September 18, 2014 by Bernadette ~ The Bumbling Bookworm
Life of a Blogger is a weekly bookish meme hosted by the lovely Jessi of Novel Heartbeat, shining the spotlight on bloggers on a more personal level 🙂 Every week she chooses a topic and shares about her life, encouraging other bloggers to do the same. Today’s topic is Languages.
So you may have picked up that I speak English! Funnily enough, even though I was born in Australia, English was not my first language… Nope, that honour went to the Italian language 🙂
If you’re a regular here, you may have picked up on the fact that my background is Italian, and that I’m Italo-Australian. My mum went back to full time work 4 months after I was born and as a result I was very fortunate to have been cared for by my nonna while mum was working. Now my nonna’s English was fairly rudimentary; she got by but we lived in a country town where at least half the population was Italian and a vast majority of us were from the same small town in Italy! As a result, nonna only spoke to me in Italian.
We’re from the region of Calabria in Italy, so it was essentially the Calabrese dialect that we spoke. For those of you who may not know, Italy is made up of 20 regions, which are very similar to states, and each region has it’s own dialect of the Italian language that they speak. You’d think they’d all be fairly similar but they’re actually very distinct languages in their own right; you cannot speak one region’s dialect in another region. As such, we are from Calabria and we spoke Calabrese.
My mum and dad also spoke Calabrese with nonna and also with me, as did all of our family and friends. My nonna use to love to trot me out to all her friends, getting me to sing all the old Calabrese songs – I can remember her saying “canta, canta!” And I’d start singing “Calabrisella mia, Calabrisella mia…” Lo and behold, guess who went to Kindergarten when she was 3 1/2 years old, not knowing a word of English… That would be me!
Of course, I was no stranger to the language, it wasn’t as if I’d never heard it, and it didn’t take me long to pick it up. It also took me just as short a time to lose my ability to speak Italian/Calabrese, but I could still understand it when spoken to. When I started primary school, Italian was taught from grade prep, and this continued compulsorily all the way through to year 10, after which I could choose my subjects in years 11 and 12 to complete my VCE. Of course, I chose to continue studying Italian and I intended to study it in at university, but I decided against it in the end for various reasons.
I continue to regret that decision, because I can mostly understand Italian when being spoken to (and to a greater extent Calabrese) but I have once again lost my ability to speak it. I’m sure I’d pick it up again really quickly, it’s what I’ve done in the past, but it’s a shame I’ve lost it again. Anyway, I know I’ll have to pick it up again shortly, we’ve just found out that a cousin will be coming to stay with us later this year for a few months so that will force me to speak it!
And it’s not just English, Italian and Calabrese that I speak, I also speak Australian English! What’s that, you may ask? How does it differ from ordinary English? Let me tell you, IT DOES. We have this way of speaking which is completely to foreign to other countries where English is the main language spoken, not to mention those who don’t speak English. We shorten things, we have give things nicknames, we use rhyme, we say things in contexts that simply aren’t said anywhere else! I’ll give you some examples…
If I was to ask for the dead horse at the dinner table, would you know to pass me the tomato sauce (aka ketchup for my American friends)? Do you know who Farnsey, Barnesy, Millsy, and Nollsy are? (John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, Rob Mills, Shannon Noll) If I say I’m going to Wang, do you know I mean Wangaratta? Not to mention Wagga Wagga being shortened to just Wagga (but Woy Woy never shortened to just Woy!). And when I’m talking about my thongs, I DON’T mean the underwear! We also add an ‘o’ to the end of many words, some of them shortened versions – arvo, bottle-o, devo, ambo, avo, the list goes on! When I was in America this time last year, I said to a concierge “I’m not fussed” in response to the question “what sort of food do you want for dinner?” (We were asking for venue suggestions) He had NO CLUE what that meant and it took me a good couple of minutes to explain that it meant I didn’t care, I wasn’t fussy. I had no idea that was even Aussie slang!
Now that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Australian English, and I can assure you that speaking Strayan, as it’s otherwise know, is an art form. For more info, check out this post, and also this one, and this one too!
So there you have it, I speak English, Italian, the Calabrese dialect and Australian English! How about you, what languages do you speak?