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Language Lessons in Rome

Languages have never been my strongest subject in school. In fact, languages have always been my worst subject in school! Although I took Spanish from fourth grade until I graduated high school, I was constantly struggling with it. Needless to say, I was nervous to come to Rome to study abroad and learn a brand new language when the only words I knew were "ciao," "pizza" and "gelato."

When initially getting off the plane in Rome, I immediately heard Italian chatter around me. People were laughing with their friends or conversing with family members in a language that made no sense to me. For all I knew, they could have been talking about the nervous looking American girl struggling to carry all of her luggage! Something that I learned very quickly while adjusting to life in Rome is that the people in Italy are more than willing to help me learn Italian if I am willing to try.

Though people I am studying with practice Italian in different ways, I have found that talking to locals while ordering food has been extremely beneficial and helpful. Fortunately, there is an amazing Panini store just across the street from CEA that I go to for lunch just about everyday. The woman who makes my panini is named Ana and though she speaks very little English, she has been so helpful in teaching me Italian. She has explained how to order my sandwich in Italian and teaches me how to say different vegetables and ingredients in Italian. I have also learned how to have a basic conversation by talking about our day with simple phrases. Though I have Italian class four days a week and have learned a lot, practicing the language with locals has really brought my Italian to another level. While I have not yet come close to mastering the language, I am much more comfortable walking around Rome and having basic conversations with locals.

 My friend Rory ordering his daily panini from Ana

Even while ordering at restaurants, it is clear that the waiters appreciate when we try to speak Italian rather than just pointing or talking in English. If we mispronounce something, they help us and even sometimes have had us repeat it in Italian until we say it just right. Though this was a little embarrassing in the beginning, I now accept their help willingly as I know it will make my Italian stronger. Learning a new language while living in this wonderful new city has been quite the adventure but has been an amazing learning experience. Studying in a country with a language barrier initially seemed so scary yet after living here for almost two months now, I feel so lucky to learn the beautiful Italian language in the beautiful city of Rome.


 My usual panini from my favorite panini shop!

Katherine Mahder is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO in Rome, Italy. She is currently a Junior at Providence College.

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