May 21, 2007

parole, parole, parole

This morning I had my first private Italian lesson. After twenty-five years of speaking, reading and listening, I want to work on my writing skills, presentation/formal language and get rid of the kinks that have wormed their way into my speech while fine tuning the rest. Un corso di perfezionamento. What do you do with a student like me?

Well, we started with a dictation, that I completed with only a few errors on the accents. Then while she tried to size me up, we reviewed the use of the congiuntivo and experimented with ways to improve various sentences of the dictation text. Homework: a composition.

We talked about the different "concept of style" in Italian with respect to English. How it is not as important what you say, but how you say it -- a question of style. She told me that it is just a cultural difference that you have to accept if you want to write well in Italian, you have to work on being ornate, not succinct. Circumscribed, not direct. Pay attention to the sounds of the phrases, the rhythm and flow. It must sound good (like the Capo Gabinetto at the school meeting).

Quite an assignment. I'll have to put aside all that I have ever learned about writing and enter into an Italian state of mind. Pompous prose here I come. Wish me luck!

a domani,
E

4 comments:

Alec said...

It's really interesting comparing how different countries write.

It'd be great if you posted your composition here with a translation if it's not too much work. I'd love to see this flowery language so admired by Italians and so neglected by efficiency-oriented Americans.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I agree with Alec's post. I find reading Italian newspapers a little frustrating. In English the who, what, where and when are in the first few sentences.

I repeated Intermediate Italian level 2 because of the dreaded subjunctive.

That tense and passato remoto are not my friends.

Alina said...

A composition? Che bello!

Here's my formula: Write each paragraph normally, then delete all of the periods so as to create a nice run-on sentence. Next convert any use of the passato prossimo into passato remoto. That done, add at least 3 adjectives per noun and 2 adverbs per verb - at least, more where applicable. If you're not feeling too creative, use a thesaurus to create long strings of synonymous adjectives: Ho incontrato un bel ragazzo just doesn't suffice when you can say Incontrai un ragazzo bello, attraente, ed affascinante...! This is just a first step, of course. For an even better effect, add history and superlatives. Incontrai un giovane bellissimo, attraente ed affascinante, discendente dalla nota, importante ed illustrissima stirpe dei Visconti....

For an excellent (unlike the above) example of Italian writing style, I recommend reading the first few pages of Umberto Eco's Nome della Rosa - all of which he dedicates to the description of... a door.

As for journalistic lingo, when my mother asked why I don't read Italian newspapers, I replied by sending her my journalistic translation of "The chicken crossed the road":

La Dotteressa Gallina, importantissimo aviario bipede piumeggiante di sfumature multicolori nel giorno odierno alterò il corso della storia mostrando inesorabile tenacia nel tentativo previamente relegato in esclusiva ai pedoni di genere homo sapiens di spingersi fino alla sponda contrapposta di un percorso di trasporto cittadino.

Mom bought me a gift subscription to the International Herald Tribune.

Buon divertimento and remember more is better when it comes to writing Italian style!

Elizabeth said...
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