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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Parliamo Italiano! by Laura N. '09

And some other languages too.

This IAP I took Italian I, and it was basically awesome.

You might be wondering about MIT’s language department, considering that….it’s MIT, and languages don’t involve math and all. First of all, I can reassure you that MIT does have humanities classes, and a lot of them are pretty awesome. In fact, MIT has one of the best political science programs around. For example.

But this entry is about languages. Unfortunately, MIT’s selection is pretty limited, but the classes are still great. (We only offer Chinese, ESL, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and only one level of Italian is offered, and only over IAP.)

The very first humanities course I took here my first semester was 21F.716, Introduction to Contemporary Hispanic Literature. We read a different book each week (Bodas de Sangre, La Nada Cotidiana, La Plaza del Diamante, El Beso de la Mujer Arana, and a few others) and discussed them. As you might have figured out, the class was held entirely in Spanish, so it was pretty advanced, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Knowing Spanish has made learning Italian both easier and more difficult at the same time. It’s easier because Romance languages have a lot of similarities, so I’m already used to conjugating verbs and making nouns and adjectives agree in number and gender. Plus, Italian and Spanish are even more similar than almost any other pair of Romance languages. There are words which are identical except for the spelling, conjugations which differ only slightly, and very similar idiomatic expressions. At the same time, this makes it difficult: because a lot of things are so close to each other that I often forget which is which. A perfect example: the word “and” in Spanish is “y” (pronounced like a long E), while the word “and” in Italian is “e” (pronounced like a long A). You can imagine that I mix these two up quite a lot. Throw in de/di, se/si, and so on, and you can see how this might get annoying.

But, the class was still awesome, and I will hopefully be using my knowledge when I visit Rome for 2 days this spring. Or, maybe I should say, hopefully I learned enough to get around Rome for 2 days this spring….

Anyway, like all good language courses, there is a listening component. And like all introductory language courses, there’s that awful video series of 2 people (one male, one female) traveling around the country where the language originated making overly dramatic but grammatically simple statements. But we didn’t use these materials in class- they were part of our homework assignments. So how did we access them?

The LLARC- the Language Learning and Resource Center is a familiar place to all who study language at MIT.

Right outside the LLARC there’s a lounge, which is obviously cool because it has laser discs on the walls. I mean, come on. That’s awesome. Also, there’s a television which is always set to some foreign language channel or another.

The LLARC has audio tapes for all of the various language textbooks used at MIT:

And individual tape recorders you can use to listen to them. Here’s what it looked like when I was doing Italian listening assignments:

There are also video monitors and computer stations for watching videos and doing computer based learning activities, and the walls are decorated with foreign film posters. There are also a couple of conference rooms which you can use to watch a foreign language film with some friends, or your whole class.



The textbook videos, along with a whole selection of other materials in each of the languages offerred, can be checked out from the front desk:

Plus, French comics!

Learning language through media is pretty awesome. Every day in Italian class, our professor would show us another Italian music video, and we would challenge ourselves to see how many words we recognized in each one. Then she’d hand out the lyrics and we’d go over them together, learning to translate the whole thing. Once we even watched a commercial for coca cola (which was hilarious), and a scene from 90210 which had been dubbed into Italian.

But by far the most awesome and class favorite video was Lunapop’s 50 Special. It’s about a guy who wants a Vespa. It’s amazing. Watch it once, and you’ll be hooked. Promise. I mean, it’s Italian pop music! What’s not to love?

Who ever knew YouTube would be such a great learning tool? (Don’t tell Snively. He’d never see the sun again.)

Plus, completely not related: This is totally going to start up a huge gender/affirmative action war, but dude. Hilarious.

26 responses to “Parliamo Italiano!”

  1. Sam says:

    You TOK Italian?! What does TOK mean?!

    the blogger with the most typos of anyone, ever

    PS — so glad you did an in-depth entry on the LLARC. dang, I loved that place.

  2. Lauren says:

    Hehehe I’ve decided I’m going to learn as much Chinese as I can in college, though Italian seems cool! Anyway, I do enjoy languages, though I prefer things that “use math and all” tongue laugh.

    Also I have to agree – yup, that xkcd is hilarious. Though did I miss something or was the one from like ~1 week ago really depressing? (“It turns out you can’t take responsibility for someone else’s happiness” or something…):-(

  3. Laura says:

    Shut up Sam.

    Lauren: Yeah, that xkcd from awhile ago totally freaked me out. I was like, “um, webcomics are for me to look at and chuckle for 3 seconds, WTF?!”

  4. Steph says:

    Wow, great department! All those resources…*glossy eyes*

  5. Mollie says:

    I would just like to note that I worked at the LLARC during my freshman year at MIT. Just since everybody’s talking about how awesome it is.

  6. Rafiq says:

    There is a bit of confusion regarding the cut off scores for international students
    (for whom English is the second language-like students from Pakistan, India, China etc)
    in SAT 1 & SAT 2. If a student,who is extremely well in studies, possess excellent academic record, good in outer activities & so on – but with not so good scores in SAT (around 1700 in SAT 1 & 2250 in SAT 2), is eligible for getting admission or not. Because the student has not prepared for the SAT exams, he could not do well. Are all these aspects taken into consideration or the applicant is simply rejected.

  7. BB says:

    “Itlian” music videos, huh? =]

    Yay for foreign languages!

  8. Laura says:

    Okay, listen. I’m having a rough day. Lay off the typos. =P

    (I just fixed them. Plus another 3 no one has noticed yet. Or at least, that no one had commented on yet…)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think that “El Beso de la Mujer Arana” is Araña. I think I found one of the three typos. wink

  10. Karen says:

    XKCD is pretty awesome smile

    Although I did read that comic and laugh, because that’s exactly like our robotics team – “Karen can’t do electronics, she’s a girl!”

    Most of their concerns came from my lack of hand strength, and inability to fully crimp the disconnects, but I showed them still smile

    I’ve been taking French for six years, and it’s nice to see that MIT has such a great foreign language department! We have a listening lab at school too, with computers and tapes and things, and it’s really helped my French to be able to listen to native speakers.

  11. bob says:

    gFkHlf hi nice site thx

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yeah – that comic was pretty funny and extremely rude at the same time. Haha…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this, but I was wondering; now that MISTI has a partnership with Israel, do you think MIT will begin to offer Hebrew language courses?

  14. AG says:

    50 Special is an awesome song. For whatever reason I ended up blasting the song off my phone over the weekend in Manhattan. MIT’s lack of Italian sort of makes me sad though, my five years studying it have been fun

  15. Sam says:

    Sorry, I really hope I don’t start a tradition of typo wars on MITblogs, especially since I used to get so mad when people pointed out my (numerous) typos.

    It’s just I was so excited to deprive someone of FIRST POST! I needed something to write. And “tok” was the first think I saw.

  16. Kamya says:

    awesome entry!
    i’m from india and i was wondering if they let you take self taught languages? e.g. hindi – if i wanted to study it by myself could i get credit for it?

  17. Anonymous says:

    I dont think so…..are you in yet?

  18. Anonymous says:

    But do they use Muzzy?

  19. asm says:

    Of course, if your school had IB instead of AP, you would cry, “TOK means Theory of Knowledge… NO, ANYTHING BUT THAT!! AAAUUGGGHHH!!!!!” and start running around screaming wildly, eventually to be put in a straitjacket and dragged into a small, dark corner.

    …um…okay, so only a handful of people got that…moving on…

    Italian in a four-week period would seem pretty intense, but in terms of what languages I’d be interested in learning on the side, Italian is right up there (along with Spanish, Latin, and a few others). Too bad the foreign language I’ve studied for four years isn’t a Romance language…

    And I remember that xkcd comic very, very well. Not the first time Randall’s pointed out the institutionalized bias against women. Of course, I laughed for a solid 5 minutes. Seriously, the two smartest kids in my math class right now are girls.

    Speaking of that, did anyone catch Susan Hockfield on Charlie Rose yesterday? Quite an interesting interview, I must say.

  20. E. Rosser says:

    SWEET! Languages are the coolest.
    And the video is great! Really highlights the difference between American music videos and Italian: Americans are usually really depressed, or really angry, or just too poppy to endure. But Vespas, quirky haristyles, mad basketball skills, and animated bluebirds? That’s the best video EVER! Happy yet enduring…at least in the looping soundtrack of my head… Thanks a lot! wink

  21. Davorama says:

    hmm the song during the credits for Employee of the Month is in spanish.

    I love spanish and am glad language seems so be so enjoyable at MIT.

    At my school it can get pretty boring.

  22. Hawkins says:

    Nice entry, what’s with all the spam in the comments?

    Oh, and PLEASE. XKCD is not merely a thing to be chuckled at. It is a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language – NONE of which is incessantly funny. That said, I had pretty much the same reaction to the one you mentioned. =O

  23. Nate says:

    I’m learning Spanish too. I really want to learn Italian as well since Spanish is really easy and Italian is similar too it. Plus I love the way Italian sounds. Wow, MIT’s language Department lookes amazing.

  24. Claudio A. says:

    Italian native speaker in here! grin
    I am pretty happy to hear that you enjoyed such a course… if you need a helping hand or so, just give me a call wink
    I hope you’ll enjoy your trip to Rome, even if I am from Milan (the two cities are historical enemies) grin

    If I manage to get admitted in the class of 2012, I’ll be extremely please to meet you for a brief chat in Italian… in the meantime, buon lavoro a tutti ragazzi!!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    That was a wonderfull post!
    Could you please tell me the tentative dates by which the RA’s can hear from the MIT admissions office?
    Thank you!

  26. Sam R. '12 says:

    Since I watched the lunapop 50 special video, i am now hooked on it. Its just such a catchy song and the piano sounds really cool. i think ive even memorized the chorus, but its an awesome song. i know a little italian but im dissapointed that MIT just has Italian I and thats it. Hopefully they can have more Italian classes when I get there if not I’ll try to push to make them.
    -sam r.