This Spring marks the sixth anniversary of my first Italian class, and while I tend to think I should be further along than I am, I also am reasonably proud of myself when I’m able to understand and communicate with the Italians I’ve met. There have been bumps on the road – pretty significant ones at times – but I’m usually able to decipher what’s going on and mutter some kind of reply. (It helps that the husband is usually with me, as between the two of us we can almost always get the full picture of the conversation.)
It is, therefore, with mixed feelings that I read about the various dialects which are so prevalent in Italy. Sure, the Italian government has just made Italian the national language of Italy, and wherever you go throughout the country you’ll be able to communicate using Italian, but a new report released recently says that Italy’s many dialects are still alive and kicking.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great thing. Italian dialects are, for the most part, so unlike Italian (at least to my novice ears) that they’re more accurately described as other languages entirely, and my old anthropology professors would be aghast if I was in favor of living languages dying out. I love hearing the regional languages around Italy, marveling at how different they are from one another (let alone Italian), even being completely different from village to village with only a few kilometers between them. That’s specialization of the highest order, and that’s very cool.
On the other hand, it makes the prospect of ever being fluent even more daunting. We might be able to get close with Italian, but as every region incporates some dialect sayings into everyday speech… Well, let’s just say we’d never be quite finished with our learning process.
photo by: Elisa Lataster