Speaking Italian is bad for you

Farmyard with ball and cheese
I’m pleased to report that my Italian is coming along nicely. I spent Easter Sunday reading books with my two year-old Italian cousin and I understood almost as much about the goings-on at the farmyard as he did. It turns out that the cheese is a yellow triangle and the ball is round. Quite what either were doing in the farmyard in the first place remains beyond me though.

I’d like to be better – I hope one day to reach the level of a five year-old – and it’s not that I don’t try, it’s just that my wife speaks it fluently so the temptation is always to stand back and let her do the talking.

Every now and then though she sends me out to buy something by myself. I haven’t quite worked out if this is borne out of an altruistic eagerness to help me master the language by pushing me into situations where I have no choice but to speak, or just pure laziness on her part, but either way, it’s a helpful exercise. So far I have successfully bought four courgettes from the local greengrocer and a roast chicken from the market, and what’s more, on both occasions, that was exactly what I set out to buy!

The other day we popped into a shopping centre just outside Asti. We needed to buy a couple of bottles of wine for a family lunch and my wife needed to go to the TIM shop to sort out something on her phone. While she was merrily chatting away about 3Gs, sims and texts, I wandered off and found myself in a rather nice wine shop. I had no intention of doing anything other than browsing until she came and joined me. I’d check the lie of the land, see what they had to offer and then we’d make a decision together, buy the wine and be on our way.

Except that while I was browsing, the shopkeeper, Mauro, approached me to offer some advice. And I understood what he said. I even responded. In Italian! We discussed a couple of options and I ended up making a decision. This was monumental. A new stage in my learning of the language. A full, and somewhat successful conversation, with a fellow grown-up, resulting in an educated purchase.

Mauro, the experienced wine salesmen that he is, picked up on my euphoria and smelled blood. He offered a quite remarkable five per cent off everything if I bought six bottles rather than the two I had selected. Now this seemed like an incredible deal. Five per cent? I’d be mad not to go for it! So, the two of us, my new Italian friend Mauro and I, carefully selected another four bottles, I paid and proudly headed back, box of wine under my arm, to the TIM shop to regale my wife with the story of my success.

It was only then, as the adrenaline began to wear off, that I realised that five percent off a bottle of wine that costs six euros (big spenders, eh? In my defence, half-decent wine doesn’t cost much in these parts) isn’t really very much, and while I might have saved an impressive four euros on the whole purchase, I had gone in to buy two fairly cheap bottles of wine and come out 30 euros lighter. Admittedly, I had an extra four bottles to show for it, but still…

So, it turns out that getting better at speaking Italian will make my wife lazier, my wallet lighter and me… well, very drunk I guess. I might just knock it on the head now, before it’s too late.

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16 responses to “Speaking Italian is bad for you

  1. Great!! Don’t feel too bad, I think that I would have been so proud of myself and charmed by Mauro that I probably would have left with at least ten bottles!! Enjoy the wine and the progress!!! 🙂

    • Ha ha, thanks! I don’t feel too bad, I have plenty of wine to drink now after all. I think my wife might stick to sending me out to buy vegetables in future though, far less danger of me getting carried away…

  2. I’m sure that the same bottles of wine would cost you twice as much in the UK, or even more. And you got a practical Italian lesson out of it into the bargain! Sounds like good deal for me. On the other hand, I’m concerned to see that Italian farm animals play ball and eat cheese…..

    • And yet it’s the British that get blamed for mad cow disease… it makes no sense! 😉

      You’ll be pleased to hear that the wine was, and some of it still is, delicious!!

  3. Haha, nice post! Your Italian sounds more impressive than our Croatian so well done. Our neighbour’s 5 year old son has started learning English and his ease (and quite impressive pronunciation) of reciting the few words he’s learnt, really puts us to shame!

    • It’s so frustrating isn’t it! I have a four-year-old cousin here who knows all the colours in English, pronounces everything perfectly and then when he speaks in Italian, he looks at me like I’m an idiot if I don’t understand what he’s saying!

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  5. I love the bit about reading kids books. I bought and read loads of kids Italian books, the idea being I taught my son to read in the UK this way. But it is not very cool to be sat in the cafe’ reading the Little bear and the tiger.

    Don’t you hate how Italian words are very similar. Cane and Carne. Last Christmas I announced to my wife’s italian family (in my very bad Italian) that I was going to go to the village to buy a bottle of prosciutto for new years eve. I got some very weird looks until they realised I meant prosecco.

    • Awesome! It’s great to know that other people have similar problems. I thought it was just me who kept taking the meat for a walk and goes to the butcher to buy un etto of dog.

      I’m currently on The Sword in the Stone. It’s a bit too advanced for me though… and, as you say, definitely not cool to be seen reading it in public!

      • Ha ha… you’re way ahead of me then, but only because I make my wife do most of the talking. Damn the Italians and their similar words for completely different (but not so different that it’s still embarrassing and confusing) things!

      • When we are with Italian friends, my wife gets fed up with translating. When I loose the thread of the conversation, I end up sitting there saying What? what?

        At times it is like being seven again, decisions are made and I find out later, very much on a need to know basis.

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