swiss gelato, linguistic stew

We’ve been in and around Lugano, Switzerland, for the past few days. Lugano is in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which has been an exercise in linguistic frustration. I understand zero to one-third of what I hear, depending on the speaker and the acoustics, and it’s crazy-making not to be able to string together words it feels like I should know. I have plenty of cognate nouns but no verbs or prepositions–you know, little things like that. Which means that I order gelato with this kind of gibberish:

Due, per favore. Uno di limone y el otro [exasperated hand-waving at self] … pues [cringe] di melone. Non, due conos — coni? Si si si — asi es [grrr].

The clerk seemed to find this mildly amusing. As we had just come back from our first Swiss hike (down Monte Bre and back to Lugano through Gandria and Castangola), the gelato was delicious regardless.


1 Response to “swiss gelato, linguistic stew”

  1. July 2, 2011 at 05:30

    I haven’t been to a place where Italian was the primary language. I’ve never had to try to communicate in it. There was a period in grad school in which I regularly encountered some Italian speakers. That was also the only time other than when I was preschool aged where I was something close to fluent in Spanish. Listening to Italian fascinated me because I could make out just enough of it to have an idea about some parts of a conversation, but never enough to really follow it. My Spanish is now right about where you’re Italian is. :) I’ve got a fair number of nouns at my disposal, but I’ve forgotten all of my verbs! I wonder if I could make out any Italian at all.

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