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jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 01:02 PM

How should I learn (very basic!) Italian?
I'm going to Italy (Rome, Venice, probably Lake Como and Milan) in May, and though I have no illusions of becoming fluent in Italian between now and then, I'd like to learn enough to get around and not be completely dependent on the Italians' knowledge of English. I don't want to pay Rosetta Stone $250 for the privilege, though. Any podcasts, particular CDs, etc that you'd recommend?

I do have a Spanish minor, though I'm extremely rusty, so thanks to the magic of Romance languages I think I could pick it up pretty well. Or at least, well enough!

StCirq Nov 3rd, 2010 01:08 PM

Here's one possibility:

Dayenu Nov 3rd, 2010 01:10 PM

Here is another :)

jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 01:15 PM

WOW those are fast responses. Thanks to both of you! I had no idea the BBC web site had that, StCirq, and Dayenu, now that you post that I remember you posting that a few months ago! I'm looking for a little beyond "buon giorno" and "gelato" (but not too much beyond!).

Dayenu Nov 3rd, 2010 01:21 PM

You are looking beyond GELATO???? WHY???? :))

jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 01:27 PM

Haha. Because a girl's got to know how to tell the waiters what kind of cheese and pasta she wants? ;)

Delaine Nov 3rd, 2010 01:28 PM

I took Italian in college, but I used a Barron's book to teach myself some basic German (actual grammar and sentence structure, not just please and thank you)for a trip. Here is a link to the equivalent book in Italian, Learn Italiano the Fast and Fun Way.

Delaine Nov 3rd, 2010 01:29 PM

I forgot to add that it is a user-friendly book, more so than typical "dry" grammar books you see at the bookstore.

jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 01:38 PM

Thanks, Delaine! I'll give that a look as well.

suze Nov 3rd, 2010 01:46 PM

Do you have a community college available to you? I have found I learn a LOT more by participating in a class than I am able to on my own with books or CDs. Look for one that is aimed at "Italian for Travelers" (not Italian 101).

zeppole Nov 3rd, 2010 02:17 PM

Think about the situations in which you will most be in need of knowing some Italian, and drill yourself on those:

Asking and UNDERSTANDING and following directions

Understanding prices (including understanding numbers when spoken to you)

Buying train and bus or other tickets (what kind, how many, for where)

Asking and understanding when places will be open and when they will be closed

How to make a reservation for a restaurant

The meaning of the words "in ritardo"

Thank you, please, excuse me, may I? I don't understand, again please? I'm sorry I don't speak Italian,

Please help me find (a doctor, the police, etc). The word for "emergency"

And anything else you can think of.

I think no matter how much Italian you learn, you should pack a menu translator.

zeppole Nov 3rd, 2010 02:22 PM

I forgot to add: Do you accept credit cards?

And learn the meaning of the word "firma"

suze Nov 3rd, 2010 02:25 PM

I stick to more basics than proposed above. Because even if I could manage to ASK directions, I'd never understand the answer.

The things that are most practical & helpful to me are:

Learn to say fluently in Italian "I'm sorry I don't speak Italian" and "Do you speak English?"

Greetings and polite phrases like: hello, good morning, good evening, please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry I don't understand (I use that one a lot!)

numbers - for time, money, etc.

And ability to read food/menu/restaurant words

sandicran Nov 3rd, 2010 02:28 PM

zeppole you are absolutely correct when you said UNDERSTANDING and following directions!

The first time I went to Italy I learned some VERY basic Italian and I was so proud of myself for asking the waiter "Dove il bagno" and he answered me...... in Italian. I had no idea what he said. I knew it was something about a left and a right but I forgot which one was which! I was so embarassed so I just turned around and walked away and thankfully found the bathroom on my own!

I bought an Italian cd for my next trip about six months ago. It's still sitting in the box unopened and my trip is in six weeks! I don't think that is the best way to learn Italian.

jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 02:31 PM

suze, the community college is a good idea, but unfortunately ours seems to only offer French and Spanish. Though I'm not sure I could commit to a scheduled class right now regardless! So a book/CD/podcast would be ideal.

Your basics list is about what I was thinking, though I do definitely see the value in numbers, tickets, emergencies, etc. and will learn some of those as well. "Firma" I've got already, zeppole - it's the same in Spanish. :) I'm assuming I'd hear "in ritardo" in relationship to a late train?

jent103 Nov 3rd, 2010 02:35 PM

sandicran, that's exactly how I feel about getting directions - I can ask "Dove?" but the likelihood of me understanding the answer beyond "left" or "right" is slim to none. :)

zeppole Nov 3rd, 2010 02:35 PM

I'm not giving answers!

And sandicran's post reminds me:

Learn how to ask where is the toilet. And learn how to ask for a napkin, a fork, a knife, another glass. It also helps to learn how to say you would like to split an antipasto, or a pasta or a dessert.

zeppole Nov 3rd, 2010 02:41 PM


We were posting at the same time.

I highly encourage you to master the basic terms of directions, when it comes to left, right, straight -- and about how far, either in meters, kilometers or minutes.

Italians will make every effort to be simple, and use their hands to be clear. Learn how to engage, ask them to repeat the directions. But it is a very basic need as a traveler to ask "Where is-- (the toilet, the museum, the train station") and have some grasp of the answer.

hamlet Nov 3rd, 2010 02:44 PM

If there are no adult ed "fun" classes in Italian you can see if there is a Meet Up group in your area or start one on your own. You can also watch lots of Italian movies and see what you pick up. I studied Spanish for 5 years, French for 4 and Italian for 1 and then forgot it all. Then broke out the textbook before going to Italy and did OK between that and using what I remembered from romance languages.

suze Nov 3rd, 2010 02:53 PM

zeppole, I know YOU are not giving answers. What I mean is that maybe I can manage to ask a simple question, but I won't be able to understand what the other person is telling me in reply.

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