The only one step to begin to learn Italian
whether you are a student, or an individual with a peculiar passion for Italian, or simply a healthy curious one; you, yes, you! You got to the right place, right article, and chose the right direction, that of learning ‘L’Italiano’. Here you will not find rules, or concepts, or notions on the language itself; but please, don’t go yet. Feel free, later, to exclaim “this is a trifle; none of what he said is useful”; but I want to challenge you to stay, and listen to what I have got to say.
So, we shall begin.
Step one – AKA ‘the only one step’: think like an Italian. Do not think in Italian yet, think like one! When you are at home, and it is nearly midnight, or even if it is earlier, and you feel you would have some tea; well, make yourself pasta. Italians call it ‘spuntino di mezzanotte’, which translation is ‘midnight nosh’. Let’s be frank: firstly, it is clearly not a nosh; secondly, it might not be appropriate to have pasta at that time of the night. But, there is nothing we can do about it; having pasta is what they would be thinking, feeling and -the best part- having. It may be stereotypical, I admit, but that too is part of a culture, our culture.
One is the reason why ‘to think’ is associated with a lovely dish of pasta (at this point my mouth is watering just at the thought of potentially having a carbonara, or amatriciana, or, why not, a aglio-olio-peperoncino): Italians, we think with our guts.
I know, it sounds quite oxymoronic: the origin of thoughts is, in fact, the brain. Well, in Italy that does happen too; but mostly we listen to our gut that tells us not only how to react to a potential life circumstance, but also when and how to, for example, eat a dish of pasta.
What I am trying to say is that we are passionate, we deeply feel anything which concerns us (that is why the expression ‘gut feeling’ is very much appropriate to Italians), we show through our facial expressions, even if accidentally, our thoughts; and, in fact, gesture is a result of all of the above. Gesture is a physical projection of our thoughts. A thought starts from the gut, gets through our face, then it is meant to reach the outside though our mouth, but it is preceded by an unexpected, powerful hand gesture. Finally, the vocal cords decide to have the best on the hands, and the mouth opens up, and what does come out is a heartfelt onomatopoeic sound (i.e. bah, tr. whatever/who knows; eh?, tr. what?; etc.). Indeed, not even proper words!
That is, I believe, the original impulse to learn the Italian language. That is what makes the difference between a knowledgable student of Italian and a knowledgable Italian student. And no, I am not talking about speaking through onomatopoeic sounds only!
Go to Italy, experience its culture, its inhabitants. And do not worry, yet, about not knowing the language. That will surely come. Go back to class then, learn grammar – which is extremely fundamental- and maybe read a bit of the Italian Literature as well. And then, after a few years, go back there, to that same city you went the first time. And do the same experiences you tried. They will not look the same, because you will not be the same.
an Italian who loves Food and Language.