A Bilingual Life: Interview with Fabiana
In this new blog post, I have decided to ask for the help of a dear friend of mine, who is special in more ways than one, and has a particular story.
She will tell us about her bicultural background: Italian and American.
Fabiana was born and raised in the USA, then moved to Italy for 9 years (her family is Italo-American), and then back to the USA after high school, where she now resides. I asked her a couple of questions about her double background and I’m happy to share her answers with you.
What does it mean to be a bilingual person and to come from a bilingual family? How does this affect your everyday life?
Being bilingual comes with its pros and cons, just like anything in life. Somedays it can be frustrating as what you want to communicate may not come as easily as someone who is not bilingual. Sometimes what you would normally say in one language does not always translate like one would expect and could potentially come off as rude when speaking to someone. Throughout the years I have learned to block one language in my head and adapt to the environment I live in.
You were born and raised in America but spent your teenage years in Italy. How does this double culture affect your way of seeing things?
The hardest part of being raised in two different countries is that you will always be comparing and almost never will be content living in just one. Knowing two different cultures is extremely hard when your values and ideas don’t always align with others. It affects all your relationships, and it is a constant battle to find happiness. Additionally, you always need to remind yourself not to judge someone because their culture isn’t the same as yours. I find that I need to constantly remind myself that everyone is different and that difference will affect their way of seeing things too.
Let’s add some romance to this interview: you’re now married to an American who is not fluent in Italian (but is learning!). Do you find it difficult sometimes to convey the meaning of concepts related to the Italian culture? How do you overcome this cultural barrier?
Marrying an American has been difficult in more ways than one. Being raised from different cultural backgrounds also means not always understanding each other. The most challenging part is when at a specific moment you cannot think of how to say something in English or when you just want him to understand an idiom that is impossible to translate. It takes a lot of patience and communication to overcome cultural barriers. Sometimes what seems “normal” to me isn’t as “normal” to him, and finding the right way to communicate isn’t always as easy as one would think. However, with time our relationship has grown, and we have found a happy medium to incorporate both of our cultures into our daily lives.
Are you planning on raising your children to be bilingual? Do you think it would be an advantage for them?
Though my husband may not understand what they are saying, I absolutely plan on raising my children to be bilingual. It is extremely beneficial to know two languages and extremely beautiful to experience two cultures. Though it comes with its challenges, once they are grownups, they will see how lucky they are to be able to embrace both languages and cultures and hopefully pass them along to their children.
Last question – the hardest one: do you feel like you’re more Italian or American? Where do you really feel at home?
This is definitely the hardest question. Though at times I just love embracing my American culture, I do feel more Italian than American. Once you experience true Italian culture, there is no going back. The lifestyles, culture, and values are like no other and it is hard not to love and embrace them. I will always feel more at home in Italy even after many years go by. Home is where your family is, and Italy will always have my heart.