Italian Without Words [Video]

Hands talking

So you want to learn Italian? Readily you answer, “Sure! I love all things Italian, and foreign languages!” Or perhaps you think, “Why should I?” Yes, just why would you want to learn Italian?

  • Because any foreign language is useful. And once you’ve learned one, learning others usually becomes easier.
  • And because they speak Italian in Switzerland, the Vatican, and San Marino too. {OK, so the last two are technically within Italy, but still!}
  • Plus you’ll find plenty of Italian-speakers in Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, and France.

But did you know that it’s also the 2nd most-spoken language in Argentina? And that it’s spoken some in Eritrea and Libya, both ex-Italian colonies? So with Italian you’re ready to tour the world—or at least some of it! And happily, Italian, like other Latin languages, is among the easiest to learn!

“Great, I can’t wait to get started!”

But Super Mario (that’s what my husband’s preschool English students call him), would warn you that learning a foreign language takes work. Too bad he can’t convince his older students of this. Little children just soak English up like sponges. And most adults and teens seem to think they can too. Ten lessons, with no study on their part, and they’re ready to tour the world. Speaking English like a native.

Sorry! But it’s not that easy. Language learning is a discipline.

But at least you already most likely know many Italian words! Foods like spaghetti, pizza, espresso, and cappuccino most quickly spring to mind. And others that we sometimes forget are Italian like: zucchini, broccoli, or caffé. Then music lovers the world round know of opera, piano, a cappella, and maestro. Or the typical Bravo, bravo! for a job well done.

So you see, you already speak some Italian! Bravo!

But if you’re trying to learn to learn the language, or even thinking about it, a couple of facts will encourage you.

  1. You read Italian as it’s written. Letters nearly always make the same sound.
  2. Even vowels, which in English are so tricky and changeable, stay the same!

“A” always exclaims ah! “E” asks eh? “I” screeches eee! “O” says oh! And “U” refers to you.

You will find a few exceptions. But if you remember “ah, eh, eee, oh, and you”, you’ll be able to say most words correctly! So once you’ve learned the 21 letter alphabet and some basic rules, you should manage a few simple phrases.

However, use familiar words carefully! They may not mean what you think!

Vorrei una pizza ai pepperoni.

You might think someone is ordering a pepperoni pizza. But it really means… “I’d like a pizza with green peppers on it. (If you’d like American-style pepperoni, ask for salsiccia piccante, or better yet, salame piccante!)

Vorrei una banana.

Now you’ll be thinking that someone wants a banana. This time it means just what you probably thought it did. I’d like a banana. (With banana only the pronunciation changes!)

Words can sound so similar. But have very different meanings! You might be tempted to do like a relative of ours did, and call a car a carro. But don’t! People will either think it’s highly strange that you’re driving an army tank, or that you’ve lost your mind, or both!

Words like these are what linguists call False Friends.

They seem so friendly and useful. But they create a lot of confusion, just like false friends in people.

But don’t worry. It’s really not that hard to make yourself understood. If words fail you… you could just learn Italian without words, from the above video!

And now, what do you think the people in these photos are saying?

Italian without words: the language of gestures that all Italians are so fluent in, and graceful at!

[Both images by Sheila via DailyEspresso (rollover with mouse to find “Image title”;
Video imbedded via NadasItaly/YouTube.]

4 thoughts on “Italian Without Words [Video]

  1. My father is French Canadian and although my mother is from England, she is a very expressive speaker. So between the two of them I have inherited a very physical way of speaking. My first husband used to say that if my hands were tied down, I wouldn’t be able to talk! Not sure if I should LOL at that or not! 🙂

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    1. I understand Shari! Because I doubt Italians would be able to talk!! And you ought to see them driving. One hand is used for gestures. The other is, hopefully on the wheel!! (Cell phones in the car especially not good for Italians!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a story to match your comment about Italians and their hands when driving: My first hubby had to take defensive driving lessons before he was allowed to drive the company vehicles. My hubby had to work hard at keeping a straight face when the instructor told him that he always kept one eye on the rear-view mirror – you see, the instructor had one glass eye! LOL

    Like

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