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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language Paperback – April 20, 2010


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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language + Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best + 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; unknown edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767927702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767927703
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses...”

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Linguaa, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy.

Throughout her first excursion in Italy—with “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase—Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what it is that makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.

She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Dianne Hales

Question: Why did you decide to write a book on Italian?

Dianne Hales: As a journalist, I know a great story when I see one—and the story of how Italian became the world’s most enchanting language has everything: adventure, drama, passion, beautiful women, gallant heroes, unscrupulous scoundrels—not to mention glorious music and fabulous food.

Question: Whom did you write this book for?

Dianne Hales: People who enjoy Italian food, music, art, film, travel and traditions. If you love Italy, you’ll love learning about its language. If you come from an Italian family, you’ll discover more about your heritage. If you’re studying Italian, you’ll find a new perspective that takes you beyond vocabulary and grammar. If you’re traveling to Italy, you’ll appreciate more about the people you meet and the places you visit. And if you’re an armchair adventurer—well, buckle your seat belt!

Question: Why and when did you start studying Italian?

Dianne Hales: I decided to study Italian more than twenty years ago so I could communicate with the friendly people we met on our travels in Italy. My goal was just to understand and be understood. However, the more Italian I learned, the more I wanted to know about Italian—where it came from, how it evolved, why it’s so musical and vibrant. I had so much fun in Italian classes and conversation groups that I didn’t want to stop my Italian education—and I never have.

Question: How did you do go about researching La Bella Lingua?

Dianne Hales: I used all the skills I honed in decades as a journalist and textbook author. I took classes in Italian language, history and culture both in the U.S. and in Italy. I worked very closely with a wonderful Italian tutor in San Francisco. In Italy I went to the great citadels of Italian, such as L’Accademia della Crusca and the Società Dante Alighieri, to interview leading linguists and scholars. But my greatest resources turned out to be the Italian people, who have deep pride in their mother tongue and infinite patience with those who try to master it.

(Photo © Robert Hales) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this charming love letter to the language and culture of Italy, journalist Hales recounts her inebriation with Italian's sounds and her lovesickness over its phrases. Enamored of this lovely and lovable language, Hales immerses herself in Italian culture on numerous trips to Italy in her attempt to live Italian. She comes to think of Italian as a lovable rascal, a clever, twinkle-eyed scamp that you can't resist even when it plays you for a fool. Hales regales us with the mysteries of the language, such as when a color becomes more than hue. She tells us that yellow, for example, refers to a mystery because thrillers traditionally had yellow covers. In her rapture over the language, she also swoons over Italian literature (from Dante to Manzoni), opera (Verdi and Puccini) and cinema (Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini) as she rehearses the many ways in which the language has seductively slipped into Western culture and consciousness. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Dianne Hales, a prize-winning, widely published journalist and author, was awarded an honorary knighthood by the President of Italy in recognition of her best-selling book, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

Her newest book, MONA LISA: A LIFE DISCOVERED, blends biography, history, and memoir to tell the story of Lisa Gherardini, the flesh-and-blood woman in the world's most praised and parodied painting. Dianne Hales takes readers with her to uncover Lisa's colorful family history, explore her neighborhoods, and meet her present-day descendants. In this voyage of discovery, we come to know Lisa as a daughter of Florence, a Renaissance woman, a merchant's wife, a loving mother, a devout Christian, and a "noble spirit."

Dianne has served as a contributing editor for Parade, Ladies Home Journal, Working Mother and American Health and has written for many national publications, including Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, Readers' Digest, Washington Post, Woman's Day, and World Book. In addition to more than a dozen trade books, she is the author of 24 editions of the leading college health textbook, An Invitation to Health.


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I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to travel to Bella Italia.
Otto J. Fafoglia
Fascinating and delightful exploration of aspects of the Italian language by an author who clearly loves her subject and writes beautifully.
sally wister
Reading Dianne Hales will convince you that your efforts in learning Italian, even if only a few words and phrases, will be well-rewarded.
James E. Shaw

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Fabio, Bleeding Espresso on May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has been enchanted by the always beautiful, often frustrating Italian language and tried to grasp its basics as well as its intricacies, Dianne's tales will not only ring true but also comfort you.

From obscure word etymologies to entertaining anecdotes, La Bella Lingua will keep you turning pages, nodding along in agreement, laughing, and even learning--I picked up quite a few new words myself even though I've been living in Italy for six years now.

And Dianne's writing? A sheer pleasure. Truly.

La Bella Lingua is a *must* for any lover of the Italian language and assolutamente warrants five espresso cups out of five.

~ Michelle Fabio
bleedingespresso.com
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By V. X. KIRSCH on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book, I wanted to read it right away. I did so and as a result, I have fallen even more in love with the italian language.
When I was a student in Firenze years ago, before I knew much of the language, I used to read billboards and ads and think that the italian words were the most beautiful that I had ever seen without knowing what they meant.
This book covers all aspects of the language from historic to artistic to poetic to the not so poetic! I learned so much in every chapter that I hated to see it end. This book will take you on a memorable voyage over the landscape of what is truly the world's most beautiful language.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a languishing adult student of Italian, I am grateful for Sra Hales' book and envious of her linguistic and cultural accomplishments. Her enjoyment of all things Italian both in Italy and her native San Francisco area are generously shared with the reader.
There are two improvements I would like to see in the next edition: More translations - a fair number of words weren't translated and, if possible, a glossary.
I would also love a well-spoken unabridged audio version.
PS. I've added Mastroianni's I Remember DVD to my Netflix list.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Linda Blondis on September 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved every minute of reading and thinking about this book.I bought an additional copy to lend to friends, because I want to keep my autographed copy. But a caveat: Dianne and I were both members of a fiction writing workshop. Dianne was a wonderful reader and great critic, working to make everyone's writing better. And despite her protestations, she wrote an elegant novel that was inbued with all things Italian and created living, breathing characters. I never told her, but I was always jealous of her felicity with the language. I was thrilled when I learned that she wrote La Bella Lingua.

It has exceeded all my expectations. As a lover of romantic languages and the opera, I would have been happy had the book only been about Dianne's adventures with the language. But it is far more than that. It is a wonderful tapestry woven from well researched history or the Italian peninsula and personal anecdotes, with a charming narrative voice, as though you were having a glass of wine with a good friend who was telling you stories. Dianne creates real, recognizable people, even if they died four hundred years ago. I found myself laughing out loud many times.

Dianne manages a mountain of research and wisely divides the book into areas like the history of Europe; art; music; architecture; cuisine; film. and my personal favorite, what we would call swear words. There is so much material, but she deals with it with humor, while always focusing on the human aspect.
I learned an amazing amount. Who knew that there was an important female Renaissance poet, for example? I can no longer impress my friends by explaining with Viva Verdi meant during and immediately after his lifetime, now that Dianne has explained it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rhonda Anderson on June 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't dismiss La Bella Lingua by thinking it's only for people who are interested in learning Italian. I don't speak Italian and frankly have no interest in learning it but what has been pure pleasure for me is reading about the origins of the language and history of Italian. This book is for readers who consume great little stories about fascinating people and places. It's about the joy of life that Italians have shared with all cultures over the centuries but it's never been written about like this before. Dianne Hales is my BFF so I've had a ton of rollicking fun along the way watching Dianne as she follows her passion. In Mill Valley we enjoy wine, food and laughter but in Italy with her husband, Bob, they roll up the rugs and share the dance floor at 3am. After each trip to Italy she shares the adventures of her "other life" with me. With La Bella Lingua, she shares these adventures with the readers. The book reminds me of the way history used to be passed from generation to generation - story telling and history lesson all in one delicious book that you won't want to put down. This is my 2009 gift book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andrea N. on July 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have always thought there should be more books about the love of languages and how people come to love them and use them. "What La Bella Lingua" contains in addition to this is bits of information about history and culture - about how Italy and Italians came to be and how they live and lived. Dianne talks about Italian literature - important Italian writers like Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch - in such a way that it made me want to delve into their works too.

Dianne writes about her love for Italian opera and Italian cinema. One of her Italian teachers once told her that there are 2 ways to speed up your Italian learning: 1)Get an Italian lover or 2)Watch Italian movies. She chose the 2nd option, so anyone who doesn't know much about Italian cinema will likely enjoy reading about the movies she's watched and bits about the history of Italian cinema.

I liked that there were Italian words scattered throughout the book (with English translations of course)- there are expressions and slang, including how Italians curse. Even if you don't use the vulgar words, it's still a good idea to know what you might end up hearing in the streets if you decide to go to Italy.

Of course, Italian food and the importance of it to Italians (and well- other parts of the world too) is talked about. The way she describes the kind of food her Italian friends cooked for her in Italy makes me want to go there myself and try "real Italian food" made in Italy. It's easy to see how important it is to Italians to "eat well" and to not eat alone- there are many sayings related to food and eating with company.

It makes sense that there's a chapter about love - Dianne claims that love is indeed "lovelier" in Italy.
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