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What are some "must know" Italian words and phrases?

What are some "must know" Italian words and phrases?

Apr 13th, 2005, 08:57 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Dear CMT: there are 'some' real experts in Italian language on these boards. Some of us are actually fluent in Italian. But I agree you can't make somebody fluent with a posting here or there.
wanderlust5 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 11:05 AM
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True, Wanderlust. There are some native Italians, some non-natives who are nevertheless experts, and some non-natives with a decent working knowledge and a pretty good ear for correct pronunciation. But both the experts and the fairly competent linguists may be outnumbered by the well meaning but overconfident people who know very little Italian but nevertheless enjoy posting their extremely incorrect advice about the language. It is difficult for a beginner or someone completely unfamiliar with the language to know which of the numerous conflicting posts might be giving correct information. That's why I think this is not a good place to come for Italian language help.
cmt is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 11:42 AM
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No matter where I go, I try to learn a basic set of words and phrases:

1. Please, Thank you, I'm sorry, Excuse me -- these top the list.

2. "I'm sorry, I don't speak.... Do you speak English?"

3. The numbers from 1-10 and round 10s, 100s, etc. plus all in between as needed. For some reason the numbers from 10-30 are often irregular.

4. "HELP!" (maybe this shouldn't be fourth!)

5. Exit, Entrance, Track, Gate, Terminal, Station, Open, Closed, Prohibited, Restrooms, Ladies/women, Gentlemen/men, and other functional words for airports, train stations, and stores.

6. The words refering to your traveling companions -- e.g., my husband, my son, my friend, my sister, etc.

7. Where is...? -- except this word has an asterisk in that you are unlikely to understand the answer -- so be prepared to mime your question, have a map or a written address at hand.

8. Church, museum, gallery, school, hospital, road, avenue, boulevard, street, etc. and other locating words, as well as differences between restaurant vs. bar vs. cafe etc..

9.Foods you'll want, including specific drinks such as sparkling or non-carbonated water, etc., and specific preparations if you're fussy -- rare, medium, well done, etc.

10. double or single room, with or without bath, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and related hotel terms.
Apr 13th, 2005, 11:49 AM
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Now then: anyone want to plug in the proper Italian words for all of the above?

Alternatively: use the Rick Steeves phrase book!
Apr 13th, 2005, 08:59 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks for all the good posts and advice! I had a few good laughs!

Intrepid... I think I figured out the phrase, and I will definately use it. The problem is, my husband doesn't speak or understand Italian! And I'd be mortified if I turned around and some other Italian man had followed me!

Ira, most definately I'lll use that, but Sharon's will work just as well.

Rex... good point about not knowing how someone else may pronounce something, I hadn't thought of that. Did you date yourself, though, by mentioning "Dooks" of Hazard? The sad thing is, though, I also remember that show!

Thank you again for all your help!
nbbrown is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 09:55 PM
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I can't believe Rex used the Dukes of Hazzard as an example!

I actually can't believe those words even came from his fingertips!

I'm cracking up!

moneygirl is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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I forgot to mention that this website has audio files, among other things:
http://italian.about.com/ There's an active forum connected to thes site cited above, and quite a few of the people who post there are native speaking "experts." However, they would still have the same problem of not being able to explain the sounds precisely just by using spelling. So the sound files may be more useful.
cmt is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 04:24 AM
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The word I was most unprepared for from listening to three types of Italian language tapes in the car for a year was "Prego", an all purpose sort of word used universally by people I met, especially waiters showing you to the table.

My flute teacher told the story of a fellow he knows who went to Italy and when introduced to someone put out his hand and said, "Ragu". Figured out his mistake when he saw the other guy's puzzled expression.
Nikki is online now  
Apr 14th, 2005, 06:00 AM
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Seriously, can someone distinguish for me when you use "prego" and when "grazie," and also when "per favore" and when "per piacere"?
Apr 14th, 2005, 08:47 AM
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<<Seriously, can someone distinguish for me when you use "prego" and when "grazie," and also when "per favore" and when "per piacere"?>>

I know it may seem that "Prego" (also "Bitte", in German) might be interchangeable with "thank you - - but it isn't really at all. It can be "please" or "you're welcome" (literally, "I pray thee", or "my pleasure") - - and the confusion may be when you say something nice to someone (especially a server, for example), then they might answer that (just as the staff at Ritz hotels always reply "my pleasure" no matter what compliment you offer them). I think that as a tourist, Grazie is always appropriate when you want to say "thank you".

I have never ever used "per piacere", so I will not comment on it. To get someone's attention, I would more likely say "Prego"... to ask that someone push your elevator button, "per favore" seems more fitting - - and trying to get through a crowded place, or if you are inadvertently imposing on someone (say, with your luggage, on the vaporetto) - - then "Scusi" seems a little more natural to me, but "per favore" seems fine as well.

This... all from entirely self-taught (no formal instruction other than reading Italian course-type books) experience - - and might not be "standard" Italian at all.

rex is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 11:34 AM
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Nikki - I am way behind and trying to catch up on threads that look interesting. I have to tell you that your post about the Prego/Ragu made me laugh out loud. That's really funny! Made my day.
Carol / brahmama
Brahmama is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 12:25 PM
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At this point, all you can do is memorize the important phrases. There is no way in this short amount of time that you can learn how to construct a sentence in Italian on your own.

Tamjam gave good advice...if you start a conversation in Italian, be prepared to have the response in Italian. You probably won't understand a thing they say (and they say it at a rapid rate).

Try to memorize the English-to-Italian basic phrases, and hope for the best.
i_am_kane is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:04 PM
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There's some good information on this thread, interspersed with some incorrect information.

Since this is an old thread, and my comments won't appear to be pointed at anyone in particular, I'm using it as an opportunity to reiterate that it is not particularly useful to get language advice here on Fodors, even though there are some language experts who are native speakers or at least fluent non-native speakers, along with many people with a decent but not perfect commeand of the language. The problem is that these language threads are a free-for-all, with people who don't know the language at all, except for some vaguely and inaccurately remembered words and phrases picked up on a few trips, cheerfully and glibly posting advice and misinformation, right alongside the native (or near fluent) speakers. That is really not helpful, because someone who does not know the language AT ALL may not be able to judge which post is from a native speaker or a non-native but expert and fluent linguist, which is from someone who with a once pretty good but now rusty working knowledge from university days or a pretty good but superficial knowledge from adult education classes, and which is from someone who really doesn't know the language and is passing along an extremely incorrect tourist-pidgin version of various useful phrases.

This has become a huge peeve of mine, maybe because this seems to happen SO often with threads about Italian, and as someone interested in Italy and Italian, I notice these threads. Perhaps this is because lots of people have visited Italy and loved it, and because the locals were hospitable and communicative, tourists come away encouraged that "anyone" can speak Italian. Maybe it's true that "anyone" can pick up enough to get along in easy situations, but it's really NOT useful to pass along incorrect pidgin Italian.
cmt is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:46 PM
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Hi cmt, let me assure you with my terrible Italian I sure don't try to pass on any information. I have said before and I say again, the Italians must be so intelligent and clever as I am always shocked when they understand me. They probably take two asprin for their headache afterwards though, LOL.

LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:57 PM
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the fallacy with learning a few words in italien is are you going to be able to understand the reply????? you aare better off going to a local college with non credit education courses and take a basic italian course 2-3 times. you will need to know grammar to be able to function well- cannot be avoided in bucca di lupo
petertherabbitt is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 05:41 PM
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You will find that you get big bills from the ATM and everyone wants small money - especially if you go to non-tourist places like the grocery store - they want monete (can't remember the spelling for change) - learn the phrase "Can you change this into smaller bills" from Rick Steves phrase book and the guy at the bank who probably speaks perfect may appreciate your trying to speak Italian and be very gracious about doing you the favor. That was my experience anyway.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:32 PM
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completely agree with cmt, about not looking on this forum for really good advice about the Italian language.

BTW, change (as in coins) is spici (spee-chee) ( at least around the Naples area.

I sometimes jump into threads about the language, because I have been actively reading, writing, and studying it for a few years, and socialize with quite a few Italians on a fairly regular basis, but I'm no expert, and am very surprised to see some of the posters who feel they must respond to Italian language questions, when they clearly know next to nothing about the language.

It would be like me trying to answer a medical question, when I;m not a doctor.

So I'm sure it's confusing for someone trying to begin learning Italian.

There are other chatrooms and Language forums that would serve these questions so much more than this one.

bellastar is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:12 PM
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Grande Cazzo
ThinGorjus is offline  
Aug 24th, 2005, 04:10 AM
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LOL. ThinGorjus - dude where did one come from?
worldinabag is offline  
Aug 24th, 2005, 06:21 AM
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Amen..I am with you on that !!! I have done exactly that and they do indeed direct me to the nearest toilette....

That's the first word of any country I go to that I learn... To me the most important !!!! LOL
Areala is offline  

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