I met Florecilla Valle back at the beginning of the first lockdown, in the spring of 2020. I was hosting many lives on Instagram at the time, mainly to take my mind and everyone else’s off what was going on. I got to know her during one of our Cook&Chat events, the cooking and learning sessions I hosted with Barbara Rocci from Time To be Italian. I was impressed by how Flor knew so much about Italian culture and cuisine. She’s multi-passionate and is able to juggle many interests. We’ve chatted so much over the last two years and I keep learning from her. I asked her on the blog today to share her tips on learning Italian in a less traditional way.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
My name is Flor de Maria and I was born in El Salvador. My family immigrated to the United States when I was a young child but my parents insisted we speak Spanish at home. For this reason, I developed a strong acumen for language and literature. I have an academic background in math and science and have an affinity for diverse cultures and the arts. I’m also a tango and hula dancer.
One of the things that I cherish the most about learning to dance Hula is being exposed to & learning the Ōlelo language.
I played the saxophone growing up, can sort of strum a guitar and sing pretty well to the point others find it enjoyable as well. Nevertheless, literature is and continues to be my first love.
In short, I love languages. This is one of my favorite quotes from my favorite American author, Toni Morrison: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
What triggered your interest in Italian?
Dante. I read the Divine Comedy at a young age and in Italian. The majesty of those novels never left me. I was reading in Italian long before I ever dreamt of trying to speak it. Books were my gateway drug to language learning.
I’m fluent in French as it is my second language. English is my third. I have working knowledge of Mandarin and can read Korean because its alphabet is simple and concise.
You’re very active on Instagram, you follow many Italian accounts. How do you go about learning Italian and keeping in touch with Italy aside from social media?
I’ve traveled to Italy several times. It’s my favorite place in the whole world to visit. Unfortunately, the pandemic made travel plans a thing of the past for a while at least. In the meantime, I continue to listen to Italian music and watch movies and television shows in Italian.
I developed a fondness for Italian pop music and follow my favorite artists on Instagram. I’m a huge fan of Biagio Antonacci and Negramaro. And, I have a deep appreciation of classic singer songwriters like Lucio Battisti. Moreover, I’ve been making my way through Giovanni Vega’s I Malavoglia. I am now enamored with the idea of spending time in Sicily when next I travel to Italy.
You have many interests and I really envy you for that. You’re a dancer, you practice martial arts and are going to get a black belt. You also love cooking. How do you fit learning Italian into all this? What tips can you give us?
You should keep your mind engaged with Italian whenever you can. Try speaking to your pet or plant in Italian instead of your dominant language. Dogs don’t care about the words you are saying, they are smart enough to figure out the meaning so they won’t mind! Haha! I even listen to mass in Italian!
Due to the pandemic, the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua started transmitting their services live via Facebook. Listen to songs in Italian, especially more poetic songs with lyrics that challenge you a bit.
I find stretching out to Italian music in the background soothing. I cook popular Italian dishes to connect to the culture.
I try to follow the recipes in Italian or watch the presentation in Italian on YouTube.
I reveled in the Cook & Chats that Elfin and Barbara put together. The Sicilian Caponata we prepared in the summer of 2020 gifted me a whole new appreciation of eggplants!
I recommend reading an Italian newspaper or magazine to keep up to date with current events from an Italian vantage point. Also, I would suggest acquiring an appreciation of Verdi if you haven’t yet.
Opera is another way to fall in love with Italian!
You’ve taken my Montalbano courses and now you’re going through Italian Tv Night. You definitely enjoy Italian tv shows. What tips would you give other learners on getting more out of tv shows and improving their Italian?
Montalbano is so wonderful because it has the feel of being from another time and place yet modern enough that it doesn’t seem inaccessible. You understand that this man is finding his way in the modern world while still embodying old-fashioned ideas and sensibilities.
It’s relatable to all because everyone finds change demanding at first.
Watch shows that resonate with you and are entertaining to you. Shows you would watch in your dominant language regardless.
6)What do you think are the benefits of learning Italian from watching tv shows? Is it possible to learn while enjoying yourself?
Yes, definitely, you should take joy in all your learning, otherwise what’s the point?
Sometimes, viewing films or television shows may appear to be a more passive form of learning. However, you may find you absorb more in this environment than, say, being under pressure to give a business presentation in a foreign language.
About Florecilla Valle…
I’m a business systems analyst by day and an intrepid linguist and writer by night. I have 3 big dogs that I adore and keep me on my toes. I treasure movement so I dance often and dabble in the martial arts. Tae Kwon Do, specifically. This is my Instagram account: @Evenstar0310.