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They Don’t Sing When They Speak In Italy September 23, 2009

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.

JERRY: I-I-I don’t like the opera. What are they singing for? Who sings? You got something to say, say it!

KRAMER: Jerry, you don’t understand, that’s the way they talk in Italy,
they sing to one another…

Seinfeld, Episode: The Opera

A few years ago I  had the opportunity to vacation in Europe with my friend James.  I got to spend two weeks in both Switzerland and Italy, of which I liked both for very different reasons.  We spent most of the time in Switzerland, but after a week in Switzerland we took a train ride from the Swiss capital of Bern through the Swiss Alps to Milano (Milan), Italy and then on to Venezia (Venice). While on the train, I’m certain we saw some of the most beautiful sights on this Earth.  It was especially nice because we were passing through some of the towns where my ancestors had lived centuries before.  On the train ride there, I remembered the lines listed above from one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. For reasons unknown to James or myself, I decided to start singing all of the Italian words that I knew in an operatic voice rather than speak them, along with the names of the Italian towns as we passed by them on the train.  The people on the train weren’t singing when they spoke to each other, but they were smiling, and yes, I’m sure it was because they thought I was an idiot that had probably had too much to drink, but it was fun and the batteries on my iPod were running low, so I needed a way to entertain myself.  No one seemed to mind that much anyway because I wasn’t very loud.

Lake Como, Italy It was near impossible to take pics on the train, but here's someone else's pic of what it looked like from the train.

Lake Como, Italy. It was near impossible to take pics on the train, but here's someone else's pic of what it looked like from the train.

Once I decided to shut my mouth and stop singing, I noticed a young Italian girl sitting across from us on the train.  She looked as if she were about 13 to 14 years-old.  She seemed to be hanging on every word of our conversation. Not because of what James and I were saying was interesting, but because we were speaking in English.  As I looked closer, she had an English book in her lap and was studying for an English class.  Her mother was sitting next to her looking out the window most of the time, but every once in awhile they would exchange words in whispers, which I assumed they were doing because they were talking about us, the English speakers on the train.

Once we clued in to how closely she was listening in to our conversation, James and I decided to throw her a curve ball (it was mean, I know but we did it anyway) by speaking in a language other than English for awhile.  James started speaking in Portuguese and I in Spanish and being as similar as those two languages are, we could understand each other.  The young girl seemed a bit perplexed, so we didn’t keep it up for very long; only a couple of sentences.  As we stepped off the train at the station, the young Italian girl approached us alongside her mother and after a short pause (It was visibly obvious that she was trying to shake-off the nervousness) she said, “Have a nice day!” to both of us in the best English that she could muster.  We thanked her for her well-wishes and complimented her on her English.  Surely, she had planned the moment carefully as I remember that she appeared to be looking up quite a few things in her English book just before the train ride ended.  She walked away with a huge smile on her face as she turned red and quickly immersed her head into her mother’s chest as the temporary moment of boldness had left her. Her mother instinctively embraced the young girl in her arms to acknowledge how proud she was of her daughter’s noble efforts. That young Italian girl may not have known much English, but I could tell she understood the universal language of kindness. We did have a nice day. It was a great day, in fact and although I’m not sure it was all because of that little girl, her encouraging words definitely set the tone for the rest of the day.



1. Natalie - September 24, 2009

Awesome post. Don’t know you at all, just clicked on a link from Jessi’s blog. But great post all the same. Thanks!

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