We’ve been taking Italian lessons over the past couple of years, with the intent to throw some of it against the wall when we arrive in Italy and hope that it sticks. As part of that fantasy, I receive a daily “Italian flashcard” via email, which kindly gives me a useful Italian sentence, its pronunciation and meaning. I don’t always find time to learn a new sentence each day, but I keep them all knowing that someday my free time will catch up to me and I can study them all.
For instance, I know this will come in handy, “La causa del decesso non era chiara.” (The cause of death was unclear.) Part of our class homework is to email each other (in Italian) between classes to discuss things we find interesting. This was a huge hit on the email circuit. We sent it back and forth for two days, fitting it (awkwardly, yes) into polite conversations, until our poor beleaguered professoressa told us to take the week off.
I’m always looking for catchy line I can use to engage an Italian in conversation and I think I could use this in the taxi queue at the train station, “Ci sono tanti canguri in Australia.” (There are lots of kangaroos in Australia.) I hear myself saying it – my pronunciation is great, actually, even if I don’t know what I’m saying – and imagine a fellow Italian-Flashcard-studying-American tourist turning to me with a big smile, happy for the chance to practice her Italian as well, offering, “La giacca era priva di un bottone!” (The jacket was missing a button!)
Ah! At last! A conversation! I reply, “Dove posso trovare il laghetto con papere?” (Where is the duck pond?) She replies with a wave of her hand to a nearby bar (coffee, not liquor). We are soul mates.
At professoressa’s suggestion, I’m working to string a few sentences together and find that several of these flashcards are potential candidates.
A friend says, “Avete voglia di conoscere il mio cugino? Ha trascorso sei anni in prigione.” (Would you like to meet my cousin? He spent six years in prison.) To which I politely inquire, “Avete delle manette? (Is he handcuffed?) She says no. I smile and say, “Devo andare adesso. Le mutande sono bagnate.” (I have to go now. My pants are wet.)
Somewhere in Italy, I picture a couple of guys laughing their asses off as they write these flashcards. Spero che le mutande sono bagnate.
*His head was completely bald.