Gabrielle C. studied abroad during the Fall 2016 semester at one of our partner universities, Florence University of the Arts (FUA). She took many cultural perspectives courses at FUA, but also continued her studies of the Italian language. Here is what she has to say about her studies of Italian in Italy:
Since Florence is the birthplace of the Italian language one may be intimidated to walk into the city being anything less than fluent. When I arrived in Italy, I had only one semester of Italian under my belt and my Italian roots for good measure. During my time at FUA I took another semester of Italian which I definitely recommend. Not only do you have a native Italian teaching you, but you get to go practice what you learn every day. Even if you don’t take an Italian class, FUA does an incredible job at incorporating the language in all aspects. For example, in my food and culture class we would learn the Italian for both the places and recipes. All this just helps with becoming a Florentine.
I was originally nervous coming to Florence, because I feared that only my one semester would not allow me to interact with the culture since language is a key component of a country. Yet in all actuality it was sometimes difficult to practice my Italian in the city of Florence itself. Florence is a city that has been very well in adjusting to influx of tourists and so Florentines are great at speaking English. Therefore, as a beginner it was sometimes easier for them to speak English with me than struggling through my broken Italian when it pertained to technical terms. The locals were always very helpful, patient and appreciative when I did try though. Taking the time to actually try to speak in Italian makes a world of difference for both you and a native speaker. So whether you are an Italian aficionado or beginner there is no need to worry!
My best experience with learning Italian came when I had the opportunity to teach English to a local Elementary school. Since the students were just learning English they basically could only speak to me in Italian. Therefore, my Italian level was pretty much the same level as their English and it created this cultural and linguistic mix. To an onlooker it probably looked like a chaotic game of charades with all of the hand gestures and anxious pausing but it was actually a connection (Hand gestures are a whole other component of Italian language; they have a plethora of signs that they use constantly instead of saying something or to help make their point). I learned so much Italian here, because I was forced to use the words I knew in a way to say other things I didn’t know. It also created a one of a kind cultural interaction.
The other language interaction I wasn’t prepared for was all of the dialects. Italy has so many dialects varying from region to region which sometimes sound like a completely different language. When I visited Sicily the dialect was so strong that it sounded like they were speaking Greek. In fact, even one of my professors had to revert to English with a Sicilian speaker because it was too difficult to understand each other. This was one of the coolest cultural aspects for me because it was one huge difference between the United States and Italy. Although the U.S. has dialects, they aren’t so different that the speakers have to revert to another language.
Through my time abroad and the wonderful experiences in Italy I learned so much about the language that no textbook could ever teach!
Are you interested in studying in Italy but are afraid to learn Italian? No worries! All classes will be taught in English (with the exception of language learning courses), but it never hurts to take Italian 101!