Learning the Language
Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
It is very interesting learning another language. For one thing, all of those grammar things that I learned in grade school and pretty much went in one ear and out the other become more important. When I started learning Italian I wouldn’t have known a gerund if it bit me in the ass. The gerund is the verb form ending in –“ ing”. In English we use them a lot. “I am going to the store”. They are activities that we are in the process of doing or will be doing in the near future. In Italian the simple present tense serves this purpose. “Vado” – “I go” is good enough. The gerund in this kind of context is only used for emphasis. The example that my Italian teacher gave is “ I’m talking on the telephone – I can’t talk to you now”. And how about those objects? Do I ever think about direct or indirect objects. No way. But learning Italian has forced me to revisit those long ago forgotten terms for grammatical structure.
I first thought that the verbs are really complicated in Italian. Well, I still think that. I mean, how many past tenses does one really need? Italian has a bunch of them and they have very specific usages. Then as I start thinking about English. Well, we have a bunch of them too. “ I would have gone” is a good example. These probably drive the speakers of other languages nuts when they are learning English. Of course there is also the dreaded congiuntivo. This is the speculative form of verbs and there is really no equivalent in English. One uses a different form of verb to say something like “I think that your mama is fat”. The “is” in that sentence would require the congiuntivo form of the verb. An Italian teacher that I had some years ago compared congiuntivo it to entering another room of the language.
I am starting to get a feel for the language. So I’m using some of the past tenses properly (most of the time) now. That feel is the same thing that I feel in English when I say to myself, “you know, that just doesn’t sound right”. So that is progress.
Another thing that I’ve always found difficult are the small words, articles, prepositions, pronouns. In Italian, for example, not only do you need to learn the pronouns but where they are placed in a sentence. Two can be combined into a single string and sometimes are attached to the ends of vowels. How crazy is that? Of course with time it will all somehow seem right when I have a better feel for the language.
One on line source that I have recently found and like a lot comes from the University of Texas in Austin and is called Radio Arlecchino. I especially like it when the narrator talks about the second person plural form of verbs – that is, the plural form of “you”. He says, well, if you’re from Texas, this is y’all.
In all I really am enjoying the study of this beautiful language and will share some more in future posts. I’d love to hear about any language learning experiences that anyone else has had so that’s what the comment space below is for.