on May 12, 2009
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
on June 29, 2009
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.
on June 21, 2009
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.
I expected to be bathed in this lovely expressive language more from a learning point of view than historical, but the history offered insights you may value. Experiencing a language on so many levels obviously added great depth as well as pleasure for the author and I really learned a lot, although I found some parts a bit dry.
Although I knew Italian was a collection of dialects crystalized into a national language not all that long ago in spite of the antiquity of the land and people, I didn't realize how that came about, nor the critical steps, texts and people responsible. This book describes it all from the impact of Dante's Inferno to opera. There's a delightful passage about the wonderful librettist, Da Ponte, pairing with Mozart for the three great operas, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte and how Da Ponte not only brought vivid style and language to the operas, but to Columbia University where he became the first professor of the Italian language in America. He was introduced to the college by Clement Moore. Who knew! Tidbits like that enchanted me.
Stories of the impact of Marcello Mastroianni were fascinating as well as how Petrarch's sonnets influenced the more structured written Italian as opposed to spoken Italian. I enjoyed learning that Italian is so versitile not through a vast number of basic words, but the vast ability to alter words to mean so many different things through prefixes and suffixes, modifiers, etc. And conversely how it has multiple words for things like face, that convey very different concepts.
As a lover of the Italian experience, much of this information delighted me, but some of the history was just that and felt rather tedious. As I ground through the lengthy discussion of the Inferno, I got to wondering if I could go on, and the extensive discussion of vulgarity was really more than I needed to know, but in the end I was very glad to have read this book. I recommend it to lovers of all things Italian who want to understand the people and culture better through development and use of its language.
on September 1, 2009
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.
I loved the tone of the book and the fact that Dianne gently pokes fun of her own linguistic gaffes. I'll Always remember Signor Domani Mattina from Milano. Everyone who has ever dared speak a language other than his native one has made similar mistakes. This stops a lot of people from ever trying. As Dianne illustrates, just keep going; laugh at your own
mistakes, and think of them as material for future stories.
I've studied both French and Italian for years, but have developed nowhere near the mastery which Dianne has with Italian .I even studfied at some of the same schools, but it just didn't take with me. I think this fascinating and eminently readable book should be taught in Italian courses, as well as courses in Western Civilization, and art. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good storytelling and learning about another cradle of civilization.
on April 17, 2014
This book really should've been something I loved. Certainly the subject matter is close to my heart. BUT. I felt the author's personality really got in the way of her writing. She obviously has studied extensively with many trips to Italy as part of her learning and her knowledge is not in question. I felt like I was stuck at a dinner party with someone who can't get enough of telling you all about themselves and you can't find a polite way to get away from them. We hear far too much about her and her husband and their achievements and extensive travels. She comes off as a pretentious person and not someone you want to spend that much time with. I have to admit that both myself and my husband threw in the towel before finishing the book so there is a chance that it gets better, but I didn't take it.
on April 27, 2011
I dug into this book with gusto, fully expecting an account of how the author learned Italian, complete with humorous errors and helpful suggestions for those of us who are still not fluent. I expected an account of her experiences studying Italian in Italy, and her efforts at other educational modalities such as independent study, private tutor, university classes, immersion, etc. I expected a memoir focusing on the author's accomplishment of becoming fluent in a foreign language. I even expected an occassional history lesson thrown in to trace the unlikely origins of words and phrases, but I did not expect a thorough discussion of Italy's classical cultural icons. That's what I got, however.
This book is a history course, not unlike a freshman survey on the development of Italian art, music, and gastonomy. Almost as if she forgets the title of her book, she manages to toss in some Italian words germane to the historical events she narrates with obvious enthusiasm.
The book is well written, entertaining and ostensibly authoritative. It will please anyone interested in the historical development of Italian culture.
It's not primarily about language, however, and for this reason, for this disconnect between title and content, I rate it at two stars.
on September 12, 2014
As an admittedly biased reader, in that I am a first generation Italian American and spent much of my life in Italy, I enjoyed Ms. Hales' labor of love. I too believe that Italian is the world's most beautiful language, not only from a lyrical perspective but what each word denotes. Fair warning though, the book really does concentrate a lot on the historical genesis of the Italian language, Arts, etc., so if you are not interested in that, this might not be the book for you. To me, and anyone else who loves all things Italian, it was interesting and, in many cases, educational, even for me. The author does also though intersperse her personal experiences with the language and the way of life in Italy and how she came to be an Italophile. The only disappointment for me is that, although the southern regions of Italy played a major role in the development of what is now Italy, there was much less attention given to those contributions than to those from central and northern Italy. Otherwise, I found the book interesting and entertaining and worth, in my opinion, reading.
on June 2, 2015
Never thought I'd be so intrigued by a book about language, but it is Italian, after all! Ms. Hales love of this musical tongue shines in every page. She weaves together an exploration of Italian culture, historical events, and her own experiences to tell the story of Italian as it is today. Intriguing, romantic (yes, romantic!) and eye-opening. Her stories about Dante, and his subsequent importance to all Italians, as well as stories about other artists and historical figures gives insight into the Italian people that I haven't found elsewhere. Molto Bene!
on July 9, 2015
I have started learning Italian for a number of good reasons. First, a friend loaned me this book, but after reading it I bought it. I might say it was hard to put down. I have been an avid student of the language, but reading this book has boosted my inspiration and interest beyond bonds.
The style is admirable, and captures one’s devotion and dedication not only for the language but it expands one’s interest way beyond. It creates interest in Italian literature which may only have existed in a casual form. It covers many areas of the culture in an irresistible way. In places, I even found the style poetic as it covers all aspects of the Italian language and culture. Obviously, the author’s erudition is enviable, which makes the book highly informative and creates further interest in reading also through the extensive bibliography at the end of the book.
English words do not appear to be sufficient to describe the magnetism for the culture this book projects, which is so eloquently rendered. Even the end of the book describing some of the vulgarity, which is present in all languages, can make me, as an old man, blush. But at the same time, all the aspects of the ‘La Bella Lingua’ prompts you even more to absorb this culture.