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Bella Lingua, La: My Love Affair With Italian, The World's Most Enchanting Language

by Dianne Hales
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Broadway
  • Publishing date: 20/04/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780767927703
  • ISBN: 0767927702

Synopsis

Book Description
“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses...”

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Linguaa, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy.

Throughout her first excursion in Italy—with “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase—Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what it is that makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.

She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Dianne Hales

Question: Why did you decide to write a book on Italian?

Dianne Hales: As a journalist, I know a great story when I see one—and the story of how Italian became the world’s most enchanting language has everything: adventure, drama, passion, beautiful women, gallant heroes, unscrupulous scoundrels—not to mention glorious music and fabulous food.

Question: Whom did you write this book for?

Dianne Hales: People who enjoy Italian food, music, art, film, travel and traditions. If you love Italy, you’ll love learning about its language. If you come from an Italian family, you’ll discover more about your heritage. If you’re studying Italian, you’ll find a new perspective that takes you beyond vocabulary and grammar. If you’re traveling to Italy, you’ll appreciate more about the people you meet and the places you visit. And if you’re an armchair adventurer—well, buckle your seat belt!

Question: Why and when did you start studying Italian?

Dianne Hales: I decided to study Italian more than twenty years ago so I could communicate with the friendly people we met on our travels in Italy. My goal was just to understand and be understood. However, the more Italian I learned, the more I wanted to know about Italian—where it came from, how it evolved, why it’s so musical and vibrant. I had so much fun in Italian classes and conversation groups that I didn’t want to stop my Italian education—and I never have.

Question: How did you do go about researching La Bella Lingua?

Dianne Hales: I used all the skills I honed in decades as a journalist and textbook author. I took classes in Italian language, history and culture both in the U.S. and in Italy. I worked very closely with a wonderful Italian tutor in San Francisco. In Italy I went to the great citadels of Italian, such as L’Accademia della Crusca and the Società Dante Alighieri, to interview leading linguists and scholars. But my greatest resources turned out to be the Italian people, who have deep pride in their mother tongue and infinite patience with those who try to master it.

(Photo © Robert Hales)

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  • great for the curious
    From Amazon

    If your curious about language and meaning, like to find out the history and background of how words are used this is an interesting book. If you love Italian yourself -- you'll love these insights. PC

  • La Bella Lingua
    From Amazon

    This is a delightful book, easily read, and chock full of good information on the development and use of the Italian language. It is also very informative regarding history and culture of Il Bel Paese. Dianne Hales has done a marvelous job and her love of Italian and things Italian is palpable on every page.

  • Pleasant and Informative
    From Amazon

    This book is extremely pleasant for someone like me, attempting to learn Italian at an advanced age. Every puzzle that arises seems to be one that Ms. Hales has confronted as she learned Italian, from the pronunciation of Turandot (pp. 186-87) and Chicago (p. 39) to the forms of "you" (pp. 137-41) and when to switch to buonasera (p. 286). I got the book because I recognized the author's photo from her terrific Italian blog. We should all be so fortunate as Ms. Hales, whose career and income permit her to spend months in Italy periodically. My only complaint about the book is the publisher's failure to provide an index. I followed the practice of Justice Black and created my own index -- in fact, two indices, one of words (e.g., giallo 21) and the other of subjects (e.g., Petrarch 85-90, Verdi 177-81). Despite this drawback, I recommend the book highly.

  • Thank you!
    From Amazon

    La Bella Lingua came recommended by a friend, as most of my favorites have. And now the first thing I ask friends is, "Have you read this book?" It is a testament to Ms Hales' genius that she has written a book that appeals to Italophiles at every level. There is no particular knowledge of Italy or its language and culture required, but--as the jacket comment by Beppe Severgnini (a sort of Italian William Safire) attests--even experts learn from this book. You don't have to be an opera lover at all to laugh out loud over the description of a long anticipated visit to a performance at La Scala. This is a book I plan to reread many times.

  • A must-ready for any Italianista!
    From Amazon

    This is a must-read (at least once) for any lover of Italian--the language, it's people, history, culture, art, etc. Hales describes the evolution of the Italian language and how it shaped the nation, with historical vignettes, passion, and humor much like a full-blooded Italian. It's in English, but it flows like a canto of Dante, peppered by the spiciness of a pasquinade by Aretino (defined in the book).

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