Words & Audio by Nicholas Di Giovanni
In 2015, Nick Messina heard about Instagram and decided to give the trending social media a try. He downloaded the app on his phone and, at first, wasn’t a fan of it.
“I was saying to myself, ‘What’s this about people going online just liking pictures,’” the 37-year-old car salesman said. “I found there was no point to it. Oddly enough, I actually uninstalled it about a month later because I found it so useless.”
Messina downloaded it again three months later and began posting videos of himself speaking the Sicilian dialect, a language he learned through his grandparents, who raised him. His grandparents come from Cattolica Eraclea, a small town in Sicily.
His videos started becoming popular, so he decided to brand his account and name it Sicilianu di Montreal – which means Sicilian of Montreal. Four years later, Messina is posting videos daily and has nearly 15,000 followers.
LISTEN: Messina explains what the Sicilian dialect means to him.
“My brain is constantly moving at a fast pace and you have to think of something new,” Messina said. He learned that posting too often may seem annoying to his followers, so he has to find the perfect balance. “Yes there’s a lot of work behind it, but so far I’m going to continue the best I can until Instagram [becomes irrelevant].”
There are also Sicilianu di Montreal pages on Facebook and YouTube, but Messina posts mainly on Instagram. He said there are two videos that have really helped his account gain followers. In April 2016, Messina made a video of himself using the lawn mower, cutting the grass on which there was freshly fallen snow.
A year later, he took Luis Fonsi’s hit song, “Despacito,” and changed the lyrics to a Sicilian version in a video that got over 22,000 views. “For me [those videos] were an accomplishment, it was nice,” Messina said.
Messina feels it’s important for him to continue speaking the dialect through social media. In Italy, dialects are slowly dying out because kids are taught Italian.
“The dialects are being lost in their own regions and the youth will speak more regular Italian,” Messina said. “I hope the traditions do continue. It kind of frightens me, but I like to believe I can keep my tradition and my dialect alive through Instagram. It’s a medium that gets a lot of people talking and it’s all over the world.”
He also has two daughters, aged five and eight. Messina doesn’t directly teach them the dialect but said they might pick it up by hearing him speak it. “I have to accept the times we’re in and go with the flow,” Messina said. “However, I do believe a basic knowledge of the language of where you’re from is important.”
Between his social media accounts, day job and raising a family, Messina is kept busy but enjoys it. “There are days where I do a bit more, and others a bit less. I do have a family, I am a salesman and it’s not easy.”