Trystan, Rugby Player

It is now six weeks since I left Wales and settled in Mid- North of Italy in the town of Mantova. My intention is to get a taste of another culture and I also hope to learn Italian. With only words such as ‘Ciao…grazie…per favore’ to communicate with the locals, I knew that I had my work cut out for myself.

My main connection with this place is rugby. Some years ago, I spent a season playing rugby in New Zealand and I soon realised that the game was an opportunity as well as an excuse for me to travel the world. Therefore, after spending a year teaching in a primary school in Pontypridd, I decided that it was about time for me to pack my rugby boots in a suitcase and to throw my backpack on my back once more.

I have joined a local team here in Mantova, which plays in Serie B. On the whole, rugby isn’t such a popular sport but within the circle of the club, it is taken seriously. A few members of the club speak English quite well and that has proved a great help to me in my first weeks here. However, the problem is that they also make the most of the opportunity of having me at the club to improve their English! However, I realised that it was essential to learn Italian to some level in order to be able to communicate sufficiently on the field.

Following a week and a half, I had my first match against Reggio nell’ Emilia (the area of the famous Parmesan cheese). Quite an interesting match but restrictive at times, because my vocabulary in Italian only consisted of words such as ‘push..tackle… pass and kick’. Despite the fact that we ended up losing badly, I was quite proud to have played my first match in Italy.

A month later, my vocabulary is growing every day and I can now string a sentence together. I am lucky to be living with a supportive and encouraging family and I often sit down with Fausta (owner of the house) to look over new verbs. In addition, She gives me tasks every day, to go and buy a newspaper or to go and buy bread and milk etc. These tasks force me to communicate in Italian and they also help to build my confidence too.

Everyday, I try to learn verbs, work out the meaning of newspaper headlines and read children’s books. I also keep a list of the new words that I have learned in order to build upon that which I have learned for conversation.

By Christmas, I hope that the accuracy of my Italian is good enough to hold a conversation independently, and as a result, the rugby club is enthusiastic for me to visit local schools to promote the game. I am certainly achieving what I set out to do here and slowly but surely, the hope of speaking the mother tongue is also becoming a reality!


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