couple hours of sleep, it became difficult to speak any coherent language at all!
Waiting for the connecting flight at the gate in Madrid, I glanced around and heard Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and German -no English (although I still had my awesome book open). This is when it hit me: I am in Europe! Normally, I thrive on this multilingual environment, but at that moment, I felt a flash of "foreignness". Realty set in: I am here, in Europe, and I am a foreigner with sketchy Italian skills on my way to Italy, for four months! With this thought in mind, I boarded the plane to Venice.
Gratefully, my colleague in Padua picked me up at the airport. To that point, all of our communications had been in writing, mainly in English. However, when we met up live, we greeted each other and made small talk in Italian as we exited the airport. She was surprised at my "excellent pronunciation"; however, once we were in the car, it became clear that I had a lot of holes in my lexicon so she switched us back to English. Basically, I speak Italian somewhat "fluently", but very "errorfully". It's a mess, really, and I lack a lot of vocabulary... but I will keep trying!
One last anecdote. My colleague took me to the university apartment where they were waiting for me to check in. The "portiere" (doorman), who shares the name of the saint that makes this city famous, was very adept at explaining all the apartment details to foreign students/faculty in basic Italian. Part concierge, part kindergarten-teacher, he used a map, gestures, and writing to support his explanations in well-scaffolded, Italian-as-a-second-language. He even said, "if you don't understand something, tell me". He will be a great resource!
Hopefully, after a good night's sleep, I will be ready to get my Italian game on tomorrow!