Learn Italian

Ever since the first time I visited Europe, I've wanted to learn to speak Italian. Partly because it's a really beautiful language. And partly so that if I ever go back, I can say that I want my sandwich hot or ask for one pound of fresh cherries, without playing charades and getting a blank stare back from the storekeeper, who's thinking "what an idiot."

Chapter 15 in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert gives the history of the Italian language and why it's so beautiful. The languages of most European countries were determined by the strongest city. Their language became the accepted language of the whole region. Italy was different. Parts of it belonged to France, Spain, the Church, and whoever else conquered a portion of it. Everyone spoke in their own local dialect, and because of all this internal division, no one could communicate with each other. So, in the sixteenth century, a group of Italian intellectuals got together and decided to handpick the most beautiful local dialect and crown it Italian. The chosen dialect was the personal language of the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri some two hundred years earlier. When writing his Divine Comedy in 1321, he shocked the literate world by not writing it in Latin, because he thought it corrupt and elitist. He instead picked up the real Florentine language spoken by the residents of his city, and shaped the vernacular even as he was writing it, calling it il dolce stil nuovo, the "sweet new style."

"The Italian we speak today, therefore, is not Roman or Venetian (though these were powerful military and merchant cities) nor even really entirely Florentine. Essentially, it is Dantean. No other European language has such an artistic pedigree. And perhaps no language was ever more perfectly ordained to express human emotions than this fourteenth-century Florentine Italian, as embellished by one of Western civilizations's greatest poets... The last line of the Divine Comedy, in which Dante is faced with the vision of God Himself, is a sentiment that is still easily understandable by anyone familiar with so-called modern Italian. Dante writes that God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light, but that He is, most of all, l'amor che move il sole e l'alte stelle... "The love that moves the sun and the other stars."

I'm going to try learning Italian by using the podcasts from LearnItalianPod. If that doesn't work, I might have to break down and fork out the $200+ to get the Rosetta Stone tutorials. Whatever the means, "it's really no wonder that I want so desperately to learn this language."

mon3  – (January 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM)  

...ben felice di aiutarti! ...nell'imparar l'italiano! Ciao.

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Two newlywed's adventures in home renovations, traveling and experiencing life together.

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