We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The difference between I and E

It's no secret we've been trying to learn to speak Italian, and making slow progress. I know, it doesn't seem possible that we live here, and still haven't become fluent yet. There are a few reasons for that. The biggest one is we just don't practice enough. We took several months off from our weekly lessons, and we've just started back up again in August.

On the plus side, we are making progress. Seriously. We understand just about everything we hear, even at full Italian speed. We read and write fairly well also. It's opening our mouth and speaking back in a conversation that we don't do well enough for our liking, even though we are told we do ok. Still not good enough, secondo me (in my opinion).

And every once in awhile, we have a particularly interesting language experience that illuminates to us that no matter how hard we try, we may just never become as fluent as we would like to be. Here's two recent, laughable cases-in-point:

I went to the farmacia (pharmacy) to purchase arthritis medication for my elderly dog, Sam. I'd purchased this medication at this same farmacia before several times, and each time I had taken the medicine box with me to show the pharmacist, just in case I needed it. This time, I didn't have the box. I just said her, in my excellent Italian, " Ho bisogno Rimadyl, per il cane". And I pronounced Rimadyl just like I think it should be -- RIM- A- Dill. Simple. No. The pharmacist looks at me and tells me she doesn't know what I am asking for, but would I please write it down. So I write it for her- RIMADYL. She looks at me, smiles a big smile and says, "Si, Si, Reeeam - a- deeeeal". Thank goodness for pen and paper, or my poor dog might still be without his arthritis medication today.

Only a few days after the farmacia adventure, Mike went to the vet to obtain the name of a pet sitter, as he has seen a flyer on the vets wall the last time he was there. The vet didn't personally know this particular pet sitter, but sent Mike over to the dog food store to ask the woman there, because she thought this pet sitter and the dog food woman were friends. Mike goes to the pet food store, and in Italian he asks the woman there if she can recommend this pet sitter. But he pronounces pet sitter just as we would in English. Those two words on the printed flyer were exactly as we would write them. The woman says she doesn't know what he is asking for. He writes it down for her, and she says, "Oh, si, si... Pet Seat-ter". Pet Seat-ter. Of course! Why didn't we know that???

There is no doubt in our minds, after these two events, that we have not learned the difference in the pronunciation of I and E. I need to go study a few more hours this week.


Life, Laughter and Paris said...

Ah language is tricky! I've lived in Montreal all my life and still have trouble with French. Keep at it :)

Yvonne said...

Sympathetic chuckle from this corner of the world. And, how long would it take to have a truly deep and meaningful discussion with an Italian?


karen said...

Yvonne, I wish with all my heart I could experience that too, but am realistic enough to know that for me, that will probably never happen!

Dianne said...

Studying Italian myself, I noted that in my mind I pronounced both words the same way you did even though when I read the Italian pronunciation, I said to myself -- Oh Yeah - that's right! Take heart with learning to speak. My experience with French was first it sounded like one huge word, then words broken apart but not understandable. Then I began to understand. The speaking was the last thing to come. Things are also complicated because both you and your spouse speak English to each other (even when you vow to speak Italian). Mike and I would vow to speak French to each other when we lived in Paris but that would last for about 5 minutes. YOU WILL LEARN -- TRUST ME. And you are in the best place to learn a language - since you see and hear it around you all day, every day.