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My First, Real Italian Conversation

My First, Real Italian Conversation

“Fai una foto?”-  You take a photo?

It was a Friday afternoon, and I had been journaling along Passeggiata del Gianicolo. It was a beautiful day, and I had found the most perfect view of the Vatican to inspire the day’s journal entries. Interrupted mid-sentence, I looked up at the older, Italian man who had spoken to me. He was holding out his phone.

“Conosci parlare italiano?” – You know how to speak Italian?

I smiled, and responded, “Sì, un po’.” – Yes, a little.

“Ah, un po’.” He noticed I was journaling, and said, “Scusa!” – Excuse me!

I smiled again and got up to take his picture in front of the Vatican.

“Bene?” – Good? – I asked.

He took his phone.

“Conosci italiano?” he asked again.

“Sì, un po’.”

“Scusa, grazie.” – Thank you.

“Prego.” – You’re welcome.

I sat down and picked up my journal, but he kept talking.

“Dei dove sei?” – Where are you from?

“Stati Uniti…a Chicago.”

“Ah, America.”


We both smiled and I continued to journal. When I finished about ten minutes later, he was still there.

“Scrivi in italiano o inglese?” – You write in Italian or English? 

I laughed, and told him I was writing in English.

“Studi italiano? – You study Italian?

“Sì, studio in Balduina, at Loyola.”

I started to pick up that he was impressed by my little knowledge of the Italian language when he asked, once again:

“Parli italiano?”

“Si, un po’. I miei amici e i mie insegnante parlano inglese.” – My friends and my professors speak English. 

Leggi italiano?” – Do you read Italian?

I responded yes. He told me it was important that I knew how to speak and read in Italian.

He asked, “Che cosa tua nome?” – What is your name? 

“Mary Beth…Mary. Maria”


I’ve found it’s easier to just say Mary, or Maria, if they can’t understand me. Then I asked his name. His name was Franco. We shook hands. By this point I had stood up. I was anxious to practice my Italian outside the classroom.

“Uh, come si dice, ‘nice to meet you?’ I forgot, um, oh! Piacere!”

He laughed. Then he said something about how I don’t speak Italian at school, but I could in Rome. He asked me when I had classes.

I started, “Dalle lunedì–” and he cuts me off, laughing. He prompts me to continue listing the days of the week in Italian, so I do.

“…lunedì, martedì, mercoledì, giovedì.” – Monday thru Thursday.

“Finito? No venerdì, sabato, o domenica?” – Finished? No Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?


He asked me when I was leaving Rome. I got excited because I was using phrases I learned in class.

“Sono arrivata in agosto e torno in dicembre.” – I arrived in August and I return in December.

My Italian professor would be so proud.

He jokingly said something about how in December “andiamo,” or we go, back to this spot and he can see if my Italian has improved.

“Ho lavorato ma…” – I worked, but…he said, then pointed to his head and said a word I did not recognize. He said he had an Italian/English dictionary in his car and went to get it. He then pointed at a word that translated to remember and I concluded he had a poor memory.

Then I figured I better continue on with my day.

“Ho bisogno andare.” – I need to go.

“Ah, sì.”

I thanked him for letting me practice my Italian. Then, like a true Italian, he pulled me in for a kiss on either cheek, and said:

“È importante, sì.” – Is important, yes.

And that was my first, real Italian conversation. Despite stumbling on my words and not always being grammatically correct, I was able to communicate with him.

These are the moments that make study abroad so extraordinary.

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