Yes, You Can! (Speak Italian)

February 3, 2010

She hoped to read Dante in the original, my sister did, to discuss him in his native tongue.

But first she needed to pick up some basics.

Student at ibla! Language School

So she came all the way from Los Angeles to enroll in ibla!, a tiny Italian language school housed in a palazzo just steps from Ragusa Ibla’s cathedral.

ibla! Language School, Ragusa Ibla, Italy

I’d already spoken with the director and head teacher. They’d assured me that their teaching method was “communicative” and “fun” and “modern.” But I wondered. I’d seen language classes in Italy where teachers clung to an approach as antiquated as the Roman Forum itself.

But here’s what Linda has to say about the experience:  I spent a week studying Italian at ibla! school in spring 2009 and loved it! The teachers were hip and fun and tailored the classes to our level. They used conversation, games, interesting exercises and homework and really helped us become more skilled in speaking Italian. I made some good friends, loved the comfortable classrooms and also the historic setting (Ragusa Ibla is beautiful). I recommend this school and am looking forward to returning and taking more classes.

The classes at ibla! are very small, especially in off-season—sometimes just two people.  This can be a beautiful thing if you like lots of practice and individual attention. But the downside—at least for some people—might be that you don’t get to meet many classmates, and you may be hanging out alone in your free time.

Haven’t  you always wanted to speak the language of love?  It’s never too late to learn. ibla! runs a special “Over50 Program” that combines Italian with the study of culture, wine and food. Yum. What are you waiting for?

If you’re lucky, you may end up speaking Italian with a baroque accent. Sicilians love exaggeration. Baroque is in their bones. Consider this: no food in Sicily is merely good, buono, it’s always buonissimo, to die for. No human being is just plain ugly, brutto, he’s bruttissimo, hideous. No car or view or cake or shoe in Sicily is ever beautiful, bella, it’s always bellissima, drop-dead gorgeous.

If it’s excitement and glitterati you’re after, study Italian in Florence or Rome. If you’re looking for baroque charm and hospitality in a sweet (and relatively inexpensive) stone village, I recommend ibla!

Piazza Duomo, Ragusa Ibla, Italy

Here’s ibla!’s website.

If you can’t make it to Sicily to study Italian, if you can’t leave home at all, think about taking advantage of a distance-learning program to polish your language skills. Cyberitalian is a website devoted to teaching Italian and Italian culture. The director, Maura Garau, once headed the Italian program at the United Nations Circolo Culturale Italiano, and she knows what she’s doing when it comes to language instruction.

If you’re already at an intermediate level of Italian and want to speak more idiomatically, enjoy and learn from Dianne Hales’ fun (free) blog Becoming Italian Word by Word.

Follow your own star, as Dante would say, or more precisely, “Se segui tua stella, non fallirai a glorioso porto.”


Do you have a yen to speak Italian? If you already know Italian, do you have a secret to help the rest of us?

Leave a comment.

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12 comments to Yes, You Can! (Speak Italian)

  • Emalene Renna

    So right about Florence, think I heard more English walking down the street in Florence then walking down the street in New York City. I’m planning to go to the school in Ragusa for three weeks in October. Any suggesgtions Also great practice is through conversation exchange I use Skype and made an exchange friend, he helps me with my Italian and I help him with English.
    It’s great fun we talk about politics etc. he claims Berlosconni is Italy’s Bush but loves Obama. A great cultural exchange, except thanks to the banking crisis his company went bankrupt and now hhe is unemployed. I really feel for him

  • Andrea Bocelli is truly a master. He has a super great voice that sounds heavenly.

  • Hi! Let me first say that I love your blog and the photography that accompanies it.
    And I’ve even subscribed to it! As for your question about tips, if you have the
    opportunity, do a study abroad program. It’s a must, and it’s the best way to really
    learn the language. I wouldn’t recommend going to Florence. Many people speak English there, and I think it will hinder your potential to learn. If you can’t make it to Italy, enroll in an Italian conversation class at a community college, in a university, or at a language school. You should have at least a basic understanding of Italian, before going into such a class. But once you can going into a conversation class, it will really help. It will force you to speak the language, but only if your teacher strictly enforces speaking just Italian. It’s ok if you make mistakes. You won’t speak perfect Italian, and Italians don’t expect you to. They will be happy you are trying! With time, your pronunciation and grammatical errors will get better over time.

    Hope this has helped, and good luck!


    • Jann

      Thanks Catherine for all these good tips! I laughed when you recommended NOT going to Florence. I think you’re absolutely right about not having to use much Italian there!

  • Anthony J. Zangara

    Cara Jann, hai ragione che Ibla e’ bellissima e molto barocca. Ho dei amici che potrebbero essere interessati in questa scuola. Grazie per averci avvisato. Antonio

    • jann

      Ciao Antonio–e se vengono gli amici a Ibla, dimmelo. Forse posso essere utile (I was going to write “Forse posso aiutarli/aiutargli/aiutarle” This is what always trips me up!)

  • Janet

    Thanks for the links to the language websites, Jann. I’m going to mail those to my sister who has studied Italian for years. Even so, she told me that when she went to Italy to find some our family members, she could barely understand what people were saying. Was it her? Or the type of studies she had received? Quien sabe.

  • I’m still struggling with English. Wish I could be of more help. S

  • Giovanna Bellia La Marca

    Dear Jann,
    I taught Art, Medical Illustration and Computer Graphics for twenty years at my Alma Mater, the famed Bronx High School of Science, where I also introduced Italian which I taught for the first two years. I always urged my students to listen to songs in Italian and to sing along. You learn phrases, vocabulary, you gain fluency, and you enjoy yourself at the same time.
    Divertitevi a cantare mentre imparate la bella lingua Italiana.

    • jann

      You are so right. I remember listening a thousand times to Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro when I first started getting into Italian–the words from the song just stuck (and I also learned future tense). DId anyone see him the other night on the Grammys? Hair a little grayer, but still amazing. Here are the lyrics:
      F. Sartori / L. Quarantotto

      Quando sono solo
      sogno all’orizzonte
      e mancan le parole,
      Si lo so che non c’è luce
      in una stanza quando manca il sole,
      se non ci sei tu con me, con me.
      Su le finestre
      mostra a tutti il mio cuore
      che hai acceso,
      chiudi dentro me
      la luce che
      hai incontrato per strada.

      Con te partirò.
      Paesi che non ho mai
      veduto e vissuto con te,
      adesso si li vivrò,
      Con te partirò
      su navi per mari
      che, io lo so,
      no, no, non esistono più,
      con te io li vivrò.

      Quando sei lontana
      sogno all’orizzonte
      e mancan le parole,
      e io sì lo so
      che sei con me,
      tu mia luna tu sei qui con me,
      mio sole tu sei qui con me,
      con me, con me, con me.

      Con te partirò.
      Paesi che non ho mai
      veduto e vissuto con te,
      adesso si li vivrò.
      Con te partirò
      su navi per mari
      che, io lo so,
      no, no, non esistono più,
      con te io li rivivrò.
      Con te partirò
      su navi per mari
      che, io lo so,
      no, no, non esistono più,
      con te io li rivivrò.
      Con te partirò.
      Io con te.
      © 1995 Insieme Srl / Double Marpot Ed. Musicali

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