Toto Gutugno was probably the first man on Earth who brought Italy to me. Before all the geography lessons and my own researches in books, before all the questions to my parents about a strange boot-shaped country in my favourite huge atlas, this man came singing to my life, as to lives of millions of others, and changed forever the idea of the world in my head. Now there was Italy—with its language, and gestures, and passion, and, sure enough, pasta.
Later in life, my strongest associations with Italy came from Luca and Joe Bastianich from "Masterchef" and the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert whose Eat-phase took place exactly in Italy. She wrote beautifully about that amazing language with charming words that she thought was specifically created for her and taught to all the people in the country right before she arrived there. And I agree, there is something about this language and how locals use it, how intense and vibrant it seems.
For me, the alphabet was a surprise: I get it that the letters like X,Y, J and W are not there, but the loss of K seemed to me rather strange, especially because in the neighboring Spanish language this letter lives happily. Though, these 5 letters appear only when the words borrowed from other languages need to be written down.
Anyway, with 21 letters all the sounds are already familiar, including the ringing -zz- sound from pizza.
The structure of the sentences is not that strict as in English, however some things are not allowed, like to interchange places of direct and indirect objects. So, the big question is about the number of tenses used, and here is the answer.
But it is not it. Plus to the forms of the verbs in these 8 tenses that are different for different pronouns, there are forms for imperative, conditional and conjunctive moods. By the way, same is true for Portuguese.
Articles, that have only 3 forms in English (a, an, the), in Italian thrive into 11 different forms (7 — for the definite article, and 4 — for the indefinite).
Nouns, adjectives, articles change their forms depending on gender and number.
The good news is that pronunciation in Italian is quite simple, especially if you're a Russian, like me, and making firm R-r-r-r sound is no problem for you. With some simple rules, you can easily start reading in Italian right away. Know some Spanish? Great! It will help, because some words are just the same, or sound very close to Spanish words.
I wouldn't say it is a very simple language—I still believe that English is simplier, and Spanish, as a matter of fact, also—but it is not extremely hard and the one you can learn by devoting some time and brain power into the process.
And you know the intonation Italians use when they talk? "O, mam-ma mia!" Well, trying to talk in Italian, I discovered there is no way you could pronounce it differently. The language literally makes you talk like that. You may fight it and try your own "melody", but eventually it will win over and you'll give in to the accent every italiano vero is famous for.
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