I’ve been trying to learn English since I realised that languages were my ticket to the world. It was 2000 when I moved abroad to really live the language; I was 21 and my thirst for learning a new idiom was taking me across the Pond for the first time. I arrived in New York and using my broken English, I made it through passport control, answering all their questions and convincing them that I wasn’t there to do anything naughty. I remember I was so terrified of being sent back because of my inability to communicate in proper English. At the time, I wasn’t yet confident enough to know that my English was already as good as to get me through two policemen who stopped me right before stepping out of the airport. I don’t know if it’s because of their strong New York accent or my weak listening skills; either way, I couldn’t make a word of what they were talking about. All along I was thinking: “There you go! They’re going to handcuff me right here, throw me in a jail where I’ll be made the target of everybody else before being shipped back to Rome”.
You know, ship happens sometimes.
Not that day; they just wanted to see my fancy Italian watch which had caught their attention. They wished me a pleasant stay and they let me go.
The day after, I hopped on a bus to North Eastham, probably one of the smallest towns in the States, laid in the beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I spent the summer. I remember that while we were crossing Manhattan Bridge, the nice lady sitting next to me was trying to tell me something which obviously I couldn’t understand. She was pointing outside the window, and when I followed the direction I could spot the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers. It was June 21, 2000.
In 2007, I finally made a job of my passion for language learning, which brought me here to London. The last 10 years have been a roller-coaster of language emotions for me. Someone once said that having a foreign accent is a sign of courage. That is so true.
Learning a language is difficult and it can be so very frustrating. One day you feel on top of it because you can understand everyone and you feel at the height of your language skills. The day after you feel so low and stupid. On those days no matter how much you try, communication in a foreign language makes you feel trapped in a constricting box that will never give you the same freedom of expression that your mother tongue does.
Whatever the emotion and whatever the reason, learning a new language is always the key to unlocking potential of your brain that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. You’ll be surprised at yourself for switching from a language to the other in the blink of an eye, or for using a grammar structure so complicated and so deeply different from that of your native language. You’ll be travelling on a bus, daydreaming in your thoughts and then you’ll smile the moment you realise that you were having those thoughts in another language.
It is not only a matter of putting together foreign words. A new language involves culture and personality. Yes, because being immersed in a new idiom carries with it a whole set of gestures and even facial expressions that, if used in your native tongue, they would be somehow off place.
Let’s put it this way: with a new language it comes a new persona; it’s like interpreting a new version of your own self, but still being yourself. I reckon that’s the beauty of languages: they open your mind, they bring people together, and they let you see the world with different eyes.
In my life, I met and spoke to all sort of people, from all over the world. Everyone with a story and everyone with something precious to share. If it weren’t for the second language I studied, I wouldn’t be able to share and embrace the richness of diversity like I can do today and for this, I feel blessed. In fact, still today, “share” happens to be one of my favourite words in the English language.