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I started working on the translation in english of my graduation thesis: The Language Network – 2.0 dynamics and SLA (second language acquisition), and I hope to share it with all of you at the last in a couple of weeks.

It deals with the numerous points in common between the web and the language systems, offering a new perspective on SLA.

Should you already be fluent in Italian or just curious and impatient, here you can find it already in Italian.

As soon as I’m done I’ll publish it here on the blog, maybe on a separate section, don’t have it well figured it out yet.

I already got myself a job at the University for Foreigners of Perugia thanks to it, so in the next future I’ll be working on bringing it to life.

Stay tuned.

Oh yeah I like this one! Get yourself some peanut butter and get practicing people! If you don’t know where to find PB because maybe you are currently oversea, go for a nice spoonfull of Italian Nutella (You knew it was Italian, right?)!

Enjoy!

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

 

How do we pronounce this one, you ask? Has the odd G + L + I + E combination got your tongue in knots?

Simply say, “beehl-yeht-toh.” 

No, not “big-lee-etto”. No. No. No!  Don’t even think about it! You’ll make my ears bleed with that one…

Practice with me:  Beehl-yeht-toh. Beehl-yeht-toh. Beehl-yeht-toh. The trick to the pesky -gl sound, I always tell my Anglophone friends, is to move your tongue as if  pushing some imaginary (and very non-Italian) peanut butter off the roof of the mouth. Got it? Good.

So why are we talking about biglietti (plural of biglietto)? What are the confounding things, anyways?

Well, for 4 out of the last 5 years (this one included!), March has been the month that I’ve laid down my credit card, said addio to my precious…

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That’s some movie downloading for you!
In Perugia, Corso Garibaldi, Mauro Gatti busy with some reels in front of his Cinema teatro Sant’Angelo.

Cinegatti is the company founded by Mauro and Mirco Gatti that manages the Sant’Angelo, following their father steps and continuing the family business, resisting the cutthroat competition of huge multiplex cinemas that rised in the suburbs. Together with Cinema Zenith.

The Sant’Angelo is also the only place in Perugia (that I am aware of, at least) where you can watch movies in their original language, carrying on the tradition that sees this city as a meeting and exchange point for languages and cultures.

This week I found a little teaching job. A friend of mine called me up and asked me if I felt like teaching Italian to some guys from Tunisia that arrived in Lampedusa a couple of months ago, like many others after the North-African revolutions and the war in Libia. The classes were being sponsored by a NGO, so they weren’t paying a whole lot, 5€ per hour. He had now found a better teaching job, 7.5€ per hour, so he was leaving this one.

I accepted, and I am happy I did. I love helping people to learn Italian, moreover these guys are very nice people. I do not know a lot about their lives and their stories because I did not want to stir up bad memories. They escaped civil war by crossing the Mediterranean sea on an old boat, leaving families and wives, arriving here with nothing in their pockets; some of them hold a university degree in commerce, in finance, one of them is even a mechanical engineer, but they are all still unemployed and looking for a job. Their degrees won’t probably help much for now, as all they might hope to find is maybe a place as bricklayer, with no contract, no insurance, nothing. I feel ashamed for my country whenever I think about it. At the same time, though, helping them with Italian makes me feel good. I feel like I’m doing something important, something that matters. I’m building bridges between cultures; I’m helping them to move forward, hopefully towards a better future, maybe not immediate, but someday.

I teach them a couple of hours a day, so what I make is 10€ a day. Today after class I went to the supermarket to get some stuff I needed: some salad, coffee, tea, breakfast biscotti, a couple beers. I spent 12€. More than what I managed to make.

I decided to accept this job because I thought it was good experience and also because in the end it’s better than earning nothing. Teaching isn’t easy. One has to prepare the lessons, it takes time, and it’s tiring. It’s sad that after years of studying hard all there is for me to do is a job which earns me less that serving in a bar (or maybe the same amount of money, 5/7 euros), and that doesn’t even allow me to get me through breakfast. And if life is expensive for me, how bad is it for them? Don’t we all eat? What did they come here for, if even we run away?

I don’t feel like emigrating. I said this already. I don’t want to.

It’d be nice if the turmoils found their way to the northern shore of the Mediterranean sea as well. It’s about time to get rid of what is holding us down, depressing those who remain and making us younger generations expatriate.

The wind of change has been blowing pretty hard so far this year.

Is it the right time, yet, for change to happen here as well?

Could I not post this? It couldn’t be more appropriate.

Wall Street Journal: Study Debunks Italian Stereotype.

 

As many probably already know, in Italian when talking to someone you can refer to the person either using “Tu”, the informal you, or “Lei”, the formal way.

Ex:
– (Tu) Sei molto gentile! (You’re very kind! – INFORMAL)
– (Lei) È molto gentile! (You’re very kind! – FORMAL)

I put “Tu” and “Lei” between parentheses because usually when speaking they are omitted, as the conjugation of the verb (“Sei” and “È”), not omittable, make it obvious which person of the verb we are using.

Easy enough, right?

Wrong.

As a foreigner speaking Italian, you can probably get away with what are technically known as “sociolinguistic mistakes” (errors not concerning grammar, but the social use of the language), and definitely your message can get through anyway.
But those small flaws are exactly what gives away that you are not a native speaker.
In simple words, it’s what make you sound as a foreigner.

So, back to the point, the formal/informal rule is quite simple, grammatically speaking; what makes it complicated is that you don’t know when the situation requires you to use a formal register or when you can relax and go with the “Tu”.

The answer is: it depends on the context.
I know it sounds stupid and simplistic, but it’s not, it is actually extremely complicated, and it’s the reason why learning to use a language effectively and with competence is complicated and takes time and effort.
Moreover, expect to find recalls to context very often in these posts, because helping you learning how to deal with the context, how to recognize situation, how to interpret the world around you with and Italian point of view is exactly the reason why I keep this blog and I do what I do.

As general rules, we can safely say that Italians tend to be formal, and they like their formalities A LOT.

Age is a good starting point: unless the person is about your age or younger, start out with a formal “Lei” and you’ll be safe. It will also make look polite and on top of the language. Avoid “ciao”, informal, and stick with “Buongiorno”/”Buonasera” (good day, good evening – the switching point is lunch: after lunch, 13-14, you use “Buonasera”). When leaving: “Arrivederci”.

With people of your age, at least if you are under 30, you can be informal, unless the situation is a very formal one: if you are working in a formal context, and especially in public, even with younger colleagues it might be required to show formal respect. Especially in public, it looks elegant, and among Italian it matters.

With people older than you, the situation, in possible, becomes even trickier.
Of course you will start out showing off your good manners, using a formal register when talking to them.
Then, sometimes, you will be told “di dargli del tu”, to use “tu” when talking to them (literally, the Italian expression “dare del tu/lei” translates with “to give the tu/lei to someone”)
Common phrases you will hear are:

– Dammi pure del tu – Go ahead and use “tu” with me
– Se mi dai del lei mi fai sentire vecchio – If you use “lei” with me you make me feel old.
– Chiamami pure “nome” – Go ahead and call me “whatever their first name is”

What does that mean? That formality barriers come down and now even if he or she is your boss or there are 30 years of difference between you from now on that person will be like your college buddy?
Nope.
It simply means that “formally” they want to look young, but they will still keep their social distance from you. Nothing has changed, they still consider themselves to have the right to paternalize you, if needed; as a matter of fact, being them who tell you if and when changing the way you call them, it is still them holding and using social power.
It’s a formal use of informality.

Again, let me say that this is not a ever-applying rule: you still need to consider what kind of person you have to do with, the relationship between that person and you, the context in which you interact.
Let’s say that using this as a starting point you can keep on the safe side, and in social interaction it is extremely important, until you have a better idea of how things work around you.
Of course things change, but in culture things change more slowly, because they change from the inside.
Formality will get you far. Mastering it is a safe investment.

For the generations right now in their 40’s/50’s, meaning people born in the 1960’s,1970’s, getting old has become a social taboo.
Sometimes the phenomenon pushes even further, with 60/70-year-old people not accepting their age, acting and dressing as if they were still in their 20’s/30’s.

An old but famous and beautiful Italian actress, Anna Magnani, has once told her make up artist a line that afterwards became a classic quote “Careful not to hide not even one of my wrinkles: it took me all my life to get them there”.
The times have changed.

Grammatically speaking, check out and practice the use of the singular third person of the verbs (“LEI”, in case of singular use), and the plural second person of the verbs (“VOI”, in case of plural use).
Depending on how fluent your Italian is, you will have to include the indicativo, condizionale, and congiuntivo.

Pay particular attention when you want to invite someone to do something, give a piece of advice, make a suggestion: all these cases, depending of course on how you word them, might require you the use of congiuntivo, which takes a little effort but pays back, as it is something that you truly use on a daily basis and will make you look confident and competent with your shiny, formal, and elegant Italian.

Think of:
– Prego, entri/passi/faccia pure – Please, come in/go ahead/do as you like .

In Italian mistakes with the subjunctive are a common theme for humor: here’s a quote, from a “cult Italian comedy movie” (quoting Wikipedia), Fantozzi:

[at the tennis court]
Filini: Allora, ragionere, che fa? Batti?
Fantozzi: Ma… mi dà del tu?
Filini: No, no! Dicevo: batti lei?
Fantozzi: Ah, congiuntivo!
Filini: Sì!

translation:

Filini: Come on, ragioniere (literally, “accountant”, used back in the days as a title), what are you (formal) waiting for? Are you (informal!) going to serve?
Fantozzi: But…are you (formal) using “Tu” towards me?
Filini: No, no! I meant: are you going to serve (uses “Lei”, formal, but continues to conjugate the verb as if the subject was “Tu”, informal. The conjugation is “Tu batti“, “Lui/Lei batte: Filini should have said “batte?”)?
Fantozzi: Ah, subjunctive!
Filini: Yes!

In the example above Fantozzi tries to save his face blaming the misunderstanding on the use of subjunctive, notorious also among Italians as hard to master; unfortunately in this case subjunctive had nothing to do with the mistake: Filini was simply asking a question, not suggesting anything, the only case in which the subjunctive would have been needed.

If it deserves to be subject of humor, it means it is culturally relevant! Work on it!

One day in advance to when tradition tells us it is supposed to be, on March 20th at 6pm spring was here.

And I actually remembered that after I had been at the supermarket and found some yummy looking fava beans staring at me from their shelf: how could I resist? They are the quintessential early-spring food if you ask me (but many many more Italians would agree with me), and as soon as the winter is over and they appear in grocery stores it is simply impossible to resist the temptation. It’s like proving to yourself that it’s time for the sun to start warming you up again, for the temperature to rise, and for that cold to just let you go.

I brought them home, got out of the fridge some average mature pecorino cheese, and made myself a snack, that eventually became lunch when I couldn’t stop eating.

Someone would ask: no wine? Not at noon: at noon it makes me sleepy and can’t afford naps right now.

As I was getting them out of their buds I noticed some of them were actually still a little small, but oh well, they were just the first ones of the season.

There’s some un-stereotypical Italian snack for you. If you have a chance, give that a shot.

I’m a grad student at the University for Foreigner of Perugia.
My field of specialization in promotion of Italian language and culture and teaching Italian.
So far, I have always complained about the approach with which the cultural aspects of the courses were tackled. Too much literature, too much of a humanistic concept of culture: in order for students to integrate their linguistic skills with cultural competence it was simply silly to teach to them about the Divine Comedy or Claudio Monteverdi.
Culture should have been intended and seen from its anthropological and sociological point of view, culture as the way a group of people sees and interprets the surrounding world.
But culture is forever changing and developing, so it cannot be studied as a set of rules, but it can only be observed in how it developed so far, and simply observed.
I have always perceived this lacking of ability in recognizing what point of view over the culture was more useful for a language learner as a huge limit to the course I am attending, but recently, I am finally developing a new point of view over it.
I can truly say I feel like I am looking at it with brand new eyes.
It is an indirect message, and one has to pay particular attention in order to see it. It’s a see-through message, and only readable from a particular point of view.
Their humanistic approach IS part of the culture.
How the courses are organized, how a student has to deal with the institution through interacting with offices or teachers, the role that students, on their side, take towards university. Simply the way things are done. It’s all there to be studied and learned.
I wonder if anyone inside the university is aware of this, realizes this, understands the cultural value of all this.
Even when we protest because we are sick and tired of they way things go, we are wearing a cultural mask and taking part in the show. It’s all part of the show, of the plot, of the culture. Cultural characters.
Today at around 1pm it started snowing a little. No big deal, if you have any experience with snow you do understand that since this is Italy and it’s march even the worst snowfall ever is not going to last long. It’s simply too warm.
From a few flakes, it quickly picked up and became a windy and flurry day. In a couple of hours everything was covered in a soft cover of snow.
It was just pretty and unusual.
Not for Perugia, and Italians here.
Being a hilly city, some roads tend to be a little steep. And it is exactly where every single Perugian who owned a car decided to drive by. Maybe one inch of snow caused total panic. My house mate himself, as he reported to me by calling me on the phone, managed to go UP the hill (usually the hardest part) in order to get out of the neighborhood, but then got stuck immediately as he got into via fonte coperte, the way DOWN the hill. He was going to work, and he had to put chains on in order to get down from the hill. Still don’t know how it ended.
I had class at 4, so by 3.15 I decided to start walking and head to university on foot.
On the way up, all the roads were filled with cars taking part in an endless line, some of them honking. Buses, of course, were stuck as well. Police cars were here and there organizing the traffic or dealing with the occasional accident, and I also happened to hear a siren from far away, I couldn’t tell if it was an ambulance or firefighters.
Anyhow, it was chaos. And trust me, if someone is even just a little bit used to Italian normal city traffic and talks about chaos, he knows what he’s talking about.
The walk allowed me to observe all this, and taking me just a little longer than usual also lead me to university on time for class. I was a little wet, but I had made it.
Once I got in front of it, though, I noticed the door closed.
I admit I naively thought they had simply closed it because they did not want the snow to blow inside (the whole whopping inch!); as and Italian, I should have known better how to read that sign.
I rang the bell, and the lady at the desk answered.
“Hello, could you open the door please? I got class.”
“There’s no class, they have been canceled.”
“…what you m…all of them?”
“They have been canceled.”
“…ok.thanks.”
Right behind me, a couple more guys arrived, and I told them. One had just come by 40 minutes of train to get there, and he wasn’t too happy about it.
A girl said the had just checked the website, nothing had been posted to say classes were canceled.
Hours later, as I am writing these lines, still nothing has been posted.
I took a screenshot of the home page of unistrapg.it , both for the english homepage and the italian one: nothing.
I even developed my own idea on how this all happened.
How come they decided to shut everything down for a little snow?
Here’s my shot: a teacher calls he won’t make it. Ok, no big deal. Maybe we’ll send someone to tell the students that will show up. Another teachers calls. Happens. Then another one, and another one. It’s just easier to call everything of for today. Call the different buildings and tell them to shut everything down.
I was told later that they didn’t even wait for the period to be over: they ran the announcement telling everyone simply that classes were called off, and the building was going to close.
For.
An.
Inch.
Of.
Snow.
Gotta love ’em.
I took a pic with my phone for you to see I’m not kidding. You can barely see cars because it’s the very city center and it’s mostly closed to traffic.

It is all part of the show, it is all part of the culture.

It is the fourth of CapaRezza’s albums.
It is somehow revolutionary because of the way it’s organized and put together.
The album is in fact a phononovel, a neologism created by CapaRezza himself to describe his work in which every song is tied together as episodes of one single story.
Also, the album is meant to integrate the actual novel published by the artist in his first book, saghe mentali.

The story starts with CapaRezza who, during a concert in which he commemorates the revolutionary period of 1968 (period which is particularly felt in Italy by the part of the population who feels more represented by left wing parties, and more generally by the less conservative parts of the population), he opens a portal in spacetime to 1968, from which arrives Ilaria, a young Roman hippie with whom CapaRezza falls in love shortly afterwards, finding in her the purity and the integrity of conscience that he cannot find in girls nowadays.
Being given by Ilaria a political leaflet, Caparezza finds himself arrested by the police as soon as he puts it in his pocket; carrying pockets is now forbidden!
In jail he’s explained by another prisoner that those weird events are happening because of Ilaria: by having travelled in time, she is in fact irreversably modifying the spacetime, therefore she has to go back.
Fact is that Ilaria is getting used pretty quickly to all of those modern customs that Caparezza despises, quicly ruining her integrity in his eyes.
Moreover, she’s now engaged to the powerful leader of a political party that wants to be a mock of Berlusconi: he’s really powerful, and draws support from a society which is getting more and more uneducated and caring only for superficial things and appearance.
CapaRezza will continue his quest, meeting Luigi delle Bicocche, a hard-working bricklayer that represents the oppressed lower working class with a dignity that opposes the raising regime, and that in the end will give his life to send Ilaria back and to save our world.

The title of the album, le dimensioni del mio caos , meaning the proportions of my chaos, plays on the similarity and partial assonance between the word caos – chaos -, and cazzo – dick, penis -.

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