Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Please, let’s talk Italian

I don’t mean to ridicule inferior language skills or silly typing mistakes (I know I do more than my fair share) and besides I think any attempt at using a foreign language should be encouraged, but I am sooo tired of Italian waiters and concierges who insist on speaking English, when their guests address them in perfectly understandable Italian, and when their English vocabulary is limited to “okay”, “Yes” and “No”. At tourist destinations, it happens all the time, and I don’t think I am the only one who finds it a bit trying.

Granted, I speak Italian with a funny accent, and people are welcome to laugh, but I have studied the language for 6 years and passed several exams, I read Dante, Moravia and Pirandello slowly but without filter, and I get by on a daily basis with all it takes of banking transactions, political discussions and friendly banter. Yet when I enter a restaurant in Mid- or Northern Italy, the staff rolls their eyes or point, shout and treat me as an imbecile who is only capable of understanding one-syllable words.

At the same time I am handed poorly translated menus that are either indecipherable or make me lose my appetite. I have no idea what is meant by “tidbits of still meat” in a main course, but I am not sure I like it. Just as I am not too keen on “scrumbled eggs”, “wet bread with oil”, “Ewe’s typical cheese”, “organic cereals and pulse” or “vegetables in thousands of ways and numerous sweet ought-nots” to quote but a few of the menus, I have come across lately. The translations do not make sense. But I am sure it would sound absolutely mouthwatering and irresistible in an Italian menu.

So, if you want happy and satisfied tourists, who talk of their holidays in Italy as a success, try to respect their choice of language, when handling simple verbal transactions like a restaurant order. Most of us are extraordinary proud of ourselves, when we manage to order a cup of coffee in a foreign language, and if you have attended language school through a long, dark, cold North European winter, it is incredibly disappointing, when no one has the patience to try to understand you when on holiday.

I know the Italian waiter has probably got the same urge to practice English (or German), but why doesn’t he or she save it for tourists that are at a complete loss for words, chat up a friendly foreigner in the street or perhaps consider a holiday abroad?

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