Coraggio e Paura | Courage and Fear

Il coraggio è fatto di paura - citazione da Oriana Fallaci, image of Alex at Palos Verdes by LeAnn for didattichiamo.blogspot

"Il coraggio è fatto di paura" (Courage is made of fear.) As somebody who interviewed top world leaders during the 60s, 70s and 80s, including Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 & North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap during the Vietnam War, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, might know a thing or two about courage and fear.

The idea of courage and fear coexisting and even going hand in hand might not be a new one, but it has enjoyed more popularity lately thanks to the work of Dr. Brené Brown, who first came into the spotlight for her TEDx talk on vulnerability*, and her appearances on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, and Lifeclass.  One of the central points of her research is the idea that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather being authentic and willing to stand up and be seen, and in order to be vulnerable, one must be courageous.  Being courageous does not require eliminating fear...the truly courageous still experience fear, but they know how to embrace it and use it to their advantage while staying true to their values.

{*Thanks to's subtitle feature, you can listen to your favorite TED talks in English while reading the translation in several languages.  It's a good way to see how different terms and expressions are worded in Italian, and can be a good way to recognize and memorize new vocabulary.  The Italian transcription & subtitles are available for Brené Brown's talk... give it a try! Just choose Italian from the dropdown menu labeled "42 languages [Off]" that appears when you scroll over the bottom portion of the video}

I wondered if the concept of courage was viewed the same between Italian and American/English culture, so I looked to dictionaries for clues.... 

coraggio: 1. Forza d’animo: - Dizionario della Lingua Italiana © 2012 Le Monnier

courage: 1. the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc - Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers

I thought it was interesting that the Italian definition translated to "strength of spirit" while the English definition focused on some of the negative situations that might require courage.   I personally respond more to the Italian version, and wonder if defining it in more positive terms also helps one to embrace it more fully, with all its parts- bravery & fear, conviction & doubt, etc.

What do you think?  Che ne pensi?

Some of my favorite vocabulary from the transcription/translation of Brené Brown's talk:

il coraggio - courage
{comes from Latin "cor" for heart, which remains a common metaphor for inner strength} courtesy of

la paura - fear

la vulnerabilità - vulnerability

fare la sviolinata a qualcuno - to sweet talk somebody

la connessione - connection 

il senso di appartenenza - sense of belonging

la vergogna - shame

immedesimarsi - to empathize; put oneself in another's shoes, identify with

un senso di merito - a sense of worth

compassionevole - compassionate

l'autenticità - authenticity

un risveglio spirituale - a spiritual awakening

le balle - B.S. (bull-sh..)

abbastanza - enough

appassionatamente - passionately

Happy Studying!


"Il sale della terra" by Ligabue: new single & video

New in Italian music:

Ligabue was one of the first Italian artists I discovered when I started learning Italian so I'm always eager to check out his newest releases.

The album Il sale della terra (The salt of the earth) releases November 26.  In the meantime, enjoy the title single which conveniently has the lyrics incorporated directly into the video for us language learners. You can also check out my (rough) English translation side-by-side with the original lyrics below the video.

(For more Liga news check out his official website)

Siamo la sorpresa dietro i vetri scuri 
Siamo la risata dentro il tunnel degli orrori 
Siamo la promessa che non costa niente 
Siamo la chiarezza che voleva molta gente. 

Siamo il capitano che vi fa l'inchino 

Siamo la ragazza nel bel mezzo dell'inchino 
Siamo i trucchi nuovi per i maghi vecchi 
Siamo le ragazze nella sala degli specchi. 

Siamo il culo sulla sedia, il dramma, la commedia, 

il facile rimedio 
Siamo l'arroganza che non ha paura 
Siamo quelli a cui non devi chiedere fattura. 

Siamo....... il sale della terra! 

Siamo....... il sale della terra! 

Siamo l'opinione sotto libro paga 

Siamo le riunioni qui nel retro di bottega 
Siamo le figure dietro le figure 
Siamo la vergogna che fingiamo di provare. 

Siamo il culo sulla sedia, la farsa, la tragedia, 

il forte sotto assedio 
Siamo la vittoria della tradizione 
Siamo furbi che più furbi di così si muore. 

Siamo....... il sale della terra! 
Siamo....... il sale della terra! 

Siamo la freddezza che non ha paura 
Siamo quel tappeto steso sulla spazzatura 
Siamo la Montblanc con cui ti faccio fuori* 
Siamo la risata dentro il tunnel degli orrori. 

We are the surprise behind the dark glass
We are the laughter inside the tunnel of horrors
We are the promise that doesn't cost a thing
We are the clarity that many people want

We are the captain that bows at you all

We are the girl in the middle of a curtsy
We are the new tricks for the old magicians
We are the girls in the room of mirrors

We are the ass in the chair, the drama, the comedy, the easy remedy

We are the arrogance that has no fear
We are the ones that you needn't ask an invoice from.

We are……. the salt of the earth!

We are……… the salt of the earth!

We are the opinion that's on the payroll

We are the meetings in the back room of the store
We are the figures behind the figures
We are the shame that we fake feeling.

We are the ass in the chair, the farce, the tragedy, the fort under siege;

We are the victory of tradition
We are clever, any cleverer and you’d die.

We are……. the salt of the earth!

We are……… the salt of the earth!

We are the coldness that has no fear

We are the rug laid out over the trash
We are the Mont Blanc pen with which we do you in*
We are the laughter inside the tunnel of horrors.

*I'm not sure, but I think this refers to a Mont Blanc brand pen so I translated it as such.

Interested in hearing more Ligabue?  Listen to Il Sale della Terra and the rest of the album "Mondovisione" in the post here or check out the music player in the sidebar to the right!

Buon Ascolto!
Happy Listening!



I dieci errori - The ten errors

Inspired by an article I read on D- la Repubblica entitled: L'Arte della cucina italiana: i 10 errori da non commettere The art of Italian cuisine: the ten errors not to commit, I thought we could take a look at simplified versions of these "ten errors" and use them as a basis for reviewing negative informal "tu" commands in Italian. (You might learn something you didn't know about Italian culture, too!)

1. Mai e poi mai sorseggiare un cappuccino durante i pasti.
          Never ever sip/drink a cappuccino during meals.

Not so much now, but I have to admit I used to be one of those Americans who had no problem consuming a latte or cappuccino either during or after a meal. The "Art of Italian Cuisine" article, however, maintains that this is a big no-no (at least if you want to seem Italian.) Cappuccinos are for breakfast (preferably with something sweet like a croissant or a brioche) and espresso (referred to simply as coffee or "caffè" most of the time) is for after meals or any other time throughout the day.

2. Non servire una pasta o un risotto come contorno.
       Do not serve a pasta or risotto as a side dish.

Another "error" that I committed in the past, but have done less after having spent a bit of time with Italians. Pasta and risotto are first course dishes and stand alone! If you want a meat or other second course dish, eat your pasta first, then grab a new plate and perhaps a vegetable side dish.

3.  Non versare olio nell'acqua della pasta.
             Do not put oil in the pasta water.

I've actually read that putting a bit of oil in the water can help stop the "foaming over" that sometimes happens when cooking pasta, but apparently, my source was not Italian as the article states that you should never put anything in the pasta water except salt which is added in abundance. I've found that if you use a big enough pot, the boiling over phenomenon isn't a problem anyway, so make an Italian happy and only add oils and other condiments AFTER the pasta has been cooked and drained.

4.  Non mettere lo ketchup sulla pasta.
        Don't put ketchup on pasta.

Wait, some people do this??  Yes, ketchup is tomato-based like other perfectly acceptable pasta condiments, but it's also quite modified from its original tomato-state (read: very sweetened!) so please stick to fresh or freshly-canned tomatoes and tomato sauces and, as the article implores, "Tieni lo ketchup per le tue patatine fritte o hot dog" (Keep the ketchup for your french fries or hot dog.) 

5.  Non sostituire gli spaghetti per le tagliatelle in "Tagliatelle Bolognese."
            Don't substitute spaghetti for tagliatelle in "Tagliatelle Bolognese."

The pairing of a pasta sauce with its perfect pasta shape is very important business in Italy. Who knows how or why spaghetti got involved with bolognese abroad, but if the original recipe calls for tagliatelle, use tagliatelle!

Tagliatelle are long and flat, more similar to fettuccine than they are to spaghetti.

(Rules 6- 9 of the original list are less "errors" in and of themselves and more misconceptions about the "Italianness" of each dish.  So I'll sum up these rules into one single error:)

6-9.  Non pretendere certe cose che pensi siano "tipiche" in Italia.
                  Don't expect certain things you think of as "typical" in Italy.

For example:

  • Pasta with chicken- Although it's delicious, you'd be hard pressed to find this combination anywhere in Italy.
  • Caesar Salad- invented by a chef of Italian origins, but virtually unknown in Italy.
  • Fettuccine Alfredo- invented by a chef in Rome, but only ever got popular outside of Italy.
  • Red and white checkered table cloths- charming as they may be, if you see them in Italy, they're probably just trying to cater to tourists who think that's what everybody uses in Italy.

10.  Non ignorare i consigli della mamma.
           Don't ignore mom's advice!

Good, sage advice in any context but especially true when you're talking about good food and family tradition. In Italy and elsewhere, it's often the women who keep and pass on family recipes and wisdom, so when in doubt, take it from a mom.

(Don't be afraid!)


Affirmative "Tu" Commands: (as in Do this!)

For -are verbs, it's the same as the 3rd person singular present tense

parlare: parlo parli parla parliamo parlate parlano -> Parla! (Speak!)

Or, you can also think of it as simply dropping the final -re:

mangiare -> mangiare -> Mangia! (Eat!)

For -ere and -ire verbs, it's the same as the 2nd person singular present tense: (including the -isc- that gets added to the stem of certain -ire verbs)

prendere: prendo prendi prende prendiamo etc....-> Prendi!(Take!)
scrivere: scrivo scrivi scrive scriviamo etc...  ->  Scrivi! (Write!)
dormire: dormo dormi dorme dormiamo etc...  ->  Dormi! (Sleep!)
finire: finisco finisci finisce finiamo etc...  ->  Finisci! (Finish!)

There are also irregular verbs where the above rules don't work.  Some of the most common irregular "tu" commands are:

andare ->  Va'! (Go!)
essere ->   Sii! (Be!)
avere ->  Abbi! (Have!)
dire     ->   Di'! (Say!/Tell!)
fare     ->   Fa'! (Do!)

Negative "Tu" Commands (as in Don't do that!

You just add "non" before the infinitive verb. This works for all verbs, regular and irregular, no matter if they're -are, -ere, or -ire.

parlare: Non parlare! (Don't speak!) 
mangiare:  Non mangiare! (Don't eat!) 
prendere:  Non prendere! (Don't take!) 
scrivere:  Non scrivere! (Don't write! 
dormire:  Non dormire! (Don't sleep!) 
finire:  Non finire! (Don't finish!) 
andare:  Non andare! (Don't go!) 
essere:  Non essere! (Don't be!) 
avere:  Non avere! (Don't have!) 
dire:  Non dire! (Don't say/tell!) 
fare:  Non fare! (Don't do!)

Now read over the "Ten Errors" again. Notice how all but one use the "non + infinitive verb" formula? [The first one, uses a similar construction, but instead of "non" for "don't" it uses "mai e poi mai" which means "never ever."]

I'd like to know what you think about these "errors." Which ones do you agree with? disagree with?  If you were going to write your own rules for cooking and eating, what would they be? I'm curious to hear, so post them in the comments below! (Try to form them in the negative to continue practicing the negative "tu" commands)

Here's one of my own:

Non aspettare la colazione per mangiare i pancake.
  Don't wait for breakfast to eat pancakes.

Happy studying (and eating!) 


Neffa - Quando Sorridi: Song Meaning, Lyrics & Present Tense Italian Verbs

Didattichiamo: Musica Neffa Quando Sorridi- Present tense verbs & pronunciation

The upbeat tune and the simple, straightforward lyrics make Neffa's Quando Sorridi (When you smile) the perfect song to work on your Italian pronunciation as well as see the simple present tense of some common Italian verbs in use.

First, familiarize yourself with the song using this video which includes the lyrics:

(As always, I recommend singing along when you can! It will improve your pronunciation, cadence, and rhythm  so you sound more natural, plus it will help commit vocabulary and expressions to memory!)

Now, let's take a look at the verbs in the song, all of which are in the simple present tense or the infinitive (the unconjugated form of the verb, roughly corresponding to "to + verb" in English and ending in -are, -ere or -ire in Italian.)

I've underlined verbs in the simple present tense... for each:

1. What is the infinitive form? 
2. Is it a regular or irregular verb? 
3. What is the subject of the verb? (Remember, in Italian the subject is rarely expressed with the subject pronoun, and most often determined by the verb ending!)

Need to review some of these concepts?  Try: {How Italian Verbs Work}

Ognuno ha un peso da portare con sé 
non dirmi che tu non lo sai 
Ma più ci pensi e più succede che poi 
finisce che non ce la fai 
Sospesi in volo su una grande giostra al suono della musica 
giriamo io e te 
giriamo io e te 
La stessa vita così amara qualche istante fa 
se solo tu vuoi poi diventa più dolce che mai 

Non lo sai che quando sorridi 
è un attimo 
E così i pensieri più tristi 
A che serve farsi la vita difficile 
se alla fine è già complicata così com'è 

Ognuno ha un po' amore dentro si sé 
non dirmi che tu non ce l'hai 
Ma più ne chiedi e più non serve perché 
dipende da quanto ne dai 
E poi lasciarti andare fino in fondo alla tua solitudine 
se è quello che vuoi 
se è quello che vuoi 
Ma finché al mondo c'è qualcuno che ci tiene a te 
ricorda se puoi quello è il bene più grande che hai 

Non lo sai che quando sorridi 
è un attimo 
e così i pensieri più tristi 
a che serve farsi la vita difficile 
se alla fine è già complicata così com'è (x3)

Thanks to for the song lyrics!

Compare your answers to my list of verbs (complete with the full present tense conjugations and meanings) here:

The Simple Present Tense: I Verbi di 'Quando Sorridi" da Neffa
(link opens PDF on Google drive)

Now, listen to the song again- paying close attention to the verbs.  Do you have a better idea of what is being said and who the singer is "talking" to?

Now let's look at my rough translation of the lyrics in English.  Once you've read through them, listen to the song again and see if you can associate the Italian words with the English translation.  In some cases, you'll see that they correspond word for word, in other cases, the wording changes quite a bit.  Do you agree with the translation?  Anything you would have translated differently?

Neffa- Quando Sorridi Lyrics in English:

Everybody has a weight to carry along
Don't tell me that you don't know
But the more you think about it, the more it happens that
It ends up that you can't handle it.

Suspended on a big merry-go-round to the sound of the music
You and I go around
You and I go around
The same life, that was so bitter just a second ago
becomes sweeter than ever if you just want it to…

Don't you know that when you smile
It takes just a second
And all you're saddest thoughts
What's the point of making life difficult
When it's already complicated enough, just as it is

Everybody has a bit of love inside themselves
Don't tell me that you don't have it.
But the more you ask for it the more it doesn't work because
It depends on how much of it you give.
And then you let yourself go to the very depths of your loneliness
If that's what you want
If that's what you want
But as long as in the world there is somebody who cares about you
Remember if you can, that that's the biggest asset you have.

Don't you know that when you smile
It takes just a second
And all you're saddest thoughts
What's the point of making life difficult
When it's already complicated enough, just as it is.

Is the song a little clearer?  More meaningful?  What is the message of the song?  Do you agree with it?

To me, the song is a simple reminder that how you react to situations and events in life is important and choosing to smile is a powerful way to instantly improve everything. Life can be difficult at times, but remembering what really counts can provide a little perspective and make even life's complications more enjoyable.

So, keep pressing play.. and Sorridi!


*At the time of posting, this song was not available on (where I generally buy all of my music) but they do have another, recent Neffa hit: "Molto Calmo" which I also recommend!

See also:

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae
Acque del sud (To Have and Have Not) original: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow."