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Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘In Other Words’ & A Language That Touched My Soul

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “In Other Words” is a beautiful memoir of studying the Italian language! Since I am learning Italian I could relate to many of the things she mentions in the book. It is almost unbelieavble but true but there were parts in the book where I felt she was talking about me!

I could feel her sense of helplessness and passion. I could feel her frustrations and achivements. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri is an honest account of her Italian journey. There were many passages that resonated with me clearly. In the end, I felt a yearning to visit Italy again, to hear the language, to speak it and to understand it better than before.

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

When she talks about learning the language: “Because in the end to learn a language, to feel connected to it, to have a dialogue, however childlike however imperfect.”

When she talks about Florence: “I love this trip. I go out of the house leaving behind the rest of my life. Each time it feels like a small flight.”

When she talks about reading in Italian: “I find that reading in another language is more intimate, we don’t come from the same place, from the same family.”

When she gets restless while learning: “Often, awake and restless in the middle of the night, I go to the desk to compose some paragraphs in Italian. It is absolutely a secret project.”

When she reads in Italian: “When I read in Italian, I feel like a guest, a traveller.” -“Maybe because in Italian I have the freedom to be imperfect”

When she compares Italian to Venice: -“My writing in Italian is just like a bridge, something constructed, fragile. English flows under my feet”.

When she talks about publishing the book in Italian: -“In Other Words will now have an identity independent of me. The first readers will be Italians; it will be found, first, in Italian bookstores. In time it will be translated, transformed.” Thank you, Jhumpa Lahiri for a wonderful memoir. It made me feel so much more connected to Italy and the Italian language. I hope that one day I will pen down a book about my language learning too. Because after all Italian has left me smitten.It is a language that has touched my soul….!

Buy the book.

More books by Jhumpa Lahiri

Further Reading:

84 Comments

  • Valorie Grace Hallinan
    July 3, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    I have been wanting to read this, love your post! Can’t wait to dip into the book!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      July 4, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Yay. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      Reply
  • Eva
    June 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Wishlisted!! As a language learner myself, I am curius to get to know this book a little better! I will buy it after the summer (I have a few books tor ead before that were just waiting for my summer vacation)!!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      June 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      I could connect to it very well. Hope you like it!

      Reply
  • Vino Travels
    March 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    You’ve definitely intrigued me to read this book. Learning Italian is my life’s struggle.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      March 12, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Is it a struggle? How well do you know. I’m learning it and it’s definitely complicated but fun.

      Reply
    • Ishita
      March 12, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      You l love the book 😉

      Reply
  • The Recent book loves | Avi + Random
    March 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    […] Read: Ishita on “In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri […]

    Reply
    • Ishita
      March 4, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks Avinash for linking my post 🙂

      Reply
  • collectorscabinet
    February 22, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for highlighting this book! I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing, especially her short stories set in Italy, which now make perfect sense. I haven’t seen any reviews for this in the UK, so wouldn’t have heard of this without your post. Now I want to buy it.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I am glad you saw my post. Please read this book ASAP 😀

      Reply
  • milashy
    February 22, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Those few excerpts from the book have made me all the more eager to read the book. I’m impatient until it reaches Qatar…
    I love learning new languages as I feel that we are not just learning a new language but also connecting to their culture, traditions, people and everything…
    When I met a couple of Koreans while travelling in Salzburg and when I managed to speak to them in their language as much as I can… my happiness knew no boundaries (I learned Korean by watching the dramas and everyone in my house were fed up of my Korean fever..) I was happy that I proved that those hours wasted in front of the screen was not futile… That feeling of being able to speak (their) a language and be able to relate to them…. no words to describe them..

    Hope u can unleash ur Italian fluency in Italy soon..

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 22, 2016 at 8:15 am

      Thanks Simnshy for those beautiful words. Today I dreamt that I was speaking Italian in a small village in Italy and the lady was laughing at me. Imagine my language learning has taken new levels 😉 Its even coming in my dream now. Haha! But I really want that day to come just like you experienced in Salzburg. Btw how was the travel?? Hope you can read the book soon 🙂

      Reply
      • milashy
        February 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        Travels are always nice for wanderlusts like us… I’m planning on my next short trip in March.. When is your next visit to Italy? Maybe v can make it together next time… 🙂

        Reply
        • Ishita
          February 23, 2016 at 8:54 am

          Absolutely true. Somewhere in spring too 🙂 shall keep you posted

          Reply
      • Ishita
        June 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        When is your next visit to Italy? I went in April but forgot to inform you 🙁

        Reply
  • Manja Mexi Movie
    February 18, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Saved this title too 🙂 My Italian is only progressing slowly. Always glad to read about how others do it.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 18, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Happy to hear 🙂 Thank u!

      Reply
  • hcyip
    February 17, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Interesting, I didn’t know Jhumpa Lahiri was writing this book. I liked her last book The Lowland. That is incredibly impressive that she wrote this in Italian.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 17, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      I know it was a shocker to me too last year. I would love to read it in Italian someday

      Reply
  • visitor2earth
    February 15, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    What a great review of an amazing writer! Did you also get to read “The Lowland”? It’s the only book she’s written that I’ve read so far, but after your review I definitely get to read this one as well. I’m always looking for good stories on traveling…

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 15, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks so much 🙂 means a lot! I have read almost all her books, and love them <3 you must read! Any ones in particular that you want on traveling? I could suggest some

      Reply
      • visitor2earth
        February 15, 2016 at 9:15 pm

        I’m happy for any suggestions. It doesn’t need to be about traveling in particular(although it would be great), but what I’m looking for is books where the characters get in touch with people from different places and cultures. That’s why I’ve especially enjoyed “Lost in Translation” by Eva Hoffman (just to give you an example).
        I’m very grateful for the hint on this book as it includes the aspect of language learning – the connection and intimacy when doing so is really there!
        Also, your motivation for learning Italian definitely deserves a huge credit 😉

        Reply
      • Ishita
        February 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

        Oh nice, I am going to check this book out 🙂 And thanks a lot. It helps more when you are encouraged. Meanwhile why don’t you try How to be both by Ali Smith, Il bel centro by Michelle Damiani and Port of No return by Michelle Saftich.. These were my last year’s reads on Italy 🙂

        Reply
  • Browsing the Atlas
    February 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    She is such a wonderful writer. I can’t imagine publishing a book in a language other than your own! Wow! She is the cover interview for Writer’s Digest next month. I just got my copy in the mail yesterday. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 15, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Thank youfor stopping by. I love her works too 😀 Hope you enjoy it!

      Reply
  • the italian language specialist
    February 13, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Italian in Italy's Blog and commented:
    I read an article on the New Yorker about this book some weeks ago. I look forward reading this book, her adventure is the adventure of us all – when we start our travel in a foreign language…

    Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks for the reblog 🙂 did you read the book?

      Reply
  • the italian language specialist
    February 13, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I came to know about this book through a beautiful, long article on the New Yorker, some weeks ago. I felt irritated, then involved, then captured. Now I absolutely look forward reading the book.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 15, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Thanks for the reblog 😀 I hope you enjoy it

      Reply
  • MyBookJacket
    February 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I didn’t know it was out already! Lovely. And I enjoyed your post a lot. I’ve never thought of learning Italian but I’m learning French and the very thought of speaking in it, sounding the way French speakers sound has me giddy with excitement.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      It is and you must read then 🙂 Hope you enjoy. Thanks for the follow 😀 I feel the same when I speak in Italian!

      Reply
  • Mary Louise Tucker
    February 13, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this so beautifully and reminding me, in the busy day to day life we all lead, that I am going to read this book. I’m also trying to acquire Italian fully.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Ciao! did you buy this book?

      Reply
      • Mary Louise Tucker
        June 20, 2016 at 1:53 pm

        Yes, I bought the ebook for a recent trip to italy. It’s on my tablet. MLT

        Reply
  • ravenhawks magazine
    February 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Reblogged this on ravenhawks' magazine and commented:
    I hope you become as fluent in the language as you wish to be. I have smattering of several languages running around in my head. I learned German while living in Germany it seems that was my fate in learning languages, I lived in the country I learned the language. My latest foray was Welsh that too is faded into memory. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Thnak you as always for sharing and your insights 🙂 Wonderful! so inpsiring 😀

      Reply
  • voguishlychic
    February 12, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Beautiful one Ishita. Jhumpa Lahiri’s other books are good too. Its amazing how learning a language helps in rediscovering yourself 💞💞 And I am waiting for the day you pen down your thoughts in Italian

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 12, 2016 at 9:39 am

      Thanks Jovita. It helped me a know a side of me that I wasn’t sure I had. Me too 😀 I can’t wait. Even if I am old and wrinkly I will enjoy it 😉 Thank you for your words 🙂

      Reply
  • noreenmcg
    February 12, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Thanks for posting Ishita! Will check this book out.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 12, 2016 at 7:13 am

      Prego, Noreen. Enjoy!

      Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Ciao! did you buy this book?

      Reply
      • noreenmcg
        July 1, 2016 at 3:18 am

        Not yet Ishita! It’s in my wishlist though. I don’t seem to have enough time to do any reading lately!

        Reply
        • Ishita
          July 1, 2016 at 9:49 am

          I understand, hope you can soon 🙂

          Reply
  • Francesca
    February 12, 2016 at 2:39 am

    I must buy this book too. I remember my own experience learning Italian ( from 1991 through to 1995) and then later teaching Italian. And my first solo trip to stay in Siemna and attending La Scuola di Dante Alighieri for a month. All my memories of that period are still very stark and charged with fear and delight.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 12, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Wow. That’s so inspiring for a newbee like me. Thanks for sharing the info. I hope someday I can speak Italian .. It seems like a long way right now!

      Reply
      • Francesca
        February 12, 2016 at 7:58 am

        Good luck- it is a beautiful language to learn. My lecturer told me once that learning 20 new words a day helps. Also listen to Italian radio online every day, as well as reading and writing. Don’t use google translate- it isn’t helpful for learners. Paste new verb constructions on walls, toilet doors etc. Become immersed.

        Reply
        • Ishita
          February 12, 2016 at 9:38 am

          I think that is what I am not doing 🙁 thanks for this. I really needed this. Any tips on where I should learn new words from? Should I rely on the teacher?

          Reply
          • Francesca
            February 14, 2016 at 3:38 am

            I always kept a little handwritten ‘quaderno’ for this. My new words each day tended to be based on my interests and came from the dictionary. Consequently I never learnt the Italian words for tools or car parts….

            Reply
            • Ishita
              February 15, 2016 at 10:07 am

              Okay thanks that’s useful 🙂 I don’t think I will too for car parts 😉

              Reply
            • Ishita
              March 13, 2016 at 5:04 pm

              Did you buy the book Francesca? Also your tips really helped. I have kept a quaderno for my verbs. Also would love any other tips as and when you think of. I will try to read the paper bit by bit.

              Reply
              • Francesca
                March 15, 2016 at 2:10 am

                Name things in your life. Nouns are so easy to remember. Label things in your kitchen, wardrobe, bathroom. Talk to yourself. Have Italian conversations with yourself. Listen to Italian music and sing ( download the lyrics to learn the words- this helps all children in school so it should help adults. ) Little songs like ‘Volare’ or Fra Martino ( Frere Jacjues/brother Jack). Get a Schaum text book and do a grammar exercise or two everyday. Listen to Italian broadcasts when driving.

              • Ishita
                March 15, 2016 at 7:24 am

                Thank you!! Molto useful 😉 I’m going to do whatever I can ..

              • Francesca
                March 15, 2016 at 2:13 am

                The book- I’m glad you reminded me. I have just acquired a copy on my Kindle. Thanks Ishita.

              • Ishita
                March 15, 2016 at 7:23 am

                Yay 🙂 n prego

  • Image Earth Blog
    February 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Great review! Just spent 3 months driving through France, Spain, and Italy in a motorhome.

    My Spanish and French are so, so as I understand more than I can articulate. However, I speak Italian and make myself understood about 90% of the time. Knowing the language whilst travelling in a country gives you such a rich experience, especially with such a passionate people as Italians. I love speaking Italian!

    I wish someone would invent a computer chip that pops into your head and instantly you can speak the language for which country you’re travelling. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 12, 2016 at 7:15 am

      You are lucky if you speak 90%. Your jobs done then 😉 traveling in Italy gets better when you know their words, when you understand their daily life. Truly rich. Thanks for sharing 🙂 n I wish too 😉

      Reply
      • Image Earth Blog
        February 12, 2016 at 3:51 pm

        Agreed but you also need the hands/arm actions! 🙂 I’ve been to Italy 3 times now and will be there again after a 3-month volunteer stint in Thailand (leave on the 14th). Australians only get 90 days in a 180-day period in Schengen countries but this time I’m applying for EU Citizenship as I’d love to live there full time.

        I have a slight advantage, my father was Italian and my mother was Croatian, so we spoke English and Italian as children although I never studied the language (grammar). Although I hadn’t spoken Italian much for over 25 years, after being in the country for just one week, it all comes back. You lose some of the vocab and my grammar isn’t spot on but they understand me so that’s a bonus! 😉

        Reply
        • Ishita
          February 12, 2016 at 4:14 pm

          True but at least you are half way there 😀 Nice to know about you 🙂 Good luck and safe travels 🙂

          Reply
  • QUILTandCAFE
    February 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks for the review, just love her other books and can’t wait to read this one as well.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Welcome 🙂 I hope you read it soon!

      Reply
  • lindaravello
    February 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Just ordered thee book Ishita – LOVE the dual language format and I have resonance with her, as I was flung into the French language when I went to live in France six years ago, frustrating thing is I will be away when it arrives – something to look forward to when I get back – thanks again

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      That was quick, I am glad I made it happen 😉 Yep definitely but still worth the love when Italians look at you pleased to see you are learning and trying 😀

      Reply
  • lindaravello
    February 11, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I’vemade tentative steps into learning Italian also, but now I am back in the UK for a while, I am scared of losing my French, so have put Italian aside for a while….Going to check this book out though – thanks for posting xx

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Thanks Linda 🙂 I hope you can get back at it. Buona fortuna

      Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Ciao Linda! I wanted to ask you, did you buy this book? And how was the honeymoon 🙂

      Reply
      • lindaravello
        June 21, 2016 at 12:06 am

        YES, I have it – I have put it away to take to Italy with me in August…..honeymoon was wonderful – you must go to Malta (if you have not already been) I included it in not the last post – but the two previous xxx

        Reply
        • Ishita
          June 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

          I haven’t 🙂 thanks for the tip!

          Reply
  • kiki1469
    February 11, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    I can’t wait to read this as well. I love her writing and now she’s doing it in Italian. I’ve been looking forward to this. Learning a language is definitely a journey and she. An captures thoughts and processes so well.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Absolutely true 😀 Happy reading!

      Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Ciao! I wanted to ask you, did you buy this book?

      Reply
  • Michael Philip Atkins
    February 11, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    As someone who has spent years learning Japanese and a couple of other languages, I am looking forwaed to checking out this book to see how it relates. Learning new languages for me has been a wonderful experience and journey into understanding the lives and cultures of the people who speak thise languages. Always worth the effort to learn other languages.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Wow, how inspiring Michael. Please do. Thank you for always reading and stopping by.

      Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      You will be sure to like it. I love cultures and different perspectives on societies too, its a great journey

      Reply
    • Ishita
      June 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Ciao! I wanted to ask you, did you buy this book?

      Reply
  • Michelle Williams
    February 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    What an amazing book. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      It is Michelle. Being a fellow Italophile, I guarantee you it will give you goosebumps

      Reply
  • margieinitaly
    February 11, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Wonderful post Ishita! I have to order this book. Thank you to introducing me to this amazing author!!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      You must, and you will like her other books as well 🙂 n Thank you

      Reply
  • priyankamahajan26
    February 11, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Italian loverssssss ::)

    Reply
  • hilltopheaven
    February 11, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    I have spent the last two years learning to speak very imperfect French so can really relate to this!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      February 11, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      I hope you are doing good on it, it is frustrating, challenging as well as fun 🙂

      Reply

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