How To Start Thinking In Italian

A personal experience

Locanda Tre Merli

So you want to learn how to start thinking in Italian… Maybe learn the language faster?

Many years ago, I went to Italy with my boyfriend. It must have been one of my first times. I spoke no Italian and he spoke a just tiny bit, based on all the Italian opera he listened to. We went to a locanda (an inn) to get something to eat and he kept saying allora (let’s see) before each phrase when talking to the cameriere (waiter), while ordering our meal.

Allora… prenderò l’insalata con le pesche, pancetta, e mozzarella.
Let’s see… I’ll have the salad with peaches, bacon, and mozzarella

I finally asked him why, and what it meant, and his explanation was that Italians always said it. He was just imitating what he had heard Italians say in similar situations, so I started paying attention and realized he was right. All I had to do was open my ears a bit wider to hear that Italians really do say allora a lot. It’s mostly just a way to say “well,” or “so,“ or even “let’s see,” but one word can go a long way towards being able to start to thinking in Italian.

Own your word: It feels good.

My boyfriend might have been overdoing it, but maybe that’s because allora was the only “filler” word he knew at the time. He was having fun pronouncing that word. It made him feel like a real Italian, and sometimes, one word is enough to get you started in thinking in Italian. I hopped on that train. Once you own a word, you’ll never forget it.

The Fun Part

The fun part of learning a new language is rolling the word around on your tongue, trying it out for size, and owning it, but you need a reliable source to imitate. Imitating a native speaker is the best, but even someone who speaks Italian as a second language can give you a head start. Sometimes that can be less intimidating than practicing with an Italian. That’s how it was for me. My boyfriend gave me a few tips, which really helped, but I also learned some of his mistakes! You don’t need to look for perfection, but you want to make your pronunciation intelligible to an Italian. One word expressed with confidence can make all the difference.

Just One Word!

Allora is great word for when you don’t really know what to say or when you’re thinking out loud.

When you’re walking around the house thinking about what to do next, try saying Allora…

Allora… should I do the dishes or should I take out the garbage?

Allora… lavo i piatti o porto fuori la spazzatura?

Allora… what should I wear today?

Allora… cosa mi metto?

Actually allora is also a way to ask a person you know very well how they are without saying anything else. Just make sure your voice is singing the right, sweet melody.

So, how are things?

 Allora can also express impatience. Your dog is not obeying you and you’re getting miffed. The melody changes.

(You want to obey me or not?)

What a great word. Allora has a long history, and comes from Latin. As with many Italian words, we can take it apart and see more facets. A is a preposition meaning “to” or “at.” The double “L” often occurs when two words get connected to make one. One of those L’s is undoubtedly part of the article la (the). Ora means “hour.” So a very basic literal translation might be “at the hour,” or “at that hour.” We’ve talked about the one-word expression allora in this article, but allora can also be used to mean “in that case, “at that time,” etc.

Learn more!

Curious to know more about this word? Read The Underlying Meaning of Allora. Yabla written lessons are free and searchable. The lesson is called “.” Check it out.

To get some real context! Head over to Yablawhere there are over a thousand videos to choose from. Start listening for allora in all its nuanced meanings. Allora is just a single word, but you’ll hear it often. Start picking it out from long sentences and you will be on your way to thinking in Italian. One word leads to another.

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