Growing up, I had a really tight-knit family, but because I was adopted, I always wondered about my heritage. When we did family tree projects in school, I couldn't help but wonder what my heritage really was.
When my wife gave me one of those DNA testing kits this year for Christmas, I was nervous and excited. When I got the results, I was completely surprised — it turns out I'm about ¼ Italian! I had absolutely no idea, and while I don't love my Scouse family any less, I wanted my kids to know about this new part of their heritage, too. So my wife and I decided to take our kids on holiday to Rome for their next mid-term break. It had something for everyone: tons of art for my wife the Art History buff, freshly made pasta for me, and the kids even studied ancient Roman mythology in their history class! There was just one problem: none of us spoke a word of Italian.
Taking a language learning course after work was going to cost us almost as much as our plane tickets, so I did some research to find a good alternative. I discovered that Rosetta Stone had an app with plans starting at around £10 per month. Rosetta Stone has a reputation for being a trusted language learning program, so I thought it would be a great way for my family and me to dive a little deeper into Italian culture. We started by bringing the kids into the kitchen while we cooked dinner and did the lessons together as a family. We'd dedicate about 20 minutes a night, so they were a perfect cooking companion. I was never interested in language classes when I was in school, so I was worried I was going to be bored, but the exercises were really engaging and interactive. Plus, they focused on conversational phrases we would actually use on our trip, so we could practice speaking to each other.
After just a few weeks, the family knew enough phrases to incorporate Italian into our lives. My youngest daughter loved to play Maitre D and pretend our kitchen table was a restaurant in Italy and asked us if we wanted a table for dinner and how many people were in our party. We would respond cinque persone per cena, per favore (five people for dinner please!), and she would pull the chairs out for us. It was so cute! Her accent is brilliant because Rosetta Stone has a feature that helps you perfect your pronunciation. That means we would actually be able to speak confidently and be understood when we went on our trip.
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When midterm break rolled around, and we landed in Rome, I was so impressed with how much fun my kids were having speaking Italian to order gelato (too many gelatos!), and I felt really confident when asking for directions or shopping. Plus, if I ever didn't know how to express myself, Rosetta Stone has a Phrasebook feature, which puts all the most commonly used phrases right at my fingertips. Sometimes at night, after the kids went to bed, my wife and I would go down to the hotel bar and have a glass of wine and some warm olives and have conversations with the bartender Paulo. We became really good mates with him, and still keep in touch! Something we could never have done without Rosetta Stone.
It ended up being an incredibly meaningful experience to be able to discover my Italian heritage and to watch my kids have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of feeling confident in a foreign country. Rosetta Stone gave us the freedom to make friends and connect with the culture on a whole different level than we could have if we didn't speak Italian. My kids are enjoying Italian so much that they're still doing lessons, and I feel like they're connecting to their roots more and more every day.
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