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Episode #091: Learning Italian for your trip

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You don’t need to speak Italian when you visit most of the major tourist destinations in Italy,  but if you have at least a few phrases in your repertoire – you’ll have a much richer experience. And it just might be the difference between having a great trip and one where you make life-long friends and unforgettable memories. Not to mention it’s such a beautiful language to speak!

Show notes

In this episode, we are talking to Michele Frolla of The Intrepid Guide, who is an expert in Italian and languages in general.  But, as you’ll learn, with Italian heritage and having lived in Rome for long spells, Italian is her first love. Michele has a unique way of teaching Italian so you can become “travel fluent” very quickly. She shares tips and favorite phrases to get you started and some ideas to take your learning further.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Amazing experiences can be opened up to you by learning some Italian. Experiences that you will cherish beyond seeing any sites. 
  2. Don’t feel overwhelmed by thinking you have to learn all the words in Italian, as with over 260,000 words in Italian, that’s pretty impossible. But you can have a really good understanding and working knowledge of a time with only a few thousand words.  2 or 3000 words are most people’s active vocabulary that they use on an everyday basis – which is do-able with some time and effort. 
  3. Though the language might seem very ‘foreign’ if you go back to the language of the 17 hundreds in England, you’ll find phrases that would be said in the same way as the Italian language does now. For instance, they would say things like, “pray, do tell”. And the translation of that in Italian is “prego, mi dica”, which is the formal phrase that you will hear when you go into a store and someone says “prego, mi dica”, “Tell me, what do you want?”
  4. If your trip is a few weeks away or even a couple of months, so you can still learn quite a lot of vocabulary that will help you in 80% of the situations. Michele’s methods employ the idea of learning 20% of the language that is going to help you in 80% of the situations that you find yourself in. So in as little as two weeks that you can become quite conversationally fluid in the sense that you know what is being said. You can form your own and sentences in a way that the other person can understand you. And it’s not perfect grammar. It’s going to be broken Italian, but that doesn’t matter if you’re getting your point across and able to communicate.
  5. As Michelle puts it, language learning is not about being perfect. It’s about getting your ball over the net, onto the other side of the court, so the other person can then hit it back to you, and then you are having a conversation.
  6. A great saying which represents the Italian culture beautifully is “A tavola non s’invecchia mai” – at the table, one doesn’t grow old. This means to enjoy the things that really matter in life – like those friends and family who sit around the table with you and the wonderful food you enjoy. Time should stand still at the dinner table and be enjoyed.

About our guest – Michele Frolla

Michele is an Italian-Australian language educator and travel blogger and ‘guide’ behind The Intrepid Guide. Michele aims to enrich her readers’ travels with her detailed destinations guides and travel phrase guides. Michele also offers online language courses that use her unique 80/20 method to help you learn the local language so you can travel with confidence, enjoy meaningful interactions with the locals, and avoid being treated like a tourist. Follow Michele on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts.

You can find Michelle on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • Il Passetto di Borgo, Rome – passageway, on top of a medieval wall of the city, connects Castel San Angelo with the Vatican,This was the escape route for Popes when Rome was under siege or under threat. I’ts only open during the summer, and you have to book tickets in advance – well worth it for the views alone
  • Via Piccolomini – an optical illusion in Rome, where the dome of the Vatican goes from large to small as you get nearer, travelling by vehicle
  • Puglia – where Michelle’s father is from – the beautiful region in the boot of the foot.
  • Castel del Monte – octagonal 13th-century castle in Puglia, represented on the 1 euro cent coin
  • Palermo – city on the island of Sicily

Resources

  • Google Translate – a useful tool for translating menus, signs and in urgent situations 
  • Jane Austen – English novelist famous for her novels set around the Regency landed gentry and her novels are beloved to many. Jane spent much of her life in Hampshire and Oxfordshire, but you can also find the other places she visited feature in her novels, like Bath – find out how to do your own Jane Austen tour in the UK here  
  • The common European framework of reference for European languages breaks them up into different levels starting at beginners grade A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. C2 is fluency.

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.

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