Do you speak Italian?

Before I came to Italy I spoke English and French.  Now after five weeks in an Italian course, I am afraid that I can’t yet claim that I speak Italian and maybe I no longer speak French, at least not as well as I did 5 weeks ago.  Thank goodness that I can still speak English!

Now I am speaking something that I call “Fritalian”, a mixture of French and Italian.  For the first few weeks, every time I tried to speak I would start in French then have to stop and restart in Italian.  I still do the same thing if I speak spontaneously, but now, if I am careful, I can start a sentence in Italian and only use a few French nouns or prepositions.  I am usually unaware of this and realise it only when I get a confused stare from the other person.  Recently I went into a hair salon and asked “how much” (in French) “for a haircut”( in Italian), and then I wondered why the man answered me in English.

But, little by little, it seems that the Italian is taking over the French.  When I tried speaking French to a friend over the phone, it was the Italian words that wanted priority.  I am trying to be patient and hoping that my brain will soon figure out that these are two separate languages and that I will eventually be able to speak them one at a time instead of both at once.

Even with my temporary (I hope) “Fritalian” problem, I find that the Italian people are very patient and encouraging when I try to speak their language.  Just the other day I bought something and when asked if I needed a sac, I replied, “No, I can put it in my purse”.  I managed to get out that short phrase all in Italian and the merchant complimented me on my language skills and asked if I lived in Italy.  I had said only a few words, but his encouraging remarks left me feeling “fluent”.

Even though the Italians, on the whole, are tolerant of my speaking ability, I know I need a lot of improvement.  So this week I am starting with a private professor for conversation.  Group conversation classes just don’t work for me because I don’t like speaking in groups – not in English, French or Italian.  So I am taking the group grammar course and then a private conversation course.  I am hoping I will have good results from this and will soon be chatting away in Italian.  (Fingers crossed)

Until next time, Au revoir — I mean Arriverderci

This weekend we saw a group of mimes walking down the street, followed them and saw a great performance by the cathedral.

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Margo Lestz


  1. Your hairdresser story made me roar. I get it..when I am using my pretty OK Italian..and I get an answer in English..I finally realized that they want me to know they can speak English as I want them to know I can speak Italian..hmmm is my American/Italian accent that obvious? Was great to see you both last week and can’t wait to meet up in Nice.

  2. Your Italian is much better than mine, so I think when people speak to you in English it is because they want to show their skills. When they speak to me in English after the “confused stare” it is out of mercy. 😉 It was good to see you last week!

  3. One on one instruction is the best. My money is on you. In no time you will conquer “Fritalian” and both French and Italian will emerge triumphantly. Sounds like you are having a blast!

  4. Thanks, but don’t put too much money on me! 😉 The private lessons seem good so far. I am already feeling more confident. I really love Florence and and having a great time here.

  5. I loved this article. Keep writing.

    I’m, an American whose lived in France for the past six months. I can hobble along in French. But I recently began studying Italian as well. The two languages won’t stay sorted out.

    Did your French and Italian become better behaved over time? (I hope so.)


  6. Well, at first I really did have trouble with confusing the two languages. After 3 months of speaking Italian though, it became the dominant language and then I had trouble speaking French. It was terrible. Now that I am back in France, my French has reestablished its dominance and Italian has taken a back seat. I think I have a brain that can only handle one language at a time. 🙂

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