More of My Top 10 Secrets for Learning Italian
My Top Ten Secrets for Learning Italian
English may be the language everyone needs to know, but Italian is the language people want to learn. With only an estimated 60 to 62 million native speakers (compared to a whopping 1.8 billion who claim at least a little English), Italian barely eclipses Urdu, Pakistan’s official language, for nineteenth place as a spoken tongue. Yet Italian ranks fourth among the world’s most studied languages — after English, Spanish, and French.
If you are one of the ever-growing number of students of Italian, here are more of the strategies that helped me learn and love la bella lingua:
6. Play. Word games in any language strengthen the brain and boost memory. In Italian giochi di parole, such as cruciverba (crosswords), enigmi (puzzles), and anagrammi (anagrams) add the extra bonus of building your vocabulary. You can buy inexpensive puzzle books at newsstands in Italy or play online. Another fun option is playing the Italian versions of popular board games, such as Monopoly and Scarabeo (Scrabble), with friends or fellow students. Or you can ask an Italian to teach you card games such as Scopa and Briscola. (Just don’t bet any money on them.)
7. Mingle. Join a bocce team or a Vespa club. Watch a soccer match in an Italian bar or restaurant. Take cooking classes taught by Italians. Go to Italian street festivals. For informal opportunities to speak Italian, look for a local conversation group at www.meetup.com. Enroll in a class at schools, community centers, Italian cultural organizations — or, best of all, in Italy.
8. Don’t be afraid of tripping over your tongue. “Sbagliando si impara,” Italians say. “You learn by making mistakes.” Focus on communicating, not speaking in diagram-able sentences. If you can’t think of the correct tense, just say the infinitive of a verb — parlare for “speak”, for example — or stick to the present tense. And by all means, use your hands. That’s molto italiano.
9. Spend time in Italy every day. If you can make the trip, bring a little Italy into your life. Drink a cappucino. Eat some pasta. Have a gelato. Listen to a Puccini aria. Wear something Italian (shoes are a great choice). Visit the websites of ex-pats, happy wanderers, and travel bloggers.
10. Be swept away. I fell so madly, gladly, giddily in love with Italian that I spent years researching and writing La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language and created a three-times-a-week blog on useful (and often amusing) Italian expressions and words. The more you know about how Italian became Italian, civilized the Western world, and enriched every aspect of our culture and life, the more Italian you’ll want to know.
Words and Expressions:
Five more phrases you can’t live without:
Come va? — How are you?
Dov’è…? — Where is…?
Sì/ No — Yes. / No
Non capisco – I don’t understand.
Ripeta, per favore. — Repeat, please.
You can hear these phrases on the Living Language blog.
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