Italian is one of the Romance languages and is spoken by more than 70 million native speakers. It is seen by many as a fiery and expressive language with its very distinctive sound. We all have the typical image in our heads of an Italian chef speaking in an emphatic manner and kissing his fingertips as he roles out another perfect plate of pasta. Unfortunately, learning Italian is a masterpiece in itself and there are many mistakes to be made along the way.
Firstly, is the pronunciation: Italian is a very difficult language to speak and takes a long time to get to grips with. The results are, of course, well worth striving for. The penultimate syllable is stressed in Italian and there are many different sounding letters in their alphabet. If this wasn't difficult enough, then they have sprinkled the minefield of pronunciation with clusters – groups of letters which make a different sounds to the one you would expect. It is best to learn this thoroughly before tackling any other aspect of the Italian language and ensuring to revise as much as possible to retain the information. Practice on Italian text, even if you haven't a clue what it is saying and listen to native speakers until you really get the hang of it.
Another key problem that many Italian learners face is the sometimes bizarre use of prepositions. These differ from English and it is an unfortunate fact that you cannot simply replace words with Italian ones to become fluent. You cannot become fluent in another language by simply learning the vocabulary, you have to learn how the words are used, how they relate to each other and where they differ from English. Verbs are similar in this respect and so it makes perfect sense to revise their usage and conjugations of all tenses and subjects.
As I touched upon in the very first paragraph, we often see the Italian using very extravagant hand gestures and speaking in a very emphatic style. This may seem odd to an English speaker, but if you were to speak without such gestures in Italy, you would be seen as indifferent. It would be completely obvious that you are no native Italian and so learning the hand gestures and intonations is an absolute must.
Here's the golden rule of languages: never translate word for word and especially not in Italian. A verbatim translation with a mismatching hand signal can be confusing, odd or even offensive. Make sure you get the right phrases and never try to translate an English expression into Italian as you may be misunderstood. Opt for some authentic Italian idioms instead and your language will become the real deal in no time.
Italian is not easy and these tips will help you avoid a little embarrassment along the way. Remember to get your Italian hat on and stop thinking in English. The sooner you do this the better and your language will immediately seem more fluent and realistic.