Students Speak: The Beautiful Art of the Italian Language
The gondoliers in striped shirts and brimmed hats floating through the canals, the flocks of swarming pigeons in St. Mark’s Square, the tight, secluded streets, and the beautifully constructed bridges and archways… the beauty of Italy was overwhelming.
Prior to traveling to Italy for the first time, that was all I dreamed about: the architecture, the cities, and the picturesque landscapes. While in Italy however, I learned to admire something deeper than the physical beauty: the beautiful art of the Italian language. My first trip to Italy was also the first time I was able to use the language skills that I had acquired from four years of Italian class. At first, I was a little apprehensive to speak Italian with the natives. As silly as it sounds, it was daunting to think that I would be speaking to someone who knows the language backward and forwards. What if I made a mistake?
After taking a leap of faith to speak Italian to natives, the triumph I felt boosted my confidence to keep talking and I started to form connections in unlikely places. When exploring the ruins of Pompeii, I bonded with a little old lady who, after holding a conversation with me in Italian, kissed me on both of my cheeks. After speaking with a waiter in Italian, I watched as his jaw dropped at the sight of a young American speaking his native language. I didn’t have to rely on Google Translate nor did I have to go through the trouble of desperately asking an Italian, “Do you speak English?”
I was able to escape the removed feeling of being a tourist and I became so immersed in the culture I felt like an Italian local. In addition to my trip helping me become more comfortable with speaking Italian, it also helped me discover the true importance of learning other languages. When only one language dominates your life and you are not frequently exposed to anything else, it is easy to ignore the art of language. Observing the advanced language skillsets wielded by everyone I came across in Italy opened my eyes to a new way of perceiving language.
Whereas in America, being bilingual is a rare skill, in Italy, it’s normal, and almost necessary, to be at least bilingual, if not multilingual. Language surrounds us everywhere, in music, books, movies, history, and beyond. My immersion in Italian gave me access to all of these things and I have a whole new realm to explore. Moreover, learning about other cultures while already knowing the language helps us also to connect with its people, which can give some new perspectives and insights on our cultural similarities and differences. A cultural difference between America and Italy, I found, is our different approaches to life. It was a wonderful experience to observe how Italians take the time to slow down and enjoy life.
I am very grateful for my trip to Italy because it inspired my dream of continuing to learn Italian in college and also learn other languages so I can break down the language barrier and connect with people from all over the world.
This finalist essay in the World Is A Classroom essay contest was written by Fiona Faccilonga of Carmel High School in New York.