Learning Basic Italian From Grandma

Ever wonder how Italians learn to speak with their hands? By the way, every Italian word that I ever learned was taught to me by my Sicilian grandmother, Josephine Piazza, over her kitchen table.

Yesterday, Leslie was astonished that I had made my 250 mile marker with my fitbit after only having it a short time. I did not tell her that as someone who is part Italian, I have an unfair advantage because I talk with my hands. The fitbit thinks that I am running all day long.

Thanks to my paisan, Frank Mascagni, for this wonderful video.

17 thoughts on “Learning Basic Italian From Grandma”

  1. Second gen Italian-American here. My Sicilian translators, AKA my parents, say that they had trouble with the sound quality, so they struggled a bit even though my father is fluent Italian, mother (fluent Sicilian and standard Italian), but the gist they picked up is that the little girl, Leah, was trying to tell her great-grandmother (bisnonna) how things should be here and there around the house and in the kitchen, and she’s telling the great-grandmother about what her grandmother does and says, to which the great grandmother replies, “no. this is my kitchen and your grandmother (nonna) has a hard head (testa dura). Bisnonna also tries to placate the child, telling the child that she agrees with some of the things she’s saying, but bisnonna still knows best.

  2. Frank, What a great video and so poignant. I’m 2nd generation and my old man would always talk about “Americans,” mostly as it related to food. My grandfather started the family business restaurant in Bristol, Ct. that my father, and then uncle ran for 60 years, until Uncle Dom died. My grandfather would not serve mayo in his restaurant. He would stop cooking whenever Joe D came to bat. Joe D was SO important for Italian Americans. When us 4 kids were high school/jr. high school age my Dad quit differentiating between us and the “Americans.” He just stopped saying it. We never asked and I regret to this day not asking him why. I surmise he saw that his kids were going to go to college[that was not negotiable!] and go out into the “American’s” world.

    Dad would take me to Yale football games and we would see, up close, the American’s as we tailgated. My old man was engaging. He was not one bit uncomfortable w/ anyone, from the blue bloods in the Yale soccer fields which were the parking lot for football games, to the Puerto Rican guys on the street corner in Bristol. My old man loved good scotch. He would fry up sausage and pepper sausage sandwiches @ the Yale games. The Ivy Leaguers would have their “fancy food” but the men would smell the sausage and peppers. It is the Call of the Wild for ALL men. My old man would engage them, and give them some Italian soul food. They would of course want to reciprocate. The old man would spot the single malt on their bar and say, “I might have a few fingers of that.”

  3. Frank, your video reminds me very much of growing up German in German neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Old world European, minus all the hand gesturing, lol. My mother used to call Wonder Bread “that gnatchiges brod”. I remember being sent to the bakery early in the morning to get crusty rye bread still warm from the oven. The German-Hungarian butcher across the street sold wonderful liver wurst and Hungarian bratwurst. Our long termed beloved Mayor Henry Maier sang at the bandshells around Milwaukee on July 4th, with the Oompapa bands, in lederhosen.

  4. Jonathan and Nick Spinelli:

    Grazie per i vostri commenti. Noi italiani hanno tutti meravigliosi ricordi della nostra famiglia.

    Thank you for your comments. We Italians all have wonderful memories of our family.

  5. Paul, My wife is smart, tough and persistent. However, she doesn’t burn any calories cooking!

  6. nick – your wife’s German obsessiveness with the fitbit will help her conquer it. Actions speak louder than words. 🙂

  7. My wife is obsessing w/ her fitbit. However, she’s German so not many talking credits.

  8. OMG, I was just transported back 50 years to my grandmother’s kitchen, w/ her, Aunt Julia, Aunt Louise, and all us kids. Thanks to Frank!!

  9. That was fun. Like others here it reminded me of my own Italian-born grandparents and the animated discussions around the table during family gatherings. The little girl is just precious.

    Giovanna

    The only thing I picked up was Nonna using the term “testa dura” (hard head) which might explain some of the tapping of the head gestures. I wonder who she was talking about.

  10. Love this video! It conjures up so many memories of my parents carrying on conversations with their Italian friends and families. One could tell the intensity of the conversation just by the aggressive movement of the hands and the raising of the voice. So fun to watch even though I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

  11. Brings back fond memories. Growing up with native Italian grandparents, I was quite aware at family gatherings that as the discussions became more emotional there was greater use of Italian over English and the hand gestures became more expressive.

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