“A sarcastic person has a superiority complex that can be cured only by the honesty of humility.” ~Lawrence G. Lovasik
Happy Festa della Repubblica, everyone. For a brief moment, WordPress decided that the language of my blog should be Italian and started underlining every word that I typed in English that didn’t make sense in Italian. I may be in Italy, and I may be learning Italian, but I’m not that good. Anyway, the holiday, celebrated on the second of June, commemorates the day when Italy voted for their new government after the fall of fascism during WWII. We didn’t know about the holiday until this week, but I think it’s pretty cool. Kind of like Double Ten in Taiwan, I guess. As a result, there are random military people from other countries traipsing around the town. Italians love to celebrate.
As my time in Italy nears it’s close, I’ve decided that the true mark of speaking another language fluently is whether or not you are able to understand humor and/or sarcasm in that language. I was talking to an American yesterday, and they asked me if I promised to be just as sarcastic to our Italian friend the next time I saw him as I had been in our current current conversation (although by my book, my sarcasm was truly moderate…). I paused for a moment, then posed the question: would our Italian friend actually understand my sarcasm? My American conspirator looked at me for a second, then shook his head: “No, probably not…But I’ll prep him for it.” Even though this Italian friend is fluent in English, there’s a lot of sarcasm and humor that even Americans sometimes don’t get, much less an Italian.
But then, each language has their own puns and jokes that you don’t get until you’re truly fluent in a language. For example, the phrase “he cooks so well he could make a shoe taste good,” a common phrase in Italian cooking, would kind of just raise some eyebrows in the states. A few Italian Chuck Norris jokes just don’t make sense when translated into English. Games like pictionary-telephone and Apples to Apples aren’t as humorous to Asian crowds, where the humor of bizarrely matched words it obscured by the logical mind that they bring to the games. Among American and European groups, though, you’ll find participants laughing hysterically at the most absurd pairings.
By these standards, I don’t know if anyone can ever be fluent in another language. But it’s a goal to strive for: understand the humor that other languages bring to the table.