How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know - Lesson 1

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Did you know that you already know a whole bunch of words that Italians use everyday? You’re basically fluent in Italian and don’t even know it. Ok, ok, not really, but the fact is, Italians use a good bit of English in their everyday jargon. I’m not talking about Italians when they’re speaking in English, I mean the English words that are thrown in to Italian conversations. English words that have come to replace the traditional Italian, or words that were coined in English in recent decades and have wound their way into Italian.

Some Italian words by now are almost obsolete. I’ve spent almost 3 years’ worth of time in Italy, only including the time in which I was learning Italian and conversing maybe more in Italian than English, and still have yet to hear the Italian equivalent of certain English words. For example, “privacy.” Written, spoken, it’s always “privacy.” I didn’t even notice I had no idea how to say nor had I ever heard someone say “privacy” in Italian until someone brought it to my attention. So I had to ask, how do you say “privacy” in Italian? “Privatezza.” By now with "terms of privacy” and the like around the internet, especially here in the EU, “privatezza” has been rendered all but forgotten, I guess. Maybe just uncool.

English is a desired language and thus becomes cool if you can speak any. Plus Italy is so dependent upon tourism that many people’s jobs require them to speak some basic English, if not fluently. Many parents look to English speaking au pairs to teach their children English from a young age, or get them in any programs that involve English native-tongues, no matter the program, just for the language experience. Teaching English is almost always an option for native speakers.

I can’t tell you how often my Italian colleagues in every day conversation would sprinkle in some English. “Yes” would replace a “si,” “excuse me,” “oh my god,” “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” would be used just as often as their Italian counterparts. And my colleagues often weren’t talking to me, the only native English speaker who worked there. Americans learn a second language often in high school, but because we have no need of the language it is never exercised and usually forgotten. Even the basic words we retain we don’t often use, even if we also think it’s cool, because it seems a bit pretentious. At least I think the general consensus is that it is. Here, I don’t know, maybe the desire to learn English (and French, German, Spanish, etc.) is almost so accepted that it’s more common everyone is “practicing” in a way, and therefore not pretentious? Shrug.

Whether you’re looking forward to an upcoming Italian adventure, learning Italian, or simply curious, here is a great way to add some QUICK and EASY words to your repertoire. Heheh.

Buca di Beppo requires full out Italian speaking mode ON

Buca di Beppo requires full out Italian speaking mode ON

Quick Note on Italian Pronunciation

Even if it is a true English word that Italians use, they often pronounce it with their wonderful accent ( and sometimes may not understand you the first time [or ever] if you pronounce the same word but in the correct English way.) So as you are reading the words that follow, you might want to learn or brush up on the Italian alphabet and how to pronounce some of their key words to get the full appreciation. (Click here to do so.) It’s way more fun to pronounce things in an Italian accent anyway, so let your inner Fabio/Martina come bursting forth!

If you want to actually learn Italian or you have a base that you would like to build upon, I have found this book to be very useful in clarifying all the different verbs in Italian. One of my best friends used it while she was in Italy as an au pair, and later gave it to me to use when I first came to Italy!

Italian Words You Already Know

Some they borrow from us, some we borrow from them, either way we understand each other!

  1. Weekend - Il Weekend. By now everyone wishes you a “buon weekend!” instead of “buon fine settimana!” I once heard an elderly gentleman say “buon fine settimana” to an acquaintance on the bus. It actually made me turn around and take note of this gentleman. And that’s it. Just that one time I’ve heard it. It’s really just the older generations that use it. I think it’s a bit sad, really, that some words aren’t hardly even used anymore. As someone who wants to learn Italian and learn it well, it feels a bit like cheating injecting words you already know!

  2. Relax - you could use the Italian verb rilassarsi, but why don’t you relax and use what you already know? ;)

  3. Budget - I was using the Italian “bilancio” for the longest time until I realized that Italians use “budget.” Why do I even try?

  4. Zero - one number down, uh, a couple trillion to go?

  5. Radio - La radio. This I learned when briefly taking Italian lessons. Yay for words that are the same, just a slightly different pronunciation! Rahhhhdio instead of Rayyyydio. Remember those pronunciation rules?

  6. Computer - they even say this one a bit like we do, the u is a “yoo” sound instead of the usual Italian “oo.” But try and roll that r a bit. I know I know, but you’ll get there!

  7. iPhone, Android, iPad, and other well-known technological products and companies - Even though Android seems to have a higher number of cell phone users, Apple is still as desired here as it is in the States. Except an iPhone can cost about €100-300 more than it’s American retail price. Add that in with a weaker economy and it doesn’t take much imagination why Android is still #1.

  8. Social - the only difference here is that Italians don’t say “media” after. It’s always just “social.”

  9. Facebook, Instagram, selfie, etc. - all those trendy words coined in recent years are all the same!

  10. Email - la email…

  11. Password - la password…I don’t even know if these have a translation in Italian. I think they are what they are.

  12. Account - I believe you can also say il conto, the same you would say when asking for the bill or tab at a restaurant. But I’ve never heard anyone use anything other than account, so, no worries!

  13. Display - what a nice display of words we have here! There are several different ways to say this in Italian, such as “mettere in mostra” / to put on display, or “sfoggiare” / to show off, display. But it’s much easier just saying display, now, isn’t it?

  14. Wi-Fi and Internet - need WiFi? You can communicate with one word. WiFi? Si? Grazie!

  15. TV - pronounced “tee-vo,” and short for televisione, but reading it is the same.

  16. Modem and Router - at this rate you might be thinking you can handle calling a help center for internet or something. You can say password, account, email, internet, modem, router…right? Wrong. This bit of knowledge I can pass on to you, internet, cable, and phone companies are awful to talk to all the world round. You may have already known this. ;)

  17. Giga - like social media, they don’t say the second word. Instead of giga-byte, it’s simply giga. I have 50 giga per month, and so far my phone service has only taken unauthorized money from my account once, and they fixed it afterwards, these are two positives of my phone company!

  18. Touch Screen - you could be all fancy and say “schermo tattile” or “schermo sensibile al tatto” but I haven’t seen those readily as touch screen is way easier to say, no?

  19. Cliccare and taggare - these might be the only verbs on this list, but they make me laugh because they just turned English words into Italian verbs. All Italian verbs end in “are” (ah-ray), “ere” (air-ay), or “ire” (eer-ay) in the infinitive form. Thus “click” became “cliccare” (to click) and “tag” became “taggare” (to tag, as in Instagram).

  20. Privacy - as stated above, I finally had to ask, how DO you say privacy in Italian? Ah. Privatezza. But goodness, you’re so uncool if you say the Italian.

  21. Area - pronounced like the name “Aria” this is the same in Italian and English.

  22. Marketing - Italians have taken American marketing to new levels. The kind that makes you roll your eyes and say “marketing.”

  23. Logo - “il logo” logos are logos the world round!

  24. Range - this one seems really random to me. But useful, because I can’t think of how to say it in Italian. Gamma, assortimento, portata, actually there a quite a few.

  25. Babysitter - or you can be a tata!

  26. Stalker - useful. Very useful.

  27. Gas - as in water “with gas.” You’ll hear this quite a bit in restaurants, but not necessarily to be used for gasoline, or the other kind. Um, flatulence?

  28. Spa - the relaxing wellness center, not to be confused with S.p.a. which is the Italian equivalent of our LLC.

  29. Fitness - fitness is so important, people! Even Italians understand this.

  30. Personal Trainer - there are so many at the gym I go to!

  31. Zumba, Spinning, Yoga, Pilates, Box, and other popular sports and activities - there are also plenty of corsi di fitness at my gym. Note that boxing is said just “box.”

  32. Studio - Pilates è in studio 1. Pilates is in studio 1. Only one word is different. Crazy, huh? (Although 1 would be pronounced “uno”)

  33. Sport - lo sport, very important in Italy and Europe.

  34. Basket - like social and box, basketball is just “basket.” Or pallacanestro.

  35. Trek - un trek!

  36. Adidas, Nike, Prada, Timberland, any well-known international brand - except, much to my enjoyment, the pronunciations are sometimes different. Not just the letters but the accent, too. I grew up hearing Adidas as “ah-DEE-des” but here it is “AH-dee-das.”

  37. Performance - or spettacolo.

  38. Record - un nuovo record! Used as in “setting a record” and that type of record, but I haven’t heard it used as the type of record related to music and other meanings.

  39. Stop - I learned some Italian phrases before coming to Italy for the first time, including the useful “basta” (stop, or enough). It would have been nice to know I could’ve also used good ol’ STOP, too.

  40. Bus - short for autobus, but ends up essentially the same in the abbreviated.

  41. Mascara - long a’s, ladies, for long eyelashes.

  42. Shopping - shoppers, rejoice!

  43. T-shirt - mi piace la tua t-shirt! Italian is “maglietta,” but they are interchangeable.

  44. Jeans - jeans are jeans. “Pantaloni” refers to all long pants, but if you want specifically a pair of jeans, the term is jeans.

  45. Push-up - I’m not sure about the exercise push-up, but ladies will have an easy time finding a certain type of lingerie in this style!

  46. Influenza - the sickness, but is also Italian for “influence.”

  47. Stress - lo stress. Yes, even Italians living their dolce vita experience stress. Che stress / what stress!

  48. Idea - what a great idea! Che bella idea! It’s the same, different pronunciation.

  49. Blu - said the same as our blue, but without the e. There is another word for blue in Italian, azzurro, that is more commonly used, especially for medium and lighter blues, but for your purposes, using “blu” is just fine.

  50. In - this is actually Italian and English, and generally used in the same way: Inside something.

  51. Me - also both Italian and English. Chi, me? Yes, you.

  52. Circa - this is usually used in English to determine an approximate date. “He was born circa 1950.” You can use it this same way in Italian, but also in many other ways, such as: with regard to, about, approximately, roughly, thereabouts, etc etc.

  53. Via - Used similarly in the two languages, to express a means of getting somewhere. “I sent it via email.” Only in Italian, however, it is the equivalent of street. I want to live in Via delle Belle Donne! In Italian you can also say “attraverso,” meaning through.

  54. Film - usually used in place of movie. Do you want to go see a movie? Vuoi andare a vedere un film?

  55. Set - film set, set of plates/set di piatti, set of silverware/set di posati…if Italians lift weights in the gym they probably have a number of steps they do. I just said set too many times in my head and now it seems like the most bizarre word. Set. Weird.

  56. Fan - this is widely used in Italian in reference to a fan club (not the ventilation fan), but if you want to sound more Italian you could say appassionato/a, fanatico/a, or tifoso/a for a sports fan.

  57. Video - a videoclip on Facebook or recording on your phone is considered a “video.”

  58. Foto - short for fotografia, but pronounced the same.

  59. Piercing - your parents might not appreciate that there isn’t even much of a language barrier for getting a piercing here. Heheh.

  60. Bomber - I’m not cool enough to know how to use this exactly right in actual English, but I do know that Italians understand it as a cool, “fuoriclasse,” or out-of-their-league person. Cristiano Ronaldo is a bomber. Maybe “This cake is the bomb” and if you made the cake, you’re the bomber? I’m trying, ok!?! Let’s just say it can be used exactly the same in Italian as it is in English, mmmk?

  61. Rock, Pop, Rap, and other types or styles of music - la radio, pop, per favore! Look, we’re already able to easily build phrases from this list. Amazing. “Per favore” I realize is not on here, but you’ll find that in any guidebook. ;)

  62. Bar - bar is the same in both languages, although it is a bit more widely used term in Italy. Bar is used to refer to just about any place that sells coffee. A true bar usually opens early with coffee and pastries, somewhere around 10am transitions to selling sandwiches “panini” and maybe some lunch dishes, and sells alcohol all day long, and finally closes sometime in the early evening.

  63. Hotel - these, of course, you will see everywhere, and if you ask an Italian they will point you to the nearest “otel.” Italian is albergo, but maybe they also eventually adopted hotel because the people who search for hotels, that would be tourists, would find and understand hotel better than albergo. Just a theory.

  64. Pizza - I think this has long been accepted as both English and Italian.

  65. Pasta - Another dual citizen here, except it has a few more meanings in Italian, not always meaning the delicious plate of carbs with wonderful sauces. Pasta can also mean dough, batter, paste, and pastry.

  66. Spaghetti, Gnocchi, Linguini, etc. - these probably seem obvious, however I will add a quick note: for whatever reason, types of pasta are sometimes referred to in their singular form. You may not notice this as a tourist, but if you hang out enough with pasta and Italians, you’ll start hearing “spaghetto” and “raviolo” or “gnocco” and “casereccia.”

  67. Panini - important note on this one…panini is PLURAL. You shouldn’t ask for one panini in Italian, that’s like ordering “one sandwiches.” It’s panino, and denotes any kind of sandwich rather than the American grilled sandwich. Just so you know. :D

  68. Cheesecake - there are many cheesecake gelato flavors and cheesecakes themselves in restaurants and gelaterie, but they generally taste quite different. They are more like a semi-freddo in texture. I don’t know why. I thought it was the cream cheese, but after making cheesecakes at home that turned out great, I still don’t understand. It shall remain a mystery for now.

  69. Hamburger - to be pronounced as Jacques Clouseau from the Pink Panther. Hamburgers are very popular here, and based on the restaurants Italians seem to think that America is stuck in the 1950’s diner era and all we eat are hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes. Ah well, Americans think Italians only eat pizza, pasta, and wine, so we’re even, right?

  70. Hotdog - not as popular as the hamburger, but it has it’s own following and can be found in most grocery stores.

  71. Yogurt - the yogurt section can be quite extensive in grocery stores, as Italians are rather obsessed with their digestion.

  72. Avocado - millennials, rejoice! No translator needed to find your beloved green fruit. Your wallet will not rejoice, as avocados usually hover about €5/kg (that’s about $2.50-3.00/lb)

  73. Banana - you say “bah-naaa-nah,” Italians say “bah-nah-nah.”

  74. Lime - sometimes called the same as a limone. But lime and lemon are very different, how can I tell what you are offering me if you say limone? I don’t understand.

  75. Sushi and other ethnic foods - entering an ethnic restaurant that then tries to explain under the title what the dish is in Italian, can be very amusing to me. Lo mein that is explained as spaghetti just doesn’t get it for me, haha.

  76. Paprika - spelled the same, but in Italian it has a different pronunciation: PAH-pree-kuh instead of pah-PREE-kuh

  77. Curry - the same, although the u is not pronounced as the Italian u, instead it is a strong a, like in “carry.”

  78. Sultana - we usually say raisin in English, but sultana works in English and Italian!

  79. Brioche - technically a buttery, enriched French bread in French or English, this term in Italian applies to any pastry.

  80. Cocktail - cocktail and most of the classic cocktail names, Mojito, Moscow Mule, etc. will get you far during aperitivo hour.

  81. Espresso, Cappuccino, etc. - yes, all the famed coffee drinks that were invented in Italy are the same and so far we haven’t managed to mess up the pronunciation too much! Good job, everybody!

  82. Broccoli - the same in Italian and English. Random, but hey, we could all use a little more broccoli in our life!

  83. Hobby - an Italian hobby might be sitting at the local bar and people watching, wine tasting, long dinners, long strolls, watching soccer, discussing soccer, watching news discussing soccer, and playing soccer.

  84. Food Truck - Italians have picked up on the food truck trend in America and are following suit with their own trendy hamburger food trucks!

  85. Street Food - like food truck above, except I don’t think that restaurant I saw the other day advertising “street food” fully understood the concept.

  86. Take-away - mangi qui o take-away? Italian is “da portare via” or “d’asporto.”

  87. All You Can Eat - ALL sushi restaurants I have ever seen or eaten at in Italy are always the “all you can eat” formula. And “all you can eat” is always written in English, everything else in Italian. Don’t ask me why.

  88. Freezer - I always appreciated this one because for a while there I could never remember “congelatore.” Maybe because I heard the English more often than the Italian, didn’t stick with me, haha!

  89. Zebra - the same, except I say ZEE-brah, you say ZAY-brah…

  90. Zoo - everyone loves the zoo! It’s the same word except for in Italian you pronounce it “Zo.”

There you are, a whole list of “Italian” words you already knew. My little Italian prodigies!

I’m sure I’m missing a whole slew of English/Italian words, if you want to add to this list drop me a comment below!