How much time do you spend learning how to write in Italian?
If you’re like most people, it’s probably not one of life’s greatest priorities.
Speaking the language, on the other hand, and understanding what others say to you, usually comes high on the list.
But sometimes, you may have to write in Italian. And if you reach a reasonable level, you’ll really be handicapped if you can’t (or won’t) write.
You probably won’t be able to work or study, for example. Or write e-mails. Or chat with friends on social networks. You’ll be pretty left out of things.
Back when I was just starting out with Italian, I took a master’s degree at the local business school, here in Bologna. It was taught completely in Italian, but it was cheap. I had my doubts whether I’d be able to cope. But I needed a better job, and hoped that business school would help me get one.
“What the hell!” I thought,
“I’ll get by.”
It soon became clear that though my level in Italian was completely inadequate, my professors and classmates were happy to practise their English and so didn’t make a big thing of it.
I scraped by. At least until the first written exam was scheduled.
My Italian is far from perfect NOW, but in those days I couldn’t form even the simplest of sentences without screwing up the tense, the gender, or missing the article. My spelling was also terrible, and I tended to use lots of words that I hoped were Italian, but weren’t.
Often a single sentence would suffer from all of these problems.
So how on earth was I supposed to express my thoughts on business strategy, in Italian, in writing?
I needed a plan.
Being an English teacher by profession, and often having had to mark essays written in English by Italians, I knew that one of the most typical weaknesses in student essays is the overall lack of coherence.
The grammar might be OK at sentence level, but the ideas simply don’t flow. The reader is often left scratching her head, or having to re-read parts of the text to make sense of it. Teachers hate that.
What’s missing is usually a conscious effort on the part of the writer to CONNECT the ideas. To guide the reader through the argument. Students either don’t know it’s important, or they can’t be bothered. Either way, it shows.
OK, I thought. So my grammar sucks and I’m probably going to get roasted for it, but at least let me learn a list of “connecting words” to use to join up my embarassingly bad sentences into a reasonably coherent argument.
So I sat down to make a list. A bit like the one below, which I’ve just copied from Daniele’s new B2 e-book…
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Siccome / Poiché / Visto Che / Dato Che
Sebbene / Nonostante / Benché
Ormai / Già
A parte / Eccetto / Tranne
Perciò / Quindi
Tuttavia / Comunque
Once I had my list of common “connecting words”, all I had to do was memorise them, so that on the day of the exam I would be able to use the words on my list to turn my gibberish into something that at least seemed organised.
Gibberish however gibberish on the other hand gibberish therefore gibberish so gibberish and gibberish. For example, gibberish. To sum up, gibberish.
And guess what? I passed the exam!
P.S. Usually this is the bit where I promote our latest e-book, but I already did that, so here’s a tip, instead.
If you want to learn to write, you have to actually write.
Doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. But you have to start, or you’ll never gain confidence and develop good writing habits, like checking your text fro spelling mistakes (that was deliberate, Mum.)
An excellent place to begin writing in Italian is the OnlineItalianClub.com forums. They’re free to members, and you can choose to write in Italian, in English, or a mix of both, if that helps.
And from today, we’ll have a teacher checking in regularly to answer your questions and interact with you.
So, why not head on over to the forums and give it a go?
P.P.S. Got any ideas about learning to write in Italian? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below (or if you’re reading this as an e-mail, click here to leave a comment on the website)
Nazanin Aliabadi says
I really liked your list of common “connecting words”, I found that to be a useful tip. For me, personally, I find understanding others speak the hardest and writing the easiest. Then again, we all learn differently. Something I found useful when learning how to write in Italian is broken Italian. For example, for a native English speaker they could write there sentences in English and substitute the words they do know in Italian. It would look something like this: Oggi sono went to work. That’s what I still do today to help me build my vocabulary and slowly gain more confidence. I hope this will help others as well! At least you will be attempting Italian even if your sentences aren’t 100% in Italian 🙂
Hi there Nazanin,
Welcome to OnlineItalianClub.com, and thanks for you comment.
Two things come to mind:
1. What you’re saying sounds like the idea of “meta-language”. In effect, all of us learning a foreign Language are in a “meta” or “in-between” stage, between begining, and full competency. People think that it’s only at low levels that you have to adopt strategies, as you suggested. But, in fact, it never finishes. Even after 15 years Learning and using Italian, I’m still making exactly the same sort of compromises to get the job done.
2. The best learners, it is said, are those most tolerant of ambiguity and imperfection. Sounds like you’d be a great learner! Italians would say that you’re willing to “buttarti” (throw yourself in). That’s just what’s needed.
Now how about throwing yourself into our forums??