Span-glish-ian and Italian Wednesdays: 1

Two mornings a week Nik and I take Italian (on Wednesdays) and Spanish (on Fridays) together. Learning even a little more of another language enables us to have conversations with more people. We stop by our honorary-Whiskey-Nancy Janet’s (a retired language teacher fluent in at least 4 languages) home to discuss our political and social situations in America and around the world, with a lot of mistakes and a lot of anecdotes from Janet. Twice a week we’re going to co-post a few vocab words and funny stories here so you can learn along with us.


Caryn  |  Negli Stati Uniti tante persone hanno le chiusure mentali. In the U.S. many people are closed minded. This translates literally to “have mental closures.” Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but compassion, humanity, and open-minded dialogue allow us see each other as equal humans and improve the lives of everyone.

Un’altra frase abbiamo imparato era ognuno può fare qualcosa. Another phrase we learned was everyone can do something. We can always use more light and belief in our own agency to keep us going.

Pronunciation is important in any language. Today Janet and I had a back-and-forth about the word “città” (ch-ee-TA / city). After saying it multiple times in a row with the emphasis on the ci (ch-ee), and Janet repeating the word herself every time I said it, I learned that’s wrong. Hopefully I say it correctly from now on.

One day on my WWOOFing travels, an old-new friend and I visited Lanciano, a city near Chieti. He explained lanciare means to throw and lanciano (LAN-cha-no) means they throw. But the name of the town, spelled the same as the verb, was pronounced as lan-cha-NO. (I took the photo above in Lanciano but have no idea what it translates too!) Italian pronunciation can be intuitive but subtle differences mean a word is a noun or a verb. In one cafe in the middle of Ostuni, I asked where was the ATM (dov’è un bancomat). But for 10 minutes the barista could not understand what I wanted because I kept saying BANK-co-mat instead of bahn-co-MAT. No matter how much you learn, you will make mistakes in any and every language. È la vita.


Nikki  |  I’m so passionate about environmental issues.  I wrote my entire senior project on bottled water and its effects on the environment and women so I am SO excited to be able to rant about green stuff in a different language.  My power is only growing, baby.

Il progresso ha un prezzo e non vogliamo pagare un prezzo troppo alto.  Progress has a price and we don’t want to pay too high a price.  Wowee!!  What a sentiment!  In the recent days of Louie CK and Harvey Weinstein, we see that progress in the arena of women’s rights comes at the cost of “art/artists” (read: master manipulators who take advantage of their power) — a cost which I don’t think is too high in any way, shape or form.  However, others may disagree (and they are wrong).  Same situation with green initiatives; they may “cost” more temporarily but they are well worth the price.

Come Zerlina nel Don Giovanni di Mozart — ‘vorrei, e non vorrei‘.  Like Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni — ‘I want to, and yet I don’t.’  Just like everything hard and challenging that you know will grow you, you want to and you don’t.  Relating to climate change in the way that we want to drive less because we want the benefits of being a society that drives less, but we don’t want to put the work in to get there.  Most things worth anything will require work, and pushing through the resistance to change and to put effort into an uncertain future is the only way to bring you closer to wherever you want to be.

Throughout the beginning stages of our lessons, I’ve been stumbling over word choice.  Whether it’s which grammar tense to use or which adjective to pair with which noun, it’s been a struggle!  It reminds me of another time when I was speaking to one of my friends in Italy on Facebook and I was telling him about an upcoming trip to Spain.  I said “Sono molto eccitato per Spagna!”  What I thought was: I am very excited for Spain!  Francesco replied, “ah, va bene, ma per favore non usa la parole ‘eccitato,’ ha una connotazione sexuale!”  Ah, good, but please don’t use the word “excited,” it has a sexual connotation!  So I had told this man who I’ve known in person for truly only one month of my life that I was horny for Spain.  Nice one, gal.

Another mishap was when I was on this horny Spain trip and a girl that I was traveling with twisted her ankle.  So we stormed into our lobby and I asked the man working for what I thought was ice.  He kept saying that they didn’t have ice and I found that very hard to believe so I kept asking really and giving an incredulous look.  It finally dawned on him what I was trying to ask for and he said the real word for ice.  I had been asking for ice-cream the whole time!

Learning languages inside a classroom when you have time to think and process what word should come next and using them in a real-life conversation are two totally different things, but the laughs and connections you make are totally worth it.  So much so that I would pagare un prezzo alto per il progresso.  😉

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