Salento – First week/Salentine – Prima settimana

I write in the morning. There is that perfume in the air, a scent that was also in Andalucia. Scent of Mediterranean pines, the sea, dry grass.

In the evening when my daughter and I are ready to sleep, Winston starts singing. That is what we called the mysterious and lazy night bird in memory of a famous jazz player, because Jazz is the music of the night. Then they told us it was an owl.

460x280_920Civetta (foto di Mariella Nicastro)

Winston’s song appeared to be extremely monotonous at first: only a note, repeated loud and clear at the same beat, from the same identical place on some olive tree behind us, every night. Then we heard that no, he changes it! Sometimes it changes, sometimes he adds another, about every hour.

His is a delicate and careful job, and Winston is singing to us every night as a lullaby, keeping us company when we stayed awake to catch mosquitoes (thanks to Raid, that’s in the past now) or when we were cold, that sudden and unexpected cold that greeted us when we first got here. Even that, it seems, is an old story.

Iolanda, the grandmother of the host family, says life is not always pink, it is sometimes grey, but when it’s grey, you should look at it as if it still were pink, to more easily find solutions to any problems. How right she is, and how much easier it is to see it pink here, surrounded by generous nature, sea, scents, and chatty night owls.

From Francesco, our first arrival point in the beautiful Bari, to our neighbours, all known over a few days, we found nothing but gentle people, with a ready smile, without pomp and without excess, just my type of people: gentle, sincere, but without being intrusive.

It is true that so many heavy things are going on in the world. It is true that somehow I am amused to see May rush into this election because she knows that Brexit (what drove us to leave England) will be a monstrous mess, but she does not want the historical responsibility to fall on her. And how can you blame her? But I no longer care.

Instead, I want to be more involved in my local reality.

For example, I noticed that outside every supermarket, at different times of the day, there is an African boy or girl who asks for a bit of spare cash. Helping you with the trolley, always polite, they try not to be intrusive. I thought that one day, if I were able to found a job exchange centre, I would stop and instead of money I would offer them a business card. But I couldn’t resist and blurting out a frustrated expression in English, (I’ll call him Andrea because I did not have the promptness to ask for his name), Andrea asked me to stop and chat, and I stopped and talked to him.

He told me he has a wife, and two children. He came to work in the countryside, but when the countryside labour season ends, he still has to feed his children. He tells me that he does not like standing in front of the supermarket either.

I told him Of course! You are young, you are capable!

He proudly tells me Exactly! I am a boxer! And he takes the stance. He tells me sometimes they ask him to do some fighting here, but they do not pay him.

I tell him, “You could teach boxing to the boys here!”

“Yes, I would love it!”

But I’m black, he says. I tell him: No, that’s not so much it. You’re a foreigner, an immigrant, that’s the real problem.

I tell him I wishedI could do something more one day, but in the meantime, I’ll give him a couple of euros, to wish him good luck, I thank him for the chat, and I bid him farewell. I think to myself this young man speaks four languages: the Italian I heard, the English we talked in, the French he almost certainly speaks fluently for the area of Africa he is from, and his local language. Four languages and can’t get him to work?

Then my daughter, whom I had left in the car telling her I was just going to put the trolley back, arrived. She was in tears, scared, because I wasn’t coming back. A sign from life that, alas, the time to help others has not yet come, we must first settle down ourselves.

As we left, my daughter still in tears, I see Andrea joyfully waving goodbye. It’s not for the money, it’s for the chat. We are all human beings, we all have the right to be treated as such, with dignity.

I am also interested in the large amount of stray, abandoned dogs (and cats). L.’s dad says to me that there used to be a collection service, a kennel, now it costs too much. People come here and leave them, every summer the same thing. My daughter and I want to do something, but for that also, it is not the time yet. Right now I just have to think that my dog and my cats will arrive from England in late May. And my husband is coming to visit for a whole week! I can’t wait.

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Scrivo al mattino. C’è quel profumo nell’aria, quel profumo che c’era anche in Andalucia.

La sera quando mia figlia ed io noi siamo già pronte ad andare a dormire, inizia a cantare Winston, come abbiamo chiamato il misterioso uccello notturno più pigro del mondo, prima che ci dicessero che si tratta di una civetta, per ricordare un famoso Jazzista, perché il Jazz è la musica della notte.

460x280_920Civetta (foto di Mariella Nicastro)

Winston ha un canto che all’inizio pensavo fosse estremamente monotono: solo una nota, ripetuta chiara e lucidamente allo stesso ritmo, dallo steso identico luogo su qualche ulivo dietro a noi, tutte le notti. Poi abbiamo sentito che no, che lui la cambia! A volte cambia nota, a volte ne aggiunge un’altra, ogni ora circa.

Il suo è un lavoro delicato e attento, e a noi Winston ci canta tutte le notti la ninna nanna, ci faceva compagnia quando restavamo sveglie a catturare zanzare (grazie a Raid, è una evento del passato) o quando avevamo freddo, per via del freddo improvviso e inaspettato che ci ha accolte qua in Salento. Anche quello, mi sa, una vecchia storia.

Iolanda, la nonna della famiglia dei padroni di casa, dice che la vita non sempre è rosa, talvolta è grigia, ma quando è grigia, bisogna guardarla comunque come fosse rosa, per trovare facilmente le soluzioni ai problemi. Quanto ha ragione, e quanto risulta più facile vederla rosa qui, circondati da natura generosa, mare, profumi, e civette canterine.

Da Francesco, il nostro primo punto di arrivo nella bellissima Bari, ai nostri vicini di casa, conosciuti tutti in pochi giorni, non abbiamo trovato che persone gentili, col sorriso pronto, senza sfarzo e senza eccessi, come piacciono a me: gentili, sinceri, ma senza essere invadenti. La mia gente.

È vero che stanno succedendo tante cose pesanti al mondo. È vero che un po’ mi diverte vedere la May che si arrabatta a far fare le elezioni perché sa che Brexit sarà un pasticcio mostruoso, ma non vuole che la responsabilità storica ricada su di lei. E come biasimarla? Ma non mi interessa più.

Invece voglio interessarmi della mia realtà locale.

Ad esempio ho notato che fuori da ogni supermercato, in diversi orari del giorno, c’è un ragazzo o una ragazza africana che ti chiede un soldino. Ti aiuta col carrello, sempre gentili, cercano di non essere invadenti. Pensavo che un giorno, quando sarò riuscita a fondare un centro per lo scambio del lavoro, mi fermerò e invece del soldino offrirò loro un biglietto da visita. Ma non ho resistito e avendo fatto un commento in inglese di frustrazione, lui, chiamiamolo Andrea perché non ho avuto la prontezza di chiedergli il nome, mi ha chiesto di parlare, e io mi ci sono fermata e ci ho parlato.

Mi ha detto che ha una moglie, e due bambini. È venuto per lavorare nella campagna, ma quando la stagione del lavoro in campagna finisce, lui deve comunque ancora dare da mangiare ai suoi figli. Mi dice che anche a lui non piace stare davanti al supermercato.

Gli ho detto caspita, sei giovane, sei abile!

Lui con orgoglio mi dice Infatti! Prima facevo il pugile! E si mette nella posizione. MI dice che alle volte gli chiedono di fare i combattimenti qua, ma non lo pagano.

Io gli dico: “Potresti insegnare pugilato ai ragazzi di qua!”

Sì, mi piacerebbe moltissimo!”

Ma sono nero, dice. Io gli dico: No, non è tanto quello. È che sei straniero, immigrato, è quello il problema.

Gli dico beh, spero un giorni di poter fare qualcosa, ma nel frattempo, gli do un paio di euro, per augurargli buona fortuna, lo ringrazio per la chiacchierata, e lo saluto. Penso accidenti, questo ragazzo parla 4 lingue: l’italiano che ho sentito, l’inglese con cui abbiamo chiacchierato, il francese quasi certamente per la zona d’Africa da cui proviene, e la sua lingua locale. Quatto lingue e non possiamo farlo lavorare?

Dopodiché arriva mia figlia che avevo lasciato in macchina, dicendole che sarei andata a riportare il carrello. Era in lacrime, spaventatissima, perché non mi aveva vista tornare. Un segno della vita che, ahimè, il momento di aiutare gli altri non è ancora giunto, dobbiamo prima sistemarci noi.
 

 

Mi interessano anche la grande quantità di cani (e gatti) vagabondi, abbandonati. Mi dice il papà di L. che prima c’era un servizio di raccolta, un canile, ora costa troppo. La gente viene qua, e li abbandona, ogni estate lo stesso scempio.

Anche lì, per ora devo solo pensare che a fine maggio arriva il mio cagnone, e arrivano le mie gatte. E arriva anche mio marito, per un’intera settimana! Non vedo l’ora.

 

The House of Blue is out in print

And so, here it is.

My novel, The House of Blue, is finally available in hard copy too. Also in Kindle format (free if you bought the print copy).

house_of_blue_cover_for_kindle

It is available on Amazon (and soon other places too) all over the world.

It is a strange feeling, a feeling of peace and relief.

This is not how I would have chosen to write my book. I’ve been writing since forever but always postponing, always impossibly busy doing crazy things with my life which, fortunately, as I stand now, didn’t turn out too badly. Then again, looking back, that was not how I would have lived my life, given a choice, which I felt I never really had: I always took it by force, wilfully, that choice, and did “whatever I very well pleased”, often to survive.

This book is similar: it was written in stolen time during a Nanorimo burst, just before I started working in a shop and therefore felt it was my swallow soul’s final wingbeat. It started out wanting to be a humorous novel and ended up being a desperate attempt to create a dream pension scheme of mine (I’m serious, the book is full of oldish people) at first and then, as friendships waned and faded and changed, a shrine to enclose precious thoughts in. By releasing it into the Bookverse, all those thoughts are now released and I am more at peace.

The narrative is a little chaotic, you’re not always sure who’s doing the talking. Chaotic, imaginative, confusing, frustrating, beautiful: all terms that have been used for me. So, I guess, there goes quite a big chunk of me! Shoo! Shoo! Off you go then!

 

 

 

 

Translation and being a “native” speaker

A few days ago my daughter proudly came back from school stating how she did a spelling test that was meant for Year 6s (she is a Year 5) and got 24/24. The very best the other pupils (Years 5 and 6) got was 9/24. My daughter practices her English at school, like everyone else, and at home, with ME.

Now, I am a complicated case, when asked what my native language is. Many, many people, even people who know me and my history very well, are extremely lazy, look at my Italian passport (born in Rome, Italy), while others who do not know me look at my Italian name, and happily declare that of course, my native language is Italian.

italianità-flirck.jpg

(Lovely) photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/migliosa/3435613770

I used to be proud of hearing that: having learnt Italian when I was 12, at an Italo-American school in Caracas, Venezuela, and having perfected it enough during my teens to want to start a club to promote properly spoken Italian at my Italian University, I was very proud of my achievement of being able to call myself a native Italian speaker.

However.

When we look at what linguists use to define being native in a language, you will hear a general tendency towards saying that “nobody is truly bilingual”.

Some, bigger and more important agencies, are a little more enlightened. The snippet below came to me after my own enquiry, in reference to a spoken language task. I had to ask because from my professional point of view, what they were actually seeking mattered. Were they seeking for their engine to recognise, say, a tight Yorkshire accent? In that case, I couldn’t help them. Were they seeking a NATURAL English speaker? Well, that would be me!

We are going to have Italian, English GB and English New Zealand projects. Native accent in some of these projects might be very important.

I suggest you to register for the language(s) you are native speakers of.

Where have you studied? Elementary school, high school, university?

I believe you might register for all your languages but the voice recording tasks could be done only for the “really” native language(s)

My reply:

From birth (my family went from Australia,  where they lived, to Rome where I was born, then moved back to New Zealand with me as an infant) to secondary school I was in New Zealand, so English was the first language I spoke. I pick up that accent whenever I am surrounded by kiwis or my sister. I didn’t speak any Italian.

I learnt Italian at school in South America, so I had an accentless Italian when I moved to Italy, at age 12, but my preferred spoken language at that point had become South American Spanish.

My English lost its NZ accent and gained an American one when I moved to the Philippines, at age 15, where I studied as a teenager. Then I returned to Italy and gained a slightly northern Italian accent as I lived in the north of Italy.

The school I attended in Italy after that was a British school in Milan, and I studied for my A Levels (Italian, English and French) in English. I went to an Italian University for 1 year studying English, Spanish and Italian, and then moved to London for 5 years and completed a degree there, in English and Spanish, and acquired a slight London accent.

After that I moved between Spain and Italy and finally landed in England in 2006, where I’ve been living since.

So, my accent in any language varies depending on who I’ve been speaking to recently and even what I’m reading or watching.

That is why I brought it up when it comes to spoken language jobs.

Lately, as we’ve decided to move Italy, I’ve been noticing a warmer Mediterranean accent I don’t believe I ever had, I believe it reflects the desire to go to Italy.

When I speak Spanish, I also acquire a Spanish or Latin American cadence depending on whom I’m speaking to.

So, there you go, it’s complicated, but as far as I’m concerned, my speech is natural in all three! All three of my children were brought up with me speaking English to them, because that is what felt most natural. My Italian, however, is also perfect, though also varying in accent.

So, what do you make of me?

My daughter, born in Leeds, raised in England, never thinking herself different from her classmates in any way, after the Brexit referendum became “Italian”. Which is funny, as she never lived there, and we speak English to her, not Italian. She has no idea of what it’s like to live in Italy, or even how Italians are, as we are not really your typical Italians. We may, out of preference, tell her occasionally that such and such a habit or behaviour (colour matching and dress sense, for instance) is more Italian than English, but that is that. Now, however, she is “Italian”. She has an Italian passport. An Italian name. And yet, she trumps all her classmates (except for one, who is nearly as good as her in English, a “Turkish” girl in her exact situation) in English spelling, reading and writing.

So, what do you make of her?

When it comes to speaking, depending on what you need that speech for, a native Derbyshire accent might be better than my variable, nuanced and sometimes way too “posh” or “Dutch” (a favourite) or Mediterranean accent. When it comes to writing, my English is better and more correct than most newspaper articles I read.

So, as a humble translator, I ask you to consider very seriously before your agency assures you their translators are “native” speakers. What you want, is an ability to read, write and think naturally in that language, combined with experience and studies to consolidate that knowledge. ONLY being native (unless you want your iphone app to understand a pronunciation of bus or plate that most would not understand) may well be useless, if not counterproductive, a lot of the time.

Incidentally, should you want to comprehend what a lack of borders feels like, please refer to yesterday’s post.