Wednesday 23 January 2019

Io scrivo un libro and other linguistic tales

Io scrivo un libro ... I am writing a book.

No, this is not an announcement or something that I've been keeping from you. I have to learn Italian - and not just a few random words, or sentences that will get me a shot of coffee in the morning.

Let me hasten to add that this was always my intention BUT it would have been nice to have been forewarned before I spent hours preparing my application, paying copious amounts of money getting all manner of certificates and having them apostilled and translated, filling in forms and then paying even more money into foreign bank accounts that a B1-level language test would be mandatory before I could be granted Italian citizenship. Was this information anywhere to be found on the website detailing the process? No. When did this new rule come into play? Early January ... this year!

So, just for good measure...

Io mangio una mela - no, actually I am not eating an apple, but I am pretty happy with that phrase


Io sono una donna - but a pretty worn out one at that after this latest revelation.

We did have some success, though, at the Italian Consulate Offices this morning where I was greeted with this new linguistic challenge - four new Italian passports for my husband and children.

It takes me back ten years to the very up-and-down period before our departure for France. Re-reading the small excerpt from 'But you are in France, Madame' (below) never fails to make me want that all over again. The busyness, the tiredness, the trepidation, the worry that our passports wouldn't come through on time or that we wouldn't have enough money, the awareness that I would need to step up as the only real French speaker, the uncertainty over housing, schooling, work ... I'd take all of that again in a heartbeat knowing what I know now. If you are even semi-seriously contemplating a family adventure like ours, do it ... just do it. And, if you are hesitating and need someone to bounce ideas off, send me a message. I'm always very happy to help.

The final weeks before setting off disappeared in an exhausting madness of attempting to keep the lives of our children relatively normal, while completing the ever-expanding list of things to do. The children themselves, aged at that stage 6, 9 and 12, were in a blissful state of incomprehension about their future in a far-away, friendless, non-English-speaking environment and caught up in the excitement of having unusually indulgent parents—both of whom were constantly behaving rather erratically, forgetting to put them to bed or into the bath, and saying weird, unheard-of things like, “Help yourselves to whatever you’d like in the pantry”. And then distractedly, “Certainly”, to their quizzically opportunistic, “Including the lollies?” follow-through.

Even the full shelf of lollies, left over from the interminable round of ‘parties with party bags’ that the children had attended, was fair game. Surprisingly, my furtive nightly raids on their bags had not contributed to a significant reduction in the mountain of Minties, Smarties and chocolate bars. The children were obligingly happy to help change that and equally as happy to have packets of chips or spaghetti out of a can for dinner, with an ice cream chaser for dessert. How lucky it was that I could escape the healthy-eating, good-parenting critics, as it all took place in complete anonymity.

Our arrival in Geneva - after years and years of planning.

PS I'm not a McDonald's fan, but the billboard next to the bus stop, on the way home, was an emphatic full stop to the whole morning's linguistic story. 

"Cheese burger, anyone?"
"Quelqu'un veut un burger au fromage?"

Hmm, now what might that be in Italian?

And, why, you might ask, am I even going down this Italian passport route? One unfriendly-to-me word - Brexit.


  1. Wow! I hope it goes well, learning Italian. You seem to be a linguist and will no doubt accomplish this.

    1. Thanks Cheryl. After the initial disappointment, I now feel like it is a brilliant opportunity and am strangely excited by the prospect. Will need a lot of luck too, I suspect.

  2. You will learn decent Italian in no time, as you are already fluent in French and understand the grammar structure. As you probably know, modern Italian was created as a standardized language to unify all of the dialect heavy regions of Italy in the 19th century and is most similar to the northern dialects. Easy to spell and pronounce, compared to English, French or Chinese anyway. But you will have to learn all of the hand gestures. Words alone are not enough!

    1. Hi Ellen, I can't speak without my hands in any language! It has been 5 days now since I started this new challenge and I'm pretty motivated. Must stay realistic, though...Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will I be speaking Italian in a week, but I appreciate your optimism.