Call me lazy for not learning more Italian before we arrived, but I can’t get the hang of saying hello around here. Everyone speaks three languages and they use them interchangeably. I overhear the cashier greet the person in front of you in Italian, so when it’s my turn, I say “Bon giorno!” And she responds, “Guten morgen.”
It’s happened twice to me that if I need a table for two – or two chunks of bread, as the case may be – I hold up 2 fingers (making an “L” with my thumb and pointer finger, like a good European), and I say “Due, per favore” (that’s Italian for “two, please”). And they respond, sounding if they couldn’t quite get my accent, “Zwie?” (that’s two in German).
While hiking on a busy trail on Sunday, I was greeted with 6 variations: Guten tag (German), Guss Got (German – Bavarian), Salve (Italian), Bon Giorno (Italian), Ciao (Italian/universal), and “Allo!” (universal for “hello”).
And of course there’s a local dialect, something called Ladin which is a remnant of Latin mixed with the Austro-Hungarian dialect from this area when the Romans were marching through. It’s what the locals speak at home and to one another. All of the road signs are in these three languages.
So I’ve decided to just pick a language at random, and when I can’t complete a sentence in one of them, I just mix and match whatever words I know from each language. Waitresses don’t seem to bat an eyelash when I order 2 coffees by saying, “Due [Italian, two] espresso [universal, right?], bitte [German, please].”
I mean, I come from the country that invented Spanglish, right?!