Other Ways of Learning Italian and some of my Favourite Italian Words

The new term of the University of the Third Age has started at Bagni di Lucca.


Here is the commitee:


This is the programme.:

Note the Christmas lunch and end of year lunch.. Always a treat!img969You may complain, if you are an x-pat resident of Bagni that your Italian language knowledge is not up to attending lectures delivered in Italian, especially when dealing with abstract subjects, without slides or any other visual aids.

Do remember that language is a method of communication which, if used properly, can connect you to a much wider world than you ever imagined. If you don’t develop your new language in your new environment then regretfully you will soon be lost and locked into an English-speaking clique. You might as well have stayed at home…

Learning a language isn’t just mastering the rules of grammar from some textbook. It’s grabbing every opportunity to hear the language as it is spoken on TV, on radio, in the shops, in restaurants, at meetings, indeed everywhere.

You are missing so much if you don’t make an effort to learn Italian even in its most basic tenets. There are language courses held at Bagni di Lucca library and other centres too and most of them are free!!

I remember teaching English to immigrants in the UK and thinking that one person from the Indian subcontinent had just arrived from India to my class. I was wrong. He’d been in the UK for five years but with a job working for his cousin’s family business, his living in an Indian family, watching Hindi film DVDs, going out with his Indian friends, made him suddenly realise he hadn’t integrated in any way into the wider community because he hadn’t learn any English! I’m glad to say that at the end of one year in my class he had already passed an intermediate level English exam not just because he did his homework but also because he began listening to English radio, meeting English speakers and viewing UK TV programmes.

If you want to integrate learn the language. Otherwise, stick to your local English-speaking group where you might as well be in Basildon if it wasn’t for the extra sunshine and vino to accompany you.

I speak as someone with experience of living in other parts of the world. In less than one year I was fluent in Hindi (that incredible amalgam of Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian) and could read its different alphabet symbols too. It made such a big difference to my life that’s it’s impossible to describe. When we lived part-time in Wales we attended and passed exams in that equally difficult language ‘iaith paradwys’ (the language of heaven). How did we do it? Practise and speaking to local language speakers. Basically avoiding Brits like hell!

My knowledge of languages is nothing, however, compared to my wife’s, a long-serving member of the Institute of linguists, who can speak not just English but fluent Italian, French, Spanish, and German to perfection not to mention Welsh and certain Italian dialects which are a language unto themselves……

There’s no excuse for not learning a new language (or not so new if you’ve lived around Bagni for over five years). You’ve either got a very restricted English environment you operate in or you’re just plain lazy. Some people, like a certain unpleasant Englishman who lives in the forest (luckily) some distance away from me actually said to me once ‘ I don’t need to learn Italian.’ What an absolute idiot!

Unless you learn Italian here in BDL (or wherever you find yourself in Italy) you’ve got no reason to complain if you can’t hear a word of English spoken on a bus in Ipswich (for example). Learn Italian and the Italians (unlike the French) will compliment you so much on it you’ll be encouraged to carry on learning.

End of rant. Return to main subject.


(From left to right Fabio Lucchesi, President of Unitre, Valeria Catelli course director and Riccardo Mauri, lesson deliverer)

The third Unitre lecture was given by Riccardo Mauri, a highly gifted young philosophy teacher (regrettably ‘temporary staff member’ as so many teachers are in Italy = ‘precario’ is the word to use) on Leopardi, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I was so glad to attend. To summarize Riccardo’s points:

  • Leopardi (in his ‘operette morali’), Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were uniquely united in their antagonism to the idealist philosophy of Hegel and his acolytes in the first half of the nineteenth century and the positivist (progress and everything is going for the best in the best of all possible worlds) philosophy of the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • The trilogy of Leopardi, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, while declaring the essential tragedy and suffering of life, were against suicide as an answer. One might say in English ‘grin and bear it’. All, three, however, did have a life-enhancement policy: life is given to you – try to live it to the full then, however much suffering it gives you, for without experiencing suffering you will not know the ecstasy of deep joy.
  • Nietzsche’s philosophy was deformed after his death by his evil sister who collated certain of his unedited writings to form a blueprint for anti-Semitism and Nazism. What Nietzsche couldn’t really stand were the Germans themselves!

Any talk depends on its delivery and Riccardo’s was faultless. A lesson in spoken Italian could be had from it. His voice was clear, the words he used were easily understood and there were no hesitations. He was truly prepared with his text but spoke ‘a braccio’ (freely speaking without prompts). His thesis was logically exposed and his arguments backed up by firm evidence. Most of all, Riccardo’s approach and linking together of three of the most under-rated poet-philosophers of the 19th century was exemplary.

One important point I raised with Riccardo was how similar Schopehauer’s theses were to three of the Buddha’s four noble truths (ie, life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the escape from desire leads to liberation) as I had discovered them during our recent journey to Tibet. In fact Mauri confirmed that Schopenhauer was probably the first western philospher to pay serious attention to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and, together with Plato’s works, he always kept the Upanishads open on his desk.

I utterly enjoyed Mauri’s fabulous talk and am still awake now thinking about the points he raised. I just pity those people who have lived for so long a time in BDL and are unable not only to understand how important philosophy in the Italian educational system is but also how even more important it is to spend every spare hour you have to learning what, not just in my opinion, is the world’s most beautiful, mellifluous, sexy and musical language. There’s no other language to beat it and you will be seduced by every single new word you use.

Here are eight must-use words in Italian.  For homework work out what they mean and when to say them. Italian is such an alliterative language you could almost guess their meaning before opening a dictionary

  • Allora
  • Rocambolesco
  • Chiacchierone
  • Sfizio
  • Struggimento
  • Dondolare
  • Mozzafiato
  • Dietrologia

I think the whole world should learn Italian – there’s no more wonderfully harmonious  language to learn, to speak, to think in or to make love with.


6 thoughts on “Other Ways of Learning Italian and some of my Favourite Italian Words

  1. Now these non speakers of other languages and it is not always people’s fault as it is a particularly acquired skill are on a win win situation as there are out there further gizmos that they can use that instantly translate so far English French Italian Spanish and German all the languages that I have learnt with difficulty and dedication. As an interpreter translator I have long gone without work as previous computer machine translations have taken over in the field of languages both interpreting and translation but I have my doubts that these can do as good a task as any human being! And that is the human tragedy too as it is not always man’s inhumanity to man indirectly so maybe but now and for several years now it is machines inhumanity to man but not to worry as soon robots will take over and rule the world maybe they will do a better task than us humans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s