Book Review: La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales

bella.comp.inddThe beautiful language. The Italian language is the subject whose story is beautifully told in Dianne Hales’ book, La Bella Lingua. Subtitled “My love affair with Italian, the world’s most enchanting language,” Hales’ book is very thorough in presenting the history and development of today’s Italian.

Most engaging for me were the stories of her  falling in love with Italian, and the research on the book. Her personal experiences transported me to Italy, and brought me into the room for her conversations with various language teachers and experts, historians, and writers.

I also enjoyed learning more about the origins of the Italian language. She definitely prompted me to consider a closer look at Dante, and introduced me to several significant contributors to today’s Italian. I didn’t expect to find Galileo, but there he was. Verdi, Garibaldi, and many others–the famous and infamous–are included.

Perhaps food-related Italian words are most widely known in America–and a chapter is devoted to eating Italian. Other chapters celebrate art, love, and cinema, the Italian way.

For people with an interest in languages and linguistics, this will be a fun read.  For students of Italian, it’s a must. The book includes an index, chapter by chapter bibliography, and a discussion guide with questions. I recommend it!

Can I also encourage you to visit Dianne Hales’ website? Many great features will draw you back to it–Italian food and travel ideas, a blog with language learning helps, resources for teachers and students of Italian language, and a nice introduction to Dianne herself.

The cover of this book really appealed to me because of a dream I had in 2004. I was in Sorrento, studying Italian for two weeks at SorrentoLingue. About ten days into my two weeks there, I had a dream. I was in a boat, one of the colorful fishing boats found in that area, just me and the boatman. I was fishing with pole and line, but instead of trying to catch fish, I was fishing for words. Ever done that? I would reel one in and look at it, the Italian word I had caught, but it wasn’t the one I wanted, so I threw it back. Over and over, I cast my hook into the water but kept bringing in the wrong word. And there on Dianne Hales’ book cover–aside from the Venetian gondola rather than the fishing boat–I saw my dream depicted. And in addition to the book’s contents, the cover is a delightful reminder of my wonderful experience in Sorrento.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales

  1. Great post and the book sounds right up my street as I’ve been learning Italian for 6 years and am planning to spend the summer out there this year!! Have always wanted to know more about the language so this is perfect, thank you! Shall keep an eye out for more posts! Ciao per ora, Lizzie :o)

      • Have tracked your book down and am loving what I’ve read so far, it’s great, thank you!! As for the summer, am thinking of basing myself for a month in Venice, then Tuscany, Lazio and finishing up in either Puglio or Sicily in September. Any recommendations for any o those or any other must-see places?? Cheers, Lizzie

      • Lizzie, Just to clarify, it’s not my book, but one I reviewed. The book credit goes to Dianne Hales. What will you be doing in Venice for a month? That’s a long time for Venice (unless you are marrying a Venetian like the “Thousand Days in Venice” gal!). I spent five days there last summer and it was enough for me. If you’re thinking of spending some time in Italian language school, I can recommend SorrentoLingue, and I loved being in Sorrento. Day trips to Capri, Naples, Amalfi are easy from there. I’d love to roam around Puglia and Sicily more myself! What are your special interests?

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