Before seven a.m. this morning I was at Bologna’s Ospedale Maggiore for a ‘prelievo sangue’. It’s an imposing modern building with a helicopter pad on the top.
Ayrton Senna, perhaps the most famous Formula 1 driver of all, was air-lifted there after the accident which ended his career, and his life.
I was ‘recoverato’ (‘admitted to’, rather than the more tempting ‘recovered’) to the Stroke Unit at Osp. Magg. myself a couple of years ago. Unlike poor Ayrton, I ‘recovered‘.
Careful! That’ll translate as ‘riprendersi’, rather than the more obvious ‘recuperare’, which means to recover/get back lost time, progress, or an object.
So ‘mi sono ripreso’ – I recovered. But che confusione!
Back to ‘prelevare’. When associated with ‘sangue’ (blood) or ‘contanti’ (cash) it’s pretty easy to understand, even though, like a lot of words, it translates as different things.
‘Withdraw cash’ works fine, ‘withdraw blood’ I suppose is OK, but I’d have just said ‘a blood test’, rather than ‘a blood withdrawal’. Italians like to be more precise – the ‘blood test’ (analisi di sangue) is what happens afterwards, no?
And so it is with foreign languages. It’s not that any particular element is difficult (though some are) rather that – in these varying and incredibly complex communication systems – many, many things are done differently.
It’s only when you begin to develop a familiarity with how users of the language express meaning – which may vary wildy from the way you would do it in the language or languages you’re most familiar with – that things begin to gel.
How to survive up to that point? Well, a good approach is just to go with the flow. Don’t stress about it. Just chill, basically.
All that said, students sometimes freak out for understandable reasons, as some native speakers do, too.
Check out this photo of a section of a poster I was looking at this morning, while waiting the obligatory few minutes with my finger pressed on the hole that had just been made in my vein.
It’s from last year’s campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of HIV, ‘Parliamone’, and is a good example of the sort of grammar that bugs people, and for the same reason, as the vocabulary variations hightlighted above. It’s not DIFFICULT, per se, just unfamiliar as a way of saying something.
‘Parlare’ is ‘to speak, to talk’, so ‘Parliamo’ is ‘We’re talking’ but also, and in this case, ‘Let’s talk’.
Note that the subject pronoun ‘we’ is usually unnecessary in Italian – another thing that learners have a huge problem with.
But it’s the ‘ne’ particle added at the end that blows people’s brains out of their ears, for some reason.
‘Let’s talk about it‘ in English is expressed as the conjugated verb (parliamo) and a particle (ne), which I find efficient and simple. Once you get used to it, at least.
It’s rather like Ospedale Maggiore’s ‘prelievo sangue’ + ‘analisi di sangue’ processes in fact. I should be emailed the results by early afternoon.
But I mentioned that change can upset native speakers, too. The above photo shows a leaflet, and above that, details of an event – something to do with rapid HIV testing.
Look at the bit above the leaflet, below the dates and times, to see who’ll be attending (‘partecipare’).
There’ll be infermier*, infermier* di comunità, medic*, educatori/educatrici, psicolog*, and volontar* from the various associations involved in the campaign.
Nurses, community nurses, teachers/trainers, pyschologists, and volunteers. In English we mostly don’t user gender-specific nouns, so plurals don’t present a problem. Stick an ‘s’ on the end and, most of the time, we’re done.
In Italian, on the other hand, gender of nouns is a thing. Often there’s a male/female version of a word, for instance educatori/educatrici, but often not, at which point the noun needs to be declined according to gender.
Now here at OnlineItalianClub.com we’re proud to be woke, or as much as the next person anyway. But as language teachers (and users) we’re aware that change can provoke controversy.
I don’t know where I was when everyone agreed to start saying ‘fisher’, for instance, but it still causes me upset every time I read or hear it.
But for what reason? I’ve no idea. I’m normally fine with the idea that things change, so why not the way languages are used?
I’m still coming to terms with the way my kids use they/them/their pronouns to address a third person singular who prefers it that way. My gut doesn’t like the idea, though my brain gets it.
Why shouldn’t people get to choose their pronouns? The only reason I could think of is that English is easier the way it is, which is a poor excuse. – plenty of things in language require figuring things out from context (homophones, for instance), so why NOT innovate?
In the end, it comes down to power. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how language may or may not reflect that. It wasn’t so longer ago, remember, that any variation in the title ‘Chairman’ was laughed at. “No, you can’t be just ‘Chair’, silly woman.” I rest my case.
Anyway, the asterisks in the poster are Italian ‘woke’. I found a rather long article about it, should anyone wish to ‘approfondire’ (go deeper, maybe the ‘ne’ would be useful here?) – Un linguista spiega perché l’asterisco di genere fa infuriare così tante persone. Enjoy!
(U.S.A. readers, please DO NOT EMAIL ABUSE or I will block you from my email account and that will be that. Comments on this article, angry or otherwise – are acceptable. Go to the website to leave one.)
P.S. NEW ‘easy reader’ ebook, £5.99!
A few minutes ago I published a new Italian ‘easy reader’ ebook, Il re dei ladri, level B2 (upper-intermediate).
As always, the first week it’s 25% discounted, so just £5.99 rather than the usual ‘easy reader’ price of £7.99. That offer is good until Sunday night, June 11th 2023.
Meet Renato, a Savona cat burglar who can’t resist boasting of his exploits. Hear his story, and find out how he becomes ‘Il re dei ladri’ – the king of thieves!
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Do check out the Free Sample Chapter (.pdf) before you buy a copy. That way, you’ll know whether the level is suitable for you, and that the format works on the device you intend to use it on.
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
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