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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Italian language lovers
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...
Published on May 12, 2009 by Michelle Fabio, Bleeding Espresso

versus
41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Love Affair with History, Not Language
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,...
Published on April 27, 2011 by Marie E. Laconte


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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Italian language lovers, 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
bleedingespresso.com
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Italian Vacation in a book, June 29, 2009
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Grazie, Sra Hales!, 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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravissima!, September 1, 2009
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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.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "great little stories about fascinating people and places", June 10, 2009
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on a wonderful subject, July 23, 2010
This review is from: La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language (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. There are examples of how important the topic was in literature and how it is expressed in Italy today.

Lastly, the issue of the actual process of learning the Italian language and making mistakes made along the way is a good reminder that even though you could potentially embarrass yourself by making a mistake [such as Dianne did when, around a group of people, she wanted to use the word "tetti" (roofs) as she was describing being able to see something from rooftops, but instead she used "tette" which translates as "tits" in Italian], it's better to use what you know and learn from mistakes, rather than not allow yourself to try to speak as you'd like.

Dianne learned Italian in every way that she could - books, audio, online materials, and classes, including classes in Italy. Her determination and desire for acquiring the language and knowing about its history can be seen through the way she writes. It makes for a very interesting read.

I am more interested than ever to continue my Italian language studies in Italy because of the book.

I borrowed this book from the library but I have no doubt that I'll eventually buy it and re-read it. 5 stars!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected but enjoyable, August 2, 2011
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C. G. King (Horse Country, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language (Paperback)
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.
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41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Love Affair with History, Not Language, April 27, 2011
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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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Travelers' to Italy, January 25, 2011
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Being a first generation Italian and having studied the language ( as well as having traveled to Bella Italia), I found the book fascinating and informative. It touches on so many areas of Italian culture and historical background that provides a real understanding of the people. I could not put the book down because I was so anxious to discover the next topic whether it was language dialects, history or personalities. The author does a great job of teaching one about Italian history in such a painless, clever manner. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to travel to Bella Italia. For someone who has not traveled to Bella Italia and plans to vacation there, read this book before you go. It may not be understandable in all areas, but once you get to Italy, the book will help you put things in place and perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you!, February 7, 2010
By 
La Bella Lingua came recommended by a friend, as most of my favorites have. And now the first thing I ask friends is, "Have you read this book?" It is a testament to Ms Hales' genius that she has written a book that appeals to Italophiles at every level. There is no particular knowledge of Italy or its language and culture required, but--as the jacket comment by Beppe Severgnini (a sort of Italian William Safire) attests--even experts learn from this book. You don't have to be an opera lover at all to laugh out loud over the description of a long anticipated visit to a performance at La Scala.

This is a book I plan to reread many times.
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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
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