11 April 2007

tu sai che Kobe Bryant parla italiano?

well, i sure didn't, until i was browsing the homepage of Gazzetta dello Sport this evening. near the bottom of the page was a link to a video interview entitled Kobe Bryant si confessa (in italiano). i presumed that the interview must have been done through an interpreter, or that Bryant's answers were dubbed over.

i was quickly proved wrong. it turns out that Bryant is in fact a decently fluent speaker of Italian, since he spent a good chunk of his childhood there while his father played in the Italian top-level basketball league. Kobe hasn't had a whole lot of occasions to speak Italian since his family moved back to the US when he was in high school, so he was, as he predicted at the start of the interview, a bit rusty. as the questioning wears on he is more and more tempted to codeswitch, and he exhibits some interesting phenomena which people who are interested in such things should definitely take a look at. most noticeable are his variations when using proper names. whenever he utters a name in isolation in an otherwise Italian sentence, he pronounces it with what could loosely be termed an "Italian accent." breaking it down phonologically, what he's really doing is using only the vowel quantities present in Italian to approximate the English pronunciations. but when he begins to list several American names, the Italian phonetics slowly drop away, and furthermore if he drops all the way back to the American pronunciation, he tends to speak in English when he continues, resuming Italian at the beginning of his next sentence.

Bryant follows good precedent, as far as i know. i've only heard one other American basketball player talk about the game in Italian. last spring, SportItalia had Dan Peterson, an American who coached for many years in the Italian league, doing commentary for the NCAA tournament. his color commentary was peppered with English, much like Bryant's. his most noticeable tendency was to start his Italian sentences with "well..." other than that, his codeswitching ability led to the creation of a new catchphrase: if you don't like the call that was made, just yell "hey, arbitro!"

No comments: