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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language Paperback – Apr 20 2010
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“A praiseworthy feature of La Bella Lingua is the way Hales peppers her narrative with hundreds of Italian words, idioms, and figures of speech—all chosen with gusto and brio and clearly translated into English—to introduce readers to the sonic and semantic seraglio that is the Italian language. A separate chapter on ‘Irreverent Italian’ highlights la parolaccia, the earthy lexicon of invective and jocular sensuality that contemporary Italians imbibe with their mother’s milk but foreign students of Italian rarely get to savor.” —Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish, authors of Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World
“Dianne Hales is just about pitch perfect as she weaves the engaging story of her innamoramento with Italian, hitting the high notes of Italian culture...
a lovely, touching tribute to the many fine civilizing gifts that Italy has shared with the world. Any smart traveler to Italy would want to read La Bella Lingua.
It’s not only readable and engaging but informative about things not easily found in guidebooks and common tourist materials.” —Julia Conaway Bondanella & Peter Bondanella, authors and editors of The Italian Renaissance Reader, Italian Cinema, and the Cassell Dictionary of Italian Literature
“An impassioned student, Dianne Hales takes us along on her delightful pilgrimage to the speaking heart of Italy. The rhythmic beat she comes to feel and love teaches her how to live, in beautiful and idiomatic Italian, ‘a language as rich in flavors and varieties as Italian cooking.’ The reading pilgrim’s reward is this delicious feast of a book, a strong mix of cultural and spoken treasure.” —Susan Cahill, author of Desiring Italy and The Smiles of Rome
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Dianne Hales is a widely published journalist and health writer. She lives with her family in Marin County, California. You can find out more about Dianne at her Web site (www.becomingitalian.com or labellalingua.org) and on Facebook.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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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