It has really taken us this long just to get comfortable with the language. As a sort of celebratory coincidence, I just happened to have finished reading my first actual, complete book in Italian, Io Non Ho Paura by Niccolo Ammaniti. Okay, I had previously read several of the short books in the Travels With Valentina series, in which a precocious kid named- you guessed it, Valentina- visits each and every region of the bel paese. She manages to hit every major sight, eat all the regional specialties, quote all the famous authors or poets and generally be so perfect as to be annoying. By the end of three such books I was muttering vafanculo Valentina under my breath.
Io Non Ho Paura was different. Not annoying; not a children's series. I'd watched the suspense movie based on this book about three years ago. The movie was so well done that the climax scene made me jump out of my seat. I enjoyed the book, and loved that I successfully read it all the way through without *too* many glances at the dictionary.
An even better occurrence gave me cause to celebrate, though. Last week we boarded a train bound for Bologna to find our assigned seats already occupied. The twenty-something girl with belongings scattered about had boarded at the previous stop and didn't want to budge, whining that the electrical outlet at her seat didn't work and she was watching a DVD. We shrugged and agreed that since other seats were currently available we'd let her be for now. We took seats across the aisle.
An hour later when the train stopped and filled up, others boarded who were assigned to the seats we'd be occupying. We rose and told the girl to return to her own seat now. She had finished the movie she had been watching and had popped in a cartoon. She started to whine again about the non-functioning outlet, she couldn't plug in her player, blah blah. I politely but firmly told her that since the seats were now all filled in our car we needed those to which we had been assigned. She didn't want to move and started to argue. I interrupted her and said, "Yeah, I understand, but it's not my problem. The car is full, and these people want to sit down. These are our seats; we've let you stay here to finish your movie but now you need to get up, gathering your belongings, and go back to your own seat." I said it all in Italian without hesitation and without getting flustered. When I finished my little speech, the lady sitting next to the girl nodded firmly in approval and immediately rose to let the girl out.
It felt good! I was finally able to express myself in response to a situation, immediately and in Italian without stumbling through or grunting out unconjugated verbs. Linguistic difficulties tend to submerge one's own personality to some degree; jovial jokings and firm demands can be hard to convey. Finally, I was able to say exactly what I wanted to, even tinged with a little edge of bitchy. Finally...a little more Valerie emerges through the fog of language learning! It felt damn good.
Two years; it has certainly taken me longer to reach this linguistic point than I had hoped but I'm getting there. Here's to Year Three!
At home in Ascoli Piceno. Piazza del Popolo at night.