Does Your Computer Speak the Italian Language?

Oct 30, 2009

Computer pic

La Bella Lingua in Linea (Online)

The first time I visited an internet café in Rome, I quickly learned that, despite its English name, an Italian computer—whether computer da tavolo (desk-top) or computer portatile (lap-top)—speaks Italian.

When I turned on (accendere) il computer, it asked for my nome utente (user name). 
“How do I connect (connettersi) to the Internet?” I asked the manager (who spoke two languages: Italian and Chinese).  After showing me which keys to click (cliccare), he started to dictate a website address: “Vuvuvu.punto.” I typed “vvv.” before realizing that was how Italians say www.

When I tried to check e-mail (controllare la posta), I found myself immersed in a vocabulary lesson in Italian computerese (computer jargon), including:

posta in arrivo — inbox

rubrica — address book

aiuto –- help 

stampa — print

chiudi — close

rispondi — reply

invia –- send 

invia allegato –- send attachment

–- forward

elimina, cancella — delete

salva –- save

cestino — trash

cartella –- folder

sposta — move to

svuota la cartella –- empty folder

mail spazzatura or, more politely, posta indesiderata –- spam

esci — log out

Things got more complicated when I tried to open or close a document (aprire/chiudere il documento), compose a new message (nuovo messaggio) or simply find the essential @ key (called chiocciola for the snail it resembles). With a bit of doing, I managed to download (scaricare) some stuff and compress (zippare) a file.

I toyed with the idea of creating an Italian pseudonimo (alias) and visiting a stanza della chat (chat room) or forum (discussion board). Instead I went shopping for Italian DVDs and placed some of my choices in a functional carrello (shopping cart) and others in a far more evocative pozzo dei desideri (wishing well).

Then the moment came when I uttered the words I’d hoped never to use: “Il mio computer non funziona.” (My computer isn’t working).
“È bloccato?” (Is it frozen?) the manager asked.
“È morto!” (It’s dead!) I replied, panicked that all my information was lost (perso), damaged (danneggiato) or deleted (eliminato).
He expertly pressed a series of keys and rebooted (riavviare).

“È risuscitato!“ I exclaimed. “It’s come back to life!”

Words and Expressions

Most computer terms in Italian are borrowings from English. Here are some of the more obvious you'll need when talking about computers in Italian.

Dov’è il computer?
— Where is the computer?

Avete un sito web?
— Do you have a website?

— internet

— email

il mouse

You can hear these phrases on the Living Language blog.

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