There is another fun article in the latest edition of The Local, the online Italian newspaper in English, on why the Italians parlare a braccio, while in English we talk off the top of our heads or even ‘off the cuff’.
The article’s author, Elaine Allaby explains: “Talk… to the arm? … it doesn’t literally mean to speak with your arms (though a little gesticulation definitely can’t hurt if you want to get your point across). It’s figurative, meaning to extemporise or improvise…
“Non ho preparato nulla per il dibattito, dovrò parlare a braccio.
I haven’t prepared anything for the debate, I’m going to have to ad-lib.
Ti prego, non parlare a braccio, l’ultima volta hai combinato un pasticcio…
I’m begging you, please don’t improvise, the last time you made a real mess of things.”
Elaine investigates a similar English expression ‘off the cuff’, which originated in the mid to late 1800s when disposable paper shirt cuffs and collars were introduced, and people sometimes used their cuffs as a convenient notepad:
Speaking from the arm may seem to have a similar origin, but no: in the past in Italy, the braccio was a form of measurement, the length from the shoulder to the tips of the fingers. And, of course, it varied from place to place: “As an arm is not a standardised unit of measurement, undertaking an action a braccio came to mean doing something approximately, without precision.”
You can also use braccio with the verb andare:
Non ho un piano, sto andando a braccio.
I don’t have a plan, I’m making it up as I go along.
One thing you can be sure of is that we will not be making up as we go along on our unique Italian language course at the Watermill. Our special week-long language course, where you can soak up Italian and enjoy la bella vita iItaliana, will be running this October. The dates are Saturday 16 October to Saturday 23 October 2021.
This really is a ‘course with a difference’. Not only are there formal lessons on the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but you also make trips and excursions to savour the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area around the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speak Italian, and practise what you’ve learned.
The Watermill has teamed up again with the wonderful Italian language tutor Francesca La Sala, to produce a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be also be individually customised, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.
This exciting language course is suitable for all levels of ability, because of the special approach of the Langues Services language school in Florence, who initially developed the workshop at the Watermill. The philosophy and method are inspired Professor Bertrand Schwartz of Paris University, who overturned the concept of teaching to adults, with a method that not only develops theoretical knowledge, but practical know-how as well.
The aim is to enhance the personal qualities of each student, tailoring the teaching to their needs and ambitions, establishing active and confident relationships, where the student is the true protagonist in the course.
One previous course participant said: “A super language week: well organised, giving us a taste of the ‘real Italy.’ Despite the disparity in ability our tutor managed to help all of us towards a better understanding and production of the Italian language. The lessons were fun, interactive and helped me enormously.”
Another added: “I can honestly say it was the nicest week I have had for a long time. Francesca was charming and very patient.”
I have made one of those fun, 30-second Facebook slideshows to try to capture some of the atmosphere of our Italian language week. You can see it by clicking here.
Everything is included in the cost of your holiday at the watermill: tuition, accommodation, pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and wines (including outings to charming local restaurants) and all local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport and an excursion by train to Lucca or the Cinque Terre).
You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest!
And you will be Cool and Green: all our rooms are air-conditioned, powered by photovoltaic panels which make us self-sufficient in electricity.
Francesca La Sala
16-23 October 2021
A novel approach to learning Italian
To learn more about Francesca an her course at the mill, please click here.
Don’t keep us at arms length!