closing the week with great Italian film

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

One great way of learning language is to watch movies and listen to music in that language. I think it helps you understand not just what to say but how to say it.

I was surprised after only getting to the first level of four with RosettaStone that I could understand some of what I learned in the movies I watched.

Not only was it helpful to reinforce a bit of what I learned, but Italian film is just beautiful. It’s probably why Martin Scorcese  has gone to so much trouble to preserve some of the great films and get them out so people can see them. I was pretty impressed with how many you can find through Netflix. Another reason why I love Apple TV over cable.

The first film I saw was La Strada, a neorealist film by Federico Fellini which was also the first film to ever win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It was one of the films to put Fellini on the map. He has since influenced just about every major director out there. When asked what his top 10 favorite films were, Stanley Kubrick cited Il Vitelloni as number 1. La Strada is like entering into another world or a dream that is still filled with relatable human emotion. It draws you in with the characters despite their difficult interactions.

The next film I checked out was Ladri di bicicleta (The Bicycle Thieves), a film by esteemed Italian director Vittorio de Sica. This film received the Academy Honorary Award, given to achievements that did not fit a category (foreign film category had not been added yet). This award has also been given to Walt Disney for the creation of Mickey Mouse, Gene Kelly for his versatility as an actor & director & choreography, and Robert Redford for his creation of Sundance.

The film gives great insight into post-WWII in Rome, showing the frustration with finding work and getting by. It is again another beautiful film that draws you in with the characters and their plight.

I spent a lot of time talking about bicycles with RosettaStone, so I was definitely picking up on a lot of the vocabulary in this film. It was also fun to notice the gestures I had learned about earlier in the week.

There are other films I want to check out before heading over to Italy on vacation, Cinema Paradiso being one. I plan to continue practicing a bit each day between now and when we leave in May.

I wish I could have written this whole post in Italian, but I’ll have to work up to that. I’m definitely hooked on the language and excited to learn more!

from sommelier to Italian tutor

April 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Learning Italian from RosettaStone and textbooks helps get the grammar down, but I found with Spanish that it can make you sound pretty formal in how you’re speaking to people. That’s good in some cases, but in cultures like Italy, it can also make you seem pretty stuffy & formal.

Enter Grant, my new friend from sommelier-ing week, who also happens to speak fluent Italian. He’s becoming sort of a blog mentor at this point. Not bad for a 22 year old to already have such rich life experience!

Grant offered to help me out with some of the more conversational stuff, so I met up with him and practiced with some questions I had prepared. He also helped me learn how to phrase those correctly.

Come ti chiami? (what’s your name) sono Grant. I’m Grant

Di dove sei? (where are you from?) Sono di Nuevo York ma non la citta. I’m from NY but not the city

Quanti anni hai? (how old are you?) venti due anni. 22 years old.

Che fai? (what do you do?) Sono un studante di molti cose. I’m studying many things.

Here he also taught me a phrase I’ll likely hear in Italy a lot. Che cosa fai qui? (what brings you here). I said I wanted a witty reply other than “I’m here on vacation”, so he taught me: per provare L’Italiana (to try out living like an Italian) and mi piace mangiare e bere spesso e bene (I’d like to eat and drink often and well).

Aside from school & his family I also asked him Che voi fare con la vita? (what do you want to do with your life?) He started with an answer about enjoying art & wine as well as having a family but then went on to share an Italian phrase: crescere fino che mi giro la testa. (I want to grow until I lose my mind). I’d say that’s a great goal.

Trying to have a conversation in Italian made me realize how much Spanish I’ve actually learned to speak. It was really hard to recall what I’ve learned this week since it is so basic. I think I may still be a bit far from having a conversation, but I was happy that I could understand a good bit.

Hopefully between now and May I can learn even more to be able to talk with the Italianos.

learning to speak with my hands

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Gli Italiani parlono con le mani. Italians speak with their hands. When I was looking for Italian language resources, I kept coming across the book Speak Italian by Italian artist, Bruno Munari. It’s a compilation of a series photographs depicting Italian gestures along with the explanation of what they mean.

I also came across an English-speaking Italian newspaper article talking about Italian gestures: “In this country, speaking without gestures is like writing without punctuation. Hands are commas, exclamation points, and question marks. Words are stale without them.”

The author goes on to capture an exchange with a native speaker: “Are you capable of talking without your hands?” I teased. She put her floury palms on her hips, and answered me, peppery as usual. “Why would I want to? To be like English speakers and lack conviction? They speak from their mouths only. Italians don’t just talk with our hands, we talk with our whole bodies. We step into speech.”

It’s hard to have a lot of conviction when you’re first learning how to speak a language. You say a lot of really bizarre, idiotic things. I remember in Argentina I was asking someone in a store to show me a pair of sandals and used the word for watermelon instead since they sound similar. You just have to laugh at yourself when you’re learning a language.

I suppose in Italian it doesn’t matter so much what you’re saying but how you’re saying it. If you’re going to bother to say something then say it with conviction!

And your hands.

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