Rambling about Italian

Today is hot and humid…time to sit back in my arm-chair and…ramble.

Everyone knows by now, that I live and work in Italy…and I have for a very long time.  I’m fluent in Italian, as fluent as anyone who’s learnt a language just using it can be.  Most of the day I speak and read in that language, unless I’m on the Internet…then I write and read English of course.

Italian is a romance language, almost completely phonetic too.  There are some sounds though, that I just don’t hear, and so have trouble spelling them…like double letters.  I’m happy to say though that I’ve met a German lady who speaks beautiful Italian, and she too has the same problems as I.  Makes you feel less peculiar.

An odd thing about most romance languages is that they’ve divvied the world up into masculine and feminine,,,and that is terribly interesting!

For example: birth, life, death, illness, the plague, war but also star, moon and planet, to name a few are feminine words.  Massacre, genocide, cancer, hurricane, earthquake, but also the universe, black hole, and cosmos are masculine.  Why this should be has always fascinated me.  Why should the hunt be feminine for example and not masculine?  Why is the sea or a river masculine, but water feminine?

Life becomes complicated if you don’t know these vital differences…the articles and prepositions not to speak of the adjectives all have to be in their proper gender form or you give yourself away or you confuse everyone.  Verb conjugation is also way more complicated than in English,  Funnily enough, I don’t always give myself away when I speak, but it’s quite another matter when I write!

I have a fairly large vocabulary, basically because I’m a big time reader.  I don’t have a heavy accent, except when I’m stressed or have been speaking English a lot with another mother-tongue.  I also tend to copycat (not on purpose) the cadence and accent of people whom I’m speaking with.  So, although over the years my English is more or less BBC inflected (as my sister says: “you talk like a damn Brit!”) when I’ve been back to the States, usually Illinois, I’ll get a southern Illinois twang.

And then, there’s my sense of humor and people’s and object’s names, especially surnames or combinations of words that make up a name of a person or place.  Unfortunately, only a bilingual can appreciate why I giggle at some combinations.  But just as an illustration, though not a particularly finny one, let’s take the actor named Rip Torn and say he’d been cast for the movie “Edward Scissorhands”… I just might giggle about something like that.

That very nearly got me in hot water once.  I had a boyfriend named Luciano…now luci means lights and ano means anus…so I piped up with: asslights!  Not so cool, but in the end (tehehe) it only earned me a long lecture on the etymology of the nameRiva…oh and he married me too.

5 thoughts on “Rambling about Italian

  1. I loved this, Georgia. Yes there are certain challenges in learning and speaking a second language, but also wonderful experiences and understandings about etymology. And I agree, I don’t get the gender thing either – I think their origins are probably ancient.


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