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Dreams, plans and hopes.... for those who believe that Someday they'll be Saturday Night!

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I'm no native (English speaker)

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't fascinated by languages.
My favorite doll scared the hell out of me when I first met her because she spoke, but she eventually became my favorite doll nonetheless.
She. Not it. I'm Italian, I treat objects as people, get used to that.

I spoke "stuffed animalese" for years; it involved speaking Italian but using just one vowel out of five, and which vowel depended on the region the stuffed animal was from, on the stuffed animals' planet. But that's a different story. I'm just saying that I was an eager linguist at a very young age.
I started translating song lyrics around the same time I started learning them by heart, and singing my heart out with "Back for Good" by Take That and most importantly "Hero" by Mariah Carey, which was my first attempt at translations.
I had never studied English before, and the incoherent result is still hung on my wardrobe door, next to Leo Di Caprio's and Nick Carter's pictures from 90's magazines - an eternal reminder of where I started from and how long a way I've come. I even used to write my acknowledgments and fake interviews, which would end up on some famous artist's album cover or in magazines - because translators deserve their own recognition.

But when the time came to choose a high school and then a major, I chose Italian. Because English for me was "just for fun", I couldn't imagine building a career out of it. And even when I went on to earn a Master's Degree, it was in Teaching Italian.
Then a private tutor - a native English speaker, because I didn't want to waste my time with Italian tutors - suggested I tried the CELTA. Me? Teaching English? I'm no native English speaker, how could that work out? "You know the grammar, you're already three steps ahead."

As it turned out, she was right. But as I was training to become a certified English teacher, my inferiority complex started to emerge. I even cried my eyes out with my insensitive tutor asking why would any student in their right mind want to study English with a non-native speaker. I wish I had some super inspirational words of wisdom to remember about that interaction, but I don't. And I kept struggling with that feeling for years, every time someone asked if the teacher for that course was a native speaker and every time I had to fake it. Because that's what happens to a lot of us: we just fake our way through, either with employers or with students, or both.

Now that I've run my friends' and my own language school for more than five years, it doesn't hurt anymore when a student refuses to have classes with me because I'm no native English speaker. I just feel sorry for them, and I know they'll eventually regret their choice 90% of the times: I know grammar, and that's a huge advantage apparently.

But never in a million years, I would have imagined being in the position I'm in right now. For a lucky series of events, I've ended up working for LinkedIn Learning as an author. It meant challenging my inner voice way too many times, when in the back of my mind I could hear the old refrain "why would I be the right person for this job, I'm no native English speaker?!!" or when, during the shoot, that voice would be screaming "YOU TOTALLY SCREWED THAT WORD UP!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?? HAVEN'T YOU PRACTICED IT A THOUSAND TIMES??"

It was a voice that came from years of teachers diminishing us for our pronunciation, insulting our writing without providing any useful correction; years of students doubting our teaching skills because of our birthplace, years of parents refusing to let their children in our care because of that same reason. It was the voice of years spent being told, "Since you're no native English speaker you're not good enough, you're not worth it."

Now that voice is still there, but I've learned to ignore it. I've learned to listen to people who told me my writing skills were great, and that I needed to practice some of those words, but it really wasn't a big deal if I screwed them up; to people who insisted I was the right person to talk about relationships with other cultures, because I've lived that kind of experience.

We're all natives of one or more places, one or more cultures, one or more languages; none of that should define us as people, and that's the bottom line of everything I do in my job and in my daily life. And that's what I also brought to my experience in LinkedIn, which was one of the destinations of a journey that began at 8 years old, trying to understand the meaning of a song.
I can't wait to see what's next.


Letter to my Grandma

Dear Grandma Lolly,

I've been asked to write about who you were. Actually, that's not true. Nobody asked because everybody knew you. Even those who had never seen you in person nor in a photo had heard us talking so much about you that they felt as if you were part of their families, too.

And they're all gonna be there tomorrow, at your funeral. No, it's not because you conveniently scheduled it for a Saturday afternoon. Nor because they want to show us their support. Or rather, that's not the only reason. They'll be there to give you a - for someone first - last hug, because it was impossible not to love you.

You were not - to me - the perfect TV commercial grandma who had all sorts of treat ready for me when I came home from school. You only cooked very specific dishes – pinza, sarde in saor, tiramisù, mushroom tagliatelle – which you stopped cooking altogether one day, because you just didn't want to anymore.

You were the one who used to destroy all the recycling efforts in town because you just had to fill the organic waste with old newspapers, so that neighbors wouldn't peek and see what you were throwing away "and who knows what they would think!" You were the one who used to consider anybody else much cleverer than you were, "they must think I'm a cuckoo" as you would often tell me lately.

You were the one to tell me to come visit if I missed you, when I moved overseas. You have no idea how much I missed you during those months. But coming back wasn't exactly easy, so I hoped and I prayed that you wouldn't choose to leave us right then. We all thought you were much more fragile and delicate than you actually were.

You would love us nonetheless, but geez there were a bunch of "nonetheless". “Such a white sweater, ahn?!” meant it was way too white, instead of greyish white or beige, which is well picked; “sooo straight your hair, ahn?!” because you'd rather see some curls; “aren't you cold?!” because the neckline was too low-cut. We had so much fun, reading between the lines of your remarks. Yep, that's it. Our family has always laughed and shared meals together, but we cry in private, 'cause what impression would other people have?!

And two - or maybe three? - years ago you got very close to leaving us for real. And I cried my eyes out. Because I wasn't ready; I hadn't come to have lunch with you one last time; I hadn't hugged you; we hadn't shared a good laugh in a while.

When you recovered, I did everything I could to enjoy your presence. So many new laughs, so many hugs, so many (un)told stories with your nonesense storytelling! So why am I still crying now? Well, think of a child and an adult playing together all day. Once the videogame is over, the cartoon is over, and so are the card game and the puzzle, it's 10 p.m. and it's time to say goodbye. Well, I'm that child, looking for yet another game, one more excuse, one more reason not to let you go. And I get no relief thinking that there was enough time to say goodbye because I just wish you were here.

Thanks for the time you devoted us, with all your energies. We're going to celebrate you again tomorrow, all together at the restaurant as you loved to do. And maybe there'll be room for tears, too, whatever impression other people may have.

With all my love,
your baby girl.


#SandyStories - The Backpack

This spring there was a devastating earthquake in Italy, quite far from my hometown, but we still felt it - in my case I also HEARD it. Although the shake wasn't strong enough to make anything fall from the shelves, it scared shit out of us. So while I was lying in my bed waiting for it to end, I was mentally considering what to do in case of evacuation: I should pack my backpack and run to the parking lot nearby. Yeah, that sounded like a damn good idea.


Upstate Update #1 - 15 days to go

It doesn't take that long for me to process data.. yeah right. It's just 10 months I'm putting off this post, not that much. Just 10 months since I won the competition and there are 15 days to go 'til I leave, but I have no freaking clue where the days in between flew.


TravelEng 2 - A lifelong summer

"Close your eyes, breathe deeply and tell me: what's the first memory of this summer?"

If I had to carry out this delicate task I gave to my students, I'd have said: the taxi driver asking me "ok, where should I drop you off?" And I, without a clue, "at the central office?"