La Televisione: Techniques to Improve My Italian Skills

One of the techniques I use to help with my Rosetta Stone lessons is watching Italian programming on RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana), a major television company that plays a lot of sitcoms and news shows from Italy. My first challenge was to get over the cultural differences between American and Italian TV. At first, watching the shows was extremely painful. To my American sensibility, the shows lacked sophistication and were beyond corny. Initially, I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying, but I know corn when I see it—and it was falling off the cob! There were many days when I couldn’t take watching for more than 10 minutes at a clip before I had to change the channel. That was really frustrating. I wanted to like them (everyone was speaking in my favorite language after all!), but I just couldn’t. Come to think of it, that may have inspired me to Google my first look at Italian outbursts,  and I settled on the benign exclamation basta. When you’ve finally had enough of the TV shows, it feels really good when you say “Basta!” and click the remote at the same time. (If you try it, do it with a grand flourish. For me.)

For several weeks, I didn’t bother with Italian programming because it was basically an exercise in frustration. When I eventually returned, I was surprised to find a sitcom I’d never seen before: Tutti pazzi per amore. It’s kind of a cross between a sitcom and a soap opera. (Juicy!) And surprise, surprise, the production values are high and it’s actually FUNNY! I got sucked in immediately. The only thing I still find slightly weird is that they put in a lot of background music when people are talking. On the other hand, I suppose life in Italy could be seen as having an emphatic soundtrack to go with every situation and emotion one might experience on any given day. I mean, come on, let’s face it. We aretalking about the country that came up with commedia dell’arte and opera! So, OK, I’ll take my soap-sitcom with a pinch of music, please. It’s entertaining and I’m learning to recognize words I’ve acquired in my lessons. Most importantly, I’m learning to follow the rhythms of different Italian conversations. That keeps me inspired. Therefore, send in the clowns! I’m laughing and learning.

woman watching tv and laughing

Jupiterimages, courtesy of Getty Images

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