First off, disclaimer on this post. I realize some readers might be against flirting if you’re in a relationship or married so if you’re morally against flirting, this is probably not the advice for you. As well, let’s just be clear kids, flirting is not kissing, or getting in cars with strangers, or exchanging text messages beyond the moment of context. That being said, I tend to side with Berlusconi on the issue of flirting – a little doesn’t hurt, in fact, it’s part of human nature – and I’m cool with it, as long as like Bublé says, my darling saves the last dance for me (and remembers who he’s coming home with at that!). So let’s get to it.
I wanted to write this post for the ladies. Yes, for the ladies that are learning Italian and that are living in Italy. I know that’s a very small group of us but I think it’s probably 99% of my readership. Through talking with friends over the past four years, there’s one thing I’ve noticed: women have a harder time with the language. Most of the women I know here in Italy came because of an Italian connection and that connection is normally tall, with sparkly eyes and excellent facial hair. Jokes aside, what we get a lot of the time is a worldly English-speaking lass with an Italian fellow who speaks English pretty well or has learnt to speak English well over the relationship. But somehow, we, the gentler gender, get left behind in the dust. And then we struggle, we STRUGGLE with our lives in Italy, to get over that block. This is because as women, we are worried about embarrassing ourselves in public. That’s essentially what it is- we don’t want to look stupid and we feel like everyone is judging us and so the fall-back of English is so comfortable. Much of the advice we are given, in language learning is to just “put yourself out there”, “don’t be afraid of making mistakes”, etc. Easier said than done, when your heart is beating out of your chest and you can’t even think straight in any language, not even your own. It’s hard AF to go out the door in search of interactions with Italians, especially strangers. There’s only so much you can say to the lady ringing in your toilet paper, or to the man cutting your prosciutto. Many friends I meet say they don’t have opportunities to practice speaking whether because their significant other always speaks English or their circle of friends has gotten into the habit of speaking English as well. But there IS a foolproof way to practice and I’ve decided to share this little tid-bit with you.
YOU NEED TO FLIRT.
Using the concept of flirting to help your language skills is has multiple advantages. One, YOU have the upper hand because you’re the girl and it’s ITALY and because you have the upper hand, you immediately get rid of that fear of feeling stupid or making a fool of yourself because you’re not there to impress anyone. Go into it thinking that your target Italian boy is there to impress YOU because that’s the truth. Two, it is an excellent way to engage in prolonged conversation. I thought to write this post because yesterday I had a wonderful 30 minute conversation session in a Foot Locker with not one, but two dudes. Your interlocutor doesn’t need to know your marital status, actually save it until the very end and he’ll talk your ear off. Third advantage is that you have a lesser chance that the person you’re flirting with will change languages on you (note: before attempting this strategy, I think it’s best if you’re around a B-level, B2 would be best of course but you need to be able to string together sentences otherwise your flirting partner is going to start speaking English to you, especially if they are a younger Italian). As long as you’re engaging in Italian, your Italian flirting partner is going to keep going in Italian because OBVIOUSLY everyone feels more comfortable in their native tongue. And if he thinks the situation has potential and that he needs to keep impressing you, he’s going to keep chatting in Italian. Sidenote: if having a flirting partner your age still makes you super nervous, GO OLDER. I know this sounds mildly creepy but older men make fantastic conversationalists, I’m talking someone that looks like he could be a nonno. You won't feel nervous at all because it's like talking to your grandpa. I know that the signore you're talking to might not agree but he doesn't have to know what you're thinking and that you're using him to test out the newest vocabulary you just learnt.
How to find the perfect flirting partner you ask? Well, if you’ve come to Italy, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve had the best chats with salespeople in shops that are not extremely busy. Don’t pick a shop that’s too snooty or expensive because the guys working it in are usually the former adjective. You need to do something like a Decathlon or Leroy Merlin. I have never gone into Leroy Merlin without having an extended conversation about anti-muffa products followed by an offer of coffee and friendship. You’ll need to ask a question or at least look like you have a question. Go into Foot Locker and pick up shoe after shoe, for example. If you don’t want to be the initiator of the conversation, take advantage of your local bar. Go there, grab a cappuccino and do it without any distractors. What I mean by that is NO PHONE, NO BOOK, NO NEWSPAPER, NOTHING. Remember that episode where Carrie goes to a restaurant without her computer, her "armor", that's you now. If there’s anyone who looks conversation-worthy and not like a stalker or serial rapist, give him (or her!) a few quick glances and keep sipping your drink. I almost guarantee you someone is going to come talk to you. I would be extremely surprised if this tactic does not work, I’m almost tempted to put money on it.
And there you have it, flirting is one of my favourite tactics to learn and advance my Italian and I really hope it can help you as well, especially if it’s never crossed your mind to take advantage of!
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