Learn a Language and Share

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New York, May 2012

I’ve been trying to learn English since I realised that languages were my ticket to the world. It wasn’t until 2000 that I went abroad for the first time to really live the language. I was 21 and my thirst for learning a new language was taking me all the way to the US. 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 was not there to do anything naughty. I remember I was so terrified of being sent back because of my inability to communicate in proper English. But actually, my English was good enough, even when two policemen 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 little English, but 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. But none of that happened that day; they just wanted to see my watch, which they liked. 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 and 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.

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 so cool with your language skills. The day after you feel so low and stupid because you just cannot communicate. But whatever the emotion is and whatever is your reason for learning a new language, that 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 like this, 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, day dreaming 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 when you are immersed in a new idiom, it comes 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 languages I studied, I wouldn’t be able to 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 English language.

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