Wonderful Italy

Exploring Italy via our travels — places, people, things…

Why Italy?

Hill towns in Tuscany, ribollita soup, great wines….I’m convinced already and we are just getting started!

January 9, 2007 Posted by | About Tuscany | 2 Comments

The language, bella lingua

As the joke goes: if you speak three languages you are trilingual, two languages, you are bilingual, one language, you are an American.

With dedication you can change this and to get the most out of a visit to Italy, some ability in Italian can be quite rewarding.  Of course, learning Italian or any language well takes years.  But learning enough to be able to travel freely, including non-touristy areas, is nicely liberating.   There are classes and self-study groups in almost every north American community and in many other parts of the world. Italian speakers and language-learners are the largest non-English language group in Australia, for instance. Argentina, Venezuela and even Brazil have very sizable Italian speaking populations.

In my town in Oregon the Parks and Recreation department sponsors non-credit Italian classes which are very popular.   You can also find cd’s and self-teaching books in any bookstore or library.   To make progress, though, it is best to get together with a group (and ideally at least one native speaker).  Here’s what has worked for Anne and me:  First, find a group or some like-minded learners. If you cannot find an ongoing class, locate a teacher or at least a native speaker willing to help. Begin work on simple vocabulary and everyday expressions. Start learning basic verbs, present tense of course. Enlarge that to the simple past and then the “ongoing” or imperfect past.  You can put yellow stickies on the wall next to things whose name you are learning — by our aprons hung on the side of the fridge is a sticky saying “grembiule” — but now I remember the word for apron!

Repetition — you need lots and lots of it. Speak aloud and work on correcting your accent and intonation pattern by mimicking your teacher, your native speaker helper, or your cds or tapes. Gradually, a few weeks to a month or two, you will be able to converse on basic topics. Talk to yourself in Italian as you drive, or work in the yard, or take walks. Have lunch once a week with a couple of fellow-learners and speak only Italian. You are on your way!! Of course you have to go to Italy to put all this to use — more about that in other posts and in some of the links I’ll post.

There are dozens of books and audio sets. Of these, my personal favorites are:
Teach Yourself series (UK originally, US dist. McGraw-Hill) Improve your Italian — 2 cd set with book of same title (by Sylvia Lymbery) ISBN 0-07-143085-7. Book alone: ISBN 0-07-143084-9. There is also a beginning set in this series.

The same Teach Yourself paperback series has two other v. good titles: Italian Verbs (Maria Bonacina, ISBN 0-340-86698-5) and Italian Grammar (Anna Proudfoot, ISBN 0-07-141993-4).

Michele Thomas has a self-teaching set of cds that make getting started quite easy. His manner is a bit off-putting to me, but his additive method (start with one verb and a noun or two, and add to this) works. Don’t have title or ISBN but a Google search will find this quickly.

For a small travel-sized dictionary I like Langenscheidt’s Pocket Dictionary — Italian. It has a durable yellow plastic cover, and really fits in jacket pocket or small bag.

A great monolingual dictionary (for when you have progressed a bit in the language) is Lo Zingarelli Minore published by Zanichelli (ISBN 88-08-09026-4). This has thousands of illustrations to help clarify things, and even colored squares showing common and obscure color names. Not pocket sized, needs to sit on your bookshelf.

Perhaps you’ve learned some, or speak, Spanish? Having a bit of Spanish will appear to be helpful initially, but I’ve found you have to suppress Spanish and basically submerge and forget it — otherwise it hinders you. The verbs that are similar are different enough that they will throw your Italian off, and there is so much in Italian that is just not like Spanish at all. Remember, Italian came first and Spanish is the language that developed in one of Rome’s far-flung outposts!

In boca al lupo!


January 9, 2007 Posted by | Language and Culture | Leave a comment