I had my very first Italian lesson this past week at the ItalCultura in Chicago, probably more commonly referred to as the Italian Cultural Center, and I made my first blunder within seconds of opening my mouth. I enthusiastically greeted my instructor, Giovanni, only to discover that she much prefers the feminine version of her name, Giovanna.

In general, I fluster easily and am mortified by silly mistakes, but what I learned, more than how to say my name, is that mistakes are inevitable when learning a new language, and when you make a gaffe, apologize and get over it. We talked about how some people in group classes are inordinately shy of speaking up unless they are certain that their pronunciation is perfect, and Giovanna reassured me that this is not the best way to proceed in mastering a new language.

Italians, from my understanding, are a vociferous, talkative lot who freely employ gestures to better make their point. Part of cultural immersion involves letting go of behaviors that handicap us in communicating more effectively. I have, in high school and first year and a half of college, taken French which is another romance language, linked in many ways to Italian, yet quite distinct. It remains to be seen whether my partial mastery of French will help or hinder me in my quest to become familiar with the Italian language and culture.

I hope one day to travel there, and though this remains at this time a pipe dream, I’ve nevertheless learned to plant seeds if you are to have any hope of growing a garden.

Buon Giorno,