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Learn to Speak Italian and Reconnect with a Lost Part of Life
“What was once lost can be found again”
ROBERT LANNI – AUGUST 24, 2022
I’ve been taking Italian language lessons online, which has not an easy task. It is hard for me to learn a new language now that I am in my late fifties. In high school I took Latin, and I easily soaked it up. I still recall so much from those classes; many of the words, tenses, the history and mythology. I even still see a classmate of mine from those days from time to time, and we sometimes call each other by the Latin mythology nicknames our teacher gave us. That class was a lot of fun. Decades later the task is much harder to accomplish given my time constraints and the ever-present feeling of exhaustion that accompanies a busy career and raising a family. But the drive to learn is always there.
I had often wondered why my parents never taught us Italian at home. The only time my parents said anything in Italian was when talking with older relatives around the Sunday dinner table. And this only happened when they wanted to keep something private, like some bad news or the punchline to a dirty joke. My maternal grandmother would tell a joke in English, and then deliver the punchline in Italian, sending the people around the table into fits of laughter. It also sent us kids tuning in from the kitchen on a mad scramble to find the Italian-to-English dictionary. If it was in Italian, we wanted to know what was being kept from us. Otherwise, English was the one and only language in our house.
I once asked my mother why we didn’t speak Italian, and her response was quick and certain: “Because we are Americans”. That started and ended the conversation.
Looking back into my father’s past, I found that his mother could only speak Italian, and could not read or write. She was illiterate and yet had emigrated to America for the chance of a better life. She did not speak English, and never learned, having passed away at a very young age. My dad was nine only years old when she died. Her inability to speak, read or write in English clued me in to something my father had knew. It meant that for the first 9 years of his life, he only spoke Italian with his mother at home. He must have been fluent, as his primary caretaker only spoke Italian.
Then why, during my childhood, did my father never mention that he had once been fluent in Italian? Why was my mother so adamant about identifying as an American first? Why did the Italian language only surface in the privacy of our home when an older family member came to dinner? … Read More