We’ve just arrived home from two weeks in Italy, a beautiful country full of wonderful people, delicious food and breathtaking landscapes. It was also a country where none of us spoke the language, and where we faced constant puzzles just to open a doorknob, flush a toilet or turn on the hot water.
I recently read a book about learning foreign languages. The author said, “If the only thing you know is how to ask where the train station is, then you should ask everyone you meet, whether you want to go there or not.”
On this trip I tried to be fearless about speaking Italian. Simple conversations turned out to be no problem. People seemed to appreciate the effort and often responded with broken English, so we would end up speaking a sort of half-and-half language with a lot of hand gestures and would understand each other perfectly.
One night I refused a dish of spaghetti fifteen minutes before having to sing, saying, “No, grazie, I’ve got to cantare.”
The waiter smiled, said, “Okay,” and walked away.
I turned to Luca, our Italian booking agent and road manager, and said, “He understood me.”
“Of course,” Luca said. “‘I’ve got to cantare’ is perfectly fine.”
But sometimes the communication broke down, like the time we were asked, “Would you like mice in your salad?”
After a pause Marlon ventured, “Maybe just a couple small ones.”
“Um, yes, is a yellow vegetable.”
Well, si, we all wanted corn in our salads.