November 1, 2009 | Italian

An Italian City

Italian is much easier than Arabic.

New York is home to many Italian-Americans, Italians, and Italian speakers, so this is a great place to study the language. All that Italian constantly swirling around me has not previously resulted in my learning any Italian, however. Nor has the fact that my husband’s sister is married to an Italian man, and that they are raising their three children in Genoa.

New York City, View from the Subway

In fact, as of 7 a.m. today, when I woke up, my Italian status was that I knew only the following words and phrases:  

  • Grazie - thank you
  • - yes
  • Buon giorno - hello, good morning
  • Buona sera - good evening
  • Buona notte - good night
  • Molto bene - very well

But by 9:38, just a little more than 2.5 hours later, I was already on lesson 4 of Pimsleur Italian Level I. I had no idea I’d be able to go so fast. 

I also realized: if I were given an Italian text this very minute, I would understand it way, way better than I would understand the same text in Arabic, even after two months of intensive study. And it’s the same for listening. I can understand more Italian, more easily, than I can understand Arabic, even though I’ve never studied it and can barely say a word. One thing that really helps, of course, is being comfortable with Spanish.

Excellent Flashcards for Italian

I kept doing Pimsleur and, incredibly, finished lesson 8 sometime in the afternoon. I started 9 but then began making mistakes, so I stopped for a while.

I moved on instead to my SparkNotes study cards: 1,000 cheerful blue-and-white flashcards in a cute little box.

The flashcard experience was another revelation. I was able to get more Italian words right, the very day I began studying the language, than I was able to get right in Arabic after two months of daily study.

The familiarity is such a relief. The sounds are such a relief.

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