“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, can you please repeat what you said?”
<<Pronto,>> says the lady on the phone. <<Benvenuti…crackle…Residenza di Studi Superiori,>> “Welcome to the Residenza di Studi Superiori.”
<<Ci-ao,>> I mumble through the speaker. <<I…I…uh…il mio nome è…mi dispiace.>> I slam the phone down before she tries to find out who it is. I thought booking accommodation was easier than this. I’m two months away from starting my overseas exchange experience. Bologna, Italy is my destination – or it will be if I’m able to organise a room.
I pick up the phone and try again. Immediately, I dial 6-1 before realising my mistake. I enter the correct number. Here goes.
<<Pronto, Benvenuti a la…crackle…di Studi Superiori,>> It’s her again
<<Ciao, Il mio nome è Brendon,>> “Hi, my name is Brendon,” I say.
<<Ciao Brendon!>> There’s emphasis on every syllable. <<Dimmip…crackle…ssoetrLa?>> The phone keeps breaking up.
<<Mi scusi. Non ho capito. Può ripetere?>> “I’m sorry, I don’t understand, can you please repeat what you said?”
<<Ho detto…crackle..dimmi, posso aiutarLa?>> I link the words together and they sound like ‘how can I help you?’ She laughs from the other end.
<<Ah, mi scusi. Capito. Parla inglese?>> “Ah, I’m sorry. Do you speak English?”
<<No…crackle…solo italiano,>> “No, only Italian.”
<<Oh, mi dispiace…ah…um>> I try to gather my thoughts but I can’t even create a basic sentence. After four years of studying Italian in both high school and at uni, I thought I would have had enough knowledge. You never do get enough practise with other languages in Australia. Most curriculums only require studying it at a basic level in years seven and eight.
<<C’è qulacuno chi parla inglese?>> “Is there someone who speaks English?”
<<Sì…crackle…ma non c’è qui…crackle…Luielllongterribledjwod…>>
I can’t make out the rest. I put the phone down. I’ll try again later.
Writer’s note: A version of this article was first published in Grapeshot Magazine Issue 4, 2013: Indulgence.