Student space

Immersion: But in What, Exactly?

Everything! So learn some Italian first!

The term full immersion is thrown around a lot in the preparation process to study abroad and it begins to take on a blurry all-encompassing form that loses meaning. Now, more than a month after arriving in Siena, it’s apparent we dove into a sea of art, food, and language. And for me, I was less equipped in terms of language skills than I might have hoped. Here are the top five phrases we use regularly and make all the difference.

1) Dove il bagno? Where is the restroom?

That’s the first. Just learn it, you’re going to ask for it a lot in bars and cafes. Public restrooms are rare and free ones are even harder to find.

2) Mi piace/ Vorrei I like/ I would like.

These are perfect beginnings to sentences and you instantly feel so proud of yourself when you can express to your host mother what kind of foods you like and what you would like for breakfast. On that note, look up how to say some of the foods you like. And don’t rely on other romance languages you know to carry all the weight or you’ll find out why you’ve been having so many beans when you learn legumes and legumi are not direct translations.

3) Che significa? Come si dice? Non ho capito? What does this mean? How do you say this? I don’t understand. 

These also have made their way onto my most frequently used list. But that’s ok, and these phrases have been infinitely helpful and make me feel better than only being able to shrug my shoulder and look confusedly mute.

4) Parli inglese? Io parlo un po’ di italiano. Do you speak English? I speak Italian a little.
There are going to be times in a stores, particularly the phone stores where you know you aren’t going to be able to navigate your way through a conversation of cell phone plans. They probably guess that’s the case but you get brownie points for asking in Italian.

5) Il cibo è molto buono! This food is good!

This is a must know. At meals your host family will look at you expectantly, watching for your reactions as you try the food. I at least got self-conscious with that many eyes watching me, so having something to say really helped. Your host mother will love it.

So before you leave for Siena, grab a phrase book and teach yourself some of these helpful phrases. You’ll be able to skip some of the language shock and go right to enjoying everything around you!

(Danielle Dustin Gagnon, Liberal Arts - Fall 2014)