Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Il Marito della Tessera

Yesterday Erin and I got memberships at the Biblioteca delle Oblate, one of the public libraries here in Florence. I think I remember reading a year or so ago that Italian libraries are generally quite prestigious, and that the job of a librarian has a much higher status that it would in say the United States. Considering the massive amount of history the country has, it's easy to understand why. Until two days ago neither Erin nor I had been to a library here, and after a friend from school told us you can borrow DVDs (for free) from l'Oblate, we figured it was time we signed up. Aside from enjoying movies we've learned from school that watching Italian movies with Italian subtitles is a fantastic learning tool. In fact just today we watched La Tigre e la Neve in school, and we couldn't believe how well we were able to understand in comparison to the first time we watched one there. Of course we also want to read Italian and I've resolved to read George Orwell's 1984, as I know the story well in English and believe this will also be a useful learning method.

The library is absolutely gorgeous. The building is large and old, filled with sculptures and rooms forbidden to the common public, which most likely contain delicate pieces of original historical literature. Within the main rooms of the library are shelves of books, elegant lighting fixtures, comfortable and inviting furniture, all marvelously juxtaposed with a few shelves of DVDs, modern computer labs, and people with laptops taking advantage of the library's free WIFI access. All of this nestled intelligently within the walls made of pure stone and marble.

We sat down at the help desk and were greeted by two giggling workers with a warm "ditemi". This is a form of the word dire, another form of which I blogged about here. Grammatically it's the present imperative 2nd person plural form, literally meaning "tell me" and directed at 2 or more people. However in this context it's probably best translated as "how may I help you". Here the "you" indicates at least 2 people, which English lacks a single word for. In the southern United States you could translate this as "ya'll", and in the New England part (at least in New Jersey), "yous".

The dialog began with:

Me: Vorrei prendere un tessero socio.

Both clerks: (Light giggle and chatter)
Signora: Una tessera?

Me: Si, una tessera! Cosa ho detto?
Yes, a membership card! What did I say?

Signora (now in English): "Tessero". The word is "tessera", a feminine word. So when you said "tessero" he (the other clerk) said to me, "Deve essere il marito della tessera" ("It must be the husband of the 'tessera'").

I laughed and thanked her for the correction, and we started filling out the forms for our memberships. The man worked with Erin, and the lady with me. She started off in English, but after a minute or so reverted to Italian. She spoke English quite well, but I persistently responded in Italian.

It's common for an Italian to speak English to you when you speak to one in Italian and they hear an accent, an error, or detect a lack of comfort or confidence. As I've become more and more confident in speaking Italian, so have I also become more insistent. In the times that an Italian speaks English to me, I simply ignore it and continue in Italian. Sometimes they will carry on in English, but usually revert to Italian if they are convinced that I am understanding them (I've found that the those who continue in English tend to be of youth, and are most likely wanting to use their English).

So now we have library cards and look forward to making much use of them!


madzikszc said...

thank u that u bring nearer the distant Italy!! I am a student, who is wating for the decision if i will go there to the erasmus or not and your stories let me remember about every journeyes i have ever had in -questo meraviglioso paese-! :)
From now i will read u everytime i be in the internet!

Amazing Quotes said...

very amazing and interesting post, thank you for sharing
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