Best e-mail received☺

E Mail

If there is one thing I like better than reading the comments on my little blog of madness, it is receiving an e-mail from someone who has read my blog and taken the time to trawl through my speling spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Imagine my excitement when I opened and read the following E-Mail, from a lady asking for my advice and help. I was very excited because is not often I get asked to supply advice, normally I supply it whether it is wanted or not, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

I will call Antonella from London, Mrs X to preserve her identity.

On 13 January 2014 17:07, Antonella wrote:

Name: Mrs X
Email: Removed
Comment: Dear Pecora Nera,

What a brave man you are…leaving Uk for Italy, which let’s face it it’s not always sunny and cheerful!

I’m facing a dilemma and I could really do with your advise! My beloved English husband of 8 years keeps on putting learning Italian off. I’m trying my hardest not to take it personally, and while he can mumble the odd word and understand quite well, he says he really doesn’t like learning and he married me because of me and not because I’m Italian. That’s lovely, one’d say, but I can’t help getting frustrated ’cause a) everybody would love to learn Italian b) I’m tired of translating for him when we are in Italy..

My question to you is, do I give up and be happy with my amazing husband the way he is or do I keep on pushing ’till he gives in?  Somehow I sense that once we get to spend longer periods it’ll be easier for him to pick up the language…

I’m very sorry about my odd request, but I love your blog and I read that you too struggled with the language…

Warmest Regards,


Dear Antonella,

Thank you for your lovely e mail, I am really glad you enjoy my little blog of madness. I have never done the “agony aunt” bit before, so I thought it would be useful to answer your E mail in 2 parts, I will give you my suggestions and then Mrs Sensible will give you hers.

Pecora Nera suggests.

You are fighting a lost cause. Love him lots, make him cups of tea, always make sure his favourite beer is in the fridge and his comfy slippers are next to the fire.

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

You might want to teach him the following key phrases,

1) Quanto Costa? (How much is it)

2) Dovè il bagno (Where is the bathroom)

2) Dovè è mia moglia (Where is my wife)

3) Non me piace seppia nera (I don’t like that gross squid cooked in black ink that looks ikky, so please stop making me eat it)

4) Mi piace il vino rosso, vino bianco, grappa etc. (I like red wine, white wine, grappa)

Other than the above, I find that if I speak slowly, a little louder and add a suitable vowel onto the end of an English word, the locals understand me. In the past 6 years my ability to mime has improved greatly. I am sure I could easily win any Christmas game of charades, with one hand tied behind my back.

John wasn't playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

John wasn’t playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

Mrs Sensible suggests.

I have found a wet wooden pasta spoon is a good way of motivating Pecora Nera.

Mrs Sensible's tools of motivation

Mrs Sensible’s tools of motivation

If your husband is like Pecora Nera and is either pigro (lazy) or  incapace, (incapable) simple stop translating for him. When I am fed up with translating, I just stop. Pecora will then stand next to me saying “what?, what?, tell me!, Sorry I missed that, what did he/she say?”

I can now hold a conversation with a friend and manage to blank out his voice. After a while it becomes easy, much easier than trying to force him to learn the language. I have tried to teach him Italian but he even forgets the Italian vowels. Pecora is like a mule, I cannot force him to learn, he picks up words and sentences because he has to.

Me, stubborn? I won't have it said.

Me, stubborn? I won’t have it said.

Obviously he quickly learnt how to order wine, grappa and corretto.

Make sure there is more grappa than espresso.

Corretto:  There should always be more grappa than espresso.

As a last resort, tell your husband he can’t come to Italy next summer unless he takes the language seriously.

Best regards

Mrs Sensible

I hope Mrs X found our advice useful and remember.

A person who can speak 3 languages is multi lingual

A Person who can speak two languages is bi lingual

A finally, someone who can only speak one language is an Englishman.


PS. I have had so much fun with this post, I have decided to become an agony aunt. So if you have any questions relating to living in Italy. Just send them via my contact form. 😉

101 thoughts on “Best e-mail received☺

  1. (Both) your advice was brilliant. I’m torn between the two approaches. On the one hand, I do like the idea of mostly knowing how to say things involving alcohol. On the other hand, any excuse to wield a wet wooden spoon…


  2. The other person who speaks only one language tends to be an American….and even they don’t speak the same language as the Englishman. Don’t forget…we put braces on our teeth.

    Loved both yours and Mrs. Sensible’s advice!


    • The Americans and the English are pretty similar; there are some differences ie, we had knights and damsels in distress and the Americans had cowboys and Indians oh and you have Mac Donalds and we have sandwiches. 🙂

      I think my advice was tons better.


  3. So funny!!! And I think I like Mrs. Sensible’s advice – stop translating! That’s what I’ve done with my husband and he has learned to understand (well, at least that’s what he tells me…). But again….I catch him nodding off sometimes 😉 Could it be that he has given up?


    • Of course he will say he understands 😉 When Mrs Sensible is telling someone I don’t understand Italian, I become quite indignant and standing up straight like a little soldier I will exclaim ” no no Hoe kapeettooooo”

      Just make sure you keep the fridge stocked with beer and he will be happy.


  4. And this American is being very good….just home from my Italian class. It is the beginning of the new class and one of the ladies is there because her boyfriend is Italian. Probably tired of breaking out the dictionary when they have an argument.


    • Italian class!! Well done you. 😉
      I never use a dictionary when Mrs Sensible finds the need to shout or argue with me. If I can’t understand the names she is calling me I can’t be offended, can I?

      Also Mrs Sensible has managed to lose the sexy Italian accent when she uses English 😦 But when she is mad and angry, it all comes flowing back. For me, her sexy Italian accent is a good indicator of the degree of trouble I am in.


  5. I agree more with you. I live in Spain and I’m not so young and able to learn fast any longer. I live with a Spanish man in Catalonia, a part of Spain. I do speak several languages, but all learned in a younger age. I try my best to learn both Spanish and Catalan, but it is very, very difficult for me.
    When my man feels like your woman are telling, not to translate, I’m very close to disconnect the relationship, because this is so much non-respect for your partner. I have lived here in 1 ½ years now, and I still find it very difficult to learn. So I do understand you.
    Thanks for sharing this and nice to know, I’m not alone with this.


  6. I just had a translation request – Latvian to English – um, no, first you translate it into English, then I fix it. That’s how I roll 😉 Like yourself, I do know the important things though – a beer, please (please is optional in this country), another one, another one (repeat) – end of night – HOW MUCH?! I think I need a Mr Sensible with a few wooden spoons! 🙂


  7. I can relate to this post PN. My cats are better at Spanish than my meagre attempts. I just smile and ask any Spaniard I meet if their family is okay. That works !! Reading this post I shall definitely keep away from Spanish women with wooden spoons !! Have-o a-o great-o week-o. Ralph 😀


  8. I spent years taking Spanish classes, starting in high school. Then when I was in my late 20s and went to visit my now-husband, then-boyfriend in Ecuador (he was an American Peace Corps Volunteer), my brain went almost completely blank on Spanish. The best I could muster was “¿Cuantos son?” (How much?) and “¿Dónde está el baño?” (“Where is the bathroom?”) Rather than try and immerse myself, I hid in his apartment or just let him do all the talking. People spoke too fast for me to understand them and when I tried to speak Spanish, I just got funny looks. I was only there for 3 weeks, but that was long enough for me to realize that, for me, learning another language is an exercise in futility 😦


  9. I have two questions:
    1 – Is that actually your fridge?
    2 – Is that your liver I can hear crying?

    Seriously, I don’t think that other Europeans understand how difficult it is for English people to learn another European language. They’re hearing English throughout the day, in adverts, or reading the Web. Plus, they get taught second languages from an early age. They always say that English is difficult to learn because of the nonsensical (to them) spelling, but 80% of language is spoken… We can’t even learn Italian from the Dolmio adverts. Well, only the accents.

    I’ve been trying to learn Italian for nigh on two years now and sometimes it’s like banging my head against a brick wall. I can read fairly well, but when there’s someone else in front of me, saying something in Italian and expecting a reply… A speech bubble appears above my head with a whole lot of blankness in it.

    All things considered, there’s a lot to be said for general ignorance. 😀


    • Dear Andy,
      No that is not my fridge, Mrs Sensible would never allow it and yes you can probably hear my liver saying, please no more grappa.

      It Italy the radio stations play end to end British and American music, it is very rare event when Pavarroti or Caruso make an appearance. Even fab singers such as Italy’s own Giorgia appear very occasionally, so it is no use listening to Italian radio to improve ones Italian.

      I don’t think the English language can be that difficult to learn, After all I learnt it!!

      I agree with you, learning another language is easy for Italians, most of them learn 2 languages from an early age. Mrs Sensible speaks Italian and Sicilian dialect (which is another language altogether) English, Piemontese dialect (it sounds like the rubbish the French speak) and she understand some Spanish. She does struggle with Glaswegian and Liverpudlian but given time she could probably learn Xhosa, which is the language of clicks spoken by the Bantu tribesmen.

      I will never be brill at languages, but I know a good wine when I drink one.


  10. I breathe a sigh of relief for your liver! I try to listen to Italian radio as much as possible (right now, in fact); not the music, the talk shows. Half the time I have no idea what they’re talking about, but they don’t half sound angry!

    There’s a language in Greece consisting of whistles. I could probably manage that without much effort. It’s probably too late to get a refund from Waterstone’s for all the Italian language books I’ve bought. Fluent in 3 months…


    • Hi Andy,

      Regarding the talk shows, Italians can sound angry when they are having ‘polite’ conversation, so don’t be too worried. If you get a refund for your Italian language books please let me know. I have at least a dozen books that are as much use as a chocolate fire guard.


  11. LOL PN ahahahahahahahhhhhhh this is so funny, must copy your last description of multilingual/bilingual/Englishman!! sound advice from Mrs Sensible, I do the same with my Mr C when we travel to Italy. It’s such hard work doing this simultaneous interpreting you can’t imagine. Sometimes I just stop and he has to understand what’s going on. Even in Croatia (and I don’t speak Croatian) he asks me to tell people “this and that” – but I DON’T speak Croatian…. “oh but they understand you better than me”. – funny breed these Englishmen abroad… 😉


    • Mrs Sensible has just read your comment and said “Tell her I love her with all my heart” I think it is because neither of you can teach us poor husbands the local lingo, tsk tsk.

      I understand why Mr C thinks the Croatians will understand you better, Mrs Sensible and I spent our honeymoon in France, (It is no wonder the English have been at war with the French for the past 400 years, what a miserably unhelpful lot) anyway if we needed any bread or directions, I would suggest Mrs Sensible did the talking, after all she is tri lingual in fact a real polyglot what is one more language?? I am sure your husband will understand this reasoning, after all we learnt to change the engine oil and adjust the points on a Ford car and then a Vauxhall after that, all other cars are easy….


  12. You are absolutely hysterical, PN. I love your dry sense of humor.
    I am language inept. I’ve mastered English, but only know scatterings of French and Russian. Now I know why I have a deficient language gene … my father’s family came from England! Thank you for enlightening me. All this time I thought I was just lazy.


    • Mrs Sensible thinks I am just lazy, I like your theory on a deficient language gene. I will try that one next time with Mrs S

      Scatterings of Russian and French!!! Wow I am impressed. I have scatterings of Italian and English.


  13. I’m having this problem myself! I’m trying my darndest to learn french, but nothing is sticking :/ And unfortunately I don’t have someone with a wooden spoon to keep me in place 😛


  14. Pingback: Blogging About Italy Is Hilarious: Comments, Emails, And Humans | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  15. Pingback: Freakonomics Italian Style, the costs of a Bella Vita in 3 parts

  16. Pingback: You've got the magic - Evoking Grace

Even you non wordpress bloggers can comment, your e mail is hidden.. Don't be shy.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s