Today's edition of SWL comes from J. Scott Coatsworth, who is crazy for Italian.
I love Italian.
I'm not Italian in any sense of the word. My family tree reaches back to the UK and Dermany, and even to Denmark, but not at all to the Italian peninsula.
Nevertheless, I love Italian.
I fell into the Italian language through the back door. When I was a junior in high school, I moved to California and ended up enrolling at Etiwanda High School late. I had to take two years of a language, and the Spanish and French classes were already full. So I ended up taking Latin. It was one of those "back to the basics" school things, and I found that I loved the Latin Language, in part because it also included a crash course in Italian culture and history. And I fell in love with that, too.
Flash forward twenty years, and my husband Mark and I decided to go to Italy. I'd always been a little fearful of going to a country where I didn't speak the language, so we decided to take a crash course at our local Italian Cultural Center, here in Sacramento. We took a five week traveler course with Patrizia Cerruti, and then proceeded to confidently use our broken Italian in Italy. It was amazing - I even helped an American woman at the Vatican request an audio tour. And an Italian clerk at McDonalds in Florence (I know, but we were starving and it was at the train station) told me I spoke the language really well.
Three years later, planning another Italian trip, we decided to dive in and learn Italian for real. We lucked out - our class became a family, and we have now been studying together for eight years, five of them at The Center and three on our own.
Italian is a beautiful, lyrical language. It sprang from the Tuscan dialect when Dante (yes, that Dante) standardized it, and spread to become the lingua franca of the country
They DO lie to you a little to get you started - for instance, they tell you that you can spell any Italian word by just listening to it because Italians pronounce every letter (80% true), that almost every word in Italian is accented on the second to the last syllable (50% true) and that Italian is an easy language to learn (a flat-out lie).
And Italian is fascinating, It often abdicates personal responsibility - you are never late in Italian - you are instead in a state of lateness (presumably caused by someone or something else). In Italian, you don't "like" something - instead it is (or isn't) pleasing to you - again, apparently its fault, not yours). And if you are going out on a date, the language can betray you - you have to either specify who you are going out with because Italian words are masculine or feminine. In English, I can say "I went out with a friend" and be purposely vague without actually lying. In Italian, you have to specify "male friend" or female friend,"
Learning a new language is hard. But it has its rewards. We've made some dear friends here and in Italy because of it. We've enjoyed some great moments speaking with Italians in unexpected circumstances. I have written (and will continue to do so) a number of Italian characters, and my River City Chronicles is being translated for an Italian audience. Plus, it's supposed to be really good for your brian as you age.
So pick a language. It doesn't have to be Italian. I promise, it will be amazing!