Wednesday, July 06, 2005

$1000 Worth of Nouns and Adjectives

During summer recess, my foreign language skills increase dramatically due to (a) more contact with locals, and (b) reduced contact with Americans. This summer, my first Italian summer, is proving to be no different. Every day I'm out and about in the community or traveling with visitors.

As it turns out, I can understand WAY more Italian in one year than I ever did German after eighteen years in Germany. I don't know why, but it's really true. Is it because it's "more intuitive," as Shana said? Or is it the Latin based words which somehow sound so familiar?

Unfortunately, however, every verb and tense that I learned in six semester hours with the University of Maryland has flown completely out of my head. I speak only in nouns and adjectives with a few random prepositions and adverbs occasionally thrown in. And it isn't just me. My friend Amy, who took the courses with me, is in exactly the same situation. We discuss this phenomena frequently and have decided we were given too much too soon with no time to process it. We also didn't study a whole lot.

In the meanwhile, though, we thoroughly impressed our recent American visitors with our language skills! Ha! Little did they know that we used NO verbs! And the Italians are very forgiving . . . they always reply in Italian and pretend I am speaking like a real person, not a verbless wonder. (Two large bottles of water, please. One fizzy and one natural. For me, the antipasto rustico, mixed salad, and lemon scallopini. For my friends, a cheese pizza and pasta Norma. And a half liter of red wine, please.)

I have learned, like German, if you know just the few "right" words and phrases, you sound like you know something. In German, those were things like "So!" and "Genau!" In Italian, they are "Alora!" and "Certo!" with an occasional "Perfetto!" thrown in. "Grazie" and "prego" will also take you a long, long way in Italy.

The verbs will come . . . eventually, somehow, someday.


At July 12, 2005 4:04 AM, Blogger Colleen in CA said...

Hi Maryellen!
I enjoyed this post, and can so relate!!
I tell my friends that I speak like an Italian 3-year old (maybe not even that well!), but so far I've kept myself fed and housed and out of jail ... :)

At August 16, 2005 9:11 PM, Blogger bubbles said...

Wow, it's pretty much the opposite for me: the verbs are the easiest to remember, and I sometimes get lost when I'm asked to translate a certain word into Italian.

I've been studying Italian at our city's university for a year now, and we've had to learn a massive amount of 3000 words/adjectives, that is: so far...

The verbs, it seems aren't that difficult except for the passato remoto, which happens to be used quite often in Sicily.
In fact, most courses such as summer courses will choose not to teach your this tense because it doesn't show much consistency - and probably also because it's hardly used in the North (and Centre, save Tuscany, where, it seems, people are born with the ability to speak 'Italian' as in 'standard' Italian.

I love the pictures you post here, there's absolutely stunning.

Abyssinia and ciao!

At October 18, 2005 7:59 PM, Anonymous Murasaki said...

Ciao, Maryellen!

Ho vissuto in Sicilia - Giardini Naxos - fino di settimana scorsa. Ora mi sono trasferita a Londra ma io voglio ritornare in Sicilia!

Orig. from Japan but lived in England, Germany, and the U.S. before moving to Sicily and now, back in England but longing for Sicily.

I completely sympathise ref verbs. I troppi verbi nella lingua italiana!! Pero', mi piace questa lingua...e' fluidita' e musicale...che bella!

Ciao, Murasaki


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