Hot! Exchange Rate

Two weeks into my new Italian life and my standing in Finale changes – from tourist to local. What does that mean? That my grace period for piecemeal Italian is over. No more pointing, saying a few words and getting by reading body language. My friends now insist that I learn the language and speak complete sentences.

Alessandro is the first to call me out. When he introduces me to new people, they often compliment me on my attempts to speak their language. But he teasingly corrects them. My pronunciation is not so good. Neither is my grammar – and he laughs at my garbled text messages. I’m sure if he could take a red pen to these, I’d be having journalism school flashbacks.

Carolina is the next to make the exchange. She continues to feed me several times a week, but no longer responds when I speak in English. Her children correct me at the lunch table and giggle as they train me in the proper way to roll my r’s. Of course I listen and repeat. If there is one word I will say correctly, it is “birra!”

Even my roommate Francesca chimes in while she is on vacation, editing my text messages so the subject, verb and adjectives match.

This is by far the most challenging part of Italian. I know the verbs, the nouns, the adjectives and adverbs. But each verb must match the subject it refers to: I, you, he, we… There is a different form for each. Next adjectives and adverbs have both a gender and a singular or plural form to match to the noun. A beautiful day is different from a beautiful night, is different from the beautiful women.

It’s a lot to think about a first, and I am constantly correcting myself or asking strangers if I have said the word correctly. But slowly it is becoming natural, both out of rhythm and repetition. And from good friends who always insist you be your best.

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