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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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“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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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