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Finding Florentine Friends


There are many amazing things about Italy: the food, the people, the architecture, the history, etc. But one thing that's really difficult is learning to speak the language! There are a handful of people here at CEA Florence this semester who have taken Italian before, but the vast majority of us had never spoken a word before stepping off the plane. In my opinion, learning the language is really important for anyone to do if they're planning on staying in Italy for more than two weeks because it's an important part of cultural assimilation. But that doesn't make it easy to learn!

Unfortunately, I'm not very good at picking up languages. My mother speaks fluent German, and I can only count to ten. I also took French for my four years of high school and the only phrase I can confidently say is "Je m'appelle Ellia." (I just Google Translated that to make sure I spelled it correctly, and I'm not sure if it's right at all...) As you can imagine, Italian class is a bit of a struggle for me sometimes. The great thing about learning a language in a country where it's spoken is that you get real-world experience all the time! Now, most everyone in Florence speaks English, so if you're in a jam and can't think of the word for "apple" (mela) or "do you take credit cards" (accettate carte di credito), they'll help you out. But, in my experience, Italians greatly appreciate it if you try to speak Italian with them.

Cut to me, three months into my four month stay here, and I'm understanding about 75% of what I hear around me and I'm speaking Italian about 25% of the time. I don't know why, but it's pretty nerve-wracking to start rattling off in Italian to native-speakers. CEA is always on top of things, and they decided to coordinate a language exchange between our school and an Italian university in Florence. All of the Italian students we were paired with are studying languages, and the vast majority of them speak English fluently.

 Two CEA students meeting with their language exchange partner!

The Italian girl I was paired with is named Alice, and she is an absolute joy. We bonded over our love for our families and our deep fascination with Taylor Swift. She speaks English incredibly, so communicating was easy, even though my Italian is equivalent to that of a four year old. We each had questions we were supposed to ask each other, but we definitely got off topic in both of our two-hour meetings because we just started talking like old friends.

I have one more required meeting with Alice, but we've been meeting for coffee once a week since we met at the end of March. I'm really thankful that CEA set up this language exchange because I got to make an amazing new friend and practice my Italian!
 Alice and I meeting for the first time!
(I was using my phone to put her
number into my contacts, don't worry.)

Ellia Flinn is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy. She is currently a junior at Cedarville University.

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