This is a guest post from Cher Hale. Thank you Cher!
The flight is booked, the rooms have been reserved, and your daydreams of pasta and wine are starting to come full circle. In the midst of all of your planning (and this thing called life that often has responsibilities) you may have let learning Italian slip through the cracks. Depending on where you’re going in Italy, this may be more or less urgent. If you’re visiting the bigger cities like Milan, Rome, or Florence you’ll have a better chance of running into people who speak English. However, if you like visiting places with less flashing cameras, like Viterbo or Todi, you may have a harder time getting around without some basic Italian phrases.
When I lived in Viterbo it was incredibly rare to find a shopkeeper that spoke English, which was a big motivator for me to learn more at a faster rate. That said, I know there’s A lot to learn when it comes to a new language – even if it’s just the essential phrases for a two-week stay, like shopping at the market or getting directions. Before you learn others, there are eleven phrases that I think are absolutely essential and can be used as soon as you get off of the plane at Fiumicino, Malpensa, or Linate.
Note: When the pronunciation is in all capitals, it means that the emphasis of the word should be placed there.
11 Basic Italian Phrases
Do you speak English?
“Parla” is the formal that you would use with strangers, individuals older than you, or officials. If you’re chatting with a friend or somewhere in your age range, you might use the informal and say “Parli” instead.
I don’t understand.
Non parlo italiano.
non PAR-low ee-tah-lee-AH-no
I don’t speak Italian.
I speak English.
Parlo un po d’italiano.
PAR-low oon poe dee-tah-lee-AH-no
I speak a little Italian.
Che cosa significa?
keh KO-zah seeg-NEE-fee-kah
What does this mean?
Come si dice…in italiano?
KO-meh see DEE-cheh een ee-tah-lee-AH-no
How do you say…in Italian?
Come si scrive?
KO-meh see SKREE-veh
How do you write it?
Can you repeat that?
Può parlare più lentamente per favore?
pw-OH par-LAR-eh PEW lent-ah-MENT-eh pear fah-VOH-reh
Could you please speak more slowly?
“Può” is the formal that you would use with strangers, individuals older than you, or officials. If you’re chatting with a friend or somewhere in your age range, you might use the informal and say “Puoi” instead.
Dov’è il bagno?
DOH-vEH eel BAHN-yo
Where is the bathroom?
Questions on any on the phrases? Leave them in the comments below!
About the Author:
Cher Hale is best described as a relationship counselor between humans and the Italian language. Once they’ve fallen in love and the honeymoon period has ended, she helps them stay committed until they’re conversational. You can read her vocabulary speed-dates, grammatical musings, and cultural cocktail party facts at The Iceberg Project.
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