Learning Italian. Where do you begin?
Learn Some Nouns
You want to learn how to speak Italian but not sure where to begin? Well, a good start would be to learn as many nouns (names of things) as you can. In my Absolute Beginner Classes I also like to expose students to some Italian grammar. Learning grammar gives you a much better understanding of the language and gets you speaking a lot quicker than learning phrases. Exposing students to grammar doesn’t mean they should be memorising and mastering what you teach them in an instance. It just means they have seen the word or the rules and from that point on, each time they are re-exposed to it they may learn and remember a little more. Remembering what is learnt comes with practice by doing exercises, and it takes time.
Essere and Avere Verbs
There are two ‘verbs’ (doing words) in Italian that are taught in the Absolute Beginner course and I am going to write a little explanation on how to learn and use them. While rote learning may be a little old school, it may be a good way to memorise them, but if you have a method that suits you more then you should stick to it.
In Italian, we have verbs just like in English. Only in English, we don’t change the verbs 6 times to suit the person or object doing the action, or the person we are speaking about who is doing the action, like we do in Italian.
To construct a sentence we use lots of words and grammar. A sentence like :
‘The boy is beautiful’.
‘Il ragazzo e` bello’.
This simple sentence is made by adding a noun + verb + adjective …..or in simple terms subject + doing word + describing word)
So firstly you should learn your ‘subject pronouns’ (the subject of your sentence – who you are speaking about):
Here are the subject pronouns (meaning the person or thing doing the action).
I - io
You - tu
He/She/It - Lui, Lei, esso/a
We - noi
You all - voi
They - loro
Essere (to be) and Avere (to have) are the first two verbs we learn as Absolute Beginners
So the verbs Essere and Avere in English are used like this
ESSERE - TO BE
io sono -I am
tu sei - you are
tui/lei/it e` - he/she is (notice the verb has changed 3 times already am, are, is)
noi siamo - we are
voi siete - you all are
loro sono - they are
I am Italian - Io sono italiano
you are French - tu sei francese
he/she is Australian - lui/lei e` australiano
we are Italian – noi siamo italiani
you all are Italian – voin siete italiani
they are Italian - loro sono italiani
AVERE – (TO HAVE) works the same way.
I have a child - io ho un figlio (pronounced fi-li-yoh)
You have a child - tu hai un figlio
He/she/it has a child - lui/lei/esso ha un figlio
We have a child – noi abbiamo un figlio
You all have a child – voi avete un figlio
They have a child – loro hanno un figlio
These are very simple sentences, but if you have a few Italian nouns up your sleeve, then you can already start to make simple sentences.
The problem most students face when learning verbs is they get confused when the ‘subject pronoun’ (the person or thing doing the action), is replaced with a name.
He is beautiful – Lui e` bello
Gianni is beautiful – Gianni e` bello (He = Gianni)
Or a little more complex is when you are speaking with someone asking them questions and they have to answer changing the verb so it all makes sense.
Question: Do you have a child? - Hai un figlio?
Answer: Yes I have a child. - Si, ho un figlio.
Question: Does Chiara have a child? – Chiara ha un figlio?
Answer: Yes, Chiara has a child – Si, Chiara ha un figlio.
Note how the verb ‘have’ in the English sentences hasn’t changed , but in the Italian sentences it has because it is agreeing with the person in the sentence who is doing the action.
This is a very basic explanation and joining classes can be very helpful and would be the next step for anyone wanting to learn ‘la dolce lingua’. While phrases may be fun to learn, they are very limiting when trying to have a conversation. I always remind my students that they must walk before they run! So start your learning journey by building your Italian vocabulary and slowly but surely the language will all start to come together.