Tuesday 21 September 2021

Photo of the day - 21: Un Posto Al Sole to improve my Italian


Forget about all these new fangled apps like Duolingo for improving your language skills. With so many different resources available on-line now, there is so much to choose from and so many things that can be done in stimulating ways. 

My method of choice is the soap opera. As the language in question here is Italian, it has to be Italy's most watched and longest-running soap opera, the 25-year old Un Posto Al Sole (A Place in the Sun). The production company and the opening credits give it a feel like Neighbours or Home and Away. But given that the setting is in an apartment building (Palazzo Palladini) in a fictional neighbourhood in Naples with a bit of grittiness, murder and mafia thrown in between various social issues, it's probably more like Eastenders

I started watching the daily soap during the major coronavirus lockdown we had in the Spring of last year. At the time I was about 18 months behind, but with regular viewing and the odd bit of binge watching, I am now pleased to say I have caught up and am watching the show contemporaneously with viewers in Italy. 

So when I speak to Italians we can now speculate about who did attack Susanna and leave her for dead? Who will win out in the Marina, Fabrizio and Roberto triangle? Will Silvia leave Michele for Giancarlo? When will Filippo get his memory back and recognise his wife? Will Renato wrongfully end up behind bars? And what is the point of Vittorio on the show? Well, actually I probably won't have those conversations with the Italians I know. The woman I regularly have a conversation exchange with laughed when I told her I watch Un Posto Al Sole. She never watches it, but her grandparents watch it. One guy suggested I try and watch something a bit more cultured. (I do have a load of episodes of Inspector Montalbano to watch. I wonder if that's cultured enough.)

But hey, these types of soap operas do have their uses, and I think there are probably more Italians that watch the show than want to admit, given the high viewing figures. After more than 300 episodes of the show I can now understand what practically all of the characters are saying (I haven't fully mastered Guido and Vittorio's accents), and it has helped me with my own spoken Italian no end. In fact, I was quite comfortable speaking to people recently on the phone when I did interviews for the Tour of Lombardy feature I wrote for Pro Cycling magazine.

I heard that former Manchester City legendary manager Roberto Mancini apparently improved his English by regularly watching Coronation Street. Bonus points to him for choosing to watch the soap opera based in his town, and persevering with the Manchester accent!

Anyway, my point is, don't poo poo the basic soap opera when getting to grips with a new language. If it's good enough for Signor Mancini, it's good enough for me.

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