New Babbel course takes users on a journey through Italy’s local dialects

Sara of Babbel’s Didactics team shares her passion for the Italian language by inviting learners on a language trip from the North to the South of the boot.
Sarah Grippo, unsere Italienischexpertin

Sara is an editor for Italian on our Didactics team at Babbel. Languages ​​are a passion of hers, and she’s grown even more interested in them in recent years by moving to different countries. She’s learned German, Russian, English, Danish and French, and her current challenges are to learn Arabic and Turkish. In her latest course on Italy’s dialects (“Italian from North to South”), she shares her passion for Italian by inviting our learners on a language trip from the North to the South of the boot on the lookout for the regional peculiarities of Italian.

On the road with a clumsy professor…

Imagine a man, let’s say a professor from the Alps, traveling through Italy because he wants to deepen his knowledge of the Italian spoken in the different regions of Italy. First, he lands in Venice, where he meets with a local he met on a dating site. (Why not?)

But what happens when she invites him for a wine on a campo (the Venetian word for “square”), but he only knows the standard Italian meaning “field”? A big misunderstanding!

This professor indeed exists, at least in our new Italian course. His name is Colombo, and he travels from Venice to Catania to learn the unique variations of the Italian language. During his travels, he gets to know people by talking to a bus driver in Rome and to a saleswoman at the market “Fera o luni.” As he travels through the country, he notes down the peculiarities of the language variants that grab his attention. His (fictitious) notes and snapshots make up the material in this course, specially designed to explore Italy’s regional dialects.

…to discover the regional variants of Italian

As anyone familiar with the country will tell you, Italy is far from a monoculture. From architecture to cuisine to landscape and tradition, Italy has a diversity that is unique for such a small country. Of course, the slang, idioms and accents reflect this diversity. In this course, I wanted to show that Italian is spoken differently in every region and even in every city in Italy. Each lesson covers a local variant of Italian, such as in Bolognese or Neapolitan, and introduces the peculiarities in pronunciation, as well as vocabulary and sayings that are sometimes well-known or just kind of funny.

One aspect that makes this course special is its “trilingualism” because, unlike the other courses, you don’t just see the English translation of the regional variant, but also the standard Italian translation. On the one hand, this makes it a bit complex and more suited to upper intermediate language learners (level B2/C1). On the other hand, it ensures that advanced learners also discover new words in standard Italian.

The focus is on spoken Italian, with special training for listening comprehension. For regional Italian, it makes more sense to me that the learners get a feeling for the differences rather than just being able to memorize or write down a few regional words.

The course isn’t designed to teach any regional variants comprehensively, but rather to train the ear with some fun and interesting expressions. And for those brave enough to try, our speech recognition feature lets you have a go at talking like a real Tuscan or Neapolitan!

The most important thing is to have fun

That’s my motto: you should never be bored when you’re learning a language. I believe that the quality of the learning materials can have a big impact on your motivation, and, in my opinion, that’s one of the most important factors of successful learning. As an editor, this means I must always put the pedagogical aspects in the foreground but also make it entertaining – with stories and characters that don’t sound like an old textbook but come from a balance of realistic and unexpected (sometimes funny) elements. Finally, I wanted to have fun making a course about a topic close to my heart.

This was especially the case when producing this particular course. While I was researching typical expressions from a city or region, I came across some expressions that I really liked, such as the Bolognese Spacca! (“Awesome!”) or the Neapolitan Mannaggia a Bubbà! (“Shoot!”), which I like to use now and again. With my wonderful Babbel colleagues who speak different Italian dialects and helped me put together this course, we’ve sometimes asked ourselves: Will our learners have as much fun doing the course as we did making? I really hope that they do!