Three Italian Phrases You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without
The choice to learn Italian usually comes from a sense of romance or passion for the country and its people. Yet, those who stick with their studies often lose the sense of romance to periods of utter frustration and confusion.
The Italian grammar is not always logical. Some adjectives may precede a noun while others usually follow; and there are undefined times when the same adjective may do both. Common words take on different meanings such as sentire that may mean ‘to hear,’ ‘to feel,’ or ‘to smell.’ And the list of exceptions to the rules is longer than the list of rules itself.
Just when a student begins to feel a glimmer of confidence in their language abilities, they are faced with different regional dialects making comprehension nearly impossible.
Does this mean the casual vacationer is doomed to an anti-social and uncommunicative visit? Not at all. Even without prior review of an Italian phrasebook, a visitor can quickly pick up on a few basics such as grazie (thank you), per favore (please), and mi scusi (excuse me) within the first few hours upon arriving.
Nevertheless, should you want to function a little more efficiently without learning a dictionary’s worth of vocabulary, consider learning three basic survival phrases:
Dov’é il bagno? (Where is the bathroom?) Nothing is more important than meeting your basic needs—especially this one! Restrooms may not always be readily available or easy to locate in Italy. Knowing how to ask for one when the need arises is not only handy, but essential.
Questo é …? (Is this …?) Of course this phrase will need to be followed by a point towards the subject. For example:
If you want to confirm you are about to board the correct train for Rome, you would ask, “Questo é?” and point to the destination marked ‘Rome’ on your ticket. Or,
If you are unsure about the street you are on, you would ask, “Questo é?” and point to the street you are trying to locate on your map.
Il conto, per favore. (The bill, please.) You will not likely leave the dinner table in a timely fashion if you do not learn this phrase. In an Italian restaurant or café, it is considered rude for a server to bring you the bill before you are ready. That being the case, you need to know how to ask for it.
Years of language studies and excellent guidebooks are unable to prepare a person for every situation. So, don’t sweat it. Take these fundamental phrases with you on your next Italian journey and enjoy la dolce vita (the sweet life)!
Julie Gilley is a travel planner and small group tour guide for those wanting to visit Italy. She is the founder and owner of My Far and Away Itineraries, Inc. (www.myfarandaway.com) and author of the travel blog, Travel With Julie (www.juliegilley.typepad.com). She has a passion for all things Italian and hopes to call Italy her home one day.