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.