I am the family dog.
After a period of reflection at dinnertime, while the family was chatting, I came to the conclusion that I basically am the family dog. Except, they already have a dog. So… I’m like the back up one. Or something.
|This is Gypsy. Yes, she's licking my face. Yes, it's gross.|
But she just kind jumps on you before you know what's happening
The following is how I have come to this conclusion. I’m not upset by it, but once you examine the facts you will see how I reached it.
When I showed up on Sunday, I understood about 0% of the conversation at the table. This wasn't surprising because I only know very few words. Now, nearly a week later, I’m up to maybe 5-10% of the conversation. Especially if the conversation revolves around food because I’ve been brushing up on my food words.
So I was sitting there, watching them eat cow intestines, (I didn’t have the stomach for that one…) while I ate soup and sausage when it occurred to me, I’m actually picking up on some of the stuff they are saying. I can recognize a few key words in the conversation, combine that with their tone and I can make a guess about what they’re talking about.
I was feeling pretty good about myself. I am learning words steadily and reading tone… just like…
...Just like a dog does.
This is almost exactly what happens when you get a puppy. They do not understand what you are saying. But they learn.
In general, dogs know a few key words that pertain to their life: Their name, walk, leash, go, treat, etc… and the rest of the time they guess what’s happening based on how you’re talking.
I know a few key words: My name, wine, sweets, dinner, to eat, fork, “how do you say…?” and the rest I pick up from cognates and tone.
I had an English professor say that, if dogs were able to read, they would be the best readers of tone ever and would never miss when an author was being sarcastic/ironic.
When I can’t read the tone or someone’s speaking too quickly for me to distinguish many words (like when the Italian lady who lives next door yells at me from her window), I even do the human version of the dog’s confused look.
|This dog does not know what you are saying.|
|This girl does not know what you are saying.|
Anyway. I am working on the learning Italian part of living in Italy. I’m getting better and I’ve gotten some apps and things to help me learn. Also the point of this experience is for the family to talk to me in English and learn so they are definitely getting a lot of practice doing that!
And I’m not suggesting the family doesn’t speak to me or only speak in Italian. They do a decent amount of translating, but there are times when the conversation is moving rapidly or not relevant to me, and they don’t bother.
Hopefully, I can soon report my language levels have progressed passed the level of the dog Gypsy. Until then, we’re in it together. And at least I'm not the cat. (The cat lives outside.)