Wednesday, May 12, 2010

La mia classe è finita--Wednesday Journal #1

To commemorate the 100th birthday of my maternal Grandparents, I have just completed the Level-1 course of Conversational Italian. What better way to effect a personal re-invention than by learning to speak a new language?

I now know the alphabet, numbers, common greetings and questions, directions, family relationships, clothing, and how to tell time.  We also breezed through definite articles (in Italian there are SEVEN ways to say the word "the"), masculine, feminine, singular and plural nouns (Italian does not add the letter -s to make a word plural), present-tense conjugation of frequently used verbs, and the forms of irregular verbs like "to be". 

Amusingly, we also  learned the translations for phrases like "I have a headache" (Ho mal de testa) and "I'm tired" (Sono stanco), both of which I have lately used quite often!  Must be a regular state of being for my paisani.

Now it's time to use the next few weeks to learn to assimilate all of this into phrases I can use to hold a simple conversation.  I am considering signing up for Level 2 in June.

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Our final class meeting was a small party for the two dozen students and our instructor, Francesca.  She brought homemade bruschetta for us to eat, and others provided various Italian cheeses and salads, cookies and cannoli.

We watched a beautiful slide show in which we learned a great deal about Italy's many provinces, shown in the map above.  Images of the beaches of Sicily, La Scala opera house in Milan, and the Venetian carnival were especially wonderful.  Aah, the wanderlust is beginning to consume me!

The Italian language has been in transition ever since Dante wrote in what would become the "proper" Italian vernacular.  The language, along with its many dialects, changes dramatically from province to province: the Arab influence in Bari on the Southeast coast, the Norman and Greek flavor of Sicily, the French sounds of northern Milan; Tuscany is where the Standard language is heard most regularly.

Of course, the aspect of "talking" Italian that remains constant and universal is the hand gesture: as Francine Prose stated in "Sicilian Odyssey", Italians speak, as they live, with intensity, gesturing with their hands up to their elbows.

Here's a video that has fun with the Italian hand gestures.  It's a little ribald, but gently so.  I hope you enjoy!  By Level 2, I will be thinking in Italian.


  1. Ah, is there a better way to learn a language than through insults ;)

    I love the look of sono stanco. I may have to use it myself! Definitely sign up for Level 2, man. Keep a-goin'!

  2. Congrats Tom! Learning a new language is such a big step! I start college again in a couple weeks and I'm really looking forward to it! I loved the video. I will have to remember it for future reference if I ever get pissed off by an Italian.