FSI Language Course: Italian FAST Preliminary Lesson

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Italian to English and English to Italian audio flash cards to review the vocabulary

Fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice listening quiz

Before we begin: Some spelling pronunciation features

Italian symbol like the sound in as in
a father sta, grazie, male
e eight come, bene, e
e seven bene, c'è
i machine si
i Italian Italia
o four come, non
o forty sto, no
u Sue uno
u quite buon, quando
p spar passaporto, passi
t star sta, tabella, turista
c (before a, o, u) scar casa, conoscenza
ch (before e, i) schedule che, chi
c (before e, i)
ci (before a, o, u)
cello c'è, ci
ufficiale, ufficio
g (before a, o, u) go dogana, bagagli
gh (before e, i) ghetto ghiaccio
g (before e, i)
gi (before a, o, u)
gem gettone, girare
giallo, giorno, Giulia
sc (before e, i)
sci (before a, o, u)
fascist esce, esci
usciamo, lascio
gl (before i)
gli (before a, e, o, u)
million gli, bagagli
glielo, bagaglio
gn onion giugno, signora
s lease casa, gas, signora
s ease casa, sbaglio
z pizza grazie, indirizzo
z ads mezzo
r Betty, Eddy
(made to rhyme)
eri, era

Note: the letter h represents no sound.

Tense Consonants

Double consonant letters always represent a single, energetic (or tense) sound that may or may not be prolonged. This "tense" consonant contrasts with a "slack" consonant very much as in the English contrast of:

a name vs. an aim

Compare the Italian "tense" annesso vs. "slack" anello

In addition to double consonant letters, the following should generally be thought of as representing tense consonants: z, gn, gl (before -i) and gli (before -a, -e, -o, -u). Tense consonants are also found in word groups after certain monosyllables or words stressed on the final vowel, as in: chi sa (chissà) sarà lì (as if: sarallì)

Accent Marks

Most words stressed on the last vowel are marked in Italian with a grave accent, as in: papà. A few such words that end in closed -e are usually marked with an acute accent, as in: perché Some monosyllabic words are also so marked: più, sì, né.

Some Expressions

Your instructor will read the following Italian expressions. Try to familiarize yourseff with their meanings since these expressions are Iikely to be heard at various times throughout this course.

addressing one person

Ascolti, (per favore). Please listen.
Excuse me.
Si accomodi.
Make yourself at home.
Chiuda il libro, (per favore).
Close your book, please.
Chiuda la porta, (per favore).
Close the door, please.
Ripeta (dopo di me), (per favore).
Repeat after me, please.
Apra il libro, (per favore).
Open your book, please.

addressing more than one person
Ascoltate, (per favore). Please listen.
Excuse me.
Make yourself at home.
Chiudete il libro, (per favore).
Close your book, please.
Chiudete la porta, (per favore).
Close the door, please.
Ripetete (dopo di me), (per favore).
Repeat after me, please.
Aprite il libro, (per favore).
Open your book, please.
(Tutti) insieme adesso!
All together now!

expressions used to one or more than one person
Avanti! Come in!
Più adagio, per favore!
More slowly, please!
Please. / Go ahead.

A che pagina? On what page?
Come si dice "mistake" in italiano?
How do you say mistake in Italian?
Come si scrive "sbaglio"?
How is sbaglio spelled?
È chiaro?
Is that clear?
Posso fare una domanda?
May I ask a question?
Può ripetere, per piacere?
Could you repeat, please?

A pagina ... On page...
Credo di sì.
I think so.
Credo di no.
I don't think so.
Ho capito.
I understand. / I get it.
Non ho capito.
I don't understand. / I don't get it.
Lo so.
I know.
Non lo so.
I don't know.
Il primo / secondo esercizio.
The first / second exercise.
Va bene.
All right.

Preliminary Lesson:

Dialog for Listening: In this situation you will learn how to greet an Italian on a daily basis and how to respond in an exchange of greetings and salutations.

Italiano/a: Buongiorno, signor (last name)/signora/signorina, come sta?
Lei: Buongiorno, signor (last name)/signora/signorina. Bene grazie, e Lei, come sta?
Italiano/a: Sto bene, grazie. Arrivederla, signor (last name)/signora/signorina.
Lei: Arrivederla. A domani.
Italiano/a: A domani.


Arrivederla. Good-bye.
bene well, fine
Buongiorno. Good morning, Good day, Good afternoon, Hello.
come how
Come sta? How are you?
domani tomorrow
A domani. See you tomorrow.
e and
Lei you (singular)
signor ( + last name) Mr. ( + last name)
signora Mrs. ( + last name), madam
signorina Miss
Sto bene. l'm well, l'm fine.

Language - Usage Notes [Not Recorded]

1. In direct address, Italians usually use signora or (for an unmarried woman) signorina without the last name. For a man, the word signor is followed by the last name.

2. Buongiorno is used during daylight hours. Buonasera is generally used at dusk and during the evening. It is also used by some Italians in the afternoon hours.

3. The word for "good" changes according to the word that follows. Thus, buongiorno but buonasera.

4. The words sta and sto are variants of a family of words that change according to the person(s) referred to. Such words are called verbs.

5. The written word Lei usually begins with a capital letter, indicating respect.

Getting the feel of it: Pronunciation Practice


Lei: Buongiorno, signor (last name)/signora/signorina. Bene grazie, e lei, come sta?
Lei: Arrivederla. A domani.

Working with the language

Model 1

Q: Come sta lei?
A: Sto bene.

Come sto io?
Come sta la signorina?
Come sta lei?
Come sta la signora?
Come sta il signore?
Sta bene.
Sta bene.
Sto bene.
Sta bene.
Sta bene.


Model 2

Q: Sta bene lei?
A: Sto bene.

Sta bene la signorina?
Sto bene io?
Sta bene la signora?
Sta bene Lei?
Sta bene il signore?
Sta bene.
Sta bene.
Sta bene.
Sto bene.
Sta bene.



Italy is linguistically and religiously homogeneous although culturally, economically, and politically diverse. Ninety-nine percent of the people are nominally Roman Catholic, whereas political power is divided among several political parties ranging from neo-Fascist to Communist.

Italy has a population of 56,566,000 (cinquantasei milioni cinquecentosessantaseimila abitanti) (1981 census), and has the fifth highest population density in Europe = about 186 people per square kilometer (488 per sq. mi.) Minority groups are small, the largest being the German-speaking people of the Province of Bolzano, the Slovenes around Trieste, and the French-speaking people of Valle D'Aosta region. Other groups are the ancient communities of Albanian, Greek, Ladino, and Catalan origin. Although Roman Catholicism is the official religion, the Constitution provides for equal freedom to all religious faiths.

Italian culture flourished in the Renaissance during the 15th century. Achievements in literature (such as Dante's Divina Commedia and Petrarca's sonnets), in philosophy (such as the ideas of San Tommaso d'Aquino and Galileo Galilei), and in painting, sculpture, and other fine arts (such as the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Michelangelo), exerted a tremendous and lasting influence on the development of Western civilization. In the 19th century, Italian Romantic opera flourished through composers Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini, and their tradition continued well into the 20th century. Opera is stili a national passion. Contemporary Italian artists, writers, film-makers, architects, composers, and designers contribute much to the Western culture.

Modern Italian history dates from 1870 with the unification of the entire peninsula under Re (King) Vittorio Emanuele Il of the House of Savoy. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected under Iimited suffrage. During World War I, Italy denounced its standing alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary and in 1915 entered the war on the side of the Allies. Under a post-World War I settlement, Italy received some former Austrian territory along the northeastern frontier. In 1922 Benito Mussolini came to power and, in the course of the next few years, eliminated the old political parties, curtailed personal liberties, and established a Fascist dictatorship called the Corporate State.

The King, with little or no power, remained titular Head of State. World War lI found Italy allied with Germany. Italy declared war on the United Kingdom and France in 1940. After the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, Italy became a cobelligerent of the Allies against Germany. A noteworthy popular resistance movement was conducted, especially in centraI and northern Italy, against the remaining Germans, who were finally driven out in Aprii 1945. The monarchy ended in a plebiscite in 1946, and a Constituent Assembly was elected to draw up the plans for the present Republic.

Under a 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made in Italy's frontier with France. The eastern border area was transferred to Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated as a Free Territory. In 1954 the Free
Territory, which had remained under the administration of U.S.-British forces (Zone A, including the city of Trieste) and Yugoslav forces (Zone B), was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, principally along the zonal boundary. This arrangement was made permanent under the Italian-Yugoslav Treaty of Osimo, ratified in 1977. Under the 1947 peace treaty, Italy also gave up its overseas territories and certain Mediterranean islands.

The Catholic Church's position in Italy since the end of its temporal powers in 1870 has been governed by a series of treaties with the Italian Government. Under the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which were confirmed by the present Constitution, the Vatican City State is recognized by Italy as an independent sovereign state.

Italy is a peninsula that measures 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) in length extending into the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. To the north it borders with Switzerland and Austria, to the east with Yugoslavia, and to the west with France. Geographically speaking, Italians divide the peninsula into three parts:

1) northern Italy (Italia Settentrionale), comprising the regions of Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Lombardia, Piemonte, Trentino-AltoAdige, Valle D'Aosta, and Veneto;
2) central Italy (Italia Centrale), with Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche, Molise, Toscana, and Umbria;
3) southern Italy (Italia Meridionale), comprising the regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, and the islands of Sardegna and Sicilia.

Throughout history, Italy's position on the main routes between Europe, Africa, and the Near and Far East has given it great political, economic, and strategic importance. The peninsula is 69 kilometers (43 miles) from Albania, and Sicily is 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the African mainland.

Except for the Po Valley area in the north, the heel of "the boot" in the south, and small coastal areas, Italy is rugged and mountainous. The climate is generally mild and "Mediterranean," but there are wide variations. Sicily and the south are comparable to southern California, though warmer on the average. The Alps and Dolomites in the north have a climate similar to that of the U.S. mountain states.

Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The Constitution, which was promulgated on January 1, 1948, established a bicameral Parliament, a separate judiciary, and an
executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) and headed by the president of the council (prime minister). The Cabinet, composed mostly of members of Parliament, must retain the confidence of both houses. The president of the republic is elected for seven years by the Parliament, sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. He or she nominates the prime minister, who chooses the other ministers.

Except for a few senators, both houses of the Parliament are popularly and directly elected by proportional representation. In addition to 315 elected members, the Senate includes ex-presidents and several other people appointed for life according to special provisions of the Constitution. Both houses are elected for a maximum of 5 years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of its formal term and early elections may be called. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both.

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