Beyond Sunday roasts and slick rainy streets… beyond lush green parks and Oscar Wilde preening on a rock…. beyond Viking boats and Jo Burger and College Green and Georgian doors, there’s another reason why I’ve been so stupid-happy to be back in Dublin.
English. I get to speak English.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before – was probably too busy stuffing my face with bombe and trying to finish my thesis – but I’m the only English speaker in the small beach town where I now live. I didn’t hear English once in the five weeks I was there and before I got back to Dublin, I hadn’t spoken it apart from a few phone calls home. My life in Italy is conducted in Italian, for better or for worse. There isn’t another way. In case no one twigged, all of the conversations I recount are translated from Italian; Leone does not have a lisp, I’m just attempting to translate his dialect, full of sh sounds where there ought to be only an s. It’s been the opposite of my life growing up; when I was a kid, the outside world spoke English but inside our house, it was Italian. In Italy, the outside world speaks Italian, but inside my apartment – my writing, my weekly Mad Men and Project Runway – it’s an English zone.
I mention this now because being back in an English-speaking country has reminded me of things I wanted to write about during my time in Italy – namely, the experience of growing up trilingual in a monolingual society, the Italian language, and the phenomenon of Italian dialects. But first, I luxuriate in the beauty of my mother tongue – no, a far more beautiful dialect of my mother tongue. I bask in the fact that three glasses of wine will only make me lose control of my thoughts – not my verbs and simple nouns. I make double-edged jokes. I swear with gusto. I swap Americanisms for Hiberno-Englishisms. People laugh. It’s okay. I sound funny; so do they.
I open my mouth. I sound like myself.