Monday, 13 October 2008

Italian Comes With Its Own Challenges

And now for a little bit of linguistic reflection...

While grammatically speaking I have been having quite an easy time picking up Italian, I have found that I am having a harder time attempting to have conversations with people than I did when I was first learning Japanese. It is not that Italian people are unfriendly or evasive of foreigners. Rather, it is their rapid turn-taking strategies that make entering and, more importantly, continuing a conversation such a challenge.

Let me explain. You see, I have found that when two Italians are speaking, quite often they will not wait for you to finish your sentence. They will either a) finish it for you or b) continue with their own contribution to the conversation. As such, whenever I try to formulate a sentence, the Italian person I am speaking with will more often than not spew out at a native's pace the correct version of what I want to say, leaving me no time to internalize their corrections. Either that or they will simply carry on the conversation as if I had made my contribution already. This characteristic lies in contrast to Japanese people who tend to wait for you to finish before they begin speaking, or at least try to help you complete the sentence yourself.

Arg! It can be so frustrating!

It also doesn't help that most Italians can speak at least mediocre English, leaving me convinced that it will not be before I reach intermediate level Italian that I will be able to actually participate in a proper conversation.

Looks like it is time to get back to the books and study, study, study!


Anonymous said...

Italian is so close to English in so many ways. I can quite understand your difficulty. Still I am sure you are loving the challenge. Dad

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

This is so true--Italians love to finish your sentence, or worse, just get a hint of what you're going to say and begin responding mid-your-sentence. Doesn't help comprehension, either, that so many simply talk over one another....

You need to come to the south, though, where it's hard to find English speakers. It's definitely sink or swim in Calabria ;)

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