Learning the language

Aug 7th, 2006, 05:54 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2006
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Learning the language

I have almost 9 months to prepare for our family's first trip to Italy. That is plenty of time to acquire some passable language skills, if I stay focused and determined. Fortunately, we live on Cape Ann, neaar Gloucester in Massachusetts where there is a large community of native Italian speakers, although most of them are Sicilian. Is the Sicilian dialect very different from the conversational Italian that I would learn from a course?
Also, can someone recommend a favorite language course? This one looks good. I'd appreciate any feedback or advice from others who have learned this way.
MarciaMarciaMarcia is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:24 AM
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Thumbs way up for your attitude on seeking to acquire some skills in Italian.

I recommend whatever your local public library has, to get you started. 2-3 months into your endeavors, you may choose to buy some materials that appeal to you, based on what you gave learned so far.

Give yourself measurable goals. 100 (200?) vocabulary words in the first four weeks, and similar milestones for months two, three, and so on. Use flash cards. Go to Italian language web sites, and newspapers (online).

...and nothing is more important than this, in my opinion: say it out loud - - when you are repeating what you hear on audio materials, or even when you are reading text. You have to get over (how bad you think) you sound. No mumbling, no saying it under your breath, or in your head. Speak as if you are talking to another person in your learning/practicing exercises.

Can't address the Sicilian question.


rex is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:26 AM
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Hi Marcia!

Just saw your post. I live on Cape Ann too! Sicilian is an entirely different language than Italian, but most Sicilians know both languages.
I have used the Pimsleur tapes and have learned enough Italian to get by pretty well while in Italy. www.pimsleurapproach.com If you order, get the set of 32 tapes (16 hours) as you have nine months to prepare.
Ralstonlan is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:48 AM
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I just got to thinking, if you would like to borrow my set of tapes, you are welcome to. You can Email me directly [email protected]
Ralstonlan is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:50 AM
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Thanks Rex. Good advice!
It's a small world Rastonlan! I had a feeling that the Sicilian dialect was very different, but did not realize that it is it's own language. I had planned on practicing on the nice folks at Cafe Sicilia on Main Street! I bet they do speak Italian as well so I may give it a go anyway. The Pimsleur Approach looks excellent. I might combine the two. Unforgettable languages is practiced on the computer so would give a visual and it looks as though I could bring the Pimsleur Approach along in the car, where I spend a great deal of time during the school year.
Side note:
I was reading the thread about Auberge del Senato and noticed that you stayed there. As of today it is my first choice.
MarciaMarciaMarcia is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:50 AM
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I've studied a few languages and have plans to study a few more. I've found that the best language learning programme involves the use of several different courses/programmes at different stages. If you're a complete beginner and do not speak any related languages (like Spanish), the best way to start is to find a course (even a short 4-5 week course) that will give you an introduction to the elements of grammar and provide an orientation to the sounds of the language. Then move on to a self-study programme like Pimsleur. I have tried to learn a language starting with a self-study programme, and found it relatively difficult. It worked ok for Spanish (because I already spoke reasonably good French), but was much harder going when I tried to learn Turkish.

If your only choice is self-study, then I would recommend the BBC Course, Buongiorno Italia! See http://www.bbcactive.com/languages/italian/default.asp I haven't used their Italian language product, but I have used their French and Spanish courses and they're great. What I like best about them is their integration of grammar and vocabulary lessons with entertaining information about the culture and people of the country (or countries) whose language you are learning. They would make a particularly interesting course for a family that is preparing for a holiday. BBC also publishes a short grammar text/study guide which is useful to have while working through their textbook (or any other course).

I would also recommend the "Teach Yourself ..." series, which you can buy online (e.g. from Amazon). Make sure you buy a version that includes an audio CD. If you haven't studied a new language before, I'd recommend that you start with a course called "Teach Yourself Beginner Italian", if one exists. (Sometimes there is a "Teach Yourself Language X", which goes at a faster pace than "Teach Yourself Beginner Language X".) The Teach Yourself Series are relatively inexpensive, too.

I've found Pimsleur to be a great course for consolidating what I've already learned, helping me learn how to formulate simple sentences (e.g. in reply to questions) and pronounce words correctly. It's expensive but worth it. It's sometimes possible to borrow the CDs from the library. It doesn't take you far in terms of learning grammatical structures or significantly increasing your vocabulary - but the words and grammatical structures it includes you will learn well and be able to use with relative ease in a natural way.

Finding time to speak regularly to a native Italian speaker would also help a lot.

As part of your Italian holiday, will you have time to take a language course in Italy? I find that language holidays are a great way to a) learn the language, b) get to know people, c) structure your days, and d) come closer to living like a resident instead of a tourist. It is possible to find courses providing for as little as 2 hours of classes per day for a week or two, or as much as 6 hours of class. You could probably hire a private instructor to teach your family as a group, and combine sight-seeing with language lessons.

To sum up, my ideal language learning program would be as follows:

1) Short introductory course at a language school or college (4-12 weeks)
2) Pimsleur CDs, at the same time as I worked through or BBC's Buongiorno Italia or the "Teach Yourself Language X". (Level I Pimsleur if your introductory course was very short, otherwise you could probably skip to level II.)
3) Weekly coffee with a native Italian speaker.
4) A week's language course at your holiday destination.
Kate_W is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Thanks Kate! We don't have time to take a course while there but wouldn't that be fun?

Ralstonlan, thanks so much. I'll send you an e-mail!
MarciaMarciaMarcia is offline  
Aug 7th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Don't forget Ebay. I've purchased some great language instructional sets and programs for a fraction of the cost of new ones.

I would suggest that the Living language series is a good starting point, but I agree working with a couple of different sets makes a lot of sense, you hear different speakers and the books have different approaches that combined make things stick in your mind better.

But whatever program you look at make sure there is enough info on travel terminology & phrases. Surprisingly many of the programs overlook this aspect in their beginner books.
Celticharper is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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I used the Pimsleur CDs to learn Italian, and I thought they were excellent.
I believe I still have them, and certainly am not using them for anything in the forseeable future.
If you'd like, you can have them (assuming I can find them).
You can email me at [email protected], and you can give me your address and I'll send them to you.
almesq is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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What a generous offer. Thank you so much, but Ralstolan and I have discovered that we are neighbors! She has offered to loan me her tapes. What a neat forum this is...travel advice and new friends all in one handy forum!
MarciaMarciaMarcia is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 03:45 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 279
Sicilian and Italian are very different.. my Sicilian relatives cannot understand Italian very well. Were in both Sicily and Italy last year- I noticed a big difference too... though general greetings are similiar. Have a great time!
Kathryncee is offline  

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