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The English Language

I’m telling Gianluigi about “a smack,” as in, “I’m gonna give you such a smack …” Done with an open hand gesture and a heavy New York Yiddish-Mafia accent. “I’m gonna give you such a smack you won’t know what hit you. I’m gonna give you such a smack you’re gonna fly from here to Timbuktu.” Etcetera.

He says, “I think for your next career you should think to be an attore. Because you really go into a personality when you show me things in English. You enjoy to do it, and you really change into the person. Now myself, for instance, I think that when I imito, imitare — imitate an English person, their way of speaking and their gestures, I feel more comfortable in English. When I can do ‘oh, that’s wonderful!’ (he does it in a way which is very not Gianluigi but quite convincing) I feel like a new person, I feel just a little bit like an English person, and it helps me to speak English. But if I try to do this in general, in company, I cannot, it is too ridicolo, and I become immediately red.”

I tell him about how I have observed people, including myself, having a new personality in each language. I say, “Part of the reason I love speaking Italian and I love being here is that I really enjoy the new personality I become in Italian.”

He says, “It’s true! It’s true! I need to find a personality for myself in English.”

“Or you could invent one.”  

“No, it’s better for me if I find a model I like and imitate him. It’s difficult because all the English films in Italy are dubbed and so I cannot really understand the personality of the actor. It is a mixture of the personality of the actor and the personality of the dubbing actor. And when you see English persons being interviewed, the voice — how do you say abbassare?” 

“The voice fades, the volume goes down.”

“The voice fades, and then the dubbing actor speaks in a monotono, and you lose the personality of the actor. In the film it is always possible to perceive the personality of the actor even with the dubbing, because she is expressing his personality with the face and the whole body. With the interview is different. But then I saw on CNN in English an interview with Julia Roberts and I understood that he is a wonderful girl! Not because he is beautiful, I think he is not so interesting for that, but because he is full of life, full of enthusiasm, when he speak. I need to see some English movies in English, and then I will choose a model that I like and imitate her, so that I can develop my English personality.”

Submitted by Karen Bermann
Associate Professor
Department of Architecture
Iowa State University