Italian 101: Know the Difference Between Ano and Anno

As most of you know I was invited to sail the coast of Italy with a group of female writers in May of 2010. In preparation for the trip I have decided to learn as much Italian as possible. I speak Spanish, so I thought it would be an easy transition. Ha!

Berlitz is two blocks from where I work downtown, so I walked over for a visit one day. The sticker shock of the price of lessons sent me packing. I thought about taking a class at the local community college, but the cost of getting a sitter for half the classes made that choice cost prohibitive.

So a friend of mine loaned me Rosetta Stone, which is a very visual language learning tool. It’s almost like Berlitz for your computer. It only speaks Italian to you, so you just go through the lessons over and over until you get it.

Now Rosetta Stone is fine for the basics like “Una donna e un uomo” ( a man and a woman). Or “Il bambino sta saltando” (the child is jumping). But what about language landmines? You know, those words that are similar but have completely different meanings, and will embarrass you to no end if you choose the wrong one.

In Spanish for example, there’s alb√≥ndiga and abogado. One is a meatball and one is a lawyer. Another example, casado (married), cansado (tired). Imagine if someone asks you if you’re tired and you reply, “Si, estoy casado” (yes, I’m married).

So, I decided to find a native speaker to navigate me through the potential landmines in Italian. We met for coffee, and he outlined the basic grammar, punctuation, accents, etc. Then we started talking about the double consonants.

Cane (dog), canne (cane)

Rosa (a rose, or pink), rossa (red)

So you can see how you can be misunderstood if you don’t pronounce a word correctly!

And only a native speaker in a coffee shop will tell you that ano means anus, and anno means year, and you’d better be very careful not to mix the two!

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