Italians place a great deal of importance in polite conversation. Simple things like saying good morning in their language, as you enter a shop or restaurant, may seem casual but is very much appreciated. This is especially true during meals. Knowing and using simple words such as hello, please, thank you, excuse me and, of course, where is the bathroom, will help locals to respect you and your home country. The more you try, the better you will speak, and the more this result is true. It's also a wonderful and romantic language, in one of the most wonderful and romantic cities in the world.
If you've eaten in an Italian restaurant at home, then you probably already know dozens of Italian words from the menu. Learning a few more can be fun and easy. One of the best ways is to learn from a server at that favorite restaurant. Ask if your waiter is interested in a few hours paid work teaching you some of the basics, assuming they are a native speaker. You'll make a new friend, they will make a little money, and you'll learn how the language is spoken on the street, where you'll need it the most.
Don't be afraid of trying and making a few mistakes when speaking Italian for the first time. Especially with a driver and guide, who will be willing to coach your efforts. You will notice a huge difference in how the locals treat even the most basic attempts at their beautiful language. If you listen closely, you will also notice the many Italian words are incorporated in other languages and professions. The world of musical terms, for example, is almost exclusively Italian.
We suggest enhancing these lessons with a set of basic Italian CDs. Simply listening for a few minutes, as you commute to and from work each day, is easy with a the right programs. Our favorite is Instant Immersion Italian by Topics Entertainment (www.topics-ent.com). Their web site features a dazzling assortment of language programs, although you'll have to buy them at Amazon.com.
By the way, don't bother asking for fettuccini Alfredo in Italy, unless the restaurant carries his name. Ask for a pasta "alla crema." Same goes for marinara pasta, unless you want a seafood treat. Ask for a pasta "al pomodoro." Americans invented their own names for these wonderful Italian dishes, which are only used in America. They do know what a pizza is, on the other hand.
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