To cheer everyone up this long working week, especially if you’re struggling to understand a new language, here’s a few times I have very much and completely failed at basic tasks since being in Naples:
- For at least a week having a confusing conversation where I refused ‘marmellata’ as I don’t particularly like marmalade, and wondering what an earth the Italian was for jam.
- Having similar confusion with ‘prosciutto’ and ham (which in Italy is ham and in England is prosciutto).
- Wondering why my landlady’s nickname for her husband was ‘Louie’ when his name began with an ‘F’.*
- Attempting and failing at conversations at work, per esempio attempting to help with the daily office coffee order.
- Giving up on buying a new pillow case as I had forgotten the Italian for ‘pillow’, ‘case’, ‘cushion’, ‘sheet’ and ‘bed’ until the shop assistant grabbed a person who knew a little English. I went as red as the pillow case and sheet I was buying.
- Accepting a giant piece of mozzarella from my new manager a few days into my new job and eating it whole, to realise that mozzarella – which I love – is in Naples a large part like milk – which I hate with a gag-reflex passion.
- Being disappointed to find ham placed on my pizza post-cooking, rather than lovely crisped in the stone oven, as once again I forgot the difference between baked and… something else. Not baked? Similarly, being tired after work and ordering a ‘mozzarella’ pizza instead of a margherita. Cringe.
- Attempting to buy the Italian equivalent of paracetamol and realising what should have been closer to 70 cents was actually 7 euros. That’s what you get for paying with a note.
- Getting lost on my way to a friend’s for dinner. Getting lost would not normally make the list, but this involved following one main road along. Somehow I ended up back at the metro stop near my flat and, already late, grabbed the metro to her flat instead with deflated shoulders.
- Finally, being confused every time I greet or leave people as to whether I should nod, wave, shake hands, hug or air kiss (also, a reminder to some bearded gents – it is an air kiss). Or going right instead of left for said air kiss (picture some close shaves with head bumps). Or being more confused when Brits I have met here go for the air kiss – surely I was safe here with a hug?
When trying to learn a language you need a thick skin, as you will make so many embarrassing mistakes which no one but you will care about. Feel free to comment any stupid mistakes you have made while learning a language, it is always better to laugh at it all. Clearly I have not been practising enough as this list is nowhere near long enough – so get ready for ten language fails take 2.
* ‘He’ in Italian is ‘lui’. Yeah.