Living in a foreign language takes work. It is never boring, sometimes amusing and often downright appalling. Verb tenses, grammatical errors, unclear phrases … It can overwhelm.
But at some point the Italianisms creep into your mind and attach to the dull gray matter in your brain, rendering you … no, not bilingual … but actually questioning your inherent mother-language skills.
Does that even make sense? See. I’ve lost English already.
Here are three Italian phrases I’ve learned, unconsciously translated into English and sounded simply silly when I said them.
1. Per me è lo stesso. Normal English speakers, aka, those of you who speaka the English good, would say, “It doesn’t matter to me” or “Whatever you want” when asked your preferences. Others of us – I know I’m not alone here – translate literally. I made this gaffe last summer when I was visiting my parents in Texas.
Mom: “Where do you want to eat lunch?”
Me and my pitiful Italian/English translation: “For me it’s the same!”
She looked at me strangely and said, “You don’t care?” I grinned, “Nope, Mom. I don’t care.”
2. Chiudi il televisione. A few weeks ago I unwittingly told my husband to “close the TV.” I credited his amused grin to the fact he wanted to continue watching the news. When I called him on it, he said, “You don’t know what you told me?” He shrugged, reached for the remote and said, “I’ll just close the TV, then.” He consoled me with a “Don’t worry. I can teach you English, too.” Note:The proper verb in Italian is spegnere, or switch off, but many Italians interchangeably use the verb “chiudere.”
3. Along those same lines, I have also been known to say “the gas is open,” when I really want to say “the gas is on (on the stove, for example.) Once again the verb accendere, or turn on, should be used, but most Italians use the verb aprire just as often.
All jokes aside, there is a part of me that is proud of these blunders. Apparently there is some part of the Italian language that is taking control and – aside from the indecent butchering of my own mother tongue – it shows my hard work is paying off.
Have you ever made bloopers like these when learning a foreign language? What did you say? How did your English-speaking comrades react?