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Marco: All About Italian Lesson 1 - Introduction to Italian and the top five reasons to study Italian.
Marco: "Buongiorno!" Marco here. I'll be your friendly neighborhood non-Italian guide to everything Italian…
Laura: And I'm Laura! Here as the Italian native to help along the way.
Marco: That's right, this lesson is all about your home and native land, Laura!
Laura: I'm always happy and proud to talk about my language and my country, especially with people like you or our listeners. It seems to me that you all love Italy so much, thank you! "Grazie mille!"
Marco: Oh, in my case you can swear by it. I lived there for fourteen years. And I would like to go back there to continue practicing my Italian!
Laura: Oh, that's true, you should! One never gets tired of learning!
Marco: Especially learning a beautiful language like Italian!
Laura: Yes, Italian is a beautiful language, and there's a lot of interesting things to learn, so it's better to get started soon.
Marco: Yeah, I think some of the listeners out there may know some Italian themselves.
Laura: Yes. It's amazing how the Italian language is known worldwide, even by people who have never started studying it. It's used in commercial products, fashion, and brand names in every corner of the world.
Marco: Yes, and lots of words borrowed from Italian are part of the dictionary of the English-speaking countries too. Let's not forget that the Italian language comes waaay back from the past, dating back to the ancient Roman Empire.
(sound effects of the Roman Empire, flow of history)
[Linguistics section]
What is it about this language, anyway?
Marco: So what language family does Italian belong to?
Laura: Italian belongs to the so-called romance languages family. The languages of this family have their roots in Latin, and to be precise Vulgar Latin, the popular Latin spoken by soldiers, settlers, and merchants of the Empire, as distinguished from the Classical form of the language spoken by the Roman upper classes, the form in which the language was generally written.
Marco: That's really interesting. So it is probably the language that has the most direct influence from Latin in the world, right?
Laura: That's right, Marco. It's the closest to Latin, scoring eighty-nine percent in similarity from a lexical point of view. And in addition to Italy, San Marino, and the Vatican City, it's one of the official languages of Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, and Malta and spoken officially by almost seventy million people in the world.
Marco: That's a pretty good number! But why "officially?"
Laura: That's because Italian is spoken as a second or cultural language by around one hundred and twenty million people worldwide! For example, some famous major towns have their own "Little Italy."
Marco: Like New York, yes.
Laura: Exactly.
Marco: How about the Italian writing system? Can you tell us more about that?
Laura: Sure. Basically, Italian is based on the Roman alphabet.
Marco: Which is, let's remember, the most widely used alphabetic writing system on the planet.
Laura: Exactly. Italian still differs a bit from the archaic Latin alphabet, and its alphabet is made up of a total of twenty-six letters, some of which, like "-j" or "-k," are used for the so-called "loan words," which are words coming from foreign languages.
Marco: Right. But what about the vowels and their pronunciation?
Laura: Oh, that can be pretty reassuring for our audience. Italian vowels are easy from that point of view! There are no tones, as in Chinese, or different ways to say them, as in English.
Marco: Yeah, in Italian, there's only one pronunciation. You just say it as you see it. More or less it's the same as with Spanish and some other Asian languages like Japanese, for example.
Laura: How interesting!
Marco: And what about dialects?
Laura: Of course, that's the interesting part! Italian is practically made out of dialects, and there's no part of Italy in which the "standard" Italian is spoken.
Marco: So how do you communicate?
Laura: In my case, I am from Ravenna, and I could say that I'm used to listening to the dialect closest to my culture. But there are some dialects that every Italian has trouble understanding, for example, Sardinian, the Italian dialect of the island of Sardinia. It's a totally different language!
Marco: Yeah, that's incredible in such a small country.
Laura: Yes, and the dialects are usually different from town to town, covering only small distances. Go a few kilometers out of Rome, and they are speaking in a totally different way!
(Sound effects)
About the Motherland
Marco: So how about going over a bit more about Italy itself. Italy as a country is pretty young, but historically speaking, that isn't so, right?
Laura: Yes, we have to think about ancient Rome! We could say that Italy has almost three thousand years of history. And excavations throughout Italy reveal a modern human presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some two hundred thousand years ago!
Marco: That's absolutely incredible.
Laura: Definitely. Preserving the remains of the ancient culture is really important to Italian people, and of course it should be in general to everyone in the world!
Marco: Let's look at the name of Italy. Where does it come from?
Laura: According to more widespread accounts, "Italia" borrowed its name from the Greek word meaning "land of young cattle." The bull represented southern Italian tribes and, as a defiant representation of free Italy, was often portrayed brutally goring the Roman wolf.
Marco: They say it was the name of just a part of Italy, the south Calabria region.
Laura: Yeah, and then it was extended to the whole peninsula during the Roman Empire.
Marco: That makes sense!
(Sound effects)
Who can resist the lure of Italian?
Marco: Okay, time for our top five list!
Laura: The top five reasons to learn this great language!
Marco: Okay, starting with number five. Italian people…
Laura: The society, the music…
Marco: And obviously Italian cuisine. To better appreciate Italian society and to communicate with Italian people, who are usually friendly and open!
Laura: Number four. It's easy to pronounce and it has a beautiful sound!
Marco: Italian pronunciation is easy and has a beautiful sound! You can start speaking it right away and appreciate all the musicality within it.
Laura: I think musicality is the right word. You can hear the melody as well.
Marco: Number three. Knowing Italian helps you learn more than just one language. It's a way to understand all the romance languages since Italian is the closest one to Latin itself and very similar to Spanish and others too.
Laura: Number two. Italian is one of the languages you may want to learn if your work is related to fashion, design, the restaurant industry, the motor industry, opera, and much more!
Marco: Italian is fun and learning it could improve your results in relations with any business on the peninsula!
Laura: And…the number one reason you should learn Italian is...
Marco: (drum roll sound effect) Italian culture and art!
Laura: Italy is the country that has the largest number of world heritage sites worldwide. Italian art and culture is full of famous geniuses and great names, and the value of understanding them in their own language is priceless.
Marco: Yes, that's right! Okay, everybody, are you ready? Get out your pen and notebook, grab your iPod, fire up your computer, and whatever you use to study, and get ready for some Italian lessons from ItalianPod101.com!