Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lost in conjugation

Dear Readers,

Recently I've been in touch with an interesting American woman in Portland, Oregon who is of Italian origin and who has been raising her two children as bilinguals--not always easy when it's not your mother-tongue in the first place and when English surrounds you like a smugly conquering army. And let's face it, Italian isn't one of those scrappy, high-priority languages (though culturally-speaking it's an undisputed heavyweight champion); not many schools offer it as an item on their linguistic buffet.

So I've been thinking about bilingualism and how I'm going to keep it alive once we move back to the New World. I revisited this bit I wrote on my young bilingual children.

Where do we stand now, bilingually-speaking? Well, my kids pretty much still follow the pattern set forth in that earlier essay: Giacomo is the Staunch Purist and Gemma is the Great Mixer, or rather, Giacomo tends toward linguistic Republicanism while Gemma is an unabashed Democrat. At casa nostra we still vigorously stir the linguistic minestrone, tossing everything in as fancy dictates. For instance, we no longer say the very genteel, English "heel" when referring to the crusty ends of bread on which my daughter is inordinately fond of gnawing. We call them "butts", which is a direct translation of the very Florentine culacciolo. As in "Paolo, please toss Gemma that bread butt so you and I can get a word in edgewise!"

Recently my son--always polymorphic when it comes to language--has taken a fiendish delight in merging his screwball 10 year-old boy humor (which focuses primarily on all manner of bodily eruptions) with the intense study of Italian grammar undertaken at school.

"Mommy, I have to practice my verb conjugations. Will you listen and see if I'm doing them right?"

"Of course. Have at it."

Io farto
Tu farti
Egli/ella farta
Noi fartiamo
Voi fartate
Essi/esse fartono


Il sigh.

Yours from the linguistic trenches,



  1. Guten fahrt, as they say on the A22 near Brennero!!! :))

  2. Maybe he'd enjoy learning German. Well, the word "ausfahrt," at least.

  3. ha--didnt see the other similar fahrt comment 'til now, hehe!

    1. Jon, once when we were driving in Germany we got a big kick at all the exit (i.e. "ausfahrt") signs on the freeway. Which just shows you the level of humor in our household ;-)

  4. On the 'ausfaht' theme, I've had a kid in the back seat say, But Mum why are there so many towns called 'Ausfaht' in Germany?

    As for Noi fartiamo, I think we are at the same level in this household. Perhaps bilinguals have the best laughs??

    1. Ha, Catherine, you may be right: we bilinguals get to enjoy potty humor in TWO languages!

      Thanks for dropping by :-)


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