Preparing for Pisa

I’m going to be visiting Italy in December for a conference, which provides me with a chance to dabble in yet another language (see previous adventures with Japanese and German). This time I’m armed with an iPod and have discovered, which makes for great commuting accompaniment. So far I have learned:

  • Ciao! Hello/goodbye!
  • Come stai? How are you? (apparently informal; change stai to sta to formalize it)
  • Bene. Fine. E tu? And you?
  • Piacere di conoscerla. Pleased to meet you.
  • Sei italiano? Are you Italian (masc.)?
  • Io sono americana. I’m American (fem.).

The absolute best thing about Italian so far is the intonation. I love how the words go UP and DOWN in an unending, lilting fashion. To me, it feels like extreme exaggeration, or as if I were parodying an Italian accent — but apparently, no, that *is* how you’re supposed to say it! So it’s more like

Ciao! CO-me STA-i?
BEH-ne! E tu?
BEH-ne! Sei EE-ta-li-AH-no?
No, EE-o SOH-no A-me-ri-CAH-na.

Only it’s far, far more contrast than I can show with only caps and lower case. It’s like a little roller coaster flowing out of your mouth each time you open it. I especially like “bene”. That might be my favorite Italian word so far, already competing with my favorite Japanese word, “kippu”. The first ‘e’ in “bene” not only gets emphasis but it also seems to get drawn out: BEEEEEEH-ne!

Slightly less exciting are the immediate hash collisions I’m getting with other languages (hopefully this will go away as I learn more). “Sono” is a word in Japanese (with an entirely different meaning). Bits of other words sound variously French or Spanish to me. “Come stai” clashes with “como estas”, and “e tu” with “et toi” and “y tu”. I foresee more confusion along those lines. Happily, some generous soul has compiled a French/Italian comparative guide.

Other resources that look promising:

  •’s guide to learning Italian: a nice aggregation of many different resources, organized by difficulty.
  • livemocha: an online community for learning a variety of languages; there are Rosetta-stone-style lessons (which have intrigued me before) and the ability to write or speak exercises and have them critiqued by more experienced (or native) speakers in that language. You can also offer critiques on items submitted in your own native language(s); there seem to be many ESL learners out there, so there are plenty of English submissions to browse and comment on. I’m still exploring this one.
  • Guide to Italian Grammar: yay! Let me at the rules, instead of making me infer them on my own solely from a bunch of sample sentences!

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