Italian for Beginners

The title of this blog posting refers to a Danish movie from 2000, and my current activity. “Italian for Beginners” is a lighthearted entertaining movie about Danes who want something a bit more interesting in their lives so they go to Italian class. Romance and “viaggio” to Italy ensue.

Learning Italian is a bit topsy turvy for me as Italian is, in many ways, the opposite of English and Spanish. For example, the “che” is a “kah” sound and the “ci” is “cheh” sound as in “ciao.” The double ell in Spanish is spelled with a “gli” in Italian but the double ell like in “bello” is a really forceful ell sound. The ñ in Spanish is spelled “gn” in Italian so that “gnocchi” is “ñ-o-key” — and so on.

Actually, the phrase I’ve learned the best is “attenta su pronuncia” – watch your pronunciation.

But, it’s most important to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. So far I’ve learned that the Italians are very formal so one should not use “ciao” unless you are family or you are close friends. (Also, “Ciao” derives from an old Venetian saying for “I’m your slave.”)

Hello: “buongiorno” (bwon-jorno) until sundown and then it’s “buona sera” (bwon-ah sarah)

Goodbye: “arrivederci” (a-riv-eh-dare-chi)

Please: “per favore” (pear fa-vore-eh) or “per piacere” (pear pah-chair-ee)

Thank you: “grazie” (gra-ts-ee-ay)

Excuse me: “scusi” (skoo-zee) is the formal form and “scusa” is the informal.

One thing I have learned about Italian is how to say “good luck!” Contrary to direct translation, it is not “buona fortuna!” Instead, it’s “jump inot the mouth of the wolf!” Or “In bocca al lupo!” This is the equivalent to “break a leg” in Italian.

The Art of Flirty Waiters

One of many charming waiters…

A truly talented waiter will bring not only food and drink to your table, but entertainment to your dining experience. Many of the elements of waiting tables is are the same as in acting — timing, pretend, and audience. A good flirt has these skills too. Not sleazy; just piquant. Jordan was filled with talented waiters.

My exchange with Khalil in Jordan was typical:

Khalil (stops clearing the table and looks deeply into my eyes): Wow, your eyes, they are a special color?

Me (I nod): Yes. You have to get up close to notice.

Khalil: Are you married?

Me: Not yet.

Khalil: Your husband will be a lucky man.

Me: Why?

Khalil: Because he will wake up to your eyes every morning.

Bearing fruit…

Khalil continued throughout the meal. The skills comes in delivering these lines without making it sound too cheesy. He’s used these lines for twenty years and he’s perfected his pitch and his timing. Like a perfect tango. I’ll engage. I’m happy to hone my repartee.

Talking smooth…

Serving sweets…

I was tired that night or I would have been much faster and funnier in my response… guess I need more practice. Oh shucks.

With smoke and mirrors…