Speaking Italian

Old Feb 20th, 2016, 11:26 AM
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These threads make me want to unlearn English.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 11:48 AM
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@colduphere lol!

Maybe some of these posts are just designed to toughen up the OP for the withering treatment he/she might receive in Paris? My experience was that the Parisians were civil, but never warm.

Re the Italian language: a lovely book on that subject is Dianne Hales' La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

I speak passable (okay, let's say sketchy) Spanish and thought it would be "fun" to learn Italian. My progress has been glacial. The syntax is different although there are words here and there that remind you that there is the occasional handshake between the two languages.

I think an actual class or a tutor would be the way to go but since I'm not in one place long enough for the necessary continuity, I've been having fun with the DuoLingo app modules. Absolutely free, more interactive than Rosetta Stone and I've learned a smattering of Italian. Probably not for the serious student but did I mention that it is absolutely free?
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 12:39 PM
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Annhig, Spaniards often speak Spanish to Italians, and we understand them pretty well. My husband thought the same would work in reverse, and tried it in Spain, but no one ever understood what he meant. I studied Spanish quite a lot, but years of speaking Italian has ruined my Spanish. I begin a sentence in Spanish and midway I realize I've switched to Italian. >>

bvl - that's exactly what was happening to me in Cuba, particularly when I'd just been speaking to Italians. I had previously come across some Mexicans using the "spanish in Italy" trick to good effect so I wasn't surprised when Italian in Cuba worked as well. Perhaps it's because the Cubans are very used to Italian visitors - there were loads of them!

<<I speak passable (okay, let's say sketchy) Spanish and thought it would be "fun" to learn Italian. My progress has been glacial. The syntax is different although there are words here and there that remind you that there is the occasional handshake between the two languages.`>>

I'm really surprised to read this, whatkatydidnt. I found learning Spanish relatively easy because I'd already got a knowledge of Italian - whilst some parts of the grammar are different, the basic structure is more or less the same and the vocabulary is very similar [save for the odd amigo falso!] Perhaps Italian to Spanish is easier than vv? anyway, I'm going to recommend my old friend Michel Thomas again - not absolutely free unless you get it through the library but pretty good value.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 01:07 PM
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bvlenci...you wrote:

<em> I begin a sentence in Spanish and midway I realize I've switched to Italian.</em>

I had a similar experience.

I took Spanish in HS (4 yrs) and was a pretty conscientious student. I took three semesters of Italian in college and cut class like crazy. As a result, the Spanish seems to have stuck better. (Both were over 50 years ago.)

Once at the ticket booth at the Forum, I realized that the man was speaking Spanish to me. Apparently, I had accidentally switched from my attempts at Italian to Spanish without noticing. Naturally as a ticket seller at such a well-visited sight, he could speak many languages, and must have took me for a Spanish tourist.

ssander
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 01:18 PM
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We do it all the time in Belgium : we start a discussion in Flemish and switch to French, then back etc.

Question of respect, mostly - we want to speak the language of the other one.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 01:44 PM
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A few years ago we spent a few days in Llivia, a Spanish enclave in the French Pyrenees, where they swapped from French to Spanish to the local dialect and back again at the drop of a hat. It appeared that they weren't so much doing it to be polite [as everyone spoke all 3 fluently] but using the right phrase to express their exact thought.

For the visitor it was fascinating but confusing in equal measure.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 01:53 PM
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We once spent a few days in Sankt Valentin, Austria, where Italy, Austria, and Switzerland all come together, and I was never so linguistically or logistically confused in all my life. I bought postcards in Italy, with Italian stamps on them, and put them in an Austrian mailbox. I tried to pay for a Swiss meal with Italian lire. And every sentence I uttered was a combination of German, Italian, and French. Fortunately, everyone seemed bemused but able to understand me as they spoke all three languages. My brain was addled for days.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 09:16 AM
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I had to make a deliberate effort to put Spanish out of my mind in order to learn Italian, which was necessary when I came to live here.

I think the two languages are very much alike. Even when the words mean different things, there is a certain logic in the difference.

For example, Spanish <i>tener</i> means "to have" (in the sense of ownership), but the Italian <i>tenere</i> has more the meaning "to hold" or "to maintain". The two Spanish verbs, <i>ir</i> and <i>andar</i> are combined in the Italian <i>andare</i>, which has partly the conjugation of <i>ir</i> and partly the conjugation of </i>andar</i> (vado, vai, va, andiamo, andate, vanno). And a lot of Spanish words are the archaic version of Italian words. I've been told by a scholar of medieval Spanish that the reverse is also true.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 09:44 AM
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I had to make a deliberate effort to put Spanish out of my mind in order to learn Italian, which was necessary when I came to live here. >>

bvl, I certainly tried to put Italian out of my mind in Cuba but I didn't always succeed. Perhaps if I had gone to live in a spanish-speaking country rather than just visiting for a few weeks it would be different but 3 weeks was nothing like long enough to replace the Italian which was already hard-wired into my brain.

It was generally the "false friends" that got me - andare/andar is a good example - meaning "to go" in Italian and [if I remember rightly] "to walk" in Spanish. The temptation to use "andar" to express "to go" was almost irresistible.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 09:54 AM
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I was in Chester once and a woman accosted me in Spanish to ask me where the nearest public lavatory was. I answered her in Italian and she seemed to understand me.

I did Italian to degree level, but it was very literary. I could discuss Dante, but not ask the time of the next train to Milan.

My ambition has been to be fluent enough to chat with Italians, and I'm getting there.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 10:02 AM
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<i>My ambition has been to be fluent enough to chat with Italians, and I'm getting there.</i>

That´s amazing. Do you plan on conjugating any verbs.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 10:16 AM
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sarastro - It was not MissPrism who said that she did not want to bother with conjugating verbs, but the OP.

I don't think that you can get a degree in Italian without being able to conjugate verbs, or indeed anything else.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 10:46 AM
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Yes, we certainly had to conjugate verbs. It was rather like learning Latin. The language was strictly for reading literature.

We had to listen to lectures in Italian and write essays in the language.

What we didn't do was contemporary Italan conversation. That's what I'm working on. I got my degree in 1961, so it's probably different now ;-)

The last time I was in Venice, I got chatted up by an elderly gentleman who started by telling me that I was too young to sit in the 70 and over seats on the boat. Bless Italian men. Flirting with the local lads is the best way to learn the language.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 11:13 AM
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<<You'd be a bit upset, I imagine, if you worked at a store here in the US and a foreigner came in and said "Hey, babe, can you get me..." >>
Why on earth would anyone say such a thing in a foreign language OR in the US? No one in the US would likely do such a thing in their own country.

Just learn a few phrases by rote. Perhaps the OP has never studied a language as some people think it is very easy. I don't think you will be able to learn any language in a year to the extent that you will extemporaneously be able to speak, read it, ask questions, and feeling comfortable in the language.

You won't be able to speak it at all if you do not intend to learn how to conjugate a verb. Because then you aren't learning the language, you are memorizing some phrases. You would be able to say a few rudimentary phrases if you do learn to conjugate verbs, and recognize some signs, etc.

If you want to study one for a year, I'd choose whichever one naturally appeals to you and for which you intend some use in the future. This could be personal or family interest or where you want to travel a lot. French is used in many more places, of course, than Italian (I don't know any place where they speak Italian other than Italy, but maybe there are some). It could also be, if one is serious and intends to continue studies, which country's art and literature one is interested in. I don't think that is remotely the goal here if one doesn't intend to learn to conjugate verbs.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 11:26 AM
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In my first months in Italy, I was much better at making myself understood than at understanding. Where I live, quite apart from the local dialect, which is still somewhat incomprehensible to me if spoken by an elderly person who didn't have much schooling, the Italian is not, shall we say, exactly the tongue of Dante and Boccaccio.

The dialect words for common, everyday things are those that persist the longest when the dialect is mostly dying out. When I was learning Italian, I used to ask our housekeeper what a ladle was called, or a clothes pin. She would tell me the name, and then say, "I don't know what it's called in Italian, though." Even my husband, who has an advanced degree, knows only the dialect names of certain plants and birds, and sometimes isn't sure if one of these names is Italian or dialect.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 11:30 AM
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What we didn't do was contemporary Italan conversation. That's what I'm working on. I got my degree in 1961, so it's probably different now >>

it probably is, MissP but I'm pretty certain that they still have to learn the grammar - we had to for AS level and we still look at grammar topics [the dreaded conjunctivo for example] in our Italian conversation class.

Christina - I agree with you about the importance of learning verb structure, even from the beginning, in fact I think that many beginners give up because they are just rote learning phrases that mean virtually nothing to them, rather than engaging with the structure of a language from the start. We tried to learn some Polish via the BBC Polish course when we went to Krakow but it was hopeless because all you learnt was "please can I have 2 apples" without knowing WHY you were saying the words. Useless if you want two beers or 3 apples.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 12:54 PM
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bvlenci...

I think I read somewhere that the reason a number of Spanish words are not analogous to the Italian & French versions -- <em>perro</em> (dog) vs. <em>cane</em> and <em>chien</em> (from Latin <em>canus</em>?) -- is because the Romans pulled out of most of Spain much earlier than they did from Italy and Gaul.

<em>Perro</em> may have evolved from an earlier Latin dialect for dog that had fallen out of use by the time Latin began morphing into Italian and French.

Anyone know about this?

ssander
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 01:04 PM
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Italiano--as indicated above, pronunciation is easier. I tried my hard-learned French in Paris last fall and people constantly corrected my pronunciation. You'll feel more rewarded in Italian.

But you can get by with just English in both Paris and Rome.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 01:13 PM
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ssander - there are anomalies in every language - to follow up on your example, where does the english word "dog" come from? it doesn't derive from any of the "normal suspects". [french, latin, german and greek].

As for perro, the only possible suggestion that I've found on line is that it's Persian in origin deriving from "persus" meaning "hunting dog".
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 04:44 PM
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IMHO to me the biggest problem in French is not the attitude of any French store clerks or waiters - it is that they literally don't understand what many americans are saying - since the pronunciation is so different from the spelling, there are sounds in French that americans simply don't use, and many americans never actually pick up any sort of French accent, even with the limited words they do know.

So - people are usually not being difficult, they just don't understand. We (BF and I) met another american couple in Paris who were convinced that people were being rude and ignoring them. But the issue was that what they were saying was incomprehensible - even to me and I knew what they wanted to say. My french is very limited but my accent decent so I can be understood in simple things and BF had studied for a year in Paris and picked up a lot. We ended up telling them to speak English so at least some people would understand them.
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