I have some fond memories of Italians in their native land, even though I don’t know much about them, apart from what one sees in the media and on film and so on. It has been a long time since I was in Italy. When I was nine my father took us on a great holiday, cruising on an Italian vessel, “M/V Africa”, from Beira in Mozambique round the Horn of Africa and up into the Mediterranean until we disembarked in Trieste. The ship, being part of the Lloyd Triestino Line (http://www.ssmaritime.com/lloyd-triestino-africa-europa.htm) was manned mostly by Italians and while on the journey I had my first crush as a child on one of the crew! But alas my feelings were not returned, haha. I was spurned for another twice or three times my age, can you believe it! 🙂
The only other time I was in Italy after that was another family holiday and this time I was in my mid-teens. On our last day, we had checked out of our hotel and were getting into a taxi when the hotel manager came running towards us. “Quick, quick, get in, hurry” my dad said, trying to bundle us into the cab and urging the driver to speed off for the airport. “He probably wants more money. Pretend not to notice him.” But it was too late. The manager caught up with us. “Your passports,” he said, waving them in the air. “You forgot your passports!” The moral of the story, I think, is to trust an Italian, and never trust my father :).
We have large Italian communities in Australia and it is always nice to go to the Italian districts for a coffee or gelato and to sample the atmosphere. If you are being a typical Italian male in Sydney then most probably you will drive down Norton Street in your souped up Alfa Romeo with a Tiziano Ferro song blazing at full blast on your sound system. As you drive along you will check out all the talent walking down the street and cast admiring glances at your own and your car’s reflection in the shop windows. 🙂 I was flicking through Lonely Planet’s Italian phrase book and it had a section on pick-up lines – Ti posso portare a fari un giro (in moto)… Can I take you for a ride (on my bike) – and how to reject unwanted advances, my favourite one being Il tuo ego è fuori controllo – Your ego is out of control.
So, down to business. The bad news is that Italian also has two “to be” verbs, essere and stare. According to the above mentioned phrase book, the former is generally used to describe ongoing characteristics (like ser in Spanish and Portuguese) and the latter describes temporary states or locations (like estar in Spanish and Portuguese). Here is how they are conjugated
Subject pronoun essere / stare English translation
io sono / sto I am
tu sei / stai you are (informal)
Lei (capitalised) è / sta you are (formal)
lui / lei è / sta he / she / it is
noi siamo / stiamo we are
voi siete / state you are (plural)
loro sono / stanno they are
See the posting from December 21, 2012 (Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use?) and the replies for explanations on when to use tu and Lei. It is pretty much the same as in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Now for some music. Who is Tiziano Ferro, you may ask? He is an Italian singer who has also sung in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English, so if you are interested in Romance languages you should investigate him (not sure about his Romanian repertoire, though). I first heard of him when I spotted his song Alucinado on MTV in Argentina, taken from the Spanish version of his debut album Rojo Relativo (the Italian version is Rosso Relativo, and the equivalent song title on it is Imbranato.) According to my dictionaries, alucinar is an intransitive Spanish verb meaning to hallucinate, but when used in the transitive it can mean to deceive or to fascinate. But imbranato in Italian is an adjective meaning clumsy or awkward, or as a noun a clumsy person. Rojo / rosso means red and I think the album title must be a play on “red hot” (rojo–vivo in Spanish), so I guess it means the more modest and self-effacing “relatively hot”. But I could be wrong. Anyway, here are the links to the songs in Italian, Spanish and French, and it is the chorus that is the making of the song, really, in my opinion.
Which do you prefer, the Italian, Spanish or French version …. is one language more musical than the other?
Here you will find the Italian lyrics with the English, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian translations (among others) alongside:
In researching this I have just found out Tiziano recently revealed he is gay so maybe those macho Italian boys won’t be playing his music so loudly while cruising down Norton Street after all.