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Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: Nessuno mette Kenzie nell’angolo

Fun Fact: Apparently, learning basic Italian endows one with the ability to figure out what all those fancy words for different coffees mean.

by Mackenzie O'Guin, Design Editor

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Arguably one of the most heart-wrenching arts and admirable crafts is that of language. I have always been in love with words. Written, spoken, sung, or heard, I am entirely captivated by words. Thus, a love of foreign language seems truly innate. My first taste of foreign language was while I lived in California, where I spent my earliest years and attended a bilingual school, and my interest inflated into a full blown fascination upon my admission into voice lessons at the age of 6, where I was classically trained to sing opera in multiple languages, particularly Italian.  And, because my voice teacher is a multilingual genius, she always taught me the English translation of the music. Thus, the more I sang, the more languages I became familiarized with, initiating my love of foreign language in general. However, I have always maintained a special fondness for the elegance of expression so beautifully painted in those like Spanish and Italian. Italian in particular became a compromise of the elegant musicality of Spanish and the elaborate poetry of operas. However, while in high school, my hobby of foreign language has been pushed to the back burner and, sadly, all but forgotten.

Until last Wednesday, when junior Kelly Hulsey and I watched The Godfather. I found myself catching a word or two from the winding Italian dialogues and wishing I could catch a few more. The next day, I grabbed my old foreign language notebook off my bookshelf, opened to a new section, and titled the page “Italian”

Of all the free language learning websites, I decided to use DuoLingo. After blazing through a few basic lessons in which I (re)learnt a few key phrases like “I eat an apple” (“Io mangio un mela“) and “She reads a book” (“Lei legge il libro“), a small pop-up appeared on my screen.

“CONGRATULATIONS,” it announced, “You are now 2% fluent in Italian!”

Wait, what?

“But, Mack! How can you be 2% fluent in a language?”

…yeah, theoretical reader, I don’t have an answer for that one. I discussed the matter with a Bella Napoli barista Wednesday night, who in turn asked another compelling question: how can one gauge percent fluency, and furthermore, can one even be 100% fluent in a language?

While you’re considering that, allow me to finish up tonight’s post with a series of realizations I’ve had upon delving back into Italian:

  1. Everything sounds fancier in Italian. Junior Kelly Hulsey and I realized this when I translated the menu at Bella Napoli. “Pasta Fagioli” is much prettier than “pasta with beans”.
  2. Sometimes memorization requires strange pneumonic devices. For example, the only way I can remember “lui” means “he” is because it kind of sounds like Luigi, the male Mario character.
  3. Nothing will tank your confidence in a foreign language like hearing actual Italians speaking it. (Thanks, Bella Napoli employees)
  4. When in doubt, just quote song lyrics. I may have the actual Italian vocabulary of a kindergartener, but I can quote dramatic operas with the best of them.

Thank you as always for reading, folks. Have a safe weekend. Love y’all.

So long and goodnight,

Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin

Special thanks to The Godfather for being a cinematic masterpiece, my wonderful voice teacher Wendy Bross for linguistically culturing me, junior Kelly Hulsey and sophomore Raiyon Smith for tolerating my latest tunnel-visioned obsession, Bella Napoli for existing and supplying me with such incredible lasagna and DuoLingo for being free and educational. 

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Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: Nessuno mette Kenzie nell’angolo