I’ve been learning Italian for around 16 years now, by virtue of having an Italian partner and living in Bologna, Italy.
So how come I STILL can’t remember if weekend (fine settimana / end of week) is masculine or femminine I was asking myself yesterday, when someone at work helpfully corrected my ennesimo mistake.
Well, yes, I’ve been learning Italian for a long time, but I’ve also been earning a living, bringing up children and getting a new business established. Insomma, what I haven’t been doing is STUDYING the language.
The fact that I really should have made the effort, say 16 years ago, to actually memorise the gender of “weekend” was brought home to me later in the day when I was checking the proofs of our latest e-book and came across this helpful section:
Sometimes Italian words can be really tricky. Just changing gender, or adding an accent, can turn a word into a completely different one. This lesson lists pairs of words with completely different meanings but with a similar form. Caution! The words on the right may seem to be the feminine forms of the words on the left, but they aren’t!
il porto [port] – la porta [door]
il boa [snake] – la boa [marine signal]
il buco [hole] – la buca [grave]
il busto [bust] – la busta [envelope]
il capitale [fn. capital] – la capitale [capital city]
il cerchio [math. circle] – la cerchia [circle of friends]
il cero [candle] – la cera [wax]
il collo [neck] – la colla [glue]
il colpo [blow] – la colpa [blame]
il corso [course] – la corsa [race]
il fine [aim] – la fine [end]
il fronte [front] – la fronte [forehead]
il gambo [stem] – la gamba [leg]
il palmo [palm] – la palma [palm tree]
il palo [pole] – la pala [shovel]
il panno [cloth] – la panna [cream]
il pezzo [piece] – la pezza [patch]
il pianto [crying] – la pianta [plant]
il pizzo [lace] – la pizza [pizza]
il suolo [soil]- la suola [sole]
il torto – la torta [cake]
Think of the benefits if I’d taken an hour or so, back in 1997, to memorise these pitfalls.
Conclusion? You can learn Italian just by being here, but studying is much quicker and more effective, and the ideal, of course is to combine the two approaches, which I have sadly failed to find time to do.
What aspects of Italian do YOU find difficult? Leave a comment below.
P.S. Download a sample chapter, exercises, solutions and audio track for “Italian Workout! B2” here. The full version is available for the special launch price of only €9.99 for the next two weeks, after which it will be €19.99, like the other levels.
Bel post! Unica precisazione: “la manica” significa “sleeve” in inglese, mentre “cleever” (o “cleaver”) in italiano si dice “la mannaia”.
Hai ragione, il fatto che la stessa parola abbia significati diversi se maschile o femminile crea un po’ confusione, ma con l’uso diventa sempre più facile!!
Ooops! We’ll have to sack the proof-reader…. Who was that?
Stefanie Newman says
For me, the prepositions are the hardest as well as word order. I try to learn “word clusters”. So, I have a few phrases : “molto da fare” , qualcosa di bella,” non ho mai visto” . These are some of the examples that come to mind and they provide a model for other things I might want to say !
That’s great advice, Stefanie. There’s no doubt it’s easier to learn new words (and new grammar) in “chunks”, as long as most of the phrase is familiar.
Comment from Steve Marinaro sent in by e-mail. Thanks Steve!
If I may be permitted to add my two cents: READ, READ, READ, READ, READ. Doesn’t matter what. It can be great literature or cheap boulevard press. Read Italian and always carry a dictionary with you. That’s how I learned German, an that’s how I keep my Italin going forward, even when I’m not in Italy.
It’s difficult and very slow going at first, but it pays off.
E-mail sent in by Marion Porreca:
A nice, interesting, useful list ….. However, “la manica” means a sleeve – nothing to do with the choppers or cleavers which you have suggested !!!
Yes, you’re absolutely right, Marion. I’ve now modified the post to delete that bit.
The original list was written by an Italian, though of course it’s completely my fault for not checking before posting (there’s ALWAYS something wrong!)