Last weekend I had the wonderful and completely unexpected opportunity to go on a pilgrimage with my new Italian friends. We walked all night from Macerata to Loreto, about 30 kilometers, praying and singing in Italian. I finally cemented the Italian Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be in my brain (how could I not after saying 100,000 rosaries?). It was a beautiful experience. Before the walk, thousands of people met at a stadium in Macerata for Mass, at the end of which Pope Francis called and gave us his blessing, telling us to meditate on the question Jesus posed to Peter: “Mi ami tu?” “Do you love me?” and encouraging us to always keep walking, to never stop moving forward.
I am happy to note that I understood 95% of what was said during the pilgrimage. It has been tremendously helpful to spend time talking with Italian students that are my age. I do still struggle forming sentences quickly and expressing my thoughts with precision, but I trust that with more time, even that will improve.
The other day in one of my tutoring sessions, I asked my instructor, Andrea, if he had any tips to help me become more comfortable and natural in holding conversations. He said that one of the biggest problems he noticed I had was with self-confidence. I have been rather quiet the last few weeks in class, and I have noticed that I speak very deliberately in order to avoid making mistakes, but this slows me down and impedes my ability to hold a fluent conversation. My goal now is to just talk. Don’t think too much. Just talk.
One of my favorite parts of learning Italian in Italy is the slang that you don’t learn at Notre Dame. My friend Giacomo taught me several slang terms in exchange for some American slang. (His favorites were “So sick! and “You’re bananas,” which I thereafter heard a lot.) Here are a few of the things I learned:
“Bella zio/a!” can be translated as “Bro!” For example, I see my friend and to greet him say “Bella zio!” with a sort of exaggerated hand gesture and an excited tone of voice. Apparently it’s what the cool kids are saying these days.
“Tanta roba!” is a favorite of mine. It’s one of the many ways to say “So cool!” For example, if I see a really beautiful mountain or some guy do a cool backflip, I can (and should) say “Tanta roba!”
“Cavolo!” literally means cabbage. However, it is used as an interjection to express surprise, usually about something negative. For example, I realize I forgot to turn in my homework, so I exclaim, “Cavolo!” It’s almost like saying “darn it!”