What Did They Just Say?

Posted on 25. Sep, 2014 by in Vocabulary

It always seems a bit ironic to me that students of Italian put so much effort into learning their grammar, with all its convoluted rules and exceptions, only to be confronted with what appears to be a totally different language when they finally set foot in Italy.
In fact, there is a vast difference between text book Italian and colloquial Italian. Personally I’ve never been much of a grammar book person, and I don’t have much patience for studying verb conjugations and so on, so most of my Italian has been learnt ‘per la strada’. Of course, I have the benefit of Serena’s vast knowledge of ‘correct’ Italian to keep me on line! Naturally, if you don’t live in Italy it’s a lot harder to pick up every day colloquial Italian and attempt to blend in a bit. So to help you out, here’s just a small collection of some of the many colloquial expressions that you’ll hear used a lot in Italy, but probably won’t find in your textbooks:

You’re welcome!
Everyone learns that prego is the typical reply to grazie, don’t they? But in reality it’s only one of the many replies that you’ll hear. Here are a few expressions that all roughly translate as ‘think nothing of it’ or ‘you’re welcome’:

figurati / figuriamoci
ma capirai
non c’è di che
ci mancherebbe (altro)
e di cosa?

Photo (CC) by angela n.

E allora?
Here is a word that you’ll hear all the time. Allora changes its meaning depending on the context and tone of voice:

Allora, cominciamo a mangiare? = Well then, shall we start eating? 
E allora? come va? = so? how is it going?
Allora??? (strong, inquisitorial tone of voice) = So? What’s going on?
Allora!!! (strong, commanding tone of voice) = Stop messing about! / Shut up!
N.B. Allora comes from the Latin ad illam horam (literally: at that time), and we frequently use it with that meaning, e.g.: allora non c’era ancora la televisione (at that time there still wasn’t any television)

I’m cooked!
If you’re feeling very tired, especially mentally tired, here’s a small collection of colourful expressions you might want to try:

sono cotto/a = I’m done (literally: I’m cooked)
sono rimbambito/a = to become like a baby again (literally: I’m re-babyfied).
sono rincoglionito/a = to loose one’s marbles, from coglioni = testicles
sono  rincretinito/a = to become a cretin with tiredness (literally: re-cretinfied)

Odds & Ends
sta a sentire or senti un po’ = listen a moment
stamattina (or stamane), sto pomeriggio, stasera, stanotte= this morning, this afternoon, this evening, tonight (sta and sto are short for questa/o = this)
buondì = gooday N.B. - is from the Latin dies = day, e.g. lune = Monday (literally: the day of the moon)
ma pensa un po’! / ma tu pensa! = I’d never have thought it!, can you believe it? (literally: but just think about it for a moment!) e.g.: cosa? Mario si è fidanzato con Laura? ma pensa un po’! (what? Mario has got engaged to Laura? can you believe it?
stammi bene (singular), statemi bene (plural) = take care (literally: stay me well)

Allora, cari lettori, statemi bene.

Speak Italian Like a Boss!

Posted on 24. Sep, 2014 by in Italian Language

No, this isn’t another one of those silly blogs promising you that you’ll be speaking Italian fluently in two weeks. It’s simply a few tips, based on personal experience, that may help you to communicate more effectively when you’re in Italy.

Let’s look at three important aspects of confidence building:


1. Attitude

Have you ever been in a foreign country where you speak little or none of the native language? Perhaps you go into a little café for a snack and the waitress, realizing that you speak English, begins to speak to you in your mother tongue. Perhaps her English is very basic, let’s say at the level of a four year old.

Do you:
A. laugh at her?
B. think to yourself: “Wow, that’s awful”?
C. feel surprised and pleased that someone is making an effort to communicate with you in your mother tongue?

My guess, based on personal experience, is that the answer is C.
Now switch roles. This time it’s you who hesitatingly makes an effort to communicate with a foreigner in their mother tongue. What is their reaction? Once again, based on experience, I’d say that the answer is C.
The moral of this tale? No one but yourself is judging you. Take a deep breath, relax, and go for it. Use the magic key of language to open new doors, and make new friends.


2. Body Language

Yes, Italians are famous for it. It’s an essential part of communication here in Italy. One of the things that a lot of Italians tell me they find confusing when talking to foreigners, especially Northern Europeans and North Americans, is their lack of body language. So, once again, take a deep breath, relax, overcome your culture inhibitions, and use your body and face to express what you want to say. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to try and copy Italian gestures until you understand what they mean … that could cause you some embarrassment! Check our blogs about Italian gestures to find out more:  Gesture of the Day Part 1Gesture of the Day Part 2Gesture of the Day Part 3

3. Make the most of the Internet

If you don’t have the opportunity to spend much time in Italy then use the Net. YouTube is my favourite online resource. I watch videos in both English and Italian, and I suggest that you begin to watch as many Italian videos as you can. Choose a topic that interests you, something that makes you want to find out more, and to really understand what people are saying. Study Italians as they speak, look out for those gestures, listen for strange expressions, unexpected grammatical variations, and replay the video as often as you need.
And remember: Serena and myself are here for you. Drop us a line, feel free to ask us about what is being said, a word that you can’t identify, or perhaps a phrase, for example: “what is Georgia (the famous Italian singer) saying at 01:20 (1 minutes and 20 seconds)in THIS video?” Answer “abbiamo deciso che non potevamo lasciarvi in pace quest’anno …. (we decided that we couldn’t leave you in peace this year…).


… and finally, let me leave you with a funny video: Inglesi Vanno in Italia, with Italian subtitles. Divertitevi!

Lucky Number Seven – Part 2: Mittens for Kittens

Posted on 23. Sep, 2014 by in Italian Language

“Ahia che male!” Ho le mani tutte rovinate, specialmente la sinistra, perché quando è l’ora della pappa il micino ci si aggrappa disperatamente con le sue unghiette affilatissime e comincia a far la pasta con le zampine anteriori. “Dar da mangiare a questo gattino sta diventando sempre più doloroso, qui bisogna trovare una soluzione. Ecco! I miei guanti di lana senza dita dovrebbero funzionare, proviamoli un po’ … perfetti!” Ora ci si può aggrappare benissimo senza rovinarmi le mani.

“Ouch, that hurts!” my hands are completely destroyed, especially the left one, because when it’s feeding time the kitten desperately clings on to them with its extremely sharp little claws, and starts kneading with its front paws. Feeding this kitten is becoming more and more painful, we need to find a solution. Aha! my fingerless woollen gloves should work, let’s give them a quick try … perfect!” Now it can cling on to them without destroying my hands.

Ora ci si può aggrappare benissimo senza rovinarmi le mani. In basso a destra: gli artigli aguzzi di Amber!

Amber è proprio contenta della nuova soluzione, e ovviamente lo sono anch’io. Ebbene sì, il micino in realtà è una micina, il veterinario ha confermato i nostri sospetti, e così l’abbiamo chiamata Amber, o Ambra in italiano. Amber adesso ha circa quattro settimane e ogni giorno impara qualcosa di nuovo.

Amber is really happy with this solution, and obviously so am I. And yes, the kitten is actually a female, the vet confirmed our suspicions, and so we named her Amber, or Ambra in Italian. Amber is now around four weeks olds, and she learns something new every day.

Amber in her ‘little car’, one of my old slippers.

Ora per esempio sta diventando sempre più esperta a pulirsi: studia con attenzione la nostra supermamma gatta Jenny, che è una vera maestra nell’arte della pulizia, e poi la copia. Adesso riesce a sollevare la zampina posteriore e a grattarsi dietro all’orecchio senza perdere l’equilibrio immediatamente.

At the moment, for example, she is getting more and more proficient at cleaning herself: she carefully studies Jenny our ‘supermother’ cat, who is a real master in the art of cleaning, and copies her. Now she manages to lift her back leg and scratch behind her ear without immediately losing her balance.

Mimì, la gatta regina della casa, è invece il suo modello per il mangiare: Amber si nasconde sotto lo scaffale accanto alla ciotola di Mimì e la osserva mangiare i croccantini. Però ancora non ha capito bene come funziona, e quando ci prova lei, finisce col sedersi dentro alla ciotola e comincia a mordicchiarne i bordi coi suoi nuovi dentini. Ma sono sicura che fra qualche giorno comincerà a mangiare da sola e potremo iniziare lo svezzamento.

Mimì on the other hand, who is the queen cat of the house, is her role model for eating: Amber hides beneath the shelf next to Mimì’s bowl, and observes her eating her biscuits. But she still hasn’t understood exactly how it works, and when she tries it for herself, she ends up sitting inside the bowl and starts chewing the rim with her new teeth. But I’m sure that in a few days she’ll start eating by herself, and we’ll be able to start weaning her … okay Amber, I can hear that you’re hungry, just let me put my gloves on again!

È stata una mattinata molto interessante e stancante … sono proprio cotta!

Do any of you have tips or recipes for feeding kittens?