Have you ever been inside an Italian home? Well, it is probably pretty much like yours, except everything is in Italian!
As usual, we’re here to help: check out our new infographic about Italian words for rooms, forniture and all the thing you can find inside a proper house!
Family, in Italy, is a big deal: we all know that. This is why, for an Italian language student, wading through Italian kinship terms can be really challenging. But hey, that’s exactly the reason why we’re here!
Check out this brand new infographic about Italian kinship terms and learn how to properly address your nonna in Italian (getting some treat in return!). 🙂
Although Italy is officially a work-based secular state, Italian language and culture are scattered with open references to the Judaic and Christian traditions. The Bible itself, having been the one and only source of education for centuries, seems to be a neverending source of idioms and forms of speech. Even without embracing any particular confession, we thought it would be a good idea to collect 13 of the most common idioms taken from the Book of Books.
1. Fare da capro espiatorio (to be a scapegoat).
We tried to start with an easy one since this form of speech is also present in English and in many other Indo-European languages (Benjamin Malaussene, anyone?). The expression comes directly from the Jewish tradition, mentioned in Leviticus 9:15, of sacrificing a goat as a ritual of purification during the Yom Kippur. Passing from the original meaning to the modern one of being a person unfairly blamed for some misfortune doesn’t require too much effort.
Manna (or Mana) was an edible substance that, according to the Bible (Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-9) and the Quran, God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert.
This image is so deeply rooted in the Italian language that one could actually use this expression to cheer up when something good (and yet unexpected) happens: è proprio una manna dal cielo!
3. Occhio per occhio, dente per dente (eye for an eye).
This very common expression is a direct reference to the law of retaliation (legge del taglione in Italian), the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree. In a wider sense, this expression is used whenever one is seeking some form of revenge.
4. Seminare zizzania (to drive a wedge, to sow discord).
This one comes from the Gospel of Matthew, in which we can find the Parable of the Tares (Parabola della zizzania). Tares is actually darnel, a type of grass\weed that ruins crops, and it is used here as a metaphor for the struggle between the spiritual children of Christ (the good seeds) and the unbelievers (the tares).
5. Vendersi per un piatto di lenticchie (to sell yourself for a mess of pottage).
In the Book of Genesis 25:29-34 we find the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The latter, one day, offered his brother the sale of his birthright in exchange for a lentil soup. The expression is often used to describe the action of giving away something of profound value for goods of derisory nature.
6. Restare di sale (to be flabbergasted).
Again in the Book of Genesis 19:1-26 is told the dramatic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by God for being consumed by vice and idolatry. The expression makes reference to the fate of Lot’s wife, who was told not to look back while escaping from the cities. The woman disobeyed and was turned into a pillar of salt. The idiom is currently use to express disbelief or surprise (“alla notizia, sono rimasto di sale!”).
7. Gigante dai piedi d’argilla (giant with clay feet).
This expression comes from the Book of Daniel in which the prophet tells about the dream of King Nabucodonosor: a giant statue with golden head, silver chest, bronze legs and, as a matter of fact, clay feet. Today this form of speech is a metaphor for something huge (such as a corporation or a party) which does not have steady foundations.
8. Essere il beniamino (to be the favourite).
Beniamino (Benjamin) was Jacob’s last and favourite son. Therefore, in Italian, essere un beniamino means being someone’s pupil: a very good football player can be il beniamino dei tifosi, or a famous actor can be il beniamino del pubblico and so on.
9. Niente di nuovo sotto il Sole (nothing new under the Sun).
One of the most poetic and intense books of the Old Testament, the Book of Qoelet (1:9) is responsible for this sometimes abused quote (nihil sub sole novum in latin), which is used to indicate an unchanging (and unchangeable) situation.
10. Servire due padroni (to be a two-timer).
Although brought to fame by playwright Carlo Goldoni and his Arlecchino, this expression comes from the Gospel of Luke (16:13): “One cannot serve two masters, nor two mistresses”. The meaning is clear: the idiom is used as a reference to a double-crosser, a two-timer.
11. Gettare le perle ai porci (casting pearls before swine).
We find this expression in Matthew 7:6, meaning “to give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate it”.
12. Muoia Sansone con tutti i Filistei (let Samson die with the Philistines).
The Book of the Judges (16:18-21; 28-30) tells the story of Samson, an Israelite judge who performed feats of strength against the Philistines but was betrayed by Delilah, his mistress. Blinded by revenge, Samson decided to destroy Philistines temple with his bare hands, although he knew he would die too. The idiom is often used in reference to someone who doesn’t hesitate to harm him or herself if it helps hurting others.
13. Essere un Giuda (to be a Judas).
The figure of Judas is commonly used (not exclusively but very widely in the Italian language) to indicate a traitor. Along with his name, the expression per trenta denari (for 30 pieces of silver) indicating the amount of money earned by Judas to betray Jesus Christ, is often used.
So this was our list, but please feel free to integrate it and suggest new idioms in the comments!
The history of Carnevale is long and interesting, and in fact it has its roots in the ancient times, when, during, feasts like the Saturnalia in the Roman age or the Dionysia for the ancient Greeks, common people had the occasion, for just one day, to switch their social roles with the dominant class. As for the term, it directly descends from the late latin CARNE LEVAMEN, indicating the last night during which meat could be consumed before Lent.
As you can see, the whole concept of Carnevale is deeply rooted in the Italian territory and Italian Language and Culture, hence the presence of a flourishing and multi-colored tradition all along the Belpaese (and its main island).
Carnevale di Acireale (Sicilia)
Not only music and parades but also delicious traditional food! All this in the stunning scenario of one of the gems of the Sicilian Barocco.
Traditional mask: Abbatazzu.
Huge floats (up to 20 meters!), spectacular parades and the tradition of the gettito (basically a public giveaway of gifts and gadgets thrown from the carnival floats) are the main features of this carnival, which is also twinned with the Rio de Janeiro celebration.
Traditional mask: Tasi, which is burned on the last day of celebrations.
Held in a francophone territory, the “carnival of the cold valley” commemorates the passage of Napoleonic soldiers represented in traditional dressings and wooden masks.
Traditional mask: Landzette.
The most ancient carnival in Italy (and one of the most ancient in Europe), the first edition of this feast dates back to 1347. Just as in Cento, the getto is the main event here, together with a very unusual concert of Musica Arabita, played (just like Einsturzende Neubauten would have done!) with cutlery and tin cans.
Traditional mask: Vulon
This carnival is actually the commemoration of a very particular rebellion against the tyranny of the ius primae noctis, which is allegorically set about with oranges thrown by the crowd.
Traditional masks: il Tiranno and Violetta la Mugnaia.
The wonderful scenario of the Dolomiti is the set of this princely celebration which derives directly from the Asburgic Carnival (still celebrated in Austria).
Traditional masks: Princess Sissi and Francesco Giuseppe.
One of the most characteristic carnivals of the country, this celebration focuses on the folkloristic characters of Mamuthones and Issohadores, in an allegoric representation of the life of shepherds. Dressing up Mamuthones is an event by itself, since they have to carry on their backs up to 30kg of cowbells!
Traditional masks: Mamuthones and Issohadores.
Celebrated right after all the other carnivals have ended, this feast actually starts on the Mardi Gras and goes on for a whole week, commemorating S. Ambrogio and his pilgrimage.
Traditional mask: Meneghino.
From far north to far south, this carnival, besides being of the Europe’s first, is also a fierce contest between renown masters of papier-mache. Starting from January, 17th (feast of S. Antonio Abate), every Thursday is focused on a satirical representation of one particular social class, sparing literally no-one, not even the cornuti (husbands who have been cheated).
Traditional mask: Farinella.
And here we are: this is probably the most famous carnival in Italy, a succession of parades and events in the majestic scenario of a city lost in time. No further comment needed!
Traditional mask: Baùta.
Arguably second only to Venezia in terms of fame, this carnival is characterized by huge allegoric floats of papier-mache. The position of Viareggio, easily reachable and very close to landmarks such as Firenze and Pisa, brings thousands of tourists every year to the parades.
Traditional mask: Burlamacco.
And what about Rome?
The Eternal City doesn’t host a historical carnival, but you can find several events scattered all over the city, especially during the night of Mardi Gras and Jeudi Gras. Check out this year’s event here and don’t miss our Carnival party tonight!
To honor to my sixth month here in Rome (which sadly will be also my last) I would like to share with you today some VERY informal thoughts on what I learned in Italy. I will take you back to 11 August 2016, the day I arrived here in the beautiful Rome. The sun was shining and it was a summer day like all others in Italy so the streets of Rome were full of Romans (surprise! They don’t go on vacation that much: Rome is a really busy town), which brings us to the first thing you should learn in Italy:
- it’s REALLY important to learn the language and make an effort to practice it on the streets and in stores with locals. Not everyone is able to speak English and, as you will figure out, a lot of things are only available in Italian, although, especially in the city center, you will find amusing examples of broken English. For that purpose, certain internet pages packed with Italian Language lessons and exercises are a blessing. Or you can always do it the old fashioned way and learn Italian by joining an Italian Language Course (as I did, and my Italian is so good that I am still writing articles in English! :P).
Being installed in my new home for this six months, I had to go out for grocery shopping, which I know is not the most fashionable shopping you can do but it has to be done. Anyway, this brings us to the second thing I learned:
- when in Italy, you should get to know your local Italian cuisine – because no, there isn’t just ONE Italian cuisine. Not all of the food that you are familiar with in your home country will be available in the supermarkets, that’s why it is important to learn how to cook with the food that is available in Italy. The Italian cuisine is more than only pasta or pizza: make the best out of it and join an Italian Cooking Class where you will also be able to practice Italian and make new friends which share with you the disgrace of being totally incompetent in preparing a decent Italian dish.
Last but not last there is the thing that I enjoyed the most here:
- learn how to appreciate Italian culture. It’s maybe quite different from yours and it the difference can be disorienting at first but, believe me, these people really know how to live. The culture of having an aperitivo after work with your friends, enjoying a good meal for (at least) a couple of hours, having a walk through the city center or just spending your afternoon while doing nothing and drinking espresso should be included in the world heritage list. The Italian culture is about the importance of family and friends in your life and that’s what will make your new Italian friends the unforgettable ones. Or, at least, this is what happened to me!
Arrivederci Roma, alla prossima avventura! xoxoxo
Our glorious season of infographics about the Italian language couldn’t be complete without presenting at least some of the most used Italian words regarding winter holidays and Christmas!
Enjoy and… buone feste da Kappa Language School!
Brace yourselves, Capodanno is coming!
The new year means 365 days of new experiences, with of course all chances to make your wishes come true and to finally do everything that you want to do… at least on paper! For instance, this year 2016 I wanted to learn Italian and I can tell you that, although I didn’t turn into Dante Alighieri, I manage to speak some Italian by now and I can proudly order my magnificent lasagna avoiding puzzled looks by the waiters. If learning a new language is also on your list for 2017, keep on reading! And if this isn’t the case, well, also continue reading, for maybe after this you will add “learning Italian” to your list too. 🙂
As you might know, the foundation of language learning is motivation, and that motivation you can get out of almost anything. For example: family, friends or maybe even this blog. Remember learning a language is not easy, but if you really want it you can do it! How to start with your language learning experience in the new year? First of all, you need a to-do-list. This will help you in the first steps of your journey, which usually are the hardest ones. But fear not, after those the rest will be easier.
Tips to start learning Italian
1. Download an application to approach basic Italian vocabulary. For example Duolingo, Memrise or Speak and Translate. Say to yourself this is the new year and I am going to do every day 20 minutes of practice or 10 exercises with this application. It’s easy to get this accomplished because you can use these applications everywhere. Besides, you don’t really need to focus on grammar when making acquaintance with a foreign vocabulary, but this will turn very useful later on, when things will get more serious.
2. Approach the grammar, and do it in the most casual and informal way you can: find yourself a penpal or, even better, a tandem friend through one of the many websites that offer such service. Start exposing yourself to the new language and try to practice, with the help of a native, fixed expressions and very simple idioms you will be able to use to “survive” speaking your target language. Beware, though: being part of a tandem means that you need to guide your new friend through the discovery of your own mother language. It’s a good way to get mutual benefits and increase your motivation while making new international friends.
3. Last but not least, travel to Italy and take a course at an Italian Language School. Following a course at a language school is a unique experience, that at least everyone should have done one time in their life. Learning a language in the country where the language is spoken gives you the opportunity to practice and get in contact with locals and their culture. This all makes a language school the perfect place to learn a language and finally get your goal in the new year.
The first two things you can do it home and are completely free. Follow a course at a language school can be expensive, but it’s totally worth it. That’s why Kappa Language School wants to give you all a present for the new year, hoping this will help you follow your dreams and plan your holiday in Rome. Click here book your discounted Italian language course in January 2017 now!
And that’s it, buone feste to you all! We hope to see you in the new year to keep on helping you in the discovery of Italian language and culture!