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IMDb page here. Watched at home on a DVD borrowed from the Edward Boyle library.

This is basically a sequence of three short stories about women, with the main female character in each played by Sophia Loren, and her male opposite number by Marcello Mastroianni. I found it harder to follow linguistically than Roma, Città Aperta, largely because the DVD didn't have English subtitles - only Italian ones. I put those on, and they helped a lot - although obviously that meant I wasn't entirely performing an exercise in listening, which is what my test on Friday is all about. Still, I suppose it made me work harder than watching Città Aperta with English subtitles (which couldn't be turned off because it was a video) anyway, and I'm hoping the language I read and the language I heard will have reinforced one another.

The first story, about a woman called Adelina who sells contraband cigarettes in Naples, and continuously avoids a jail sentence by ensuring that she is constantly pregnant for several years in a row, was even harder to follow, because it was packed full of what I presume were Neapolitan dialect words. I'm sorry, but 'jamme', 'cà', 'mo', 'nun' and 'nù' just aren't in my Italian dictionary, so even seeing them written in the subtitles wasn't much help. Sometimes, I could figure them out from context, as in phrases such as 'Attenti ù tram!', where I guess ù = al or 'Vieni a cà', where cà looks like qua. (NB I may not have the accents right). But it really didn't make life easy.

I'm never sure what these dialects are like for native speakers of standardised Italian. I mean, is it like me hearing someone speaking Scots, where I'd be perfectly familiar with 80% of the words, recognise another 10% as characteristic of the dialect and only be puzzled by about another 10% at most (which I could probably understand from the context)? Or is it more like me listening to some of the African dialects, which are presented for English viewers of programmes like The Real No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency with subtitles that are at first extremely necessary, but do become a bit less so as you watch and tune into the accent and vocabulary?

Anyway, I managed - not least because all three stories were pretty light-hearted and packed with very visual humour. Although I'm not altogether sure it was a particularly profound experience. I mean, it was a fun exercise in character studies, and gave a nice window into 1960s life in each of the three cities where the stories were set (successively, Naples, Milan and Rome). And maybe the point was just that life goes on, day by day, and often it's funny, but generally it's pretty trivial except to the people who are living it. But I didn't feel myself particularly moved by it in any way beyond 'Oh, that was quite amusing'. Let's just hope it did my listening abilities some good!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
I understand that Neapolitan is to standard Italian more or less what broad Geordie is to standard English. I used to be able to understand it reasonably well if I saw it written down, but I'm not sure I still can.

A good way to pick up Neapolitan dialect is to look online for the texts of the famous Neapolitan songs of the early 20th century, such as O sole mio, I'te vurria vasà (actually, that's a brilliant piece of Neapolitan in itself - in standard Italian it would be Vorrei baciarti), and the like. They quite often have English translations.
May. 14th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
Happily, since I'm learning Italian primarily for academic purposes, I won't normally have any need to worry about dialects. Standard Italian is quite enough in itself! It's interesting stuff though, and your Geordie comparison helps make the relationship clearer.
May. 17th, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
Your book

In a moment of boredom I looked up your book on the UCL library website, and it's there! I asked them to let me know if they got it in, but never mind. And someone else has it out on loan, but I have plans to read it over the summer.

Anyway, just thought I would let you know. :)
May. 17th, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Your book
Oh, cool! Thanks for letting me know - it's certainly nice to know people are reading it. I hope you'll enjoy having a browse once you can get hold of it. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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