When folks discover that I have an Italian last time, as well as parents who were born in Italy, they immediately ask if I speak Italian. My answer is a definite yes though I always qualify my fluency with the fact that I grew up speaking a regional, southern Italian, dialect.
Dialects, of course, are examples of full blown languages with formal syntax and speakers of a Sicilian or Calabrian dialect, for example, should be proud of their ability. In fact, the formal Italian spoken in Italy today developed from the 14th century dialect of Toscana (mostly because it varies least from classical Latin and the Floretine culture was, at the time, producing great works of literature via Boccaccio and Dante).
With the birth of our first child we’ve aimed to emerse him in the Italian language as much as possible, though it’s proven a bit difficult even with many native speakers in our family. Our son has picked up a few Italian words and phrases by way of our family here in New Jersey, but he’s benefited most from 1., our trip to Italy this past summer and 2. some drilling via a few simple children’s books such as ABC Italiano and Colors Italiano.
Another great addition to our Italian language children’s book arsenal has been Impariamo l’Italiano con l’Aiuto della Mano! (Let’s Learn Italian with the Help of our Hand!) by Giuliana Sica (illustrated by Steven Kernen) and published by Italian-themed Gemelli Press. Impariamo l’Italiano con l’Aiuto della Mano! includes sections on numbers, colors, greetings, shapes, fruits, vegetables and fruits. The book is nicely illustrated (in a sort of playful manner) and my teacher wife thought thought the book had a nice balance of easy and difficult words/concepts.
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