Journal Entry: Sunday, June 10 – On the train returning home to Milano after a weekend in Nice, France, on the Côte d’Azur.
My brain hit “overload” sometime yesterday (Saturday) in the language department.
I rode for three and a half hours with Miriam, who I did not know, on Friday, and we spoke Italian all the way to Nice as she drove. We arrived in France at our Bed & Breakfast run by a Scottish woman speaking English. We went to our friend, Glenda’s, house on her prenuptial night where we gathered with friends speaking English, Italian and French.
Miriam and I went back to our room speaking Italian all the while until we turned the lights out. We awoke the next morning, speaking Italian to each other, but English with our lodging host. Miriam and I wandered town, commenting in Italian for a few hours, then returned to our room and prepped for the wedding.
We left, picked up two other wedding guests, one that speaks Italian and French, another that speaks English and French. I speak English and Italian. Miriam had the clear advantage; she speaks Italian, English and French. All three languages flew around the car.
At the church, the verbal mix continued until the nuptial mass of two hours, which was said in Italian. At the small garden reception afterwards, I wasn’t sure which language to use with the servers, though my French is limited to about four sentences, but enough to ask for a glass of champagne.
The four of us left the reception, again with languages mixed and flying. I was responding to the Italian-speaking French woman, Michou, in Italian as she spoke her native French to me. We spent an hour driving and sightseeing, switching languages depending on the speaker and the listener.
Arriving at the wedding dinner, served by French, attended by Italians, with a few other nationalities thrown in as guests, my mind was in a mixed soup of sound until the celebration ended and we returned to our room at 3:00 in the morning.
Somewhere along the line late yesterday, my comprehension and command of Italian started waning. I wasn’t understanding a word that Miriam was saying and asked her more often than not to repeat what she had said.
Today, it became almost funny. She and I switched to English and talked about what I was experiencing. I realized that in the nearly one month that I’ve been here, I’ve occasionally seen a few Italian-speaking friends for an hour or two and have had transactional conversations when shopping, but have been alone for the most part.
This weekend, I jumped into 48 hours of continuous foreign language, adding French to the mix! And switching back-and-forth between the three, hearing and speaking, really pushed my brain to overload.
I also realized that, if I’m tired and/or hungry, my language competence quickly diminishes! Low blood sugar and lack of sleep do not improve my language skills. (Miriam even commented on the increased number of errors in my speaking.) I had “hit the wall”.
Another curious thing I noted was my resistance to speaking English because of being in a foreign country. I didn’t come to Italy or France to practice my English, but I recognize that sometimes my resistance to resort to English hampered communication.
After about lunch time today, we switched to English almost entirely, tossing in Italian only now-and-then. Our long drive home was made even richer by conversation because of Miriam’s greater ease with English than mine with Italian.
Grazie, Miriam, per la tua pazienza con il mio Italiano!