by Melinda Gallo

Dizionario visuale

Because Dave and I speak English together all the time, there are some things that I don't know the name of because the words don't come up in conversation. The other day, I was asking Simone if he had my glass rectangular dish. I called it a piatto in vetro (glass dish), like I would say in English. He couldn't find it at his place, so I then proceeded to explain it some more by mentioning that it was rectangular. "Ah," he said, "Vuoi dire un pirofilo!" (You mean a glass rectangular dish!)

At first I was embarrassed because I should know that. I use a pirofilo all the time, but I just didn't think about its name besides, I thought piatto in vetro would've been understandable.

Usually if I'm not sure of a word, I try to look it up beforehand. Like the other day, I wanted to buy a tea kettle and I couldn't think of the word when I entered the negozio (shop). I looked at the flyer that was attached to one of the tea kettles on the shelf. I read through the flyer and stopped when i saw its name written in Italian. I was happy at my discovery, so I could then ask the guy behind the counter what the price of the bollitore (tea kettle) was. If I hadn't found it, I would've had to revert to pointing to it and saying quello lì (that one there), but I wasn't sure it was masculine either, so I might have left the negozio and come back when I figured out its name.

Just last week, I found a dizionario visuale (visual dictionary) in five languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, and German at the Italian libreria (bookstore) Edison. There is a picture of each object, person, or action with the five translations everything from people, appearance, home, services, to shopping, sports, and environment.

I have noticed after much reading that sometimes the word for something isn't the one I learned. I didn't know pattumiera (rubbish bin) because I use the term bidone (trash can), but it's good to know.

I wish I would've had this dictionary earlier when I first arrived in Florence back in 1997. I had to learn the hard way by asking people the name of everything, which never feels good when you're on a roll and then you have to ask, "Come si chiama questo?" (What's the name of this?)

When I first moved to Italy, I used to try to walk around my apartment saying the name of each object, but once you think you know the word for something, or even a word that's close like my piatto in vetro, you think you can get by. Then, every once in a while, you realize that there's always more to learn!

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