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Teaching Children Italian: Likes & Dislikes

By J Sarah Metzker Erdemir

Teaching children to express their likes and dislikes in Italian is a fun and easy way to practice new vocabulary. Talking about likes and dislikes uses ideas that are relevant to kids’ thoughts, feelings, and interests, and will let them feel successful at communicating in Italian.

The Verb "Piacere"

The infinitive form of "piacere" is pronounced like "pee-yah-CHAY-ray." This verb translation in English is similar to "to like," but the Italian Flag literal meaning is "to please." The English equivalent of “piace/non mi piace” is “I like/I don’t like.” The verb “piace” is pronounced like “pee-YAH-chay.” The literal translation of “mi piace/non mi piace” is “it pleases me/it doesn’t please me,” so the construction used with plural nouns is slightly different: “mi piacciono/non mi piacciono” (literally “they please me/they don’t please me”). This verb is pronounced like “pee-YAH-cho-no.” In this lesson, the child will also be introduced to two pronouns: "mi" (to/for me) and "ti" (to/for you). These are pronounced in Italian like "MEE" and "TEE." These indirect object pronouns will be covered in greater detail in the next lesson of the series.

Since the focus of this lesson is the verb "piacere," there is no need to explain the pronouns to the child right away. She will work with "mi" first, following your model, then later with "ti" when you begin asking and answering questions with her. For now, it is enough to introduce the structure to the child and let her play around with it. She will probably be able to guess the meaning of the words from your questions and gestures without extensive grammatical explanations.

The Lesson

Before introducing the new verb form, make sure your child is familiar with the meaning and pronunciation of some Italian color and food words. Print out these Media Files for colors and foods in Italian to review the vocabulary.

Teach the child a simple sentence like “Mi piace il rosso” (“I like red”) and ask her to make the same sentence using a different color, like “Mi piace il giallo” (“I like yellow”). Next teach the sentence “Non mi piace il marrone (“I don’t like brown”) and invite the child to invent a similar sentence with a color she doesn’t like, such as “Non mi piace il nero” (“I don’t like black”).

Ask the child to think of some food she likes and dislikes, and have her make some sentences in Italian. Make sure she changes the verb to match the number of the noun, for example, “Mi piacciono le ciliegie” (“I like cherries”) or “Non mi piacciono i fungi” (“I don’t like mushrooms.”).

Try asking the child some questions about her likes and dislikes. Remember, the verb changes for the number of the noun rather than the person, so questions and answers look quite similar. For example, “Ti piacciono i broccoli? No, non mi piacciono i broccoli” (“Do you like broccoli? No, I don’t like broccoli”).

Practice the questions and answers in real-life situations. For example, look at clothing catalogs together and choose which colors you might like to wear, or you can talk about colors of clothing while clothes shopping. Try flipping through a magazine together and talking about the foods and clothes you see in the photographs and advertisements. Or, you can ask your child at the market whether she likes certain foods, and plan the evening menu together in Italian. Italian restaurants often have their menus in Italian and English, so you can discuss the food you want to order.