Another reason I need to learn Italian

Besides needing to stop trying to shoplift produce and to stop talking about multiple anuses, I have another reason to learn Italian.  I have a very beautiful child.  This isn’t just biased mom speak here, although I certainly am that.  I know that he is beautiful because the Italians keep telling me.

Irresistible to Italians since 2014

Irresistible to Italians since 2014

Typical scenario:  picture me huffing away pushing the double stroller.  Usually elderly Italian walks up and coos at the kids.  Sometimes they just flip me a “Complimenti” and walk on.  Other times they want more of a chat.  I just smile and nod while my brain is going a hundred miles per hour to try to keep up.  I once told the little old lady “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian.”  She nodded and just kept talking.  In Italian.  I usually try to throw in a few “Henry, say ciao” or similar to hopefully signify that I do not speak the Italian and I am not purposely trying to anger everyone here over the age of 60.

Enjoying said free sucker

People give Henry things.  Our first time in a restaurant, the waiter rolls up with a ball of dough on a plate and sets it in front of Henry.  And then sat back just to watch what happened.  (Henry licked it and then set it down.)  We walked past a flower stall and the man pulled out a rose for Henry.  He got a free sucker at the panini place.  The kid is racking up freebies.

Henry currently draws more attention, but Mac also has a devoted following.  He had a pretty resounding cheek squishing at the pizza place and then the lady stalked him down the street for additional squishing when we paused to chat with a neighbor.  I can’t really blame her.

You can't resist the squish

You can’t resist the squish

A surprising number of people have asked if they are twins.  Mac is big, but not that big . . .

Adorable?  Who, us?

Adorable? Who, us?

So here is my blanket apology to all the Italians I am not properly responding to as you compliment my children.  Learn Italian.  I’m on it.  In the meantime, I am flattered, and I hope my smile and heartfelt “grazie” do the trick.


They have how many what now?

Strides have been made on the Italian learning front.  Longer strides for James.  He did a week-long, three hours/day Italian survival class.  I would have too, but you know, kids.  I’m pretty impressed with him.  He was in the more advanced group and their teacher, a 4’10” fantastic dresser from Naples, does everything in Italian.  He’s been holding his own and then some.  Apparently after he was a little tired one day, his classmates told him to get his act together for the next day.  Because who else who hassle the teacher about all the grammar rules that don’t make sense?

On the home front, we had our first meeting with our Italian tutor this week.  The plan is for her to come once a week at 2000, then watch the already sleeping kids so we can date night.  I really want conversation practice.  I need someone to force me out from behind my books and duolingo lessons and make me say something–anything–in Italian.  Our first session was pretty light on this, but I have hope for the future.

And I definitely enjoyed the date night part of the evening.  James and I hopped in a cab and walked all around downtown.  And maybe ate a little gelato.  I was enjoying it too much to take pictures, but we went from the Pantheon, through Campo de’ Fiori, and over to the Campidoglio.  It was beautiful.  Hard to describe, but it really looked like a movie set.  Gleaming cobblestones, beautiful people bursting out of sidewalk cafes and restaurants.

Ooo . . . look . . . a blurry picture of me with a cat

Ooo . . . look . . . a blurry picture of me with a cat

But back to the Italian.  Our tutor emphasized that you must pause between double consonants.  This means “oggi” (today) is really og-gi.  She noted that lack of the pause will change the meaning of a word.  It reminds me of SNL’s Nuni and Noonie sketches.

James also discovered this during his class.  During an interview your neighbor and share exercise, James told the group that his partner has 36 anni (years).  The teacher immediately stopped him to explain anni.  I’m having trouble picturing how this was done in Italian, but she said “it’s not good” and there was some hand gesturing.  Turns out, anni is the plural of anus.  If you want years, you really need to say ahn-nee.

I cracked up pretty hard.  And then I thought, “Holy tootknockers, do you know the number of people that I’ve told that my son has two anuses???”


Learn Italian. I’m on it.

I had one of those experiences at the grocery store today that is re-motivating me to work on my (currently very limited) Italian.  It started in produce.  I grabbed a cantaloupe because I picked up some prosciutto earlier in the week and thought we’d enjoy them together.  How Italian!

I weighed the melon and got a sticker.  This is a big difference between European (at least German and Italian) grocery stores and those back home.  I learned this the hard way, my first trip to a Germany grocery store when the clerk yelled at me for not doing it.  Even though that was over 10 years ago, I have since been hyper-vigilant on always weighing my produce.

We make it to check out.  Henry refuses to relinquish the melon.  No biggie.  I peel it off and hand the guy the sticker.  But I can tell right away there is an issue.  He tells me it is the wrong sticker.  This is for the bigger melon, not the little one.  He says he’ll wait while I go fix it.

Everything the clerk said was in Italian.  I may have missed some nuances, but I’m pretty sure I got it.  Context clues helped greatly on this one.  But I am hopeful that comprehension is not completely hopeless.

But I couldn’t think of a single word in Italian to respond.  Some of it was the “deer in headlights” aspect of it.  But a lot of it was just my lack of Italian.  I have thought of a few things to say after the fact, but not too many.

I’m not beating myself up over it, but I’d like to do better next time.  And so back to Duolingo I go.  And then other Italian courses.  And hopefully lining up a tutor before too long.  Italian language prep fell by the wayside around the time Mac was born.  Now, I’m on it.