Hey, I’m Brigitte. I am called Brigitte. Benvenuto. Buongiorno.
As a continuing quest for me to do something new for myself every week — an adventure — from tiny to big and bold, this week I took my first Italian class. I’ll be doing this once a week for the next five weeks. I’m sure I’ll be fluent by the end of it.
It’s not easy, learning a new language. I am in awe of those who come to our great, beautiful country (USA) and learn our language. Our language, full of slang, words that sound the same and are spelled differently, the way some of us drop r’s, insert another syllable into a one-syllable word. The way we get lazy with our language, slur our words together or just butcher it. We’re all guilty of it.
I am in awe of those who speak more than one language. Words, gestures, accents all mean something when we are communicating, speaking to each other. Italian is such a gorgeous and romantic language. It just sounds sexy, don’t you think? When you speak it, you can’t help but feel it.
I watched the instructor as she spoke Italian and once we kind of learned how to introduce ourselves in Italian, she would answer back. Her eyes would widen, her smile big and bright. Her face would light up, she’d extend a hand or slightly bow as she addressed us. She’d move around the room and gesture with her hands. Her whole body was in it. Bella!
She obviously loves sharing her love of this language. She lived in Italy for over twenty years and raised two sons there. She has a slight Long Island accent but her Italian, perfecto — from rolling her r’s to stressing a syllable or word, as she says Hard! It’s not only fun learning but a treat watching her watch us absorb it.
From what I understand the way in which you accent/stress a syllable of a word can make the difference in someone understanding what you saying or not. It’s week one and I’m still trying to get the phonetics down. We pronounced the Italian alphabet (there’s 21 letters in it and it uses five additional letters in words of foreign origin).
Their a is an ah, e is an a, i is an e, o an o and u, an ooh. And they are spoken sharply and clearly. Sound it out to see what I mean. That’s why they seem so passionate about everything — Italians speak with all their facial muscles and with much gusto — spelled exactly the same in Italian but said like GOO-STO! with your hand raising up and your mouth pursed out.
Fato — Fatto
I know this isn’t much of a post and those of you who are bilingual, especially those who speak Italian can probably point out many mistakes here. But I’m learning and it’s fun and who knows? Maybe by the time I visit a few of the twenty regions that make up Italy (each of them having a capital — are you impressed with my knowledge?), I can at least order some food or ask where the bathroom is.
Or where the Chianti is which is pronounced/spelled exactly the same as it is here in the United States. Only they say it with a smile and much aplomb before they even drink any.
Oh yeah, and I can roll the hell out of my R’s.
Try some Pavarotti.
(I’d recommend during a summer thunderstorm cooking something Italian whilst sipping an Italian wine. Not to be too specific or anything.)
Do you know/speak another language? Can you translate the subtitles above? Do like spaghetti? What’s your favorite romantic language and why?
I’m from quite an anglicised part of Wales originally, and even though I currently live in west Wales where the Welsh language is spoken more frequently I still can’t say I have much of a proficiency in the Welsh language. My friend from Spain has learned Welsh (through her second language – English, I might add) and she can hold a conversation with first language Welsh speakers. That’s more than I can do! How impressive is that?!
Hannah, isn’t it cool to hear and try to figure it out though? Your friend then knows Spanish, English and Welsh — yes that is very impressive!!
I have to disagree with you, Brigitte, when you say, “I know this isn’t much of a post.” I’m really enjoying your weekly adventures and am reminded in my own life how important it is to explore, to try new things and to learn. (And now I’m thinking, “Hmmm…it would be kind of cool to learn Italian…”)
Hi Sally, well thank you. I’m so glad you are and I would love to read more about some of yours. yes, do it — take Italian or some other language. Do it!! 😀
I know. My kids all speak French, but I am hopelessly unilingual – if there’s such a word.
Brava! Brava! Bellissima. 🙂
I was born in USA of Italian parents. Sadly I never learned to speak the language fluently, but as kids we knew when we were in trouble. I respond to commands and of course when being yelled at. Ha-ha!
On a side note: One thing I find amusing is when I dine out in an Italian restaurant (which isn’t often these days because I have been a vegan for 2 years) and the servers will pronounce Bruschetta as Brew-shet-tah and that is not correct. It is pronounced: Brew-sket-tah. The ch is pronounced hard not soft. Way back, before converting to veganism, I was dining in an Italian restaurant with my husband. I told my server we would like an order of Brew-sket-tah and he laughed and said, “Oh, you mean ‘Broo-shet-tah?” and I said, “Yes.” I didn’t bother correcting him on the pronunciation because sometimes it’s just not worth it.
Susan, prego, prego! (is that right?). Well at least you could figure out that you were in trouble. You know, I’ve heard those that speak Italian correctly pronounce it the way you’ve explained here. I don’t blame you — why try to explain? YOU knew. Pronunciation is everything! Thank you for stopping by and giving me your Italian viewpoint — it’s greatly appreciated. Grazie!
Yes prego is correct. 🙂
I love listening to Italian. You have now motivated me to sign up for lessons.
My father’s family originates from Mecina, Sicily. My mom’s family originates from Ancona, Marche and Acquaro, Calabria. I have never been to any of these places but it is on my bucket list. 😉
Good for you! I took 4 years of German in high school and promptly forgot most of it. Except window (fenster). I don’t know why that word stuck. Then, more recently, I took 3 years of Spanish at our local college. This taught me a GREAT respect for all bilingual people, who I’m convinced are the smartest people ever! And also my Spanish learning experience taught me I’m too old to learn anything new. My brain is dead, and I still don’t know Spanish.
Hi Katie, well now I know how to say window in German — thank you! 😉 Wow, three years of Spanish. I know I have a huge respect for those who can learn/speak different languages. I’m trying very hard to soak up as much as I can. What’s so difficult is that some words are feminine and some masculine. And I disagree — you’re never too old to learn something new. Thank you!!
I’ve taken italian classes, and you’re right – you can’t help but feel it and wave your hands. Its musicality is the reason it works so well in opera, just asking for a kilo of brussels sprouts or directions to the carpark sounds like poetry!
RG, you are so right. Any and everything they say sounds poetic. And exciting. And beautiful. I do think it also has to do with the way in which they just get all worked up when they speak it. In a good way. Thank you — nice to see you!
So true! It’s like music. I believe the author of Eat, Pray, Love said that every word is like a “truffle”.
Uh, yum. And I liked that book more than the movie.
Me too. I read the book after I saw the movie and the movie does not do that book justice (which I suppose is typical).
you can taste the words as you say them, and you can’t help but smile at the same time.
Plus the italians LOVE that you have learned a bit of their language 🙂
My Italian parents would agree. 🙂
Fun post, Brigitte! I speak Spanish and while I’m not perfectly fluent, I would say I’m functional. I can carry on a conversation on just about any topic and Peter and I have traveled to remote places in Spain and Mexico and gotten along just fine. I also speak some Italian and a little French, and I understand more than I speak in those languages. Even if I don’t speak fluently, it’s important to learn what I call the “amenties.” Good morning, Good afternoon, Good night, Please, thank you, excuse me, Sir, Madame. In Europe, just knowing those phrases goes a long way towards meeting and getting along well with the people there. Sounds like you’re exploring a new language, Brigitte. Have fun!
Cathy, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you know another language. That’s so nice and invaluable. I think if you can get the phonetics down and a pretty good understanding you can understand other languages — sort of. And yes, I want to get all the vital stuff — really learn them before I go traveling around. That’s my intention and goal so we will see. Thank you and fun is what it’s all about.
I’m delighted to have found you. Loved this post. It inspired me, made me smile and will definitely have me coming back! Thanks.
Hey Jean! Well thank you and welcome back. I have to visit you. Although a Ph.D intimidates me a little bit, I think your blog is just lovely. 😉
Wow how brilliant, sounds like your already having great fun, look forward to reading more about it over the coming weeks 🙂 x
Ciao Manty! So far so good and thank you. If I can figure it all out it will be really fun. 😉
Love this! I too am envious of those who are bilingual I took four years of French, but didn’t retain much. You are such an adventurer! Ciao Bella!
I’d love to learn French too Susie. You a big adventurer yourself Susie — you and your wild rides! Ciao Bella!
It’s true, this slang twanger loves Italian language, people, food, capital cities (old and new) countryside and coast! Brigitte, it is wonderful that you are doing this for yourself! The words we used most were grazie, prego, & ciao, but I found myself making the eh sound at the end of phrases in English. Too funny that I picked up on that from each of our guides, it was so natural to emulate their beautifully spoken English that I didn’t realize I was doing it until, of course, my husband pointed it out.
This post is MOHL-toh BEH-neh’. Ciao Bella~~
Oh I know you do Honie and you’ve got the pics to prove it. I just love the Ciao thing — an informal greeting or goodbye. And thank you for your lovely comment. Grazie — ciao Bella!
Favorite romance language? Scottish, because it sounds so much like English, but… Seriously, I’ll go with French because I remember my first teacher grabbing my jaw and making an oval of her own lips and exclaiming, “Ou! Ou! Ou! Like a monkey, ou!” It’s a lesson that’s stayed with me the rest of my life, and while I no longer understand French like I did, my pronunciation is au fait 😉 Good luck in class, it sounds like a blast!
Hi Vickie, French is one of my favorites as well and I was torn between the two. But I can try French the next time after I’ve mastered this one! (yeah, right I’m sure I’ll master it in six weeks). And welcome, Vickie — I love your blog. I see that Brigitte Bardot is on it. I was named after her. Thanks!!
Brava! I work with a woman from Italy and I love her accent when she’s speaking English, the R rolling is outstanding! And when she is talking to her mother on the phone? fuhgeddaboutit!
I speak French, kinda sorta. When I went to school in France I got so that I could understand Italian but not speak it. Romance languages are much easier once you know one of them 🙂
Mags, I knew that you spoke French and that you went to school there — oh the stories you must have. Why don’t you write about that sometime? I would LOVE to hear about it. How wonderful you got to not only speak it but live it. Thanks!
Great idea! I do have some stories there is no question. I’m going to do that. Grazie!
And I bet pics too. Priceless.
Yep, Maggie in the her 80s Euro garb and a perm.
Now I’d like to see that. I love 80’s garb and those perms. Do I hear crimping anyone?
I majored in French years ago, and although I never use it anymore, I could get by in the country if lost for a day. But I would love to learn Spanish. So practical in the US. I keep telling myself I will. Maybe some day. Good luck with the Italian!
I’d like to learn French as well, Carrie but since we so want to go to Italy, we thought we’d start with that and you’re right — it would be very advantageous to speak fluent Spanish. If I can grasp any of this, maybe I can do the same with Spanish. Thank you.
Cool adventure. Italian is so beautiful too! Have lots of fun.
Hi Char, thank you — I going to try and make it as fun as possible and try not to get frustrated when it doesn’t always sink in. 🙂
Come see me for some voice lessons when you want to try singing in Italian. 🙂 Pavarotti would be proud!
Wow, now if I could sing in Italian, I’d be trying out on Broadway. Or off- Broadway. Or wayyyyy off Broadway. Thanks!
The chianti tastes even better when being served with your favourite Italian dish – in Italy of course just back a week after a brief visit.
Slan = good bye in the Irish language.
I bet it does, CJ. Oh my, you just got back from Italy? How wonderful. And thanks for the Irish lingo, my friend. :).
Na thabair e = don’t mention it.
what a lovely language to learn – I know a little French (like I can say my last name and the dictee words for my kids when they were in French immersion and they laughed at me)
I’ll bet you do know some French, Lou Ann since that language is spoken in Canada, right? I’d love to know French too. That’s very cool you talked to you kids in French. How avant garde, mon ami. I have no idea what I just said but it sounded good.
Seriously not that many Canadians outside of Quebec speak French — there are areas — so even though we have two official languages, there are not that many of us conversant in both — that is why I put my kids in French immersion–I wanted them to have the advantage of the two languages
I studied French in high school and college and could probably get by again with a bit of practice. Then there’s a bit of Spanish and even less of Serbian. Have fun with the Italian! I’ve always thought that reading it is close enough to French that I can get the gist of the text. But understanding the spoken language is another story!
Sounds as if you could at least know enough to get around JM. I think it’s going to be enough tougher than I thought. 😉
Ciao, amica mia! I am so behind on reading your posts (and everyone else’s posts too, actually). But it’s so exciting to hear that you’re learning Italian. Italiano è una lingua molto bella, si? The pronunciation can be tricky because it’s so nuanced—the soft “t” sound vs the slightly harder “tt” sound, things like that. I grew up hearing Italian because of my mother’s family (unfortunately I don’t speak it very well), but to this day I cannot roll my r’s. I can’t even fake it! Anyway, congratulations on your new adventure!!
Hey Weebs, that’s okay. Glad you stopped by – you’re always welcome of course. And I’m just going to answer Si to your question because I know molto Bella is good. And yes you’re right about that. The instructor is really focusing on that. How cool you grew up hearing Italian. I got the r rolling thing down though. It’s a gift. ;). Thanks, J.
Ooh I love ALL foods Italian!
Brava, for taking on a new language! I studied French in high school and Spanish in college–now I speak “Franish”, a combination of the two, and not all that well. I’d love to resume my Spanish studies–and maybe I will! I see Groupon deals for Rosetta Stone often… Hmmm…..
I know. I don’t think there is any bad Italian food. I bet Franish sounds quite exotic and lovely. I didn’t know Groupon had deals with Rosetta Stone. That’s a great idea. Thanks, Christy.
I speak German and French and love Spanish and want to learn it! Ti amo
Diana, you must be brilliant! I’m sure you won’t have any problem learning any languages you want! Wow. Bravissimo!
whoa don’t be so hasty! I have German parents and grew up in Quebec!
I spent the afternoon with my dear friend, Enrico, discussing the recent papal elections as only an Italian, and a Roman at that, could do. Although he’s lived in this country for many years, he’s lost none of his Italian intonation or charm! Good for you, Brigitte! xoxoM
I love the fact you have a friend named Enrico and I bet you enjoy just listening to him! Thank you, M., I think it is good for me. 😉
Yes, I do enjoy listening to him – and he’s not so bad to look at, either! hehehe! xoxoM
This reminds me of a girl I went to high school with who was full Italian and could speak it fluently. She was very proud of that fact and lost no opportunity in showing it off sometimes. We would have been very annoyed had we not been so entranced by the way it sounded. On a side note, I absolutely adore Italian food.
Growing up bilingual, I never thought it was a big deal until one day, when I was talking to my mom on the phone (using a mixture of 80% Chinese, 20% English) and someone gasped at how amazing that was, being able to “switch from one language to the other so rapidly.” Your post definitely gave me an appreciation for knowing more than one language. I have confidence that you’ll be jabbering in Italian in no time. 🙂
Hi Lillian, I don’t know if I could speak it fluently I’d probably be showing off all the time too — it’s so pretty. ;). I’m right there with you with the Italian food thing, though. Of course I knew you would be bilingual and I’ll bet you do take it for granted but I just think is’s so cool and wonderful that you can understand two different languages and cultures. You should be proud! I don’t know about knowing the Italian but I’ll definitely be jabbering something that hopefully someone in Italy could understand. Thanks, Lillian.
Yeah! I love languages!! I tried auditing Italian – you need to do the work and speak the speak!
I know. I wish I knew several. Oh, so you’ve sat in Italian classes to check it out? It’s not so easy, huh? Ciao and grazie!
It’s not something I can just sit in on – I have to participate!
Well, you go girl. I thought auditing meant sitting in on a class and observing. Obviously I don’t understand English either. 😉
It is to sit in on a class and not get a grade nor have to do the required work. I ahve to do it all to learn it – but I’ve been teaching myself Russian via Mango Languages (it’s free thru my public library) and it’s pretty damn cool!!
That’s very cool, Ruta! I don’t think the libraries here offer that. This is a continuing Ed class so there’s really no grade but I’m in it to learn. We’ll see. Russian must be very difficult!
I love Russian – it’s just difficult b/c they don’t use our alphabet so there’s nothing to associate a particular Cyrillic letter with a sound (at this point)…but I love the way it sounds coming from a man’s mouth, I have to say…
Enjoy your class – you rock and inspire me!
Why thank you, Ruta — what a wonderful thing to say. I needed that today. Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.
Congratulations on embracing the challenge of learning a new language, Brig. I think that’s very cool. My father’s Italian by way of Chicago. When I was a kid whenever he was feeling operatic, which was fairly often, he’d speak with an improvised Italian accent. Even though he only knew one word in the language, our family surname, I remember when he boisterously asked my mother, “Passa da burro!” My mother, the resident cynic, who was of Spanish-Irish-French descent, handed him the butter and said, “Here’s the jackass.”
After you’re fluent, you must reward yourself with a trip to the land of my ancestors … Of course, that can also mean visiting the donkey in the Bronx zoo.
Hi V, thank you — I’m trying to do a lot of new things. Keep busy for all different kinds of reasons. The upside is that I’m learning all kinds of things (about myself included). I also speak with an improvised Italian accent and I think it’s very good (I have no idea what anyone else thinks). I love the banter between your parents — you’ve written about it before. I know where you got your funny and your dry, hilarious wit. I would love to reward myself with a trip to Italy. Until then that donkey in the Bronx sounds like a pretty good substitute. :). Happy weekend, V and thank you.
Good for you, Brigitte. Super awesome! Soon you be able to watch ‘La vita e bella’ without subtitles!
Ah, shucks I hope I can pull it off. The fact that I used the word shucks should tell you just how far I have to go. And I’ve seen Life Is Beautiful which is an absolute treat, with or without subtitles. Thanks, Mike.
Sorry to arrive a day late to the party, Brig! I had a busy day yesterday!! I did read it but didn’t comment. 😦
I’m so impressed that you’re taking Italian!! I love the way you describe it – it is a language that you actually feel. You’re right. Having grown up in New York, I’m a real hand gesture talker, myself. I think it comes from being passionate – when words are just not enough 🙂
I love the scenes/storyline in Eat, Pray, Love when she’s in Italy. Did you read it? The idea of feasting on pasta and pizza everyday is right up my alley. I think Italians are passionate, bigger than life, romantic, sort of people. You’ve inspired me! I may look into the local college to see what’s available. (Even though I’m terrible with languages, it could be fun?)
Love this happy post!!
Hey Lisa, it’s okay. It’s nice to be busy. That’s what I’m trying to do — stay busy. You can comment or not comment although I must say I love to see you here — you just get accustomed to seeing certain peeps, you know? I’m behind on commenting on some blogs, yours included. Oh yes, I read Eat, Pray, Love way before the movie (which didn’t do it justice) came out. I could go for that feasting every day without worrying about every little thing that we eat. It’s exhausting! And I think you’re right about the Italian people being passionate and rather carefree. I could use some carefree these days. I figure why not take a class, right? You just never know where it could lead. Thank you, my friend. xo
Kudos to you for learning another language, Brig. Despite the fact that I taught ESL, the idea of willfully taking the steps to learn a foreign language is extremely daunting to me and something I don’t think I could commit myself to (when I was in school, foreign language courses always really overwhelmed me and I never had a lot of success with them.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the sound of other languages, though. Korean will always have a special place in my heart. I can always feel my blood pressure go down when I hear it. I just equate it with safety, solitude, and a really happy time in my life. But French is just beautiful too. I think some of my favorite memories of France was just sitting around in cafes around 4 and just listening.
Thanks, Emily. I don’t know. I’m going through some kind of phase where I want to do things I’ve been saying for years I wanted to do. Have to see where this leads. It is intimidating and difficult but if I see it through, I think it’ll spark other inspirations. You sound as if you have some incredible and wonderful memories. You’ve often written with such a fondness and grace about your living in Korea. The fact that you’ve sat around in French cafes listening to French — well that is just wonderful. Think of the lovely stories you can tell that sweet Miss C! Thank you, Emily.
Hi Brigitte, I love spagetti. Especially my homemade spagetti! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Beth, I do too. It’s one of my favorite foods. Thank YOU.
Yum Yum! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com
Senora, yo hablo unpiquito espanol..
when I was a child I recall running around the house pretending to speak French. I know it was pure gibberish, but to be I was speaking the language of France..tee-hee..
My niece speaks fluent Russian and Korean so yes, you should take a class too.. will be mad fun!
Ciao senora. I used to do the same, Lynne — pure jabber. I also sang the I Dream of Jeannie song a lot. Russian and Korea — that seems like two of the most difficult! Very cool. We’ll see what next week breaks. Thanks, Lynne.
I am largely monolingual. I took enough kraut in high school to find my way in Germany, but got a D out of the course. I know various phrases in French & Spanish, and I can say hello in Chinese (sounds like Nee-How-Ma) and Korean (Anyong). I wish I spoke more languages, but I’m happy first and foremost to speak my own language well, like you. A lot of people can’t manage even that.
Also, I’ve seen the name “Honie Briggs” around, and I think that’s just about the coolest name.
She’s pretty cool. She gets riled up alot but that’s a Southern thang.
Somehow I think you could find your way around anywhere, Smak. Hubby says Ko nee chee wah all the time which is hello/goodbye in Japanese. But, I’ve always wanted to learn another language. I’m learning that even in Italy they have those that slaughter their dialect as well by shortening words. (Think Sopranos with mani-cott instead of manicotti). And though I know what I’m writing is riveting, I’ll leave you with a Ciao, Signor Smak.
Definitely, Italiano is the best sounding language on Earth. I feel it’s more romantic than French
Hi Frances and welcome. Thank you, I think it’s molto benne and more!
I came by to thank you for the follow and enjoy the post but when I scrolled down to check out the comments, I was floored – 91! Now, granted, that number includes your witty responses to the comments…. but still – WOW. I get excited if I get 1 comment. 🙂 So I am terribly impressed with your skills and humbled that you are following my little blog. Thank you.
Thank you for your follow! Your blog looks lovely and how beautiful all your travels! So nice to have you here and look forward to reading about your travels. 😀
Ah, Italian… the language of my people, the ancestors! If only I had the brain capacity to learn languages… but Spanish. I’m trying! And Italian is not too different. I read once that 90% of all communication is body language, facial gesture, tone of voice. Only 10% words. Imagine what that’s doing to the kids these days who speak in txt and FB status… 🙂 Thanks for the follow, Ms. B!
Laura it is one of the most beautiful languages I think! I’m trying too and it’s difficult but anything worth doing usually is. As far as that text and Fb language, that’s not so beautiful. But that’s just me. ;). Thank you for reading and so nice to see you here!
Love… love…. this post…I really want to join the class…and you on Italy…it’s possible…is it not ?
Just after breakie in Bologna…have to go pack…leaving today :((
Hi Aileen, haven’t seen you in awhile — welcome! I’m on my third one now and it’s difficult but fun. I wish I could join you in Italy. Anything is possible!