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Italian Holiday


Lana Hawk

Can't. I can't go. I can't do that. I can't learn it. As a teacher I heard it all the time and admittedly use it frequently in my own life The word implies an inability exists, but can't is often used to mean everything from I don't want to I don't know. Which is interesting when you think about it.

How does this connect to Italy? Well, this morning in language school we learned about three verbs: can (potere), able to (riuscire), and know how to (sapere). Switch those to the negative and you have can't, unable, or don't know how to. Italians tend to use riuscire and sapere far more than potere in the negative formItalians only use can't under very specific circumstances. Can't means you are physically unable to do something. "I can't speak in Italian", would only be used if you literally had no voice or better yet, no vocal cords. You can't speak. You don't have the physical ability to make sound come out of your mouth. Can't isn't used because you are scared or because you don't have the desire to do something. You physically can't and you have no control over changing the outcome. You may not know how to speak Italian, but you have a brain and a voice so you CAN if you try. Interesting right?

I will be honest, I don't love everything about the Italian language. It sounds pretty, but it is definitely difficult to learn as an English speaker. There are masculine and feminine nouns with articles changing based on the masculine/feminine and singular/plural nature of the noun. So for one word, there could be 4 different ways to say the. If you are talking about a male cat, the article is different than if it was a female cat, male cats (plural), or female cats. Plus verb conjugation based on the subject (I, you, he/she, our, they). And don't get me started on the newly learned possessive adjectives. My brain hurts just thinking about it. Now, in reality, Italian may not be the HARDEST language to learn, but for me it has proven to be a bit difficult in the beginning. And I learned Japanese over 6 years of high school and college. 

What I do love about the language is the small nuggets of truth hidden throughout the language. I find that in America, we throw around can't a lot. We try to teach kids not to say it, but we are a culture of can't users. When you really think about it, the word shirks responsibility and has a strong negative connotation. You can say you can't go, when really you don't want to try to make it work. You can't solve a problem, when really it is hard and you don't want to try/learn/engage. 

I struggle the most with the can't mentality with running. I am currently running consistently for the first time since the fall of 2014 and it hurts. I'm tired, my legs are tight, my lungs don't like the whole endurance deal, and I don't LOVE running all the time. I have good days, but on bad days it is purely a mental game. I have a lot of I can't do this running through my head. The reality is it hurts, my legs are tired, I am slightly dehydrated, but I am able. I have the legs and lungs and strength to do it. I'm just letting myself think I can't. It is different. I need to learn to change the talk in my head and get rid of the can't mentality for a more positive outlook.

I am tired, but I can finish this run.

I don't know how to speak Italian, but I want to learn.

I don't know how to solve this problem, but I'm using my resources and trying to figure it out.

I'm not sure how to help, but I am willing to do what I can.

I have the intellectual capacity and physical ability. We have the brains and resources and ability. Take a hint from the Italians and be honest with yourself. Are you unable or just unwilling? I hope moving forward I lean into a willingness to learn, grow, continue on instead of losing the mental game with a can't mentality.