Having been in Florence for over a month, I can say that one of the most challenging parts of culture to assimilate with is the language. Although many Italians speak proficient english, there are still many florentines that do not. This means that having a small amount of Italian is essential if you are out and about in the city center or various neighborhoods. For example, I tend to grab coffee at a bar (this is what Italians call a cafe) multiple times a day. When first arriving in Florence, I would only order in English. Although everything worked out fine every time, there was still a bit of difficulty trying to convey exactly what I wanted. Further, I feel a bit guilty ordering in English. Even though I am still learning the language and Italians are completely fine with responding in English, I want to try my hardest to respect their culture.
After all, I am the one coming to their country and speaking to them in a foreign language. The least I can do is try and order a coffee in Italian. As an avid coffee drinker, I get many opportunities to practice my Italian. At the bar by CAPA, I sometimes see the baristas four to five times a day! Looking at the bigger picture, however, the language barrier is not a huge problem. There are many ways to help overcome this challenge. Here is one major tip that helped me: pay attention in your Italian class. This seems like a no brainer but it is easy to fall into the lazy mindset of just showing up to class. I can only speak on behalf of Jenny (one of the Italian teachers that is Pitt faculty member) and I can say she is an incredible teacher. She is always trying her hardest to engage the class and make our time worthwhile. She is also a great resource to use because she is always open to answering any questions you may have. Another resource that helped me was my host family. One of the many benefits of my host family is that they are constantly trying to help you acclimate to Florence. They are always checking in on my roommate and me to make sure everything is ok. They have answered many of my questions related to culture and language which has helped me in my everyday life in Florence.
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