Ahhh, Italy. A country rich in history, brimming with beautiful people speaking the flowery, romantic language of love. To the untrained ear, general street directions, such as go to the end of the road, turn right, then turn left at the light, are an alluring combination of seducing sounds and amorous gestures.
Then, you learn the language.
Or at least you learn a little.
The last two and half years I’ve spent traipsing from continent to continent and, if I can say so myself, my Italian language skills have skyrocketed.
However, there are still three sets of words that stump me every time.
See that little “g” up there? It makes a world of difference. Not only do you pronounce the “g,” but the stress changes, as well leaving me saying, “We have lemon and orange hotels in our yard,” instead of the more geographically correct, “We have lemon trees.”
Other times I’ll surprise ever-patient Italians with the declaration, “We stayed in a great tree in Palermo,” until their quizzical looks and half-smile alert me to my mistake.
Yep. Just one final little vowel is the difference between ordering “fish tea” or “peach tea,” and trust me … you don’t wanna try the fish tea.
The “c” in pesce (fish) has a “sh” sound, while the fuzzy little round fruit has a hard c. To complicate matters, the verb “to fish,” or “pescare” coverts back to that hard “c” as the does the word “pescatore,” or fisherman.
You are just not living until you’ve been out on the river … fly peaching.
Retto (a straight, honest person)
Ratto (a rat)
Although you’d think the seemingly similiar letters between Italy’s “ratto” and our own, “rat” would make this an easy word to remember, you are forgetting that sometimes – just sometimes – when you are speaking another language oddly-formed sounds burst from your mouth without consent.
This is my problem with ratto and retto. I’ve only been embarrassed by this once, however, when I innocently tried to give my father-in-law a compliment for doing the right thing, and proudly told him he was “una persona ratto” or a “rat person,” rather than “una persona retta,” an “honest, standup, kind of guy!”
What are some of the biggest problems you have when learning a foreign language? Do these things ever.go.away? Please say yes!