Introduction to Italian
Overview of Italian and a few fundamentals of Italian grammar.
All in the Family
Italian and English
Both English and Italian are part of the Indo-European family of languages.
Languages are divided into families and then subdivided into branches. Languages with similar grammatical structures and vocabulary are grouped together. English is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family, and is a major Germanic language, along with German, Dutch, Swedish, Flemish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. Just like English, Italian is untimately traced to the Indo-European languages, which is comprised of a number of branches, namely Romance, Germanic, Celtic, Hellenic(Greek), Albanian, Armenian, Baltic, Slavic, and Indo-Iranian. Italian belongs to the Romance languages branch of the Indo-European family of languages, along with French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Romanian and Sardinian.
Structure of Italian
Of all the major Romance languages, Italian is the language that has remained most similar to Latin, and its sound system is similar to that of Latin and Spanish. Italian grammar is similar to the grammar of other modern Romance languages, for instance, the agreement of adjectives and nouns, gender (masculine and feminine), the use of definite and indefinite articles, as well as the perfect and progressive tenses of verbs. Italian differs from Spanish and French in that it doesn't use an "s" or an "es" to form the plural forms of nouns. The plural form of Italian nouns is created by using vowel changes.
I'd also like to point out that although the English alphabet is comprised of 26 letters, the Italian alphabet is made up of only 21 letters. In Italian, the letters j, k, w, x and y appear only in words that have been borrowed from other languages. As in English, the vowels in the Italian alphabet are a, e, i, o and u.
The Stress Involved
Stress and Accents in Italian
In Italian, the stress is usually on the next to last or third from last syllable of a word. Also note that there is only one accent mark in Italian - the grave accent, which goes from right to left. An example of this can be seen in the word "città" (city). The use of the grave accent in Italian serves two purposes: a) if a word with more than one syllable places the stress on the final vowel , as opposed to the second last or third last syllable, and b) on one syllable words to distinguish two words that would otherwise have the same spelling; for example "e" (and) and è (is).
Capitalization in Italian
Which words are capitalized in Italian?
Just like in English, the names of people, countries, cities, rivers, lakes and mountains and other proper nouns are capitalized in Italian. The formal form of the pronoun "Lei" (you) and other corresponding polite forms are capitalized in formal writing but are sometimes not capitalized in informal writing.
The days of the week and the months of the year are never capitalized in Italian, unless they are used at the start of a sentence. Also, the pronoun "io" (I), titles such as signora (Mrs., Ms.) and adjectives and nouns referring to languages and nationalities are also not capitalized unless they begin a sentence. Here are a few examples: canadese (Canadian); americano (American); inglese (English).
Formal - To Be or Not to Be?
Formality and Informality in Italian
Italian has levels of formality built into the language, which manifests itself in the use of the pronoun you. In Italian, the pronoun you has a familiar, informal form and a polite, more formal form. The English "you" translates into any of the following: tu, Lei, voi, Loro.
tu Singular, informal you
Lei Singular, formal you
voi Plural, informal you
Loro Plural, formal you
The informal form of you is used when addressing friends, children and pets; however, with people who are older than you or with adults you've just met, you should use the polite form unless they have indicated the using the informal form is okay. When in doubt, use the formal form.
Not Just You
In Italian, just like in English, pronouns take the place of nouns and the personal subject pronouns are those meaning I, you, he/she, it, we, you, and they.
The personal subject pronouns in Italian are as follows:
tu you (informal, singular)
Lei you (formal, singular)
esso/essa it (masculine/feminine, refers to things)
voi you (informal, plural)
Loro you (formal, plural)
essi/esse they (masculine/feminine, refers to things)
Subject pronouns are often omitted in Italian because the verb ending or the context will indicate who or what the subject is. The subject pronouns will be used when it is necessary to differentiate between two subjects and when the subject needs to be emphasized. In addition, the subject pronoun wil be used after some adverbs, such as anche(too); for example: Anch'io! (Me too!).
Have Fun with Italian!
This is a general overview of background information on Italian.
In my experience, if you're serious about learning Italian, you will succeed - motivation, determination and commitment are all key factors for adults who are interested in learning a new language. Don't give up - and most importantly, have fun.
Interested in traveling to Italy - there are lots of great destinations to choose from. http://www.squidoo.com/italy-travel-lensography
Are you planning on learning Italian?
Gifts for Language Students
Gifts for Language Students: Italian
Resources and tips for adults who who would like to learn Italian or who are currently studying Italian.
Italian Language Resources
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