Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
Orange Belt
Posts: 141
Joined: Mon May 15, 2017 11:59 pm
Location: Seattle Area
Languages: English(N), Learning: Cantonese, Italian
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7973
x 687

Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby zKing » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:17 am

Hello folks,

I'm re-engaging with my Italian as a side dish to my main studies of Cantonese. My plan is to use extensive reading with Italian as I can do it in otherwise dead time on my phone and unlike Cantonese extensive reading is actually feasible/useful... plus I enjoy it!

Question: Should I fear that content with lots of passato remoto will be less useful or tangential or *gasp* damaging to my true desire for more conversational Italian down the road?

My inclination is to not worry about it and just read. I remember the AJATT guy fielding questions where people were worried that anime would somehow damage their Japanese as it wasn't "normal" Japanese. His response was basically that Japanese anime was still Japanese, perhaps with some funny voices and odd sayings. If you got really good at understanding anime, it isn't some big leap to understand "normal" Japanese. My thoughts on passato remoto are similar. I think I should just read a s**t ton of content (popup dictionary at the ready) and it will work out in the end. I don't mind a slight detour, if any exists.

Admission: I have been known to be easily sidetracked finding the "right" material and writing tools to process it into the "right" format and sorting it and collecting it onto all my devices and then realizing I should first process the vocabulary or some other thing and generally doing everything but actually USING the content. So my recent years of language learning are heavily slanted toward "good enough".

But I am curious about other opinions as I'm sure I'm not the only person to have thought about this.

What say you?
0 x

User avatar
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1779
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (~C1), French (Intermediate), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (A2)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=15953
x 3110

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby aokoye » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:02 am

I had to google what passato remoto was, but I can't imagine why it would be. If, for whatever reason, you end up having trouble with other tenses then there are ways to remediate that, but I wouldn't worry about that now. Mildly similar to your example from AJATT, I have spent countless hours watching German cooking shows. They used to be the way that I procrastinated. My having listened to days of cooking shows in German didn't hinder my ability to understand other topics or people not on TV shows with a live audience. Sure part of that is because I don't only watch cooking shows now, but I have watched far more German cooking shows that I have other shows and I contribute a lot of my listening skills in German to this.

For what it's worth I do watch other shows and for the past three years I probably watch more documentary type shows in German than I do cooking shows. I think what's important is that you find something that you actually like. I know a lot of people have recommended various German TV shows, movies, and radio shows. That said, there were very few that I hadn't heard of that actually liked (the radio ones because they were similar to what I listen to in English). Given how limited time is, it doesn't make much sense to do something that you don't like when it might not be any more effective than doing what you do like (if the thing you don't like is more effective then that's another matter).
2 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine

Brown Belt
Posts: 1253
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:35 pm
Location: Scotland
Languages: Native: English
Advanced: Italian, French
Intermediate: Spanish
Beginner: Greek, German
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1855
x 3889

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby garyb » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:49 am

I think the animé and especially the cooking show examples are a slightly different case since they're still listening to spoken language rather than reading. Cooking shows are perhaps a better source of conversational language than the typical drama series that most of us watch, since they're less scripted.

I believe that extensive reading is great as long as it's balanced out with plenty listening, otherwise there's a risk of internalising not only more literary language but also incorrect pronunciation from what you're "hearing" in your head as you read. I don't have experience of learning a language from mostly reading rather than listening just because it seems a bit crazy given my goals, so maybe someone else can give their experience. It also goes without saying that if your goal is conversation then you should try to select books that have a lot of dialogue and use modern language.

Regarding passato remoto, I've read quite a lot in Italian now (at least 50 books) and while I understand the passato remoto perfectly I still find it hard to use it in speaking even when I want to! That's because I've just not had much practice in producing it or listening to it, and that amount of reading is probably dwarfed by all the listening I've done over that time. This maybe shows that the risk of internalising things from reading isn't too big, but I'd imagine it's bigger if reading is your only or main source of input.
0 x

User avatar
Blue Belt
Posts: 637
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 7:11 am
Location: The Netherlands
Languages: Native: Italian
Speaks: English, Dutch, French, Spanish
Understands but not yet speaks: Romanian
Studies: German
Can't wait to put his hands on: Scandinavian languages, Slavic languages, Turkish, Arabic and other stuff
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5141
x 987

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby Tristano » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:22 am

Learning passato remoto is not going to make you a weird speaker, unless I am allowed to classify all the south Italian people as weird speakers - which is sort of true and racist at the same time.

South Italians use it even to talk about something that they did one hour before:

"Stamattina andai al mercato, non indovinerai mai chi incontrai!"


Anyway, fak det scit, go for it.
1 x

User avatar
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2821
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: The Lowlands
Languages: Native: NL, EN
Professional: ES, RU
Speak well: DE, FR, RO, EO, SV
Speak reasonably: IT, ZH, PT, NO, EL, CZ
Need improvement: PO, IS, HE, JP, KO, HU, FI
Passive: AF, DK, LAT
Dabbled in: BRT, ZH (SH), BG, EUS, ZH (CAN), and a whole lot more.
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 5651

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby tarvos » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:26 pm

Nope, but if you use it too much you're definitely not from Milan. It's nearly always used in literature, so you need to understand it - but you don't really need to use it because everyone will understand you if you ue the passato prossimo.
1 x
How can you "just be yourself" when you don't know who you are?
Stop saying "Yeah, I know how you feel."
How could anyone know how another feels?

Is a girl.

User avatar
Green Belt
Posts: 315
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2017 10:02 pm
Location: London, UK
Languages: eng N; active: ita B2-C1, fra B2+, ell B1-2, ísl B1, ara A0; inactive: deu B1-2, spa A1-2?, swe A1?
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9850
x 563

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby Neurotip » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:57 pm

Agree: no. I don't know if this is really ever a problem - on the contrary, it's always useful to be able to recognise different styles or registers of language use, even when you're not necessarily going to need to produce the style yourself.
In this particular case, it would in any case be impractical to avoid the passato remoto if you're reading almost anything in the least formal or narrative - and since you're going to come across it anyway, if you learn to recognise it then IMHO you'll be less likely to produce it accidentally in speech.
just my 2p :)
1 x
Corrections welcome here

White Belt
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2015 11:08 am
Location: Μελβούρνη, Αυστραλία
Languages: English (N), French (C1), Italian, Greek
x 15

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby dedalus66 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:09 am

I would definitely concur with what is said above. It is a useful tense for literature, and as tristiano said, is used in the south of Italy quite regularly. Even if you can learn to identify it passively, that is enough.
0 x

User avatar
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2182
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 6:55 am
Location: Hong Kong
Languages: Native: Cantonese;
Good: English, French, Spanish, Italian;
Mediocre: Mandarin, German, Swedish, Dutch.
x 4068

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby smallwhite » Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:50 am

zKing wrote:
Question: Should I fear that content with lots of passato remoto will be less useful ... to my true desire for more conversational Italian down the road?

Of course content with lots of passato remoto is less useful than content with lots of conversational Italian. Now whether you should fear it I guess depends on how much time you have to waste. Why do you want to choose less useful content over more useful content?

To learn just to recognise the tense, here is a page you can spend 15 minutes on and get the job done:
https://www.brighthubeducation.com/lear ... sentences/
Last edited by smallwhite on Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
0 x
This post was written as a public service at no cost to readers.

Dialang or it didn't happen.

Orange Belt
Posts: 146
Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:47 pm
Languages: Danish (N) English (B2-C1) German (B1-B2) Italian(B1), Japanese (beginner)
x 145

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby Ccaesar » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:06 am

Function wise Passato remoto is amazing, because it is a perfective tense. Meaning it describes an action that happened in the past "passato" and finished there, in a remote place from now." It makes a text less descriptive and more "telling". Also it sounds cool doesn't it. Also if you know condizionale then you are a good way of since those two have developed from one another I.e.
"Sarebbe" vs. "ebbe"
"sarebbero" vs "ebbero"
God læselyst as we say in Danish!
0 x
Hiragana practiced in hand : 48 / 48
Katakana practiced in hand : 48 / 48
Kanji : 50 / 2000
Assimil Japanese with Ease : 27 / 100

Orange Belt
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:54 pm
Languages: English, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, French, Persian, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese.
x 283

Re: Extensive Reading in Italian - Is Passato Remoto a 'Problem'?

Postby 白田龍 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 3:51 pm

You can try fanfics for amateur writing that should probably have a very colloquial style.

0 x

Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests