Don’t be afraid: open yourself to language
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012 16:05
Plymouth State Adjunct Conversational Italian instructor, Gabriel Del Rossi has a lot of cultural and language experience in his back pocket. He’s an almost-five language polyglot, or multi-lingual. Our interview was conducted in English, though modern Italian music was playing from his computer in his office on the second floor of Hyde Hall when we caught up with him on Thursday, February 16. Del Rossi was wearing fitted blue jeans and sneakers. His medium-length brown hair rested neatly on the collar of his ‘Italia’ track jacket.
Del Rossi has always been motivated to learn each new language to the best of his ability. He was eager to share his Italian heritage and journey with language learning, as well as his insights and suggestions to help other language learners.
Clock: So what have you studied?
Gabriel Del Rossi: Let’s see. I did my BA in Chemistry and Italian Studies back in the early ‘90s at Boston University.
Clock: Chemistry? Wow.
Del Rossi: Yeah. Double major. Well, I was supposed to be a doctor and/or an engineer, believe it or not. But I just got more interested with Italian. And I switched to the liberal arts school and I was forced to take a language requirement.
We spoke Italian at home and so for me taking Italian was kind of a no-brainer. So I did that and I got really wrapped up into it. In fact, I did more than just language class. I did literature, film classes, all kinds of cultural classes, and so I wound up majoring in both and then eventually moved to Italy. I worked as a manager there at a bicycle tour company for a long time.
Clock: How long?
Del Rossi: For about three years. And then I decided I wanted to go back to school, so I went to Boston College and graduated with a Master’s in Italian Literature in 2007. Then I was interested in pursuing Ph.D. studies and in order to do that I needed another foreign language. I wanted to learn French because it was really complex for me to understand, and I didn’t want to stay here in the States, so I moved to France.
Clock: How long did you stay there?
Del Rossi: For about eight years. I’m technically still there. I go back all the time. I got a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from the Université de Savoir. But at the same time I’ve always been working in these languages. So I organize bicycle or adventure travel trips and I’ve been doing that for almost twenty years. So mainly biking, or kayaking, or hiking, or food related stuff so it’s either in one country or the other.
Clock: But Italian was your first “foreign” language?
Del Rossi: Yeah, pretty much.
Clock: Was English your first language, or did you grow up with both?
Del Rossi: We had a pretty much bilingual household for the most part. My grandmother’s side of the family came from Formia, just south of Rome. And there’s also Montorotondo, a small village about 50 kilometers east of Rome, where my grandfather’s family is from. They immigrated to Philadelphia, where my parents met, had children, and then my dad moved just outside of Worcester.
Clock: What was it like growing up bilingual? Did you always appreciate it?
Del Rossi: I always did because I noticed it as this code that other people didn’t pick up on and I really kind of liked that. But my brother and sister didn’t really pursue it at all and kind of found it as more of an annoyance, as the following generation usually does. My parents speak English, obviously, and we were kind of phasing out of that, but I loved it. I’ve always had an ear for that kind of thing. I like codes, the way people speak, trying to mimic their speech, dialects.