I believe in a multi-pronged approach to language learning-- hence not only do I have a weekly Italian lesson, but I listen to Radio Italia ("solo musica italiana") and Italian talk radio in the car (having exhausted all of my language lesson CDs); watch subtitled movies, both Italian- and foreign-made/dubbed; visit LearnItalianpod.com; read "parallel text" short stories (with the original Italian on one page and English translation on the opposite page); and probably most important, try to make conversation with the dry cleaner, the waiter, the landlord, the kid who helps out at the gym, the other mothers at the bar*.... So I must be fluent by now, right?
To understand why my answer is "no", one need only glance at the photo: my constant companion, the compact Webster's, has "over 30,000 entries," while that coffee table beast under it contains over 2800 PAGES! Even taking into account that half of those entries and pages are English-to-Italian, mamma mia! (Yes, Italians really do say that.) What's that? Aren't many English and Italian words virtually identical, with common Latin roots, you ask? Excellent/eccellente question! Aggression/aggressione, incredible/incredibile, irritable/irritabilita', persistent/persistente, etc./ecc. However, many words are completely different, and some which seem similar (and may even have a common Latin root), are nevertheless completely different in meaning: genitori does not mean genitals, but parents. Not to mention the verbs...that Barron's is invaluable, with all 14 tenses of 1st, 2nd, & 3rd person singular and plural fully conjugated. +Sigh+...I love that book.
A few errors that my, uh, friend has actually made:
- Ordering spaghetti with dick (spaghetti con cazzo) instead of with mussels (con cozze)
- asking a saleslady in a shoe store if they have any whores (zoccole) instead of clogs (zoccoli)
- telling someone "See you in nine years (nove anni)" instead of in the new year (nuovo anno)
- ordering a cow (vacca) instead of a vodka (properly pronounced "vohdeka" with emphasis on the "oh")
*Conjures up visions of knocking back a shot or two after dropping the kids off in the morning, no? While it's true that the bar is just up the street from the school, and does contain a few slot machines and perhaps a drunk (ubriaco, not ebraico) or two, for the moms it's just caffe' e chiacchiera (coffee & chitchat).