Reasons to Learn Italian

Why should you learn Italian? Here we imagine five stories, five lives, where studying Italian can make all the difference.

Jing, 25, is working as a sous-chef at an Italian restaurant in Cambridge. She fell in love with la cucina italiana during culinary school and is thrilled to be working in an authentic trattoria– the chef, manager, and two of the waiters are from Italy. Shouts of “li mortacci tua!” and “sbrigati!” ring through the kitchen throughout the busy dinner service, and she’d really like to understand what they’re saying- and maybe even contribute to the melee! She’s also interested in learning the origins behind food names and how to pronounce them correctly. It gives you a completely different perspective on food when you know that supplì al telefono are “telephone wires” and a pasta all’arrabbiata is an “angry pasta.”

Brother and sister Joey and Angela, 30 and 28 respectively, are from Revere and run a small beverage distribution company that’s been in their family for three generations, since the days that their grandparents Salvatore and Rosangela came to Boston from a small town in Sicily. The kids never showed much interest in learning the native language of their nonni, but all that changed when Nonna Rosa passed away. Seeing their Nonno Turi so alone made Joey and Angela realize how much they wanted to get closer to him and to their heritage. The most important phrase that they’ve learned so far in their Italian classes is one that they’ve heard a lot in their lives- “Ti voglio bene!”

Peter, 38, is a violinist and teaches music at a private school in Brookline. 20 years ago he moved to Boston to go to college here, and he hasn’t left since. He fell in love with the history of the city and its vibrant cultural life. He loves all types of music but has begun to develop a special fondness for Italian opera and never misses a show of the Boston Lyric Opera. As a musician he knows a lot of Italian words- forte, piano, allegro ma non troppo– and has even learned the meanings of many of his favorite arias- La donna è mobile, Una voce poco fa, Va pensiero– by heart. He is finally ready to take his knowledge of the language of music to the next level.

No less happy of his decision, and joining him in his classes, is Peter’s girlfriend, Alicia, 36, a lover of Italian Renaissance Art and frequent visitor to the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Fifteen years ago she went on a dream trip with two girlfriends to Florence and Rome, and spent three weeks soaking in the masterpieces of the Uffizi and the Musei Vaticani. Beyond the museum walls, from the street vendors outside the Duomo in Florence to the indolent ragazzi hanging out along the banks of the Tiber in Rome, the scenery was as interesting as any Caravaggio painting!  Alicia wishes that she could have communicated with the locals; but she’ll be ready next time- the not-too-distant future has a return trip to Italy in store for Peter and her.

Cesar, 55, started watching Italian movies 5 years ago when he saw La Vita E’ Bella at a friend’s house. For Cesar that day initiated a private Odyssey through the masterpieces of Italian cinema, beginning with some other works of Benigni- Johnny Stecchino and Non Ci Resta Che Piangere, and travelling on through Gabriele Muccino (L’Ultimo Bacio), Giuseppe Tornatore (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Il Decameron), Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano) and Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita), just to name a few. After having started Italian classes he has gone back to watch the movies again- and it has been the best thing that has happened to him since seeing La Vita E’ Bella for the first time!

The reasons to study Italian are these and many more. Italian is a language of music, art, cinema, fashion, cuisine, literature, poetry and philosophy, and it is the language of the 60 million residents of the Bel Paese and their diaspora all around the world. What’s your reason?


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