Prior to coming to Italy, I did my best to cram in as much Italian language as possible. I downloaded helpful apps, and explored interactive websites, but without taking an Italian language class (or multiple classes) you can’t be properly prepared for the language barrier. Personally, I was very ill prepared, and I still feel lost in the sea of Italian language. As Americans, we are so lucky that our language is so common that we feel we can rely on English alone.
Another issue when it comes to the Italian language is that there are many different dialects. The younger generations learn standard Italian in school, but as they get older their language takes on the region that they grow up in. The dialect of Naples, is often found in Sorrento, because of its close location. These dialects are hard to understand for people, like myself, that only know very elementary Italian.
My most interesting language hurdle was when I left my wallet at the train station in Meta, a few towns over from Sorrento. I thought that I would never get it back, but fortunately I had a paper indicating I was a student at Sant’Anna Institute. A train employee called the school and told them that I could pick it up. I went on my own to the station the next day realizing that it was going to be very difficult to communicate, who I was and that I was there to pick up a wallet. Though, it ended up working out and the man that called the school was there, I had quite a difficult time telling them everything that I needed to say. Thank goodness for Good Samaritans and the little Italian I knew.
Many of the locals in Italy really respect the tourists that attempt their language. I have gotten multiple appetizers or glasses of Limoncello for free, just for attempting Italian. So, I have learned to try my best to practice this on a daily basis. Even though the restaurants and stores that I frequent know I am American, they also know that we are Italian students and help us with the language. I am not particularly good at picking up languages, but I want to continue to learn Italian when I get back to the United States, because I have already learned so much.
Brooke is a current student at University of South Carolina studying at Sant’Anna Institute in Italy during the Spring 2015 term.