ITALIAN-ISMS THAT ENGLISH JUST DOESN’T HAVE

I think I may have mentioned this in another one of my earlier posts, but my father is an Italian native, born and raised in a small paese close to Naples. With this being said, I grew up surrounded by the Italian language my whole life, albeit a lot of Napolitano dialect, but you get the point- (Dad, if you’re reading this- still mad at you for not teaching me). 

So, coming to Italy to work and study Italian with the British Institute, I had some sort of a foundation of the language. Meaning, I had the basics down pat. I knew how all of the words were supposed to be pronounced. And what I knew for sure, of course, were the swear words (I mean come on, I know this is what every language learner googles first!) But during my time here studying with the Institute, my vocabulary and over all knowledge of the language has rapidly grew, and I’d like to share some of my favourite things about “la bella lingua” that English will never be able to compete with.

When describing things, you don’t have to add extra words to emphasize what you’re trying to say:

  • Something is “very, very beautiful”: bella/o = bellissima/o. 
  • Something is “very, very small”: picccola/o = piccolina/o. 
  • “Little sister”: sorella = sorellina. 
  • “Tiny town”: paese= paesino. 
  • “Little boy” ragazzo= ragazzino 

You get the point! And these are just a few examples. Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard Italians add suffixes very regularly in everyday conversation. It’s one of my favourite things ever. It sounds so endearing and sweet to me, plus it’s fun to say! And you don’t have the hassle of adding extra words- sorry, English, it’s pretty clear that Italian always wins. 

ALLORA:

  • This one speaks for itself. Even if you haven’t studied Italian, I’m sure you’ve heard, arguably, the most popular word in the Italian language. Essentially, it’s like a filler word: the meaning being “well, or so.” But it is much, much more fun to say than well or so, trust me, you should try it out. And I swear, I have not gone a day here in Italy without hearing the word “allora” being said over 100 times. 

One of my favourite phrases in the English languages is “I’m going to take a nap”- because I love naps. But in the Italian language it’s become one of my favourite’s because of how it sounds:

  • Pisolino. Pisolino. Pisolino. I could say it all day, I feel like it just rolls right off the tongue emphasizing all of my favourite sounds in Italian. I also love how it has “ino” but in this case- it’s not a suffix, because “piso” on its own is not a word- so to me, this word is simply perfetto.Next time you want to say “I’m going to take a nap” just switch it up to “fare un pisolino.”

PARRUCCHIERE:

  • Hairdresser. How can something in English possibly be so much more colourful in Italian? Well, there you have it folks. This word is also one of my favourites because it gets you in a tongue twister when you try to say it- and challenges make life more fun. 

PREGO! 

  • Interestingly enough, this word doesn’t just mean “you’re welcome” and that’s why it’s one of my favourites, and I also wish a word existed like this in English, where it has so many uses. For example, to welcome you or wave you into a store if you’re looking to see if it’s open the store clerk may say, prego, entri pure(please come in). At a restaurant when you’re ready, 90% of the time the waiter will say prego, desidera? (what do you wish for?). It’s also another way to say “no worries, go ahead” or “after you”- so pregois also a short, common way to express this. And lastly, another use for this word that I’ve seen here mostly on trains for the expression, “Attention, please” is attenzione, prego! This had to make it to my favourite list for its multitude of uses. 

I hope you enjoyed a few of my favourite “italian-isims”- among many! What are some of yours? 

A dopo, 

Alexia 

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