Italian – la lingua

I think it is important for those of us who choose to live here in Italy, to have the courtesy to try to speak the local language. In the big cities like Milan and Rome, more people do tend to speak English. As do people in the heavily touristed towns like Florence and Venice. But, even there, the tradesfolk who you will need to hire and interact with will not necessarily speak English. And, out in the rural countryside, you will find even less people who speak English. Nor do important people, like medical doctors speak fluent English and I’d say, when it comes to your health, mutual understanding is important.

I’ve been studying Italian for 7 years. I started before I moved from the US when I took an Italian 101 beginners class in Community College. It did give me a little base in the very basics of the language.

When we came to Italy I began language lessons, first, jointly with Susan and Gary and Luther. Susan and Luther are more advance so took a class together, and Gary and I, being of similar capabilities, had a class together. We did this for a couple of years before we decided to stop. Then we signed up with individual lessons with our teacher, Marilena out of Perugia. She came to our house and we each had a one-on-one class.

Time passed. A pandemic came. So our classes moved online. By now, I’ve gotten through pretty much all the grammar I could need. I still take tests on my own for practice, and we review them in my class, but most of the hour is practice in Italian speaking.

Today, I began a new, additional, conversational class with a friend who grew up here. She is English so speaks both Italian and English as a native. She is trapped here (by the virus) with little to do so this will keep her busy and give her a bit of money and it will, hopefully, help me with conversational Italian. Cannot hurt!

The topic of learning Italian comes up a lot on my blog, and on the different forums for expats I read. There are many opinions how to learn. In my heart, I know that I don’t do enough. I should be reading more in Italian. I should be watching TV more in Italian. I should be conversing with townsfolk in Italian. I actually can speak Italian fairly well. I just don’t have the confidence I need for real conversation. I also believe some people have more talent to learn languages than others…but that might be a cop out! So, comunique, today was just another added step to help me be more fluent. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t hard. Either that or I’m am supremely stupid!
Stay safe…andrà tutto bene 🌈

14 thoughts on “Italian – la lingua

  1. Tess Rae

    Nancy – you could give us a very short sentence each post – things like “I am Covid free” or “save the bees” with a pronunciation chart! Andrà tutto bene

  2. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hey Terry. Wow, what an experience. I completely understand. Being in the hospital and not understanding everything that is going on is one of the reasons a person needs to learn Italian. It is REALLY important to understand when it comes to your health! I was embarrassed last year when I had a knee replacement here and the nurses asked me how long I’d been here and I said 5 years. Then they asked why I didn’t speak better Italian. I was able to understand and also speak some but I’m far from fluent. People think they can come here and expect people to speak English…but it isn’t necessarily so. And it is rude to expect your host country to accommodate you.

  3. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Monika, this is such a nice comment. And you are so completely right. I just need to get past this pesky worry about looking like an idiot!

  4. Nancy Hampton Post author

    One of the things I miss most here is the inability to interact with people. I’m normally friendly and talkative with people I deal with. When we go to England or home to the US I’m Chatty Cathy. Good luck with your learning. The more ways you practice the better.

  5. terrylarsoncomcastnet

    I have started studying Italian through duolingo before my next trip. There are no classes here for Italian. I ended up in the Venice hospital for 8 days back in 2005. At that time I did not know any Italian – I wish I had at least tried. There was only one nurse that spoke English well so my friend and I were asking her what was going on every day (I had an epiglottis infection and they would not let me leave). She finally lost her temper and yelled at me that I should have learned Italian. She said she learned english when she travelled to England and I should have done the same! I was in tears, my husband was upset at home since I couldn’t tell him anything certain and I did not know when I could leave or when or if I was going to get better. It was a horrible experience.

  6. Matthew Daub

    Thanks Nancy! My only saving grace in Italian is that I’m absolutely fearless when it comes to speaking it and don’t mind at all making an ass of myself. I can’t tell you the great many Italians I’ve amused and entertained over the years. Our best friend in Italy (now deceased) was older and hard of hearing, so I used to have to shout to her in my pigeon Italian in the little piazza in her town while she cooed, “Bravo Matteo, bravo!” and the other Italians thought , “Who is this moron and why is he shouting?”

  7. Monika Caban

    My Italian language is very basic, but when in Italy, I address everybody in Italian. Italians are always very appreciative of my effort and I love them for it.
    Nancy, I am sure your Italian is 100 x better that mine, so just use it. Do not wait for the day when you speak Italian perfectly, you might miss on many opportunities to show your Italian friends your love for Italy.

  8. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Thanks Margaret! Kids are amazing, boom, they are fluent! The young woman I met with today was eight when she came to live in Italy with her parents. She knew no Italian and was put in Italian primary school. Eight is right at the end of the time languages come easily, but she was fluent quite quickly. She had been in Edinburgh Scotland for the past few years and said she lost a lot of her Italian almost immediately. It has come back since she’s been here for eight months or so. But if you don’t use it you do lose it! I will keep, trying… I think you could pick it up again if you practice.

  9. Steve Stamps

    100% in agreement. Roselyne is French & she already speaks Italian well. But in preparation for our move, she is seriously studying Italian along with written exercises, tests & reading books in Italian.
    I already speak Spanish & there are similarities so Italian is easier for me, but still a challenge. I feel the need to communicate AND really don’t like not knowing what is going on around me.
    Good post.

  10. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Absolutely Jane, it is a challenge for anyone once they’ve passed that point where our brains as children are sponges for languages. It is good for our brains to try in older age. So it can never hurt to try. Brava for keeping at it. We will both improve I am sure!

  11. Margaret Rosen McGarrell

    Good blog post Nancy! I have to mention, you are definitely not stupid!! My parents put me and my 2 sisters in Italian schools when we were children in Rome. We were fairly fluent in no time. As teenagers we returned and went to a British school. Italian classes showed me how I suffered with grammar! Years later ( like now) I have lost confidence and speak poorly anymore. I should probably spend this pandemic time trying to study the language 😕. It’s frustrating not to be able to converse anymore. Brava to you !

  12. Jane Applegate

    Hi Nancy, I have you beat. I’ve been trying to learn Italian since 2006 – just off and on in the beginning, but steadily now, for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, my short term memory is not what it once was. And since I started, I’ve lost much of my hearing and now wear hearing aids. But still I persist. Weekly Zoom with my Perugian teacher. Daily online practice and reading. When this is all over, I hope to be able to look back and say, “Well, at least my Italian improved. 💚

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