Italian for Beginners

We are a family of many languages, of, sometimes, our own invented language. Of English, of Italian, of Portuguese, and of whoever happens to be visiting at the time (German, Arabic, French, Spanish).

My son’s father, from Brazil, spoke solely in Portuguese to him, from birth to age 2. Then he gave up, slowly and over time, much to my dismay, whenFratellone (a.k.a. Big Brother) responded to him in English and never Portuguese. But Fratellone – he understood every word in Portuguese, and you could tell him to do tasks in Portuguese and he’d do them, you could ask him questions in Portuguese, and he’d understand, and answer correctly, but in English. In the beginning, he spoke words in both English and Portuguese, his first words being

My son’s father, from Brazil, spoke solely in Portuguese to him, from birth to age 2. Then he gave up, slowly and over time, much to my dismay, whenFratellone (a.k.a. Big Brother) responded to him in English and never Portuguese. But Fratellone – he understood every word in Portuguese, and you could tell him to do tasks in Portuguese and he’d do them, you could ask him questions in Portuguese, and he’d understand, and answer correctly, but in English. In the beginning, he spoke words in both English and Portuguese, his first words being Mama, DaDaand Agua.Hestuck with those three fundamental words for a long while, and ittook him longer to form sentences -but we were patient, knowing he was being raised in a bilingual household. When he finally did speakin sentences, he jumped from simple sentences to complex ones in what seemed like a day. I am convinced that his exposure to two languages from birth to two gave him a wider open mind to language: when we first traveled together toItaly and he was five, he caught on to Italian so quickly that he was able to answer simple questions and explain what had happened to his arm (Mio braccio e’ rotto) within days; he loves reading and loves jokes that involve wordplay. Sometimes his father still uses Portuguese expressions, here and there, and Fratellone knows those well. I am certain that one day, he’ll travel to Brazil, and Portuguese will sing its way back into his understanding entirely.

Pupa (a.k.a. Baby caterpiller, age 8 months) on the other hand, is our little experiment:At home, I speak to her in Italian when I’m alone with her. When Fratellone is near us, I speak English peppered with Italian. (And so, just as I learned Portuguese along with Fratellone, he is learning Italian along with his sister). My husband speaks to her solely in Italian. At daycare, her provider speaks Spanish to her. We often wonder what language she’ll speak. So far it’s the universal babytalk of rasberries and da-da-da-da-da-da-da.

One day soon, I plan on dropping off both kids, Pupa and Fratellone -at my in-laws in Rome, where no one speaks English (mwah ha ha ha) and they’ll be forced to learn Italian – if anything to ask for seconds of my mother-in-law’s lasagna.

On June 29 from 4 – 7 pm, The Italian Cultural Institute and Italidea will host a family open house. The event will commence at 4 pm with Children’s Corner. An Italian animation film for children, “Pimpa” will be screened and snacks will be served. Entertainment will be provided by Carly Ciarrocchi. At 5pm, guests can visit the library and enjoy the exhibition of Lorenzo Mattoti’s drawings, magazine cover illustrations, comic book narratives and commercial artwork. From 6-7 pm, visitors can experience Italidea’s sample Italian language lessons taught by native speakers.

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