Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ah Italiano!

The Night of the Incomprehensible Speeches
There's a new blogger who contacted me recently and made me feel err--unmotivated--about my Italian lessons.  Sure, in the winter we more or less go to school every night, but we have no organized plan beyond that. I've learned just enough beyond tourist Italian to realize how painfully moronic I must sound. I so well remember those heady days when we were transitioning from tourist to resident when I felt more confident. Now I realize that sure, I can make my needs clear enough but I haven't adequately learned how Italians say things. Expressions, (moda di dire) are very important in any language. You can't look up these up in the dictionary very well. For example, I can translate "Happy New Year" into Italian but Italians here say "Good Year" instead. I can look up the verb "to flirt", but then there's fare un filo (make a wire, really?) that is actually used. Italians would be lost without the verb fare. They make shopping, make a walk, and (what do you know?) make breakfast to name just a tiny few. Tiny few is the operative moda di dire when it comes to my vocabulary. 

The folks here in town are scaldingly honest when it comes to ranking our abilities. I have a comeback that I never remember to use (mostly because I get balled up in the Italian way of using double negatives): "Hey nobody here speaks Italian either." It's Santa Domenican dialect. Literally I would be saying something like " Eh, nobody here doesn't speak Italian neither".  I'll never forget the night we heard the mayor speak a year ago.  We understood nothing, nothing...then we realized he must have been speaking dialect. We hope he was anyway.

All of you dear readers who are already fluent in Italian can (I have no doubt) find mistakes in what I have just explained...a little knowledge is a dangerous thing so don't bother with such an easy target, ok? 

I guess I'm inspired enough by Sarah's new blog to go back to my little book of phrases that are probably meant for northerners only for all I know...maybe memorize a phrase a week...see ya in the piazza. Ci vediamo

Brits... (we do love them) give us too much of a respite from Italian


  1. During one of my more recent visits to Calabria, I complained to my cousin about why don't they speak Italian (TO ME) and she said, our dialect is OUR mother tongue, not Italian. Italian is awkward and unnatural to us. DUH. I finally got it that day. Now with every visit I resolve to learn a little more dialect. That's where all the juicy conversations are spoken!

    1. You have more fortitude that I. I do think I will eventually understand what my neighbors are saying when they don't switch to Italian for me, but I agree with my Italian teacher that we all should be learning to speak correct Italian. She already cringes at our use of "voi" for "you" singular, our "va bons" for "va bene", and "capite" for "capisco".

  2. It's hard, isn't it. What helps me with english is to read books in english. No high literature though. Mostly novels where people talk in nowaday's language.
    Well, at least I think it helps. ^^ Native speakers might cringe at my blog.

  3. I have an American mystery novel in both languages so it's great for avoiding the dictionary. I follow along with the English and mark both books at once. Alas, I haven't finished it yet.

  4. Here's hoping I got rid of the Diana and quot Guido quot

  5. I have given up trying to learn Italian (I left the books in Qatar- deliberately)as I can't see the point with my neighbours only talking dialect.

    btw I am still waiting for the quotes from Orso builder from September :?

  6. We can understand exactly where you are coming from and have found that dialect is only part the problem. There are also lots of gestures that mean things too. We have found a book that explains those and that has made things a little easier in that department. Still need to practice the spoken language more though.

    Piano piano!(how many times have you heard that, we have heard it many times now).

    Tanti auguri
    John e Toni



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