I know just enough to get me in trouble.
I took it for three years in college and by the time I graduated and we went to Italy I had no trouble getting around the country.
Well, I mean, sure I once told a worker I wanted to buy a shoe store instead of a pair of shoes but big deal!
Easy mistake, right?
The problem with knowing a little bit of a language is that people hear you say one thing and immediately assume you are fluent.
This happens especially with the elderly.
They were not afraid to think that I spoke perfect Italian.
I asked a man on a vaporetto in Venice once what the name of a bird was in Italian.
Just a simple question, right?
Qual è quell'uccello chiamato?
I was hoping for a one word answer to help me build my vocabulary.
Instead he launched into a diatribe about Venice and the pigeons and the government and I possibly heard something about a son-in-law who kills birds for a living.
Or it could have been something completely different.
Here is a conversation I had in Italian with some policemen in Bellagio:
Me: Do you speak English?
Me: Ok, no problem. Can you tell me what time the next ferry gets here?
Policeman: Why did you ask me if I spoke English if you speak Italian!
We all had a big laugh.
The best thing that ever happened due to my Italian skills though was in Siena.
I was crazy pregnant with the littlest minion and we were lost and couldn't find a taxi.
Billy and I were...
Well, lets just say we had gotten snippy with each other.
I walked into a local restaurant and asked a group of ladies in Italian where I could find a taxi.
First: They began yelling at Billy because I was out walking so late.
Second: They made me sit down.
Third: They called a taxi for us all the while getting water for me and oohing over my belly.
And then came the diatribe by one of the women of which I understood about half.
Apparently, she has a daughter who lives in the city and has a fancy job and makes so much money but doesn't have time for a husband AND HOW IS SHE GOING TO EVER BE A GRANDCHILD if her daughter never gets married! Does my Mother already have grandchildren? How lucky she is to have a daughter that knows what's important! Italian girls these days just don't have babies like they should!
I assume I mistranslated that capitalized part.
She also mentioned the Pope but I'm not even going to try to translate that.
Then she put her hands on my belly and spoke a blessing over me.
It was surreal.
"Excuse me, I'd like to buy a shoe store."
Unfortunately, it's not like riding a bike.
You do forget it.
That saddens me.
I mean, it doesn't make me as sad as the poor woman was about her daughter and her fancy job but it does sadden me.