Yes, we were geared for our Italy trip as I stated before.. Armed with our bible, Italian Translation book by Tour Guru Rick Steves, we embarked our plane. I spent a good one hour trying to get the accent right. Its amazing how three words could carry you places. “Bon Jorno” ( pronounced a Bon Jorno) , “Gratziye” and “Par lay Inglise” . I had to learn a few more, “Verdure”( Vegetables) and Vegetariano( You don’t have to be a genius to figure this out).
Most Italians can manage “a little” English, but then why did God bestow us with hands if not for signing? Though the early Neanderthal might have used the “Grrrrrr…Brrrr… whatever” language, there was a time when we had evolved into sign language species. The plan was very clear. “Parlay inglise” -> “a little” -> talk in slow English where as “Parlay inglise”-> Nod of head indicating “NO” -> talk in very slow English with an Italian accent accompanied by sign language. With a black jacket to hide you from the rain and all your hair loose on your face, signing to glory, there are chances one might be mistaken for a Chimp, especially with my height. No sweat! Italians are very friendly people and Chimps have their place too.
On day 1,I wanted some water,”Acqua” , not exactly rocket science, I agree, but one can get flustered with a panic attack just to mention acqua. Walked into a book store and blurted to the cashier, “Bottled water” with my hand sign showing me drinking. The whole room was impregnated with her cold stare and I thought she was signing with her eyes, and nod in affirmative, “yes, yes ! Cold water” , showing me gulping the water down. Not to be insulted, she stared at Partner, who said “acqua????”. “This library. No acqua”, pat came the reply. Wonder how mind works in a foreign nation and makes you barge into a library for water instead of the cafe next door.. Hmmm.. We learn, albeit slowly.
After two days of roaming around the city in trains, buses and taxis, you learn that “Piazza Navona” is pronounced “Piatsa Navona” and “Nazionale” is “Natsionale” . Simple, pronounce all the letters as is except for Z and C.”C” is like “K” and “Ci” is like “Chi” though “Ch” is like “K” and “H” is silent. Easy breezy, one would think. Here is the catch. Knowing this might help one to read and write Italian, but how do you understand? You don’t really need to as long as you can say “Parlay inglise”. Si? No,not so Si. Especially in remote areas. If one wants to drink wine, and the waitress asks “Bianca or Rosa??” , being a Tamilian and having heard SharathKumar singing “Rosapoo, chella rosapoo” , the mind should correlate Rosa with Red. But, signore, the catch is you are in a foreign country and the brain gets clouded with eating zucchini,eggplant and Red pepper every time you ask for Verdure.What does one do? Partner tugs at the lady’s Red shirt almost spilling the soup on me, viola!! Rosa it is.
It is reciprocal. If you think speaking Indianized American English slowly with signs is Italian, they think speaking localized Italian slowly with signs is English. Seeing three lines to enter a museum, trying to figure out if the line that we were standing was the right one, I started my conversation with the lady next to me, “Parlay inglise?” . After some thought, she decided on the negative and pointed to her teenage daughter, asking her to translate.. The sweet girl, bless her, started with “You…” and rambled on in Italian with hand signs. Not to be undermined, my eyes darting between her hands and mouth, I followed with questions “Do you know what is that long line for?” signing a Snake, She says, ” Here, Biglietto ( tickets) ….blah blah”. By then, epiphany, the mother pointed to the guy standing at the door “Anglais…” , who spoke in perfect English and assured us we were in the right place but at the wrong time. Very easy, Si?