by Melinda Gallo

Bella Lingua book presentation

Thanks to one of my blog buddies, I found out about a book presentation for Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales at the Società Dante Alighieri. I had invited a couple of friends to come along, but ended up going alone.

I bought Bella Lingua a few months ago, but have only read the first few chapters. As someone who lives here and speaks the language, I am always interested in books on Italy and the language especially written by Americans. I love to find out what their view of Italy is and how their experience is similar and different to mine.

I especially love book presentations in Italy because of the variety of speakers who give their opinion of the book. It’s always interesting to hear another person’s perspective.

The first woman who spoke was the president of AACUPI, Portia Prebys is American who has been living in Italy for over 30 years. She explained how place is important to any book and that this one didn’t mention place much at all. She also said that she was disappointed that there was a chapter on parolacce (bad words). She went on to say that people who use them are vulgar, uneducated and ignorant. My first reaction to her comments was that she must not live in Florence. Here, many people use parolacce for emphasis or amusement. For me, it shows their down-to-earthiness and sincerity. For me ignorance is having judgments and sticking to them.

Prebys ended her talk by saying that one can learn Italian and understand the culture, but one can never become Italian. I agree up to a point. I don’t believe anyone becomes anything other than who they are; however, each experience adds to a person like colors to a painting. No one is just one color, but a mix of them to create a unique work of art. Exposing oneself to another language and culture allows a person to see not only into another people, but also into themselves.

The next person was Giuliano Da Empoli, Florence’s Assessore alla Cultura (Culture Councillor) who said that the book wasn’t a superficial tale about a woman who comes to Italy and spits out all the stereotypes.

Domenico De Martino, from the Accademia della Crusca, spoke about how Italian is a noble language that people are interested in learning because of its beauty and not because of its utility. I appreciated his comments about Italian as a language that one must live and not just recite.

In the end, I enjoyed the presentation of the book and appreciated each person’s comments. I’m looking forward to reading the book so I can form my own opinions about it. I love the Italian language and enjoy speaking it as well. What I truly enjoy about being immersed in another language is that I can learn something new every day. What I truly love are the detti (sayings), which are like windows into the soul of the people who use them.

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