Lost Without Translation

Surrounded by the reflective gold of the Shwedagon Pagoda, I pressed my bare feet on tiles warmed by the sun. It was our first day in Myanmar and this trip was about to teach me many things. Including patience, gratitude and Italian.

You see, I was an American, learning Italian, in Myanmar.

Let Travel Change You
Let Travel Change You

Learning a Foreign Language at an Older Age Is Difficult

By now, I should have learned Italian.

I married Paolo nearly four years ago and have struggled to learn Italian since. Learning a new language takes time, something adults running their own business rarely have enough of.

I’m at the point now, where I comprehend Italian, yet the words I need to speak it, somehow get stuck in my throat. Elena, Paolo’s Mom describes the same feeling. She too is trying to bridge the language gap and learn English.

Let’s be honest. Learning a foreign language at an older age is difficult.

Traveling Without Understanding the Language

Marrying into an Italian family in my late 30’s has been life changing. All of the sudden, I have a Mamma and Papà who love me deeply but can’t talk to me. Yet still, they give freely. Their love and the gift of travel, inviting me to join the Ferraris Family Vacation each year.

Family Ferraris in Myanmar
Family Ferraris in Myanmar

As frustrating as it can be to speak two different languages in one family, it’s never stopped us from taking trips together. It has, however, led to some pretty funny moments around the world including a few on our trip to Myanmar.

Without words to understand the world around me or my Italian family in Myanmar, I began to rely on overly expressive motions and sounds.

Joy and excitement, shown through gigantic smiles, jumping up and down and clapping my hands. Much like a kid would.

In a moment of silliness, I devolved into making sounds like Beaker.

On that trip in Myanmar, Beaker became a running family joke. We would randomly break out into Beaker noises.

We basically sounded like this:

We didn’t think much about our family joke, until Beaking away one day in a local market in Lake Inle. Nearby Burmese women began looked around as if a bird or animal would be making those noises.

We caught their confused looks and Elena and I just started laughing. Realizing it was me, the strange tourist making the noises, the Burmese woman also began to laugh.

Paolo snapped this photo moments later.

Beaker Lands in Burma
Beaker Lands in Burma

Our Beaker noises might not have meant anything, but we all four understood each other in that moment. We were grateful to be there together and showing patience with each other as we learned to communicate.

Learning Italian in Myanmar

I picked up many words in Italian on that trip. Momma would point and say just one word to help me learn.

Boat: Barca

Boat on Lake Inle Myanmar
Boat on Lake Inle Myanmar

Gold: Oro

Shwethalyaung Buddha
Shwethalyaung Buddha

Prayer: Preghiera

Burmese Woman at Prayer
Burmese Woman at Prayer

Cute: Carina

Burmese Woman
Burmese Woman

Strong: Forte

Burmese Munks
Burmese Munks

Peaceful: Tranquillo

Two Young Girls at Prayer in Myanmar
Two Young Girls at Prayer in Myanmar

Brave: Coraggioso

Papà Braving Heights in Bagan, Myanmar
Papà Braving Heights in Bagan, Myanmar

Fortunate: Fortunato

Family Ferraris
Family Ferraris

Marvelous: Meravigliosa

Sunset Over Bagan in Myanmar
Sunset Over Bagan in Myanmar

How Can Adults Learn a Second Language?

Elena and I are two emotional women who desperately want to be able to talk to each other. Especially when we travel the world together as a family. Right now, we have to communicate through Paolo as he translates for all of us.

His brain is constantly flip from one language to the next. Repeating everything. It wears him out. He’s unable to fully enjoy his time, with his parents because of me.

I believe Elena and I can both learn a new language, but it’s definitely slow going. I still won’t be able to speak Italian that well, for our next family vacation.

Yet this year, I have hope things will be easier for all of us.


Travel Tip Tuesday: Travis the Translator

Two weeks ago, I entered a Facebook contest to win a new translation device. Travis the Translator.

Meet Travis the Translator
Meet Travis the Translator

Jumping through a couple quick hoops I thought, hopefully… maybe. Like, Comment, Follow, Share. Easy.

Next thing you know. This happened!


All of the sudden the idea of being able to finally speak directly to Paolo’s parents became very real.

One hitch. While traveling, especially through the parts of the world our Ferraris Family Vacations venture, there is no WiFi available.

I had my fingers crossed that Italian and English would both be languages available offline. Surely I couldn’t be that lucky… then this!

Team Travis The Translator Thank You!

I can not wait until June when the Travis the Translator ships. We’ll have it in time for our family vacation later this year to South Africa.

For this I say, thank you, Team Travis the Translator!

For travel, the world without a language barrier is a game changer. For us, your work will impact our family much more deeply and directly.

Having Travis the Translator with us will allow Paolo to relax and enjoy his parents. It will also allow Mamma, Papà and I, to more fully enjoy the world we are taking in, together. Travis the Translator stands the chance of helping our new family bond grow. We’ll finally be able to communicate more complex subjects than that of an adult with the language skill of a three-year-old.

Team Travis the Translator
Team Travis the Translator

Reaching out to ask Team Travis if I could write a post to thank them, I learned one more very cool fact.

Travis the Translator Indiegogo campaign is running until April 21st. They are way past their initial goal already. So why mention it now?

“We’ve also partnered with Open Learning Exchange (OLE) to help refugees starting new lives and learning new languages in foreign places. One of the options on Indiegogo is that people can buy a Travis and donate $10 to this organisation. That way we can donate loads of Travis devices to help these people! That’s one of the most important goals right now.” — Madina Gireeva, Team Travis the Translator

Now can you imagine how your world might change without language barriers? Maybe even imagine the good we can all do in the world by more fully understanding how to help each other?

I can!

3 thoughts on “Lost Without Translation

    1. It’s pretty exciting! Imagining the barriers Travis could remove in life is inspiring. Looking forward to sharing stories of being on the road with Travis later this year!

      Liked by 1 person


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