Friday, April 3, 2009

Qui, qua? Li, la?

Here, there, ...where?

The first couple of months I met Michele, I remember asking him instructions for something, and he would say, "you put theez here, and then thatta over there...and then theez thing goes into thatta thinga,"... and the patience in me would get all agitated, and without realizing how rude I was, I'd explode. "What? what here, what there? what this and that? Can't you use left and right, and descriptions instead of using 'here' and 'there'? Can't you be more specific?"

Only until I met my current Italian teacher, Cristina, did I start to forgive Michele =p

Our lovely, petite, very stylish instructor/ professoressa Cristina at the end of class, would use her finger, point to a page, and just simply say,

" for homework, write a little bit about here."

And our fellow American students, would ask, " Sorry, which page? which part?"

We are so used to being given clear instructions, clear step- by- step to dos. Which book, which page, which section, which number? Write how long - how many sentences, or paragraphs?

With directions, we are used to saying: head north or south, turn right in two blocks...make a left turn at the stop sign...etc

But in Italian, if you are asking for directions, you can just point and ask:

è di lì (and point your finger to one direction) o di là ( point to the oppisite direction)? ( li = here, la = there)

Or è di qui o di qua? (qui = here, qua = there)

Meaning, "is it here, or is it there", or in other words, "is it this way, or that way"?

I always tried to be specific, and I also preferred clearer instructions, because I was taught that that was the better way of speaking. I remember my dad used to make me ask clear questions, so I would have to formulate the question very logically in my head, before I asked. He would also very condescendingly say that some people rely on hand gestures to talk because they cannot clearly and accurately use words to explain. Thus they relied on hands and pointing.

However, I am starting to understand the Italian language and culture more after taking Italian classes. Quite to the contrary, Italians are expressive communicators. They are more emotional and demonstrative, as they they tend to use facial and hand getures to prove their point. And Italians are intuitive., and you sort of have to "get it" It's just a part of culture to talk in a way that requires you to use your body to express your feelings. At the end of the day, they understand each other perfectly. Maybe its us that's being too anal.


  1. Goodness, you mean I have to "relax" even more before I "get it"? Oh no. Looks like I'll have to give grad school another go. :) W

  2. I love this article. After reading it both Yun and I laughed very hard. I read the article over and over again to copy the way Michele talked.Articles relating to ddifferent culture are worth reading. Like I've told you, a guy with a PHD degree must have clear and logical thinking. Obviously, you misunderstood him.