Italians linger over coffee, interrupt one another constantly and have even been known to take their babies to bars, says Patrizia Argentieri, the Italian-language teacher at Alta House. "You can go to a bar and have an ice cream," she offers. "It can be family oriented." Long story short, Italians like to relax and enjoy life. Argentieri should know. She moved to the U.S. from the Marche region of Italy 15 years ago, which makes her a great guide to learning what she describes as a "beautiful, musical and difficult language." If you can't squeeze in her six-week Italian class ($75), which begins Aug. 31, here are three quick lessons that can help you fit in with native speakers.
1. Know the pronunciation. In the Italian language, letters are always spoken the same way, and every letter is always pronounced. When talking about spaghetti, the tt's are tt's, not dd's," Argentieri says. And a ch followed by an e or an i sounds like a k. Practice it by telling people your name:
Mi chiamo ______.
2. "Ciao" means "hello" and "goodbye." Use it freely. Another phrase that's useful: "Grazie mille" or "thanks a thousand."
3. Don't be afraid to butt in. "Italians gesticulate more and socialize around food and wine," Argentieri explains. "It's the Mediterranean way." And once you've made some new friends, make sure to tell them "a dopo," or "see you later," when you depart.