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Learning Italian

August 31, 2010

"I love the language,

that soft bastard Latin,

Which melts like kisses

from a female mouth;

And sounds as if it

should be writ on satin

with syllables which

breathe of the sweet South."

~ George Gordon Lord Byron

 

My grandmother was functionally illiterate. Her mother died while giving birth to Grammy, and because her father was too upset and had to take care of the other children, Gram's Aunt Margaret took care of her. Aunt Margaret's husband didn't want to have to take care of a baby, either, so Aunt Margaret took Gram to work with her in the fields every day. It is hard for me to understand how she could not have ever attended even a little school, but I never heard that she did. I do remember sitting in her kitchen one time when she had to sign some papers, and my aunt had to help her make an "X" on the signature line.

 

Lately, I think about this a lot. I wonder what it was like to grow up without a mother, to move half-way across the world to a foreign land where she couldn't understand most of its people, how she lived 85 years and never read a book. I wonder how she learned to speak English, how long it took her to figure out our very foreign tongue.(I know she loved to speak Italian with friends and others from "the old country."

 

I speak Spanish fluently, but I regret never having learned Italian before now. That said, I'm teaching myself some Italian, and I can understand a lot of different words. Gram once told me that when she ran the boarding house in Columbus, one of her boarders was Spanish, and he could understand her, but she couldn't understand him. I have more problems with the pronunciation differences (and there are a lot) than with the vocabulary. Italian is so much softer than the other romance languages. Spanish isn't harsh, but it isn't quite like Italian.

 

Vedremo come va.

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