Learning to kitesurf will be one of my biggest stories for a while I feel, but there is so much more to it than actually learning a new sport.
When we decided we wanted to learn to kitesurf I was so excited about it that I didn’t even think about the fact that we were going to be learning in a non-English speaking country. I had learned to surf in Australia with no problems and I just lumped it all into the same category.
As this weekend approached, it hit me. We are in Italy, and the instructors (especially in little old Vada) are going to be Italian. The Italian seaside is full of German and Dutch families as well so I thought our instructor must speak English.
When Lorenzo spoke to him, just as he wasn’t concerned about his name (Zach or was it Tsach?) he wasn’t concerned about the fact that I spoke little Italian and he spoke little English.
The lesson started and I was sure that Lorenzo stuck right by my side as I attempted to wade through this guys dialect and pick-up some meaning. As I sat there watching him show us how to use the kite and how the wind reacts to the kite, I realized, I didn’t need the words.
He did make a good effort to translate the important words into English as we went along; pull, push, turn, hook. Just simply those words. Anyone who has learned a new language can imagine how confusing that is. Long Italian explanation of which I picked up the words “prendere, spengere, tirare, girare…” (those are take, push, pull, turn…). Then he would turn to me and simply say “pull” and then make a pulling motion with the bar. It confused me more than if he just spoke in Italian.
We communicated well anyway, and I felt most guilty that when his ten year-old surfer kid son came to hang out I couldn’t poke jokes at him the way Lorenzo did.
I was so proud of myself for this. Not only had I learned something almost completely new (we still haven’t learned to stand on the board, which is where all my experience is!) but I had learned it ALMOST entirely in a language that I still don’t consider myself a speaker of.
Of course, the safety concerns and technical terms Lorenzo had to translate for me but for the most part I didn’t need this. I learned by picking up the words I did know and watching both Lorenzo and Zach’s actions.
Of course I want to learn the language and participate in the kinds of conversations that don’t involve much body language but I have to say that I never thought learning something like that would be easier than speaking with the local bartender!