"Vedi Napoli e poi muori"

This observation, often attributed to the great German writer, Goethe, actually means "it doesn't get any better than this", even though the literal translation is the more quoted "see Naples and die". Surviving in Naples, however, where English is perhaps not so common as in other major Italian cities, can sometimes require improvisation, and a little help is useful too:

- Your correspondent (in the station, cautiously and possibly with a slight English accent): "Per favore, dove il treno per....?"
- A helpful and smart person (in the information booth, also cautiously): "We can communicate"

He was effectively saying the following, which can apply to any such unfamiliar situation:
- I can speak some of your language
- I recognise you can speak some of mine
- We're going to discuss a topic of mutual interest (a train)
- I'll help you (and I trust you to help me do that)

The lesson here is: assess the situation, use whatever assistance is offered, offer some back and if necessary, ask for more. It's a lot to do with empathy and connecting, which supports communication and is an important part of language at every level.


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