Make Your Italian Sound More Italian


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

After a delightful conversation with Cher Hale of The Iceberg Project last night, my mind got to thinking about how nonnative Italian speakers can make their speech sound, well, more Italian.

I’ve thought about this before; you can speak Italian very well, very accurately, and still not sound Italian. Why is that?

In my case, the reverse is true. The other day I was speaking to a group of Italians over Skype and I know I made a few little slip-up mistakes (mostri [monsters] instead of mostre [art exhibitions], how embarrassing!). Ciò nonostante, (nevertheless) at the end of it they were all like, “We can’t believe you’re Canadian. You sound so Italian!”

So after racking my cervello (brain), here are 5 tips I came up with to help your Italian sound more Italian:

1. Piantala (knock it off) with the personal pronouns.  Italian very rarely uses the personal pronouns io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, and loro, other than to reinforce a point. It is much more common to hear “sono andata al mercato ieri” (no pronoun) rather than “io sono andata al mercato ieri” (with pronoun), unless the person is trying to reinforce the point that they specifically were the one who went. None of this “io io io io” stuff at the beginning of every sentence. It sounds strange to Italian ears.

Then how do we know who we’re referring to? Well, Italian verbs carry with them the idea of who they refer to with their conjugation. “Parlo” can only refer to “io” because the other pronouns have their own conjugations: parli / parla / parliamo / parlate / parlano.  

Why is this hard for English speakers? Because we need our personal pronouns all the time to know who is doing what.

2. Learn Italian word-whiskers. What are word whiskers? They’re those little mean-nothing words that we all put into our speech when we’re trying to search for what we really want to say, or to get attention or to make a point. Why is this important? Well, um isn’t um in Italian.  It’s more like “ehhh“. So gets replaced by “allora” or “quindi” or “dunque” and I mean can be translated as, “cioè” . “Beh” is also a good one to use if you’re stalling for time and “ehhhhh” is also widely used. “Capito?”, “giusto?”  and “no?” are tacked onto the ends of sentences to make sure the listener understands, while “boh!” is what Italians say when anglophones say “dunno!”

Examples: “Beh, è proprio una bella giornata, no?” and “Voglio partire dopo il 15 aprile, capito?”

3. Talk fast. People can always tell when I’ve been in Italy, because I end up speaking English like a machine gun. I don’t know why, but Italians (in my experience) seem to be faster talkers and maybe leave less space between words. Everything gets run together.

4. Use all the suffixes you can. What? Well, whereas in English we’d describe something as a “little house“, Italians might say “una casa piccola” or they might break out the suffixes and call it “una casetta” or “una casina“. I would ask a little boy about his “amichetti” (little friends, amico + etti) at school, and describe someone as having a nasone (naso + one) if their face is unfortunately adorned with a big shnoz.

This type of talk might sound “cutesy” to we anglophones, but I can assure you that even grown Italian men go around exclaiming that things are “bellissima” (bella + issima, the most beautiful) and hope to introduce you to their “carissimo” (caro + issimo, dearest) friend.

When I asked a friend where he was spending Christmas he replied, “a casina.” At home.

5. Exclaim! Coo. Whiiiinnnneeee. YELL. and generally be theatrical in your speech. All the world’s a stage and Italians are some of its most enthusiastic players. That’s what Shakespeare said, right? Right. The Italian language is melodic in its own right, but Italian speakers are generally pretty theatrical. Don’t just say “ti prego” (I beg you), say, “ti preeeeeeeggggoooooooo” in a begging voice. And when you’ve had enough, it’s a strong “BASTA!” loud and clear. You’re trying to convince someone? Use the long, drawn-out “daaaaaaiiiiiii” (come on) and whine a bit.  Everybody’s doing it. I promise.

Have any of your own tips for sounding more Italian? Leave them in the comments section below and maybe we can compile another list. 

A Delightful Surprise – Italy Magazine Blogger Awards


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

I enjoy surprises. Sorprese.  I know some people don’t, but I do. So imagine how delighted I was when I snuck a peek at the 2013 Italy Magazine Blogger Awards Shortlist and found that Not Just Another “Dolce Vita” was on there not once, but twice!

! This little blog has been shortlisted under the Best Overall Blog for Lovers of Italy category, and my post Why Study Italian? found a home for itself under the Best Single Arts and Culture Post category. Evvia!

What’s really lovely about this whole thing is that the Italy Magazine Blogger Awards recognize a whole host of really great blogs out there about Italy. Some of them I have read and checked out before, others I’ll be happy to take a look at for the first time. There’s a lot of great writing, great info, great humour and wonderful wisdom about Italy, and I encourage you, readers, to take a peek at all the shortlisted blogs. And, you know, if you want to vote for Not Just Another “Dolce Vita” while you’re there, I certainly wouldn’t mind!

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Click here to vote. Voting is open until February 8th and the winners will be announced on February 10th. Incrociamo le dita. Let’s cross our fingers!

As always, grazie readers, for your support of Not Just Another “Dolce Vita”. Grazie di cuore.

Tante Belle Cose ~ All The Best


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

Felice anno nuovo! Happy New Year!

2013 was a wonderful year for me. I went back to school, had various jobs, travelled, wrote, and spent time with family and friends both at home and abroad. With a record like that, I’m a little sad to say goodbye to the auspicious-sounding 2013 and trade it in for 2014, but I’m optimistic.

Already, things are looking good: I’ve got a renewed work contract teaching ESL at a Toronto college, more articles being published in Panoram Italia Magazine, a couple of concerts to go to in the coming months, and my first ever creative writing course starting later this month. Last but not least, I’ve of course got plans to head back to il bel paese in the spring/summer.

2014As for you, readers, I wish you tante belle cose (many beautiful things / “all the best”) for the year to come. Thanks for reading, thanks for promoting, thanks for commenting and thanks for your encouragement.

If you’d like to help me really start the year off right (and I know you do), please nominate Not Just Another “Dolce Vita” for Italy Magazine’s Blogger Award. Simply click here, select the categories you’d like to nominate for, and click SUBMIT.

blogger awards