Final year student of Italian, Eleanor Bermingham, writes about the workshop and film screening she attended
Lovers of Italian culture, both undergraduates and pensioners alike, enjoyed a very hands-on session (emphasis on hands) where we learned how to insult, beg and be amorous to our friends without a single word – alla siciliana!
The Italian department organised this event with special guest Luca Vullo – Italian filmmaker and director of ‘La Voce del Corpo’ (The Voice of the Body). After some light refreshments (NB. Italian refreshments are rarely light and this was not one of those occasions) we were treated to a half-hour screening of Luca’s film, an entertaining and educational film about hand gestures in Sicily.
The session was very much like the film: we learned loads about the language of the body (both Italian and English), and with Luca’s warm and effervescent personality we were having a laugh a minute! Everyone got involved: Fiona and ‘Michelangelo’ (clearly in the Italian spirit) from the Dante Alighieri Society told each other they were bored across a crowded room while Italian teacher Rosalba and Erasmus student Agnese greeted each other in a very tactile display of affection and emotion in a way only those who have ever seen Italians socialising will recognise.
We learned the dangerous double meaning of ‘cornuto’ – what most readers will know as the symbol for rock. In Italy, the cornuto will inform a person that their significant other is getting up to shenanigans behind their back. Italian Society President Molly impressed the group with her knowledge of the origins of our own rude “V” gesture. It turns out after capturing French archers, English soldiers cut off their enemies’ fingers so that they could no longer shoot their arrows, and in a pretty cruel taunt would hold up their own two fingers as if to say ‘nerr nerr, we still have these!’ Gracious in victory, as per.
Thanks to Luca we can both curse others and ward off evil spirits with the flick of a wrist. We know that it’s ok to adjust someone else’s clothes while they talk and groom them a little bit (but as Wendy, a prospective Liverpool student, pointed out – in the UK workplace that kind of behaviour might land a person in HR).
So much of our language comes from our body: our gestures, our face, our eyes. At the risk of rendering MLC’s efforts of spoken language learning moot– it was incredibly interesting to see how much can be communicated simply through the voice of the body.