CNR AT THE WINTER GAMES INDEX PHOTOS - WOMENS' SPORTS AT CNR - CNR MAIN INDEX



February 22, 2006


Shopping in Torino where the various women behind the counters
speak Italian to me, I speak English to them, and we all know
exactly what we mean, if not what we’re actually saying. 

THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGES

No, I’m not writing about love – too easy.  

I can’t speak Italian.  I made a feeble attempt a few months ago, listening to CDs and repeating what the patient woman was saying, but little of it sunk in.  I got the simple things, like “hello” and “good-bye” (conveniently, you can say CIAO for both), and I learned the most useful word, “DUE” (pronounced DOO-ay), which means two, which means that if what the guy next to you just ordered is okay with you, you can just say “DUE” and you’re done.

However, over the course of the last several weeks, I have found shopping to be the best lesson in Italian, bonding with women in shops as we struggle over the international languages of shoes and handbags.  I admit I was a bit timid on my first try.  I walked into a small boutique when I had a few minutes before catching my bus to work, and looked at the “SALDI” table.  There, I thought, add that to my vocabulary, SALDI means SALE.   The saleswoman said something to me.  I held up four fingers, and then one.  Size forty-one, my European shoe size.  She smiled and then proceeded to bring me a box.  MOLTO COMODA, she said.  I put the shoe on and smiled – SI, SI, I replied, MOLTO COMODA.  They were comfortable.  Very comfortable.  I handed her the box, took out a credit card, she spoke to me continually in Italian, and while I had no idea what she was saying, I knew what she meant.  She was my first tutor.  Mission accomplished on several levels.

I continued working my system, stepping into shops now and then to experiment with my new language capabilities.  Now, three pairs of shoes and two handbags later, as well as half a dozen postcards and some chocolate for the folks at home, I comfortably stroll the streets of Torino and enter shops, where the various women behind the counters speak Italian to me, I speak English to them, we both make attempts experimenting with the other, and we all know exactly what we mean, if not what we’re actually saying.  And when the bills finally arrive, back in New York, what I really will have paid for is language lessons.




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m o r e


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