Italian Lessons I Learned After Moving Here

21 Sep

I was just reflecting back on my journey to learn this beautiful language, and it occurred to me that a lot of the common, everyday phrases or words I use here in Rome, I learned here in Rome. There’s only so much a classroom course in the U.S. can cover, and of course what you’re learning is strict, “textbook” Italian. Nothing wrong with that—it’s a necessary foundation. But the thing is, if no one prepares you for some of the more common ways people say things, you’re probably going to stumble around the first time you hear it, and have to ask a bunch of times, “Cosa?” At least that’s what I say when I don’t understand something.

Now, I’m certainly not claiming to be some kind of authority on the Italian language and I am admittedly far from perfect. I sometimes make little spelling or grammar mistakes when I use Italian words in my posts, and I know this because there’s never a time that it slips by unnoticed in the comments section. So if you’re an Italian expert, I ask you to be gentle with me. By all means, if you disagree with anything I have to say here, or find a mistake, please correct it. Just keep in mind that I’m not a native Italian speaker and I put a lot of sweat and tears into learning the language.

I’m going to pick my brain for some of the phrases that tripped me up when I first moved here, in an attempt to give those of you learning the language a sort of cheat sheet in case you ever decide to have an extended stay here.

1) Hai una penna? vs. Ce l’hai una penna?

This was something one of my roommates asked me on my first day of Italian lessons. “Do you have a pen?” The only thing is, since she said “Ce l’hai” instead of my textbook-studied “Hai,” it took me a couple tries to figure out what she was saying.

2) Come ti trovi qui?

When you’re new to Italian, your ear is furiously trying to decipher conjugated verbs, convert them back to the infinitive to get the meaning, and then conjugate them back, in order to understand what they mean. The first time someone asked me this, my reasoning went like this: “trovi = trovare = to find = you find = WHAT?” I hadn’t learned “trovarsi” as a way of asking how you’re liking something new, like a new job or a new home, how you’re settling in. So “come ti trovi qui” literally means “how do you find yourself here” but in practice means “How do you like it here?” I’ve been asked this question millions of times since, and to this day it’s a common question I’m asked when Italians meet me for the first time. I’ve found it to be much more common than “Come ti piace Roma?” (How do you like Rome?).

3) Non ce la faccio! or Non ce la faccio più!

I never learned this in any of my Italian classes, but I heard it a lot once I moved here, especially from some of my English language students. “I can’t do it!” or “I can’t take it anymore!” (They lurrrrved those English lessons, can’t you tell? I was a tyrant! MUUUHAHAHAHA! Kidding, kidding, folks!) Another way people say this is “Non ne posso più!”

4) Sono dovuta andare — not ho dovuto andare.

I’m not going to look up the rule on this, but I learned that when you use verbs of movement like andare, partire, uscire, venire, scendere, salire, etc. in the past tense together with the verb ‘dovere,’ you have to use the verb “essere” and make sure the end of the conjugated dovere agrees with your gender. So women have to say “dovuta” instead of “dovuto” which is how a man would say it. I don’t know why this never came up in any class.

5) Be careful with putting a conditional after “se”

Without getting too technical with what is probably the toughest grammar concept in Italian (periodo ipotetico del terzo tipo), a good general rule of thumb is to never put a conditional verb after “se.” There are cases where you can do it, but I’ll never forget one of my teachers here saying “MAI MAI MAI MAI MAI” (never never never….) use a conditional after se. It’ll generally keep you out of trouble, until you know the rule well enough to use it correctly.

6) Roman “dialect” pointers

Rome doesn’t really have an actual dialect; it’s more like a heavy accent. However, if you’re new to the Italian language, you’ll hear Romans doing some things to Italian that you won’t have learned in class. For example:

Dropping the verb endings. Instead of “Dove vuoi andare?” you’ll hear “Dove vuoi andà?” or “Dove vuoi annà?” The stress is always on the last syllable before the dropped ending.

“Noi” verb conjugations and reflexive verbs. “Noi” verb conjugations can lose the “iamo” and become “mmo” — for example, “andiamo” becomes “annammo” — double and triple consonant sounds are a hallmark of Roman slang. Reflexive verbs change from “si” to “se”

Other random examples: Dove becomes “‘N dò”; the all-purpose “hey” is “ahò!”

7) Avoid the embarrassing mistakes

Here are some of the red-faced mistakes I’ve made or friends of mine have made:

Scopare. Be careful with this verb that means both “to sweep” (as in sweep the floor) and “to have sex” (but more colloquial and borderline vulgar). Besides the double meaning of this verb that can trip you up, there’s a card game called “Scopa” (sweep), and a friend of mine was once teased by some Italian guys who laughingly asked her “Ah, ti piace scopa?” and she innocently thought they were referring to the card game. So pleased was she that with her fledgling Italian she understood the question, she eagerly responded, “Oh, sì, sì, mi piace molto scopa!” Poverina.

ScorrAggiarsi vs. scorrEggiare. How many times I made this mistake, I don’t know, but it’s the difference between discourage and fart. I once told the director of an Italian language school that I didn’t want my U.S. university students to be farting in class, when what I thought I was saying to him was that I didn’t want them to be discouraged. Sigh. Luckily in that case I was far enough along in my Italian to where I immediately caught myself and corrected the error, and we had a couple ha-has… but there were a lot more ha-has at my expense prior to arriving at the distinction!

Cesso vs. bagno. Maybe this is only in Rome, but when I came here I heard “Vado al cesso” a lot more than I heard “Vado al bagno” when saying “I’m going to the bathroom.” (All the fault of my now-husband and his gang of uncouth friends…don’t want you thinking that civilized people say ‘cesso’. :-)) That led to my all-time grand slam faux pas, when Alessandro brought me to meet his mom for the first time after I had only been in Italy for three weeks. Everyone kept saying what a big deal it was that he was introducing me to his mom, and after only three weeks of knowing each other, wow, I must be something special…and I better make a really good impression. So, when nature called and I needed to ask her where the bathroom was, I wanted to use my best, most polite Italian. I thought it all out and carefully said, “Mi scusi signora, ma dov’è il cesso?” which roughly translates to: “Excuse me ma’am, but where’s the shitter?” Ah, thank God for my laid-back mother in law, she simply told me “second door on the left” and then swatted Alessandro after I had left the room with a nice “deficente!” I didn’t find out about this until at least six months later when I moved to Italy.

Preservativi vs. conservanti. When you’re first learning the language, some of your conversations are really banal, because you don’t have a big vocab, so people try to be nice and ask you simple, contextual questions. For example, once at lunch, there was some grated parmesan on the table, and a friend of Ale’s said, “So, Shelley, do you guys have parmesan in the States?” I was so excited to have understood the question, I answered immediately: “Sì, abbiamo parmigiano, ma non è così fresco come qui…è pieno di preservativi.” What I meant to say was, “Yes, we do, but it’s not as fresh as here, it’s full of preservatives.” What I ended up saying was, “Yes, we do, but it’s full of condoms.” Sometimes adding an Italian-sounding end to an English word will work. Trust me that in this case, it won’t. Conservanti, people, conservanti.

Well, I can say that as I approach my six-year anniversary here, I am still learning constantly, and there is always a lot I don’t know. When you get to a certain point in your fluency people stop correcting you, but to this day I still make mistakes with plural/singular, masculine/feminine, and all the horrific exceptions, especially when it comes to body parts (argh) and words ending in “a” that are actually masculine. Whew. It’s not easy! But definitely never boring.

So to all you brave and fearless students of the Italian language, I salute you with an encouraging in bocca al lupo! (Good luck!)

And, if you’re fluent in Italian but aren’t a native speaker, how about offering up some of your own tips for new learners as to the pitfalls and traps they might encounter, or useful phrases and words that they won’t learn in class? Just keep in mind that this is a G-rated blog. Grazie!

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47 Responses to “Italian Lessons I Learned After Moving Here”

  1. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy September 21, 2007 at 10:10 am #

    The embarassing mistakes are the best…and the ones I definitely made, usually before realizzing it. Strangely, Italian men like “teaching” you words to practice before telling you the meaning.

  2. Giulia September 21, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    Well, obviously, if there are condoms in the cheese… it’s not fresh! ;) LMAO

  3. Cyn September 21, 2007 at 11:19 am #

    I better print a copy of this post off and stick it in my purse! You always make me laugh!

    Cyn

    ps.
    The next post can be English mistakes that your Italian makes. I keep Danilo I am going to write about his! I thought was going to fall off my chair when he said “Don’t go there girl!”. Where does he pick this stuff up?

  4. Valerie September 21, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Ah yessss, I’ve *so* been there! The “ce l’hai” thing really confounded me, too! And “tutt’a posto?” Eh? I think I’ve made all these errors except the preservativi one. I was properly warned beforehand on that! Meno male. Oh! Meno male was another head-teaser!

  5. sognatrice September 21, 2007 at 11:57 am #

    Well I feel better that your Italian classes never covered the “sono andata” vs. “sono andato” thing. As you know, I’ve never had formal training, so that one definitely confused me at first–as did “l’ho mandata” if I’m referring to a feminine object without mentioning it. Aaah!

    And the “ce l’hai” thing? What’s that about anyway? I clearly remember the first time I heard that one and trying to decipher just how I might spell *that* word (thinking, of course, that it was indeed only one word).

    Tutt’a posto is another great example (I’ve never seen that written before!).

    But ahò! Isn’t this what makes it all so fun?

  6. riffraff September 21, 2007 at 12:35 pm #

    note from the italian: cesso is actually italian. Yeah you shouln’t be using it anyway, though :)

    Anyway, I think it’s worth pointing out that 99% of the italian population doesn’t really speak correctly, so you shouldn’t worry too much if you’re slightly incorrect on your own ;)

  7. nyc/caribbean ragazza September 21, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    Shelley what textbook did you use? We started with Prego and the last class I took we used Oggi. I think both covered the whole sono andata vs sono andato. Actually my problem is we spend so much time on grammar (and yes I know it’s important to have a strong foundation) I feel like my vocab skills are lacking for someone who is supposed to be taking Advanced Italian next year…hahaha. I think I am going repeat Intermediate level II because I have already forgetted most of my grammar since my last class six month ago. sigh.

    On the vocabulary side, listening to Italian radio here in Toronto and speaking with one of the crew members has helped. I am really going to focus next year, since I decided last week to move already regardless of what happens with my writing and the ridiculously low dollar (I’ll post about that later when I have time). I want my language skills to be as strong as possible before I get there. I know I will have to deal with a huge adjustment moving to another country at my age. The stronger my Italian is the easier my move will be.

    Buona giornata.

    A

  8. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 21, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Meno male is a good one… I kept thinking “Less bad”? What the heck? But it’s more like “thank goodness.”

    Here they say “Tutt’ok?” also … everything ok?

    I think there’s a bit of confusion… you learn things like “sono andato” or “sono andata” right away, that’s pretty basic in most courses. What I’m talking about is when you have the verb ‘dovere’ in the middle. I thought if I wanted to say “I had to go” or anything else with movement like “I had to leave” “I had to get out” etc., I could say Ho dovuto (because you use avere as the auxillary with dovere) and just stick the infinitive andare after, but you can’t… because andare is one of those movement verbs (sorry for my lack of technical terminology), you have to switch to essere as the auxillary verb. And not only that, you have to change dovuto to dovutA if you’re a woman. See what I’m talking about? That’s what I never learned until I got here and listened to people speaking… in any case, I used both Oggi and Prego. I took too many classes!!

  9. sognatrice September 21, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    Oops! I did understand what you wrote initially, but then I did a few other things in between reading your post and writing a comment–thus the disconnect. I did *mean* to refer to the dovere plus movement verb (I like that phrase too) and not simply the sono andato/a. Sorry!

    Anyway, I’m so excited to read here about NYC’s revelation! Can’t wait to read more about it :)

  10. Leanne September 21, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    It is great to hear of others making the same mistakes as me! A few months ago I was speaking to a director of a hotel in Palermo with my Italian colleague, and he offered us some local wine. I couldn’t remember the word for fig, so I just said, ‘FIGO’ as I thought the wine tasted like figs…
    FIGO means sexy, or good looking and the annoying thing is I knew that – I just didn’t think! I was so embaressed that this old man would think I fancied him, but my colleague quickly explained the error of my word!

  11. jessica in rome September 21, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    This post= my life today. Oh well. I figure if I am to the point where I can make a jerk out of myself in another language, it is showing progress. I guess I am learning something from those horribly overpriced schools! HAHA!

  12. SWT September 21, 2007 at 3:16 pm #

    Great post! You’ve captured how we all feel about truly living the Italian language experience. Just when you think you’ve heard them all….one more comes up! “ti fa senso”–I thought it meant “does it make sense to you”–instead it means “does it bother you (in more of a grotesque sense)”.

  13. finnyknits September 21, 2007 at 7:00 pm #

    Wow. This post scared me, made me laugh, made me look forward to my next trip and also validated the bizarre CD learning set I bought a few years ago. I will say that my classes have taught me a lot (not that anyone will be able to tell, since I clam up around fluent speakers like a friggen mute) but I thought the CDs were probably useless.

    However they do cover the sono andato/a thing. Too bad none of these courses are teaching me any vocab. I’m sure I’ll guess and make a million mortifying mistakes.

    Can’t wait.

  14. Jessica September 21, 2007 at 7:16 pm #

    Great post, Shelley, and thanks for helping those of us struggling with Italian (especially so since we’re not immersed) feel a little better about ourselves!

    The ha senso/fa senso thing has been a recent addition to my knowledge base (our teacher explained fa senso as akin to “gives me the creeps”), but I’d never heard the sono dovuto/a andare one! I’ll have to add that to the agenda at our next Italian class!

  15. Janavi September 21, 2007 at 11:14 pm #

    Since I have been studying Italian da sempre I really enjoyed this entry. I’d never heard the word cesso before-grazie.This summer we had a new teacher, very colorful Italian painter. He taught us the word for thong-spaccascureggia. Which means fart-splitter. Pretty descriptive!

  16. marianna September 22, 2007 at 12:23 am #

    Very enjoyable post, thanks, and love Janavi’s new vocabulary word! Now, can anyone help me understand the many uses of “magari”?

  17. Preyanka September 22, 2007 at 5:12 am #

    Italian sounds so melodious; I wish I could speak it. Maybe one day!

  18. Michael Kovnick September 22, 2007 at 10:46 am #

    Ce l’hai una penna?
    LEt’s not forget common dialect… C’ai ‘na penna?

    Be careful with putting a conditional after “se”
    You are getting into subjunctive territiry. After 23 years, I am only now feeling comfortable there… slightly.

    Rome doesn’t really have an actual dialect; it’s more like a heavy accent.
    Tell THAT to anyone not from Rome ;-)

    Dropping the verb endings.
    And beginnings? ‘namo a man’ia!

    Scopare
    I was so confused at first with that one. I’ll never forget the time I said I was going home to scopare… Deer in the headlights!

    Preservativi vs. conservanti
    My wife… Born and raised in Italy, but having lived 20 years in the states has made this mistake herself!

    I’d give you a list of my own, but I am jet lagging something terrible… just came back to Italy last night. Maybe later :-)

    Ahhh… once does coem to mind, but not a biggy. I had toruble with ‘Non devi fare complimenti’. Why on earth would I not compliment you?

  19. Elizabeth September 22, 2007 at 12:28 pm #

    wait until you have a bi-lingual baby!

    I remember having quite a time trying to convince a stubborn two year old that he should say,”me too” and not “too me” (like “anch’io).

    An American friend’s Italian husband picked up a great American expression which he managed to slightly alter to:
    “She is really on the balls.”

  20. Jeni September 22, 2007 at 7:12 pm #

    I made the preservativi mistake when talking about our salamis in the U.S. I told our Italian friends that our salamis all had to have condoms. At least we can laugh at ourselves! Great list.

  21. André Wegner September 23, 2007 at 10:41 am #

    I usually do only lurk and enjoy your posts. This was a really great one. It’s good that you started to blog again after your summertime break.

  22. qualcosa di bello September 24, 2007 at 2:20 am #

    oh, shelley…thank you so much! i begin my italian classes again tomorrow (after a long hiatus & with 6 months to go before i return to italia). i am sure this post was serendipitous in some way! mille grazie

  23. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 24, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    Oh, you guys are great! Lots of smiles and knowing nods from your comments. It’s a great feeling to know we’re all in this together, eh??

    I’ve never heard “fa senso” the way some of you have described it being used. I’ve only ever used “ha senso” to say “make sense” but I’ve heard “fa impressione” used sort of like “does it shock/bother you” “Mi fa impressione” — like saying “It freaks me out.”

    The word for the thong… fantastic! Is that dialect? I’ve never heard anyone in Rome use it. I’ve only heard “tanga” and “perizoma.”

    She is really “on the balls” is a great one… where one innocent ‘S’ changes everything…

    The ‘non devi fare complimenti’ has ALWAYS puzzled me. I hear it pretty much only when I tell people I don’t have room for seconds at the table… they say, “Ma, non fare complimenti!” and it’s like, what the heck is that supposed to mean? Like refusing the food is a way of complimenting the cooking? So confused there. Of course, I’ve always had trouble with taking seconds and for many years fell back on “Sono americana, non sono abituata” I’m American, I’m not used to big Italian meals…

  24. Caroline in Rome September 24, 2007 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks for the tip about ScorrAggiarsi vs. scorrEggiare. Wouldn’t have known that one.

  25. Isabelle September 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m still laughing out loud imagining the scene with your mother-in-law ;-)))))

  26. lisa September 24, 2007 at 9:33 pm #

    So this is a great post! But i can’t finish reading it right now because i’m sitting in class and nearly burst out loud laughing! ill save this for later :)

  27. Meg September 24, 2007 at 11:12 pm #

    It’s always kind of a relief to hear about other people’s language mistakes. I missed the last train out of Foligno once, and started to walk home. A teeny weeny Fiat full of young men stopped, and they offered me a ride, which I accepted (the alternative was a 10 mile walk in January). They wanted my phone number, and one of them asked if anyone had a pen. And I said (proudly. In Italian) “I have a penis!” To a car full of young men looking to call me up. Oops.

  28. Janavi September 24, 2007 at 11:48 pm #

    I don’t know if spaccascureggia(thong) is dialect,but the teacher is from Puglia,so it could be.

  29. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 25, 2007 at 8:25 am #

    Caroline, Isabelle, Lisa: Glad you enjoyed it!

    Meg: This is a very good one that I totally forgot. Be CAREFUL with the DOUBLE CONSANANTS. This is a sound that we don’t really have in the English language. You really need to emphasize when there are two consanants or, like Meg, you’ll totally change the meaning. This happens more commonly when ordering “penne all’arrabbiata” — if you don’t make it come out sounding like PENNNNNNNNNNNE…they’re definitely going to hear you saying “paynay” (the way it sounds with one N) and that’s definitely not on the menu, people!!!!

    Janavi: Well, I can tell that scureggia is dialect for scorreggia (such a dignified discussion we’re having here!) so it probably is. We’d have to have Sara in Milan ask her Pugliese husband.

  30. Janavi September 25, 2007 at 2:00 pm #

    Shelley-Thanks for the input on Scureggia. I think if they are teaching us words in dialect they should tell us, so we don’t look foolish using it in other parts of the country.

  31. Jackie September 26, 2007 at 11:16 pm #

    wow! i love your little sheet of confusing terms! most all of them were confusing to me at first too (and some still are!)! the “cesso” incident has me cracking up! ah…those “little” mistakes only seem to be funny years later, huh :)?

    great list again!

  32. lucy September 28, 2007 at 3:40 pm #

    How do you say “she is really on the balls?” If my sicilian dialect serves me right is it “lei es supra les pallis?” I can’t spell in Italian to save my life….

  33. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 28, 2007 at 4:08 pm #

    Lucy: I think when Elizabeth mentioned that phrase she meant that the Italian in question was intending to say “She is really on the ball” meaning she’s sharp or intelligent or whatever, but accidentally added an S and it became she is on the balls… which we don’t say in English or Italian! Although sometimes I have heard people say “mi sta sulle palle” … it’s on my balls… to mean that it’s annoying, and it could probably refer to a person as well…

  34. erin September 28, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    This one had both Chris and I laughing hard! Hilarious and so true- we’ll have to keep these pointers in mind as we learn more of the language!

    We finally got our DSL hooked up today :) YAY! So I’m catching up on posts! Thanks again for the lovely stay …and lemoncello! It was delicious :)

  35. romantales October 1, 2007 at 2:55 pm #

    “Non devi fare complimenti” can be described as British “not to stand on ceremony”, but basically your guests are telling you that they don’t expect you to be formal and observe every rule of social behavior. Also if you are offered something, Italians may say that frase in sense:”don’t be shy, please have some, feel yourself at home”.
    I hope you don’t mind me dropping in, since English is not my first language, on the other hand, neither is Italian. lol

  36. Sil October 1, 2007 at 7:24 pm #

    Sooo funny!! Being a native Spanish speaker it’s a little easier with some Italian expressions, but just a little! Congrats for your post, I loved it and I totally understand you with the double consonant issue.
    Saluti dall’ Argentina.

  37. La Casalinga October 3, 2007 at 4:56 pm #

    I am laughing so hard because I had the penne problem, too, when ordering for my husband, 12 year old son and me. Except I was ordering pane (bread) and pronounced it more like the male body part. Everyone got a good chuckle out of that one and I’m still afraid to order bread!!

    Thanks for this post. I will use it when I am in Rome next week!!

  38. Italian Woman October 9, 2007 at 8:19 am #

    I so envy you being in Rome and learning Italian. It’s so hard when you can only practice it maybe once a week. I may have to get a divorce so I can talk slang like you!

  39. Albert October 9, 2007 at 5:02 pm #

    Hello,
    I have no problems with Italian languague because there are many words which are nearly the same as the French languague because I am French but I understand Italian without problems.

  40. DEramo October 18, 2007 at 10:11 pm #

    Ciao tutti

    Great post….just found your blog surfing at work. I have been self teaching myself italian for over a year now. I have been working as an italian destination specialist for 8 years at an italian travel agency. My boss speaks italian, so he helps me all the time. I’ve decided within the last 2 months to transfer to our Roma ufficio in late 2008. So its great learning these additional words and phrases! I slowly over the months of Sept 2006-May 2007 completed Rosetta Stone 1&2, and now I am using the Barrons “Italian Now” & “Grammer” workbooks…I’m really enjoying them! I love this language!
    Ciao

  41. Marta November 10, 2007 at 10:37 am #

    I love your blog! It’s so funny, true and useful. :)
    Ok, I have to share a funny story with my learning English, which your ‘parmesan-with-condoms’ story reminded me of. Have you ever asked for a rubber in a stationary store? Well, I did, with the most innocent intent. I think the cashier guessed what I wanted and she gave me an eraser. She looked kind of imbarassed, and while I was paying, she actually told me I should not use that word for an eraser. :) Well, in Italian, ‘gomma’ (=eraser) directly translates into ‘rubber’!!!!! :) Uffa!!!

  42. Malene March 5, 2008 at 11:56 pm #

    THIS is the BEST ever!.. I must really say that all of those mistakes are so true. I know too well.

    I’m going on my 10th year in Italy and i still haven’t caught everything even though i think i am fluent :) My husband still calls me the straniera when we are out and i start a conversation:D

    Hilarious site! I love it :)

    Mille grazie..

  43. Marco March 31, 2008 at 3:42 am #

    I am an Italian guy living in Shanghai. I work in an educational company where I am trying to come up with a new way to teach italian in a more practical and fun way, and found your blog really good and full of inspirations and topics for lessons.

    At the moment we are also looking for a native english speaker fluent in Italian to join our team, I was wondering if you had any advice on how I could find this person.
    I don’t want to spam, it’s just that I am not familiar with the expats-in-Italy online community …maybe you can help me :-)

    ciao, continua così!
    Marco.

  44. Sylina December 23, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    Hi.. I found your blog while searching italian tutor in shanghai.. the tips are so helpful.. and the mistakes made me laugh badly :D thanks a lot for sharing.. i’ll come back time to time..

    all the best,
    Sylina

  45. Maria December 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Hi, I really loved your post – and your blog in general
    As for your top 7, lemme see.
    1. Ce l’hai una penna…no, i didn’t know this one:)
    2. Come ti trovi-this one is nice. Resembles a bit to Romanian (my native language), so I understood the meaning 1st time I heard it.
    3. Non ce la faccio. Had an Italian bf, heard it from him the first time and understood from the context.
    4. Sono dovuta andare- Yes, Romance languages have two auxiliaries, and strict rules for them- except Romanian, where the use of essere’s counterpart is a lot more limited/relaxed/chaotic. But i had learned French in school, so this one was rather easy.
    5. Conditionals after se. Somehow similar to the If clauses in English, I think. ( i.e.You don’t say “If it would rain, I would stay indoors”). Romance languages have this rule too. Again, Romanian is an exception, but having learned the rule in French, it was somehow easy to transpose it into Italian.
    6. Accent. I don’t think I know of a European country with as many dialects and visible (well, audible) pronunciation differences as Italy. It’s simply unique.
    7. Embarassing mistakes. In Romanian, we say “prezervative” too for condoms, so this one is not a mistake that I’d be likely to make:) Probably the easiest to mistake are scorregiarsi and scorragiarsi:)
    As for myself, I think some of the most difficult things to grasp in Italian were the interjections – plus minus hand gestures:) and “magari” – I am still not 100% sure I fully understand the meaning in its entire complexity:) Cheers from Romania and Buon Natale!

  46. Lisa May 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    years after this post was written I have a comment, dont say Sono eccitata to mean I’m excited it means “I’m horny”

    • Shelley Ruelle June 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Oh man, yeah, I think I covered that in another post. Been there, done that. Yikes. So annoying.

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