One afternoon many years ago we stopped at an Olive Garden restaurant for a late lunch. It was about 2:30, and it would be our only meal of the day. The place was nearly empty, so we were seated at a nice table and an eager young waitress, her order pad and pen held at the ready, came to serve us.
“We’ll start with bruschetta,” I said.
“Huh? Oh! You mean brush-etta.”
No, I thought. I meant what I said, “Brrroo-skeht-ta.”
Now, you must understand that I had been teaching Italian aria and art song for a couple dozen years at that time. My students regularly stood before judges who marked them down on mispronounced Italian, so I had studied everything I could, constantly referencing an Italian pronunciation guide, and checking with other teachers who had sung opera. I knew exactly how to pronounce “bruschetta.”
I had learned some lessons the hard way. I remember one especially embarrassing and painful occasion at state contest. I don’t recall the exact word, but somewhere in it was the letter sequence “g-i-a.” I had the student pronounce that as two syllables: “jee-ah.”
“That’s not quite right,” the judge said, as nicely as she could. The i turns the g into a j. After that, it has done its work, and is not pronounced. The syllable is simply “jah,” not “jee-ah.”
Since we’re into Italian food at this point, Let me illustrate it this way: parmagiana reggiano cheese is pronounced “par-ma-jah-nah reh-jah-no,” NOT “par-ma-jee-ah-nah reh-jee-ah-no,” and that chef named “Giada” is “Jah-da,” NOT “Jee-ah-dah.” Pay attention sometime when she says her name herself.
Now here is my point: who should I listen to about how to pronounce Italian—a college student moonlighting at a chain restaurant or the voice judge, a woman who has sung on the operatic stage many years longer than that waitress has been alive, singing Italian for hours at a time, and who can even translate it?
How do you choose whom to listen to? Who gets your vote for the one to take advice from? Is it someone your own age who has as little experience as you do? Is it perhaps someone older, but whose only qualification in your mind is that s/he is “fun” and “cool,” and a whole lot more so than the other old fuddy-duddies? Is it someone who gives you the answers you want, who makes everything easy, even things that are not and should not be easy? Is it someone who makes you laugh? Is it someone who speaks in “bumper sticker?” Or is it someone who has experienced the ups and downs of life and come through it sane and faithful, someone who may not be able to keep an audience’s attention but can tell you from a heart of concern exactly what you need to hear—whether or not it’s what you want to hear? Most important of all—is it someone who knows the Word of God inside out and has stuck with it even when it made his own life difficult, who tells you what God says, not what he thinks or feels?
Mispronouncing Italian is no big deal in most of our lives, but mispronouncing the Word of God can cost you your soul.
Listen to advice and accept instruction that you may be wise in your latter end, Prov 19:20.