We were vacationing in Italy one glorious spring. We gazed in awe at the magnificent scenery of Tuscany and marveled at the art masterpieces in the Uffizi.
This was our first trip, and I took it very seriously I wanted to enjoy every bit of the Italian experience, including speaking Italian. To advance my goal I found a young Italian woman, an exchange student at our local college, Drew University. Francesca was delighted to earn a little extra spending money, and I was excited to study her language in the exact manner that she spoke it, so I hired her as my tutor. I pictured myself speaking to native Italians as if I were one of them, and with a perfect accent. I also imagined the fun I’d have being able to eavesdrop on their conversations, since they would assume an American tourist wouldn’t understand what they were saying.
I very much enjoyed the lessons with Francesca as much as I loved her stories of life in Italy.
When the time came for the trip I approached it with the air of a person setting out to speak Italian with Italians, despite my limited vocabulary. They would be so impressed with an American making the effort to communicate with them in their own language.
One of the first chores I had set for myself was sending post cards back home. Buying stamps would be a great way start speaking to an Italian!
Francesca had taught me counting, so I knew how to say the numbers.
The word for stamps is Francobolli. I was prepared for my first encounter.
Off I went to the first post office I saw. I stood in line and when my turn came, confidently walked up to the man behind the counter and said, “Due Francobolli, per favore.”
But he was not to be fooled by my bravado. He answered in perfect English, with a perfect accent, “Oh, so you would like two stamps, right?”
‘Talk about bursting someone’s balloon…