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English in Calabria

Walk around Rome, Florence, or Milan, and you're bound to hear English. And French. German. Russian.

In Calabria?

Not so much.

One of the reasons I love Calabria, the toe of the boot of Italy, is that it's not overrun by American (or any other) tourists. But as a result, there's little English spoken here.

That's not an issue for me because I'm quasi-fluent in Italian, and I want to live my life as authentically Italian as possible. (Over time!) The fact that I can't default to English makes me work harder and learn more Italian.

I have friends who don't speak any or much Italian...and they get by. But I feel like speaking the language opens more doors and brings a smile to anyone's face when they see me trying.

So Do Calabrians Speak English?

Ninety percent of the locals I've asked whether they speak English or not will say no. But after warming up, they'll shyly come out with a word or two.

While it's not widely spoken, many Calabrians (under 40) have learned at least a little English, though they're incredibly shy about trying it out.

Still, there are those brave Calabrians willing to try out their language skills.

In a total happenstance situation, I ended up being invited to speak to a group of young English, along with my new friend Lilly, of Calabria Dreaming.

At the start of the night, the locals crowded together at tables at the bar where the event was being hosted. Speaking Italian. But after both of us gave our talks and they played a few icebreaker games, suddenly everyone was eager to practice their skills with us.

It was fun! And they actually (and surprisingly) had a decent stout beer, which I thought I'd given up once I left San Diego, the craft beer capital of the U.S. We look forward to partnering with this group again for more events and to encourage youth to use their English.

Speaking another language opens doors, people. And you can't be shy about it. I make mistakes daily, but it helps me learn Italian faster.

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