If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?
Growing up, I knew four Italian words: stunotz, agada, mangiare, and minga, only three of which could I actually find on Google Translate. Either they are old Italian (which is completely possible since they are from my great grandparents) or they’re not words. I’m going with the first option. Can you guess what they mean? Or, at least, my family’s translation? 😉
Stunotz = idiot
Agada = heartburn
Minga = slang for dummy, but we used it for ‘Oh my gosh!’
Mangia(re) = Eat! Eat!
Those four words won’t get me very far in Italy, especially considering they split into two categories: Food and Insults. And you don’t insult an Italian’s cooking. (Nor would I want to!)
If I could be fluent in Italian, my life would feel more complete. I would feel more whole, knowing my Italian heritage has more of a place in my person than just my maiden name and big-ish nose. I feel as though I’d understand more of my grandparents, maybe even more of myself. I would talk to my dog in Italian. I would call my grandma and speak to her Italian (then would translate because she doesn’t know much past me). It’s such a beautiful language, flowing and heartfelt and infused with nuances that speak of life and love.
I would hop on the first flight to Italia, roam the streets buying fruit from street vendors, chocolate from local shops, and try to persuade a handsome Italian man to dance with me in the streets like you see in the movies. I would try to make it to Lettomanoppello, the town where my great grandmother, who was a school teacher, is from. I would eat pizza and pasta to my heart’s content (because my food allergies bother me most when I’m stressed, and who can be stressed on a leisurely trip through Italia’s villages?).
I would also see if I could semi-recreate my favorite real-life story from one of my great uncles; we’ll call him Jr. And we’ll say, he’s the one in the red, laughing.
Jr.’s dad (my great grandfather) didn’t speak any English. Which meant Jr. and siblings were relied upon for school communication. Sure, this could go well. Or…
Jr. loved, loved, loved causing mischief when he was young. He was always getting in trouble at school, playing silly tricks and wreaking havoc as young boys like to do. Nothing too serious, and he turned into a respectable man (and one of my favorite people). But in the early 1930s…
Jr.’s principal wanted to meet dad, set things straight, and get Jr.’s mischievous behavior under control. Dad came in to school, and this is how the conversation was described during my uncle’s retelling:
Principal: Mr. Troiano, your son is acting up. He needs to get his head on straight.
Jr. translate to dad: Mr. Troiano, your son is doing excellently in school. He is one of our best.
Jr. dad: Oh, well that’s great to hear! We are proud of our boy.
Jr. translate to principal: I’m sorry Mr. Principal. We will certainly straighten him out at home.
I would use my powers for good, for sure. But there’s most definitely a possibility I would have at least a *little* fun with it. 😉