Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Word 21 is Zio

This week’s video of Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations closes the alphabet and is dedicated to the family members. I am attaching a PDF document with the full list taught in the video

Famiglia

and a link to a survey about how you would like me to keep doing these lessons. Please, send your answers here.

Enjoy it and share it!

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Learn Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Word #5 is Essere

Fifth installment of my YouTube course to learn Italian vocabulary. Have fun!

Learn Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Word #2 is Bello

Second installment of my YouTube course to learn Italian vocabulary. Have fun!

Happy International Mother Language Day

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International Mother Language Day 2014

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue. (UN website)

This day, and this post, could be called “the right thing at the wrong moment”. I have always understood the expression “lost in translation”, and it is not by chance that one is also one of my favourite movies. Despite that, I have never felt I could make mine that expression. On the contrary, now I feel totally plunged into it. It doesn’t depend on where you are and what language is spoken in that place, it is a feeling, an internal struggle that makes you feel out of place anywhere you are.

Italian is my mother tongue (I agree on the fact that this is a better name than “mother language”, but that this name is more comprehensible due to the Romance versions, and it was a good choice for the day), and also Sardinian could be considered that. Nonetheless, I feel Spanish as something mine, part of myself, something that I would like to call my mother tongue as well. All this has never been a problem for me, I have never felt belonging less to my original culture because of that.

Now, however, not only I don’t feel at home anywhere, but I don’t even feel I have a mother tongue anymore. I was used to be able to say everything in Italian, and then to have some preferences in other languages. Now, I don’t have that feeling anymore. I can’t express my feeling in Italian, but I have no good results when I do it in English. It is frustrating, it feels like a prison, and who visits is only capable to say “With all the languages you speak, you should be doing something else, you can use them for work!” Thank you, next time you want to do empty conversation, please talk about the weather like everyone else, and stay out from what you don’t know anything about!

I feel like a person who can travel the world and go everywhere but to one place: I just want to go there. I can speak several languages, but I cannot communicate anymore. I want my mother tongue back, I want to feel I belong to somewhere!

“Il sardo: non bisogna parlarne, bisogna parlarlo”

Sono in Sardegna da qualche giorno, dieci, a voler essere precisi, e sono stata positivamente sorpresa da qualcosa: la televisione nazionale è sempre più fonte di delusione, ma quella regionale è di gran lunga migliorata. Ogni giorno, mi piange il cuore e mi fan male le orecchie quando ascolto il telegiornale nazionale, e sento verbi coniugati al plurale associati a soggetti singolari o viceversa, soggetti femminili accompagnati da complementi maschili e viceversa, parole straniere senza significato, decontestualizzate o usate laddove si potrebbe facilmente adoperare un termine italiano. A questa tortura linguistica, si accompagnano programmi dubbi, noiosi, ripetitivi, buonisti e senza nessun merito, e pubblicità orrende, sgrammaticate e totalmente prive di arte.

In questa valle digitale di lacrime, una ventata di freschezza è arrivata oggi quando ho visto le pubblicità della Regione Sardegna per la promozione della lingua sarda. In TV ne ho visto due, e una ve la propongo qua da youtube.com:

Purtroppo, non sono riuscita a trovare l’altra, che mi è piaciuta ancora di più per il messaggio: “il sardo: non bisogna parlarne, bisogna parlarlo”, un tema che si avvicina al mio post di qualche tempo fa “How to save a dying language? Speak it!” Cercando questo secondo video, comunque,mi sono imbattuta in un’altra pubblicità che mi è piaciuta. Eccola per voi:

È un sollievo sapere che qualcosa, oltre alle leggi di questi ultimi anni, promulgate per difendere il sardo e favorirne la diffusione, sta arrivando a tutti tramite la televisione che, con tutti i suoi difetti, ha il potere di trasmettere messaggi su ampia scala, e di influenzare i telespettatori. Se questo generalmente non è un bene, lo è in questo caso, perché rende attuale e moderno qualcosa che, per vergogna e ignoranza, stavamo lasciando morire: la nostra identità. Se siete interessati a saperne di più sul sardo, le sue origini e la sua storia, il sito della Regione Autonoma della Sardegna presenta delle pagine veramente interessanti che troverete seguendo questo link.

Mi tengo fuori da polemiche nate in altri blog sempre su questa pubblicità, perché condivido l’opinione di chi in quelle pagine ha commentato: è palese una volontà di demonizzare il sardo e di criticare scelte politico-economiche, senza tenere conto dell’effetto positivo di questa campagna sul sardo, una lingua che non è solo preziosa, come tutte le lingue del mondo, perché portatrice di storia e cultura per tutto un popolo, ma che è anche terribilmente in pericolo. A questa gente, e a tutti voi, dico, ispirandomi allo slogan per la promozione della lingua catalana: parla senza vergogna, parla sardo!

Paschixedha – Natale in Sardegna

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Fate click sulla cassetta per sentire la registrazione

 

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Trascrizione di  Natale in Sardegna. Cliccate sul link per leggerla in italiano

 

 

 

 

Cari lettori e followers, ecco, come promesso, il post natalizio creato con l’aiuto del mio adorabile papà, zio Gino. In una dolce chiacchierata attorno al fuoco, ci racconta come si trascorreva il Natale in Sardegna negli anni della guerra, a cavallo tra gli anni ’30 e ’40. Nessuno di noi si è minimamente curato del Kindle che registrava e, in tutta spontaneità, parliamo come sempre facciamo tra di noi, naturalmente, mischiando il sardo e l’italiano, e anche parlando un italiano con tantissime interferenze, come potete sentire nel mio caso, visto che spesso uso espressioni tipiche sarde nonostante stia parlando in italiano. Esempi palesi sono “togo” o “la gente” usato come lo uso io, senza una specificazione che lo accompagni, ma anche il “la” usato nel senso di “vedi” o “per esempio”.

Tre sono, senza dubbio, le caratteristiche del sardo che ritroviamo in questa chiacchierata: la prima è la presenza della parola tesinanta, che letteralmente significa “come si chiama”, e che viene usato tantissimo, anche per formare verbi, e non è raro il caso di frasi interamente formate con le declinazioni di questa parola: porta su tesinanta chi esti in cussu tesinanta, du deppu tesinantai. Letteralmente, significa “portami il come si chiama dal come si chiama perché devo come si chiamarlo”, una frase senza alcun senso, ma che può voler dire “portami le forbici da quel cassetto perché devo affilarle”, o “portami il libro dalla librería perché devo foderarlo”, o avere migliaia di altri significati. Il vero messaggio si può capire solo dal contesto.

Secondo punto distintivo è quello di ripetere at nâu (ha detto, N.d.T.) nelle frasi in cui si racconta qualcosa. È un intercalare che poco ha a che fare con l’utilità o la comunicazione. Mio padre lo usa spesso quando parla del Natale trascorso a casa di suo zio, ma non l’ho trascritto ogni volta; in alcuni passi, è presente anche nella trascrizione, così da facilitare il riconoscimento.

Un’altra caratteristica del sardo è il passato remoto formato con l’ausiliare + stau, una forma non più tanto usata. Per esempio, parlando della messa dell’aurora, mio padre dice dhòi seu stau andau (letteralmente, “ci sono stato andato”, N.d.T.), mentre ora diremmo: dhòi seu andau (ci sono andato, N.d.T.).

Grazie a tutti per l’affetto e perché continuate a seguirmi. Il post è un misto di italiano e sardo, ma la trascrizione è completamente in italiano, con le parti in corsivo ad indicare quando, in realtà, stavamo parlando in sardo. Spero di poter preparare una versione in inglese del tutto, così che anche chi non parla l’italiano possa leggere questo post. Godetevi il mio regalo di Natale!

Inserisco qua alcune foto perché si possano vedere i cibi e i giochi di cui si parla nell’intervista:

Badharincus Badharincus

Pai ‘e saba Pai 'e saba

Pistocchedhus de Serrenti Pistocchedhus de Serrenti

Cotechino Cotechino

“One year of love” for my blog part 2

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Click on the cassette to hear the recording

 

 

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Click on the link to read the transcription

 

 

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Click on the link to read the full English text. The central part in Italic is the one that was originally in French

 

 

Un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue. Un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue. Un homme qui ne parle qu’une langue est anglais (C. Gagnière)

As promised, here you have the second installment of the anniversary post. My special guest, Alec, has shaken the foundations of my ideas about bilingualism. If I still feel as mine Helen Campbell’s quote “bilingual, whatever that means,” now I can also definitely say “bilingual, I know who that is.” In a very friendly way, and sipping a delicious French rosé, Alec shares with us his experience as a bilingual person native of English and French: how he was raised, how he interacts with his family, what happens in his head when he speaks one of the two languages, and what happens when he approaches a new one. Finally, he shares his personal view of French and British schools. You cannot see my face, but I can promise that I didn’t frown my lips even once when we said the word bilingual. After knowing him since a almost a year, I can tell that, if someone can use that word to describe himself, that’s definitely Alec.

I would like to thank him once again for participating in this project. After two years on radio, some years ago now, I still cannot hide my stage fright at the beginning of a recording, but we both get immediately comfortable and forget that we are even going on tape. To conclude, I think fair to also thank Alec’s flatmate and his dishes who play a cameo, as you can hear. As always, this is an open space so, please, don’t be shy and send your comments.

“One year of love” for my blog

pooh bear 1 year old birthday cake

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Cliccate sulla bandiera per la versione italiana

 

Just one year of love is better than a lifetime alone (One year of love – Queen)

I’ll look back on myself and say “I did it for love” (It’s a hard life – Queen)

It is incredible, even for me, to think that this blog, my baby, already reached its first anniversary. A year is long, and full of events and changes, and so it has been for Une belle infidèle! Plenty of subjects, several posts, all marking my life, one way or another. One year has passed and, to celebrate that, I was planning to write about bilingualism, with a special guest and all the rest. Unfortunately, my guest cannot attend the planned session, so this project is now hopefully going to be divided in two entries: this one, to be released on the actual date of the anniversary, and a second one, as soon as I can manage to interview my guest.

The older readers and followers already know my opinion about bilingualism, but for the sake of this analysis, and because some distinctions are necessary depending on the cases, I am going to use the terms bilingual and bilingualism in the scientific sense, without judgments on my part. For this post, I am going to analyse different examples of people who grew up in a bilingual or multilingual environment. It is not meant to be a scientific research, because I have not followed this process myself, but I just asked the different people to tell me about their own experiences. Of course, I have myself been raised in a bilingual environment, because two languages were spoken in my house and also outside, by the rest of the community. I consider myself a native speaker of both Italian and Sardinian, although, as I already explained in this same blog, my knowledge of these languages is uneven. Timewise, I should say that I learnt both languages at the same time, with my parents speaking mainly Sardinian, and my brothers mainly Italian (they were already 10 year old when I was born, so already fully immersed in a monolingual learning environment that was also soon going to become mine.)

The situation had been, of course, completely different for my parents during their childhood. My lovely father, who still struggles understanding what a blog is, was happy to talk about the way he was raised, linguistically speaking, and also to cast some light on my mother’s childhood, according to what he can have learnt from her. Gino was raised with Sardinian as mother tongue; in his own words, there was no other language spoken at home, and if my grandfather was able to speak Italian, dad is not even sure that my grandmother could. We are talking about the early 30’s, and no one used to speak Italian at all, although they could understand it, because, asked about it, my dad confirmed that the mass was in Latin, but the sermon in Italian. My father had his first contact with Italian when he started the elementary education but, without even thinking about it, he immediately said that, apart from the few months that he spent in Piedmont, he actually started speaking Italian only when he was dating my mother, at the end of the 60’s, when he was almost 40 years old. This was the first time that I realised this truth, and I am amazed by the situation, and by him. His level of Italian is remarkable, he is a native speaker, no doubt about it, and, with the exception of some Sardinian-like grammar structures, he doesn’t mix the two languages. He is absolutely comfortable with both of them and, if he defaults to Sardinian, it is a choice, not a necessity to be able to express himself.

My mother’s case is different, she was raised with mainly Italian spoken at home, my grandfather being Tuscan and not having any knowledge of Sardinian whatsoever. The result was that Italian was spoken at home, and also the rest of the family from my grandmother’s side (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) had to deal with that and default to Italian when grandfather Santi was present; moreover, during her childhood, my mother also used to spend several months every year in Tuscany with the other half of the family, in a monolingual environment in which Italian was the only spoken language. This is the reason why also my dad had to start speaking Italian constantly. Despite of this, I basically remember my mother mainly speaking Sardinian with my aunts and uncles, and also with my dad.

We were raised in a completely different way, in three different periods, with the result that Sardinian, despite the two separate cases, ended up being the main language for both my parents, while Italian is definitely the dominant one for my brothers and me. To be more specific, we are all native speaker of both languages, but I don’t consider myself completely bilingual. It is not only because I never studied Sardinian and can’t write it, it is also because I am fluent as far as I know, but I never really spoke about too complicated matters in Sardinian, it being the language I use to communicate with my family and, sometimes, my friends. For sure, Italian and Sardinian are completely separate for me, and so are for my brothers; if we use both languages together, it is consciously, because we prefer a specific word in the other language, because we always use it like that, or because we know that the other people will understand; on the syntactic level, instead, the distinction is complete. For our parents, as I said, lexically speaking, the situation was not different from ours, with conscious choices but, syntactically speaking, there often is, or was, a mix of grammar structures, with Italian sentences being sometimes formed using the Sardinian rules.

I know you think that this is just a post about my family and Sardinian in our own town, but it is more than that, with some friends who were kind enough to accept to share their experience with me, and with all of you; so, get ready for some very colourful examples. I guess it is fair to start with Alejandro, native speaker of Spanish and Galician, whose experience is similar to my personal one. He was brought up speaking Galician with his grandparents, and Spanish with his parents, but the situation is slightly different, because in Spain it is compulsory to teach 50% of the subjects in the co-oficial language of the region. When I asked him if he thinks he mixes the two languages, or used to mix them when he was younger, he definitely said that he does it consciously, either switching from one language to the other because he realises that he is among Galicians, or because he feels that only a Galician word can express what he is thinking. At that point, we realised that we were both thinking about the word morriña, that has no real translation in any other language.

A definitely more complicated example is Khadi. Native speaker of Arabic, French and Mandinka (Khadi, please correct me if I am spelling it wrong), Khadi is a perfect example of a child educated according to the OPOL principle (One-Person-One-Language), with each one of her parents talking to her using just one language. Her son, Moses, instead, was brought up in a multilingual environment, being in contact, on different levels, with English, French, Creole, Chinese, Arabic, Patois, and Yoruba. At the beginning, at home, especially Khadi used to use more than one language to speak with him, but she decided to stick just to English after a while because she felt that the child was mixing too much. Despite the fact that only English was spoken at home, Moses was still in contact with the rest of the languages, even Mandinka when talking with his grandmother. As a result, he can understand basic Chinese, Arabic and Mandinka, and fully understand French, which he also studies at school, but fluently only speaks English. When asked if she could do a comparison between her experience as a child, and her son’s, Khadi said that she tended to mix a lot less than Moses used to do or, at least, she did it consciously, while he did not.

As I said, this post wanted to be an introduction, and a more serious approach to bilingualism, without the sarcasm that I can hardly avoid when confronted with this subject. In fact, it is just a collection of experiences that people around me wanted to share, without the systematic analysis and the amount of data that a regular research would give. Hoping that we will manage to work on the second part, that was supposed to be the main one, I want to close adding some

SPECIAL THANKS

First of all, as promised, I want to thank my colleagues from Cagliari, who helped me immediately when I reached out on Facebook looking for bibliographical advice on this post: grazie Claudia Conca, Giorgia Corda, Stefania Giovanrosa e Simona Melis (in rigoroso ordine alfabetico).

Thanks to who participated to my posts with actual chats or interviews, or simply being quoted; especially, thanks to my wonderful dad: the bilingual poet, philosopher and storyteller known by the name of zio Gino.

Thanks to all my followers and readers, including the main inspiration of this blog: during this year you all showed me that it was worth to keep writing posts that were witty, sarcastic, boring, nerdy, romantic, sad, but were always part of me. Thanks for commenting, on the blog, on Facebook or privately, because every little message gave me satisfaction and showed me the way. All of you made me proud of being Une belle infidèle!

How to save a dying language? Speak it!

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“In a highly connected global age, languages are in die-off. Fifty to 90 percent of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken today are expected to go silent by century’s end. We live under an oligarchy of English and Mandarin and Spanish, in which 94 percent of the world’s population speaks 6 percent of its languages.”

(How to save a dying language, Smithsonian.com)

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This is as sad as true. I am myself a native speaker of a dying language, Sardinian, and I say this with a lot of sadness, because I know that, despite the weak efforts to avoid it, we are quickly heading toward this result. A language is the base of communication, so we should not allow languages to die but, if for a fight to be possible you need two people, the same is true about communication; if these two people don’t want to use Sardinian, for laziness, shame, or for whatever reason, then this language will soon be lost.

We could say that there is nothing to be sad or worried about, it is natural: animals succumb to extinction and languages die, it has always happened and it will keep happening. But what no one wants to admit is that animals are getting extinct at a rate maybe 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the background rate, and that languages are dying faster as well, driven by the speakers’ desire for following the majority and for speaking the current linguae francae.

It is sad to be part of the generation which still holds a grip on the doomed vernacular language; you know it is going to disappear, but it is still there. That must have been the feeling the last speakers of some aboriginal dialects tried to communicate through their eyes when they were being recorded by the linguists in Australia. It must be heartbreaking to know that, after losing everything your life was based on – your lifestyle, your traditions, your land – also your language will be gone with you. Certainly, that was what I received while watching those recordings.

It may sound an exaggeration to read 1984 and learn about the Party working to destroy the English language (the Oldspeak) by creating a new, purged one (the Newspeak), more suited to its needs. We may smile at the idea, but is it not what it is happening constantly to our languages? At the very least, this is now happening to languages like Italian, where few people speak the language natively, and those who do are not concerned with preserving it. It is not a matter of not having an official institution in charge of that, something like the Real Academia for Spanish, or the Académie françaisefor French; we have the Accademia della Crusca, no excuse there. The problem is that these institutions work in a theoretical plan, then it is the responsibility of everyone of us to use the language in a responsible way.

As a linguist, I know perfectly that to speak a language correctly doesn’t mean to always sound as a written book (I am talking about a good one), or to be impossible to understand, but to adapt your language to the person to whom you are talking. But I also know that borrowing plenty of foreign words to sound modern and cultivated is both armful for our own language and an useless effort. Very often, not only the words we already have are perfectly able to express what we mean, but the ones we borrow don’t even mean the same in the first place (footing is what I would call “a wonderful example”.)

If the idea of a dying language was not enough to make me mad, then I read several articles celebrating the creation of new languages, and I ask myself “Why?” Honestly, there are plenty of natural languages, and most of us don’t even bother trying to learn one at all. But then, a writer, or a director, invents a language for aesthetic purposes, and plenty of people study it and become fluent. We are not talking about an artificial language created with communication purposes, like Esperanto, which was created to facilitate communication (and to destroy interpreters, that’s true, but still); here we are talking about languages created only to add something exotic to a novel. Several of them – including Klingon, Elvish, Navi, Valyrian and Dothraki – come immediately to mind, but there are more. To me, they are as pointless as designer dresses that are made out of chocolate and melt on the catwalk. Not only these languages are created for no reason, but more disappointing still, plenty of people study them and become fluent, people that often share the same mother tongue and could easily focus on learning that one properly and using it to communicate!