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Speaking Italian

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Ft. Lauderdale
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Speaking Italian

Hey everyone!

In May, I am studying abroad in Italy (alone!! I don't know anyone else who's going.) We're starting in Milan, and traveling south to Rome over a two-week stay. It's a food science course, so we're going to visit different wineries and food production factories. Instead of flying back with my class, I've decided to stay an extra week and my mother and sister are flying into Rome for 6 days of sightseeing :)

I'm so very excited, but I'm INCREDIBLY nervous about not knowing any Italian. My trip leader said that knowing Italian isn't required, but still... I don't want to be rude, and it's scary to be in a different country without speaking their language!

I'm going to try and learn some myself, but I don't know how much I can realistically pick up in a few months. I'm not exactly skilled at learning foreign language. I attempted to learn French my sophomore and junior year in college, and failed third level twice (embarrassing, I know. ) I'm feel like I just don't have the ear for it.

My question is... is it possible to get around Rome without knowing any Italian? And more importantly, do the people there find it rude to speak only English? And finally, what is the best way to learn some Italian in just a few months? I was thinking about getting Rosetta Stone, but I don't know how well it works (plus it's pricey!)

And I'd be happy to hear any other tips about Rome.



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1. Re: Speaking Italian

No need to worry. Everyone dealing with tourists in Rome and Italy speaks some degree of English.

Italians appreciate it if you address them in Italian ("buon giorno" or "buona sera (evening)", as the case may be, if you say please ("per favore") and thank you ("grazie") and if you don't raise your voice when speaking to them in English.

Those six words will get you through just fine. You can hear them pronounced at Google Translate. Save yourself the cost of the Rosetta Stone, particularly if, as you say, you are not gifted for languages.

United States
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2. Re: Speaking Italian

Check out your local library, they often have Pimsleur or other language CDs that you can check out to learn basic traveler's Italian, greetings, numbers, food, etc. You can load those onto a iPod or something similar and listen to the sounds.

Basic greetings are always appreciated even if the other person will answer you in English.


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3. Re: Speaking Italian

I found the book Italian in 10 minutes a day very useful in learning basic italian. They stress spend no more than 10 minutes per day, but I found myself going longer. As you go along, you can stick removable stickers on things in your home to help you remember words and phrases.

You can get it on amazon relatively cheap.

Some of the local courses offered in my community to teach you basic french/italian/german etc. all use the 10 minutes a day book as their workbook/textbook.

Edited: 28 January 2012, 20:18
U.S. expats
Destination Expert
for Windsor, London
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4. Re: Speaking Italian

Don't concentrate too much on getting a smattering. It can actually work to your disadvantage. If your accent is good enough, and you ask for directions or the bathroom, for example, you may get an answer you can't comprehend in rapid fire Italian!

I agree 100% with Zerlina--it is only polite to learn the simple everyday niceties, and they will stand you in good stead. More than that, though, you need a good attitude, a smile, and an appreciation for the culture you are in.

But I am curious--you say it is scary to be in a foreign country without speaking the language. Is this based on your previous experience, or is this your first and you are nervous?

I wish you all the best on your travels.

Cheshire, United...
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5. Re: Speaking Italian

This is a good introduction to Italian from the BBC and its free, hope you can access the link in the US


Idaho Falls, Idaho
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6. Re: Speaking Italian

As everyone said it is pretty easy and always appreciated to know the polite words. BUT one of the more important items needed to function in Rome is a good map of the city.

Monza, Italy
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7. Re: Speaking Italian

Ciao PennyLane,

I'm sure that in Rome you won't have any problem to find someone who wants to speak english with you, in Italy we say " you will have the queue of boys behind you....."

Polite words are enough, you could add "on the right" (a destra), "on the left" (a sinistra), "straight" (dritto) for your convenience.

Ft. Lauderdale
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24 posts
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8. Re: Speaking Italian

Thank you all SO much for the replies. I feel a lot more at ease.

I'm definitely going to skip the Rosetta Stone, and maybe peruse the library to find some helpful books, just to learn the necessities. And of course, I'll have good maps.

LauraRW: Thankfully, I've had no previous bad experience. I've only been to Mexico, and it was at an all-inclusive where all of the staff spoke English LOL! So this will be a completely new experience for me.

jessybobs: thanks for the link!

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9. Re: Speaking Italian

Other than the "polite" words above, the phrase I found most useful was "Parla Inglese?" (Do you speak English?) I tried to learn other phrases before I went, but when actually trying to use them, I found that to be about the limit for what I could say on the spot.

FWIW, I had no trouble getting around in Rome without speaking Italian, although I do speak some French and DD speaks some Spanish which helped understand some Italian.

10. Re: Speaking Italian

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