I need to quickly learn Italian

I’ll be headed to Europe later this year, and Italy is on the list of places to possibly visit. So I need to pick up conversational Italian enough to get me around and at least understand things said to me, like “How much do you want to spend?”, “Do you want more towels?”, and “I can take you there in five minutes, if you want to go, but we should hurry.”

The downside is I’ve never studied Italian in any capacity. But the upside is that I’ve studied Latin superficially and I know enough Spanish to get around Spain comfortably. Since Italian is in between these two, I think I already know a good bit of the language.

So considering all of that, what area should I focus on? I don’t want to get all phrasebook-y and memorize set sentences; I want to be able to construct sentences on the fly and interpret at least half of the words that are said to me. Should I memorize verbs? Travel nouns? Syntax?

There’s not much time, and I’d like the lessons to stick. So where do I start?

Get the Michel Thomas course. I’ve done 2 hours and am already forming full sentences.

Mind you I usually hold that you only need ‘Due birre perfavore’ and ‘dove il bagno?’ in any language to get by.

I’ve spent a week in Italy with not much more than high-school French and Latin. You really don’t need to learn any of the language, though (if you do) knowing some Latin and Spanish is a good start. Enough people speak English that you can get by with that, plus “prego” and “grazie”.

Man I was hoping this would be a thread about how you just met a totally hot babe online but she barely speaks English and you need to be able to profess your love for her as well as give her directions to your apartment from the airport ASAP.

My mind is in weird places today :slight_smile:

Agreed. Most people in urban areas have studied English at some point during their school life. Between that and your knowledge of Spanish and Latin understanding and being understood shouldn’t be problem.

I’d recommend Pimsleur for most basic travel language learning. (Phrases)

For free stuff, check out Before You Know It (BYKI)

AVOID the overly priced Rosetta Stone unless you want to be confused for a bit trying to figure out what’s so special about the picture of the boy under the picnic table and the girl standing on the wing of the plane.

And if you have a used bookstore in town, see if you can find some high school level language classes. Those Houghton Mifflin books seem to be just what you’re looking for.

Here’s a book that seems to be what you’re looking for.

Beginner’s Self-Study Course: Italian

That’s kinda why I’m learning Italian myself… I’ll be meeting her in Pisa next weekend.

(Though I met her IRL and we’re already an item.)

I just heard recently that a person could get along OK by knowing 100 words in any language. Grammar and syntax can be made up for with hand gestures. Two hundred words would be even better. Watch those hand gestures so you don’t offend people.

Admit it. This is you, right?

I just spent two weeks in Italy and can confirm this. Most people will probably spot you as an American before you open your mouth and will speak English to you at the start. At least they did with me and everyone I was with.

Depends where you are. I ended up in a place where practically no one spoke English and most of the Italian was dialect. :eek:

In any case, I do think making an effort will be appreciated. I find that when you speak in crummy Italian they can help you out in English and they feel helpful, whereas when you start in English, they feel cornered and get nervous and sometimes defensive. Many people here feel embarassed when they’re English isn’t good. Starting in Italian, no matter how bad, will break the ice.

In bocca al lupo!

I forgot one vital phrase that no student of the language should be without:

Il mio aeroscivolante è pieno di anguille.

Spent 3 weeks in Rome, Florence and Milan during December. My wife and I didn’t have much trouble at all- she can speak a hideous pidgin Italian, and having had a lot of Spanish in school, reading signs and stuff in shops really wasn’t too bad.

Waiters and other folks generally speak enough English in the big urban areas so that it’s not an issue. I imagine that if you got outside of Florence, and were hanging out in Poggibonsi (a town our bus drove through between Siena and Florence), you might have more trouble, but in anywhere remotely touristy, it won’t be a problem.

One thing though - “Il conte, per favore” is nice to be able to intelligibly say; Italian restaurants won’t bring you the check automatically, so you may sit there a while until you ask for the check.

And, “where’s the fucking embassy?”

ETA: I really can’t envision any circumstances under which I’d need to be able to say “my hovercraft is full of eels” in more than one language.

Don’t worry, people speak English in Poggibonsi, too. :smiley: I go through there pretty often.

Just about all of Tuscany is full of tourists, so it’s pretty likely you’ll find someone with at least serviceable English. You might not be so lucky in lesser known areas, though.

That said, it’s a good idea to learn as much Italian as you can. It’ll make everything easier and, besides, as was mentioned above, the locals appreciate it when a foreigner makes a good faith effort to express themselves in Italian.

Italian’s choicest swear - word, “cazzo”, is not quite as flexible as “fuck”. So, about the closest you could get would be: Dove sta quel cazzo di ambasciata? Or: Dov’è quel cazzo di ambasciata?: :wink:

BTW Google Translate is really pissing me off.

It’s started translating proper nouns. E.g. “Massimo” is someone’s name; Google Translate changes it to “Max”. Presumably some well-meaning idiots have suggested the equivalent name in English, but this is NOT the way you translate things, FFS.

Play Super Mario World, Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine :smiley:

My girlfriend complains about my iPhone. “There are three people in this relationship: me, you, and your iCazzo.” :smiley: She funny.

You have got to be kidding me.