All about Learning Italian – La Dolce Vita Calls


If you’re considering learning Italian, then you are in for a treat. Italian is a joy to learn and especially to pronounce. It is full of words and phrases that are already familiar to us and there’s something both musical and comical about the sound of Italian to our cold British ears that makes our hearts melt….

Indeed, the country holds a romantic appeal for all Northern Europeans, associated as it is with high culture, deep history and elegant sexiness. The holiday destination of millions every year, Italy is where we go for stylish relaxation and a taste of the good life! – La Dolce Vita.

Is it easy to learn Italian?

Italian is not considered especially difficult for English speakers to learn. The sound of the language comes naturally to an English mouth. There are none of the indistinct umlauts of Germanic languages or phlegmy consonants of Iberia. Italian is clear and lyrical – a pleasure for the learner.

What’s more, the language is phonetic. In other words, the sounds of the language are represented consistently by written Italian. Once you know how a group of letters sounds, you will know how to read that word aloud. (English being an example of a language that is not phonetic).

Best of all, few languages are as full of words that we already know the meaning of: Solo, balcone, giardino, cinema – all ‘real’ friends; and anyone who has studied classical music will be familiar with a long list of Italian words that are used internationally to describe tone, mood and more: presto, allegro, andante, opera, piano, prima donna, and mezzosoprano

“Italian sounds like a music! It’s the language of poetry, romance, and love. Pronunciation is elegant and melodic. It varies significantly depending on the native region and the accent of the speaker. For example, the vowels “e” and “o” are pronounced differently in the north and the south of Italy, the letter “c” is almost voiceless in Tuscany and the double consonants sound more like a single consonant in Rome.” – Davide. One of the Rosetta Stone online tutors.

What is hard about learning Italian?

Well if you’re unfamiliar with Romance languages it’s the grammar and especially declinations that befuddle most beginners. Learning a raft of personal pronouns and verb endings that change depending on who’s doing what to whom….. we’re just not  conversant with this world when we’ve grown up speaking English. In fact, Italian grammar is relatively complex, even compared to other Romance languages. To give one tiny example, here is a list of all the different words for ‘You’ in Italian: tu, vi, ti, te, lei, la, le, ve, loro.

What is special about the Italian Language?

Italian is notoriously pleasant to the ear. Stereotypically we think of Italians as inflecting upwards at the end of every statement and using a lot of ‘o’s and ‘e’s at the end of words; and in so doing, creating a sonorous rhythm to their speech. The sound of Italian is so pleasant that it has even been suggested that it can work to calm babies down when they are upset. This at least was the experience of a couple of American Rosetta Stone mums.

The History of Italian

Italian is a Romance language spoken in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, Malta and Eritrea, as well as in several large expat communities, most notably in the USA. Estimates of the total number of speakers vary from around 60 to 90 million worldwide.

The language comes most directly from a regional dialect of Tuscany and before that was a branch of the Vulgar Latin (Vulgar means common). There are still many regional dialects, some far removed from modern Italian, that are still spoken in other parts of the country.

With its Latin base, Italian shares similarities of grammar and vocabulary with many European languages, but is closest to the other direct descendants of Latin (so-called Romance languages) such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

How will Rosetta Stone Teach me Italian?

When you learn Italian with Rosetta Stone, you will be introduced to the sights and sounds of Italian speech and culture, right from the very first lesson. Unit 1 introduces you to the languages with simple greetings and the basics for naming the people and things around you. Even during these early stages you are not given any translations, instead you are prompted to work out meanings for yourself. The app will show you pictures and ask you to match them to choose the word or phrase that describes them. Through trial and error you will get to the right answer.

As your vocabulary increases, bits and pieces of the language come together and help you to make more discoveries. Rosetta Stone guides you through this discovery process, using the vocabulary you have learnt and building it into phrases, sentences and then conversations.

Where are the best places to visit in Italy to practise the language?

Many Italians do not speak much English – Which is good news! If you visit the country, you should have plenty of chances to practise what you have learnt without being answered back in English all the time. It also means that your language skills will be especially necessary: you need some basics of the language to get around.

As with all language vacations, it’s worth doing some research as to which places are best for getting into conversation with local people. Italians are pretty friendly as a general rule, and they do like to talk, so it’s a relatively easy country to get talking in. Take the lead from this Rosetta Stone learner who enjoyed her time on the Amalfi Coast that-much more as she navigated the local restaurants using the language she had learnt at home:

“One of the first times in which learning even a bit of the language proved incredibly helpful was when I asked for restaurant recommendations. After just one day on the Amalfi Coast, my wife discovered she loves spaghetti with clams. Thanks to Rosetta Stone, I was able to ask waiters, in Italian, whether or not the restaurant served spaghetti con le vongole. And I was also able to ask locals—many of whom spoke no English—for their recommendations as to which restaurants prepared the best version of it.”

About the Author Simon Goodall

Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine

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