During this six-months-long sabbatical in Milan, we didn’t make any focused effort to learn Italian language. That is, we didn’t enroll in any courses, and our daughter went to an English-language school.
Our friends asked us recently whether we found it difficult to function in Italy using only English. Now, after almost six months I can confidently say that it was remarkably easy. Perhaps, this is due to Milan being an international metropolis, where people of many nationalities mingle and use English as their main language. But I think this lack of communication barrier is also due to the nature of people, who live here and whom we’ve been lucky to meet.
Certainly, English is not spoken everywhere in Milan, but even where people speak only Italian, like in our favorite bakery, which we pass everyday on the way home, or in a fish store across the street from our apartment, people always greet us very warmly and make an effort to communicate.
In some cases, they very tactfully accommodate our efforts to speak Italian. For example, in a gelatteria, where we buy ice cream almost every day, I only recently discovered that the owner spoke nearly perfect English. This happened when I exceeded the capacity of my Italian and gesture language while buying gelato for a dinner party with our friends and colleagues.