Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sing, sing a song...

On Saturday, we went to our second-grader's end-of-the-school-year show. The theme this year was songs sung in Triestino, the local dialect. Triestines have a love/hate relationship with their dialect--most of them think Triestino sounds uneducated, yet they find it difficult to speak in Italian with friends and family--the dialect just sounds friendlier, and it's indispensable when you're telling jokes (jokes in Italian just don't have the same delivery).

Triestines don't want their children to speak, read, or write the dialect in school, because it might interfere with their Italian. However, this time the school made an exception.

In this photo, you can see the signs made by the children with the titles of famous Triestine songs and drawings of landmarks--the tram, the lighthouse, the castle, and in the upper left hand corner, a cloud blowing the Bora, Trieste's famous gale-force wind.
(This is off-topic, but the photo below is to show you that the windows is this gym were all closed. And it must have been 1,000 degrees in there. But we wouldn't want a draft to sneak in and cool anyone off, now...would we?)
Okay, back to the dialect and singing...
The children sang at least 10 Triestine songs that everyone in the audience knew--they aren't children's songs, necessarily--some recount a piece of Triestine history, some express an undying love for all things Triestine, and some are just meant to make you laugh.
Here are a few choice lyrics that would never make the American elementary school show circuit:
1. Da un litro de quel bon= Give me another liter of that good wine.
2. E non la me vol più ben, la prega Dio che crepo, inveze stago ben!= She doesn't love me anymore, she prays that I'll die, but I'm feeling fine!
3. E mio marì xe bon, el xe tre volte bon, ma solo la domenica me onzi col baston= My husband is a good man--he only beats me on Sundays.
That last one is an especially lovely sentiment, isn't it? (!)
On the historical end, there were songs that make fun of Austria (more specifically, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that ruled Trieste for 500+ years), and songs that tell of Istrian cities that used to be part of Italy, and are now Croatian--a touchy subject for Italians who had to leave their Istrian homes after the war.
And interesting to me, there's a famous song about wanting to go to America, no matter type of transportation one might have to resort to--even if it's by skateboard, driving a hearse, or on the back of the horse belonging to your mother-in-law.
Considering there's an ocean between Italy and America, we can gather that whoever wrote that song was either geographically challenged, or really wanted to leave Italy.
Each grade also performed a dance that represented one of the many cultures that has passed through Trieste's ports. For example, Greek sailors used to whip out their mandolins and dance on the docks. The photo below is my daughter's class performing a Hebrew dance--many Jews sought refuge in Trieste during World War II, including Albert Einstein.
By the time the last song was sung, the parents and grandparents were all clapping and grinning and singing along with gusto, and some were even dancing in the aisles. Even though they don't want the dialect to be taught in school, I could tell that hearing their children singing the old familiar songs in Triestino was music to their ears.
That's always been one of the things I've loved about Italians--they'll take any excuse to dance and sing. I remember when I first came to Trieste in 1993, I'd go out with friends (American, Australian, and English), and it was always more fun when our Triestine friends joined us. We'd be in a bar with 100 people, and for whatever reason (wine being the most likely culprit), someone would start singing a Triestine song, and the whole bar would join in. I remember after a particularly raucous round of singing, our Triestine friends asked us to sing a song in English that we all knew.
We were stumped.
All we could come up with were TV show theme songs--The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, and the like.
Oh, well.
So my children will grow up singing about good wine and the story of a man named Brady...you just can't get more well-rounded than that...


Rilla said...

How about singing Frere Jacque, now there's a good English song everyone knows ;) But seriously, you had Ozzy friends with you and they didn't sing Waltzing Matilda?
You raise a great point. It seems like your kids are getting a taste and an introduction to such a variety of cultures and languages. Kind of hard not to anywhere in Europe. Here, we have so many cultures and languages represented, but it is so rare to celebrate all of them together. In India, even though practically everyone was Indian, you had to know at least three Indian languages and that meant different cultures as well. I'm just grateful that at least Spanish is making significant inroads into the nothing but English environment so common in the States. Kids miss out on so much. Your kids are very lucky...

TinaFerraro said...


I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the songs and remembrances of days gone by in Trieste! And I laughed about those closed windows. :)

And do tell, is the dialect of Triestino different from Fruili?

Natalie said...

Hi Rilla!

Actually, I didn't explain myself very well...each nationality did know some songs (Waltzing Matilda for the Aussies, Yankee Doodle for us, etc.) but as an English-speaking group, our only common songs were TV show theme songs! And even the ones we did know from our respective countries made up a poor repertiore compared with the Triestines.

But you're right, I think my kids are really lucky to have both cultures and languages. They speak in Italian, but understand Triestine, and use some phrases in dialect when they're joking around with their papà, especially. :-)

Ciao Tina!
Yes, Triestino is quite different from Friulàn, from what I've been told. Funny that two cities less than an hour apart (Udine and Trieste) have such different dialects! You'll have to ask your hubby to teach you a few phrases. :-)

Anonymous said...

I feel so cultured now. My DH speaks an African language, but according to my nieces, he's been gone so long that he doesn't speak it very well anymore. Unfortunately, the kids only know how to count to 10 and a few other words.

What's wrong with TV themesongs? They are the great unifier after all. They were still showing episodes of Dallas and Family Matters on TV last time we were in Nigeria (7 years ago).


Natalie said...

Thanks to you, Cyn, I now have the theme songs to Dallas and Family Matters running through my head...

cynjay said...

My 9YO gets up early every day just so he can watch Family Matters reruns. I totally don't get it, but they love it. Transcending time and space...