Starting to Learn

I spent hours poring over books and listening to language discs so that  when I finally could return to Amalfi, I would have perfect Italian.   Ha, how little I knew.   It might have occurred to me that, like most other countries, even England, each area speaks if not with a different accent, then perhaps even with a different language.   I knew nothing of Italy having been a united country for little more than a hundred years and each area speaks a totally different tongue, left behind by various previous rulers.   On the Amalfi Coast, it’s the Neapolitan dialect which reigns, a left-over from the Bourbon rule and, I’m told, very similar to the Catalan language from Spain. Result,  I couldn’t understand a word of general conversation.   ‘Correct’ Italian is spoken only in schools, business and other formal surroundings.    Not only was I very shy about using my own Italian, I could only speak the formal one and casual remarks and conversation went way over my head.   As a consequence I would often find myself in the local shop pointing to something like a large cheese and asking for ‘Quello per favore’, then of course I had to decide how much of quello I required.  Happily, the shopkeepers were all very friendly and understood my problem so that when I asked for ‘a kilo’ of Parmigiano cheese, Andrea who was serving me, asked me ‘Sei sicura?‘  are you sure.  In fact, Parmigiano (or Parmesan) was so expensive, that apart from the size of a kilo, I couldn’t have afforded its price.  We settled on 100 grams.  There were similar, and some rather more embarrasing, examples in those early days.   Once, in answer to my father-in-law’s question – ‘What did you have for lunch?’ I told him we’d eaten the dog.   Well, carne is meat, while I’d told him ‘cane’ the dog.  How silly to have two so different words that sound identical.

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