Speaking Italian with your hands

Speaking Italian With Your Hands

If you want to get stuck into Italian, it’s not just about the grammar, Italian is also spoken with the hands. Here’s where you can read a little on what makes Italian such a passionate language

Getting Stuck into Italian!

When I was a senior in college, my girlfriend at the time invited me home for Thanksgiving (that is always a blessing and a curse), which meant I was to meet her family and they would pass judgment (so to speak) on whether I was a fit candidate for their daughter. Her name was Cristina and while she was one hundred percent American (and beautiful to boot) her heritage was Italian, and her family was VERY MUCH true to their roots.

LEARNING ITALIAN or SPEAKING WITH YOUR HANDS: Learning Italian is more than learning the right words or how to speak full sentences; it is a language that stems not only from the mind, but also from the heart. When these two physiologies combine, it becomes a language that is charged with emotion, passion and illustration (often accomplished with broad sweeping gestures that encompass specific meanings).

We arrived on that crisp November day to a yard full of cars, theirs was a large Italian family, and the instant we pulled into the drive, her brothers and sisters were out the door to greet us (well greet her, me they just wanted to stare at). They were a happy bunch, full of emotion, hands gesticulating wildly, love flowing freely. When we walked inside her grandmother (Italian thru and thru), she said something in Italian (later I find out it meant “He’s so skinny”) and tweaked me on the cheek, I was welcomed (conditionally) into the family.

While Cristina and I would later part ways, that experience stuck with me through the years and when (some years later) I decided to learn Italian, I wanted to research exactly why they always spoke with such passion and used their hands to illustrate a point.

The passion it seems is built into their genetics, Italian being one of the romance languages and filled with colorful words, gestures and meanings, the gesticulating (gestures) have a variety of possible origins, one being the gradual decline and eventual fall of the Roman empire, when the city became flooded with a wide variety of nationalities seeking opportunity, adventure and conquest. Because of this vast influx of people, cultures and nationalities, it was impossible to learn all the languages necessary for trade and communication, thus a language of gestures evolved.

Over the years this became commonplace and became part of the language itself. As one generation bore another, children learned to speak and gesture as one, it wasn’t a second language to them, simply the way they communicated.

How Can You Learn Italian Hand Gestures?

First and foremost, when you learn, learn the basics of the Italian language, the gestures can come later as your confidence and experience increase. While online learning is certainly possible (multiple thousands have done so) try to arrange an extended visit to Italy itself. When you do this, you’ll not only understand the language, but you’ll begin to learn the culture, understand the people and see how the gestures are incorporated into their lives. Some would say that Rome never fell, it simply adapted, of that I cannot say; I can say a proud and confident people now walk the same land once was claimed by Julius Cesar and other Roman emperors.

Learning Italian is much more than words, gestures and meanings, it is actually learning and understand the culture and history of a people, a worthy undertaking for anyone.

If you are as passionate to learn Italian as the Italian’s are passionate about their food, then why not think about coming to Florence? It’s the capital of the Renaissance and it is the same region as one of Italy’s most noted comedian’s (see the video below), and arguably it is the original birthplace of true Italian (I’m gonna open myself up for an attack from non-Tuscans now!)

A short note on the following video

Of all the Italian films I have seen – and I have seen quite a few in my day – my absolute favourite is Johnny Stecchino with Roberto Benigni. A story in which by chance the similarity of Benigni with a infamous mafia boss from the South of Italy gets him into lots of trouble. The whole film runs without Benigni knowing about his likeness with the mafia lord and he can therefore not understand, for example, why people want to kill him when he pinches a banana. There is also an innocence in Johnny Stecchino that you won’t find in other films.

I have no idea how it has been translated across into English, because Italian is so expressive that many of the words and hand-gestures are just unknown in English.

In the following scene Benigni pulls from his jacket some white powder that he has been told by the servant of the mafia boss (by way of covering up what he was doing) that it was “medicine” or medicina for a diabetic condition.

Hilarious, I hope you enjoy it.