English language from an European perspective

This is dedicated to all my fellow International students, Expats, Foreigners, and Italians around the World. We all have experienced the thrill and the frustration of speaking a second language. Of course, this article will come in handy to all English speakers that have to deal with us on a daily basis. 

Without much further ado, here are some common mistakes, false beliefs, and general knowledge we can all benefit from. 

English language grammar and pronounciation

  • Words that we thought were English, until we discovered they're not! 
There are a few words in Italian that are actual English words, and we will use them in English conversations without much thinking, because, hey! Finally we know some English words we didn't need to learn! Too bad their English meaning is not the same as in Italian. Hence the awkward silence that follows our proud speech. 

These words are random and inexplicable, trust me, I've tried to find a reason for their use but there isn't any, so here is a short and handy list.
'Clackson'= car horn;
'Coffee'= real espresso coffee;
'Fish' (actually 'Fiche', while playing poker)= chips;
'Phon'= hair drier;
'Reflex'= DSLR camera;
'Smoking' (unless accompanied by a self-explanatory hand gesture)= suit.

I am a hundred percent sure there are way more that I couldn't think of.

Just to make things clear, in case you've felt deeply offended by an Italian telling you something that sounded like 'Die!', they meant 'Come on!' (which is 'Dai' in Italian). Another English sounding word.

  • The logic behind plurals, or lack thereof
This happens more often than not, and mind you we are totally unaware of it. You see, growing up in a country where articles and plurals have a reason to exist, whereas being forced in a world where you 'count sheep' and where 'there's plenty of fish in the sea', is definitely not easy. 

I am pretty sure all of you while speaking to an Italian person, me included!, have heard them talking about 'hairs' meaning 'hair', 'being 22 years old", "having 200 dollars and spending all of them". It's already hard enough to put an 's' when referring to a third person, now we can't put a legit plural 's' when talking about multiple things. Life is a struggle.

Uncountable items like water, milk, or butter, can stay singular, we will allow it. But items you can count, like money, cheese, sheep, years, should definitely come with a clear plural. I know we are winning this battle whenever the hosts of gourmet exotic travel food shows say 'cheeses'.

  • The issue with articles
I seriously thought the first rule of the Fight Club was: 'do not talk about the Fight Club' (as you probably guessed from this previous post). Italians tend to put 'the' article in front of most names because that's what we would say in Italian, or possibly in most European languages. Even people's names, especially in Milan where they would call me 'the Barbara'. 

  • Some words may or may not sound the same
This is a touchy point for me since I noticed I couldn't say 'ears' without people understanding 'years'. The list of words that sound exactly the same has only grown ever since. 

So, if you care about my ego, don't ask me to say the following on the spot: 'warm worm', 'walk to work', 'ball in a bowl', 'ice eyes', or 'pen in a pan'. It's all good for a laugh, but if you cannot pronounce my name with all those rolling Rs, I will legitimately consider us even.

And don't get me started on 'Let us leave the lettuce leaf on the leather sleeve'.

All in all, we might mispronounce 'pear', say 'water and hamburger' funny, and see no harm in calling a kettle 'water boiler'. But we are totally immune to the nasty power of the word 'moist'. 

Silver lining!

Image: via

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