Food of the Future?!


My husband’s bizarre choice of snack food gave me a funny topic for my Italian lesson this week, the snack being a mixed selection of dried locusts, meal worms, crickets and buffalo worms!

In our house-hold there was a mixed reaction when the insects were offered, either “FA SCHIFO, FA MOLTO SCHIFO!” ( Disgusting, very disgusting!) Or “Mmm, sono croccanti!”  (Mmm they’re crunchy!). I confess that the locusts were a bit much for me, but I tried a couple of meal worms and they really weren’t bad. There was also a jar of Queen Leafcutter Ants which were reportedly quite ‘creamy’ but I wasn’t brave enough to try them before he ate them all.

“In un futuro non troppo lontano tutti mangeremo gli insetti ?!!”  (In a not-too-far distant future will we all eat insects?”   “Gli insetti sono il futuro del cibo?” (Are insects the future of food?” I think this is an interesting question, and it made a good topic for discussion. Un argomento / un tema are two different words which can be used for conversation topic .

Other words /  phrases I learned in the lesson :

  • In Italian, cows’ milk is il latte vaccino , and dairy products are i latticini.
  • Il latte puo’ causare gonfiore.  (Milk can cause bloating).
  • A strong smell is un odore forte.
  • Tranne means except / save / apart from.


We’re back to prepositions again! These ones tripped me up in my lesson….

“Fa” is for the past and “Fra” is for the future

I keep thinking I have got the hang of these two small yet troublesome words, and then I try to talk about when things happened in the past, or plans for the future, and the little words elude me!!

For example to say two years ago would be  DUE ANNI FA. Or to say something is happening IN two weeks would be FRA DUE SETTIMANE. I repeat them to myself and hope that they will stick around this time!

Happy Italian learning everybody!







Today’s Italian lesson : Lots of problems with prepositions!

Prepositions – those little words like di, per, a, in and da that join stuff in the sentence together, and you think might not matter that much : well actually it turns out that they really do matter quite a lot, and that there is no short cut to learning them. Which brings me to a new word (parola nuova) that I learnt in today’s lesson – una scorciatoia, meaning short cut!

Non c’è una scorciatoia. (There isn’t a shortcut). You pretty much just need to learn them by heart (a memoria!).

Here is the exercise, it’s simple, just fill in the blanks!!!

  1. Vado ….. scuola.
  2. Vado…… cinema.
  3. Vado …… pizzeria.
  4. Vado…..farmacia.
  5. Vado ….. dottore.
  6. Vado …..ospedale.
  7. vado …..mensa (canteen).
  8. Vado …. mio zio.
  9. Vado …. stazione.
  10. Vado ….supermercato.
  11. Vado ….giardini.
  12. Vado ….farmacista.
  13. vado ….bar.
  14. Vado …. banca.
  15. Vado….centro.
  16. Vado …. lui.
  17. Vado …. partita.
  18. Vado …. stadio.
  19. Vado ….. piscina.
  20. Vado ….. dentista.
  21. Vado …. pronto soccorso. ( A&E)
  22. Vado …. posta.
  23. Vado …. segreteria. (office)
  24. Vado …. Beppe.

Thinking that I had done quite well with my homework,  I merrily told my teacher all of my answers, and came bumping back down to earth when only 10 out of 24 were correct!!!

Here are the answers:

  1. Vado a scuola.
  2. Vado al cinema.
  3. Vado in pizzeria.
  4. Vado in farmacia.
  5. Vado dal dottore.
  6. Vado all’ospedale.
  7. Vado in mensa.
  8. Vado da mio zio.
  9. Vado in stazione.
  10. Vado al supermercato.
  11. Vado nei giardini.
  12. Vado dal / dalla farmacista (depending on gender of pharmacist)
  13. Vado al bar.
  14. Vado in banca.
  15. Vado in centro.
  16. Vado da lui. (to his house)
  17. Vado alla partita.
  18. Vado allo stadio.
  19. Vado in piscina.
  20. Vado dal / dalla dentista.
  21. Vado al pronto soccorso.
  22. Vado in posta.
  23. Vado in segreteria.
  24. Vado da Beppe (to Beppe’s house).

The rule for all the ones where in is used, such as “Vado in piscina” is that there is no article needed. Most of the ones I got wrong were for the same reason, this reason being that I inserted an article when it wasn’t needed and chose the wrong preposition as a result, for example saying “Vado alla piscina” which is wrong.

Here is one more nice preposition example to finish with : If you want to say, for example, the kitchen floor is dirty with tomato sauce, it would be “sporco di “…. as in “Il pavimento della cucina è sporco di sugo di pomodoro.”

I miei pantaloni sono sporchi di caffè : My trousers are dirty with coffee.

As with all things in language learning, repetition is the key to getting the hang of these troublesome prepositions. Keep saying it and listening to it until it sounds right…..

Hope this helps some other learners out there!


“Dolcetto o scherzetto ?” And other facts from today’s Italian lesson!

Just in time for Halloween here’s how to say “Trick or treat?” in Italian, “Dolcetto o scherzetto ?”.

You might want to talk about dressing up !

I bambini si vestono da scheletro, per esempio – oppure da fantasma.  (The kids dress up as skeletons, for example, or as ghosts !

Instead of using the verb vestirsi , you can say I bambini si mascheranno da…   (In Italian una maschera is a mask).

Where do you go trick or treating?? Perhaps just vicino alla casa (close to home), and not visiting gli sconosciuti (strangers). I love the word sconosciuti, however I always forget it which is really inconvenient. I also had a lot of problems with preposizioni (prepositions) in this lesson, such as when I said “in vicino alla casa” which was a bit wrong! AND when I said “In Berlino” instead of “ A Berlino”.

Another fact I discovered in this lesson is that lots of Italian kids at primary school (not every single school but it is common) have to wear an apron – il grembiule – instead of a uniform. The aprons look really funny. My kids would not be impressed! Also grembiule is the first Italian word I’ve come across which I don’t like the sound of. It sounds like gremlin, perhaps that is the reason??

More problems with piacere in this lesson as well. I was trying to describe something that used to happen in the past (but doesn’t happen any more) so I needed to use the imperfect tense. And I needed to say “ They didn’t use to like it.” “Non gli piaceva.”  I can’t remember what I actually said instead of this, but I don’t think I was anywhere close!

Finally when you are talking about something that happens at a certain time of year, you use periodo dell’anno, you would not use the word tempo, which is for weather, or the time of day! In the Italian city of Trieste there is a wind, with its own name, called the bora which blows a lot in questo periodo dell’anno! Which is a great fact.

In conclusion, I really need to practice prepositions, and I still haven’t got the hang of using piacere in anything other than the present tense. Perhaps I should write my next blog post about piacere???


Talking about films in Italian

A couple of weeks ago I went to the cinema with my husband to see Blade Runner 2049. I had never seen the original Blade Runner which came out in 1982 and starred Harrison Ford, so I did not know what to expect. I am also rather terrible at following film plots and especially at describing films to other people, even in English. So when the subject of films arose in my recent Italian lesson, our conversation was quite confusing and amusing! (My teacher had not seen it either, nor had she seen the original!)

Premise of the film :In a nutshell, humans have created androids known as “replicants” to do all the hard work on earth and in the extra-terrestrial colonies. However when the replicants are life-expired, out of date models or if they escape to try and do their own thing, they have to be hunted down and eliminated by a fellow replicant known as a “Blade Runner”. The Blade Runner is not a popular person.

Di cosa parla? what’s it about? (You can also ask Su cos’è ?)

è un film di fantascienza. ( A science fiction film). è ambientato nel 2049 in una Los Angeles distopica. Mancano le piante e gli alberi. Era molto scuro. (It’s set in LA in a dystopian future where there are no trees / plants and it is all very dark.)

Il primo film è ispirato di questo libro “Do androids dream of Electric sheep?” da Philip K Dick. In Italiano “Il cacciatore di androidi”.

Ti è piaciuto questo film? ( Did you like this film?)

Secondo me, questo film è troppo lungo. Dura due ore e mezza. (I thought it  was rather long at 2.5 hours!!!)

Non mi è piaciuta la colonna sonora ( I didn’t like the sound track) Era troppo forte  (it was too loud). Mi ha dato un mal di testa!!

è un film piuttosto scuro e  c’erano scene di violenza . (it’s rather a dark film, and there were some violent scenes).

At this point my Italian failed me for the rest of my review, especially describing the scene where Ryan Gosling who plays the Blade Runner in this film, catches a replicant, kills him and cuts out his eye!  By this point I feel fairly sure that I have well and truly put my teacher off the idea of ever watching this film!

Me : Mio marito voleva vedere questo film. Preferisco le commedie. ( my husband wanted to see this film. I prefer commedies)

Giulia (insegnante) : Anche mio marito vuole vedere questo film, ma non ho voglia. Ho un raffredore. è una buona scusa. ( My husband wants to see it too, but i’m not so keen. I’ve got a bit of a cold so it’s a good excuse!).

Avete visto questo film? Cosa ne pensate? Have you seen this film? what did you think of it?!!




How to say “I miss you” in Italian

In Italian ‘I miss you’ is ‘mi manchi‘, which literally translates as ‘You are missing to me’. If you are familiar with French this will be easy (easier?) as it is the same structure : ‘tu me manques‘. If you don’t know French this won’t help at all.

I have to think about this verb mancare every time I use it; it falls in with a group of tricky verbs including piacere (to like)volerci (to take), interessare (to interest) and servire (to need, to be useful) in which the phrases are formed in this same non-linear way.

To continue with some more examples of mancare, if you wanted to say ‘I miss my parents’ this would be ‘ Mi mancano i miei genitori’ – ‘My parents are missing to me’. Or to say ‘Do you miss your grandma ?’ you would say ‘ Ti manca la nonna ?‘.

Mancare can also pop up in other useful little phrases such as ‘ Ti manca qualcosa?‘ which means ‘ Do you need anything?’ For this you could also use ‘Ti serve qualcosa ? ‘ which would have the same meaning.

Other examples : Mancano le piante. ( There are no plants).  In questo libro mancano le didascalie a tutte le immagini. ( In this book the pictures have no captions).

One final example of how the verb mancare can be used comes from an article I read recently on the Il Post website, which incidentally I highly recommend for practising your Italian with easy news articles .  I came across the following headline about the forthcoming new Star Wars film :

Mancano due mesi all’uscita del nuovo film di Star Wars‘.  In this case you could translate the sentence as ‘ Two months to go until the new Star Wars film comes out’.  Or alternatively ‘Only two months to go….’

Possibly a little early to start getting excited ?!! Unless you are a huge Star Wars fan. But a great example of using the first verb on my tricky verbs list! More of these to come later.



Errori, errori dappertutto !

Mistakes, mistakes! When learning a language it is impossible to avoid making mistakes once you start speaking this language to real people. And if you are like me and you hate making mistakes then this can be a real barrier to progress. I have noticed that my teacher, who is very sympathetic and encouraging with all my mistakes, doesn’t point out every single one but mostly those that are most important, and also tellingly does not correct my accent. (This is not because my Italian accent is that fantastic I assure you, but because if adult learners of a second language have their accent criticised too much this can be the final straw leading to them giving up completely!) Grammar mistakes are not too personally upsetting though. Using the wrong tense isn’t cause for too much acute embarrassment, whereas having your accent dissected would be rather more demoralising to most people.

However I have started ALMOST  to love my mistakes because, if I allow them to be, they are the most incredibly effective way of improving. The key thing is to learn from them. Here’s the rub – Unfortunately this does necessitate more work!!! During my lesson my teacher takes notes for me of sentences or phrases that I have struggled with. She types them into a notepad to which we both have access. Afterwards i try to review these phrases and repeat them until they stick in my head.

as a result i have a load of random sentences in my head such as :

Mio figlio grande non voleva tornare a scuola. (My oldest son didn’t want to go back to school).

My initial mistake with this sentence was to say : Mio figlio grande non ha voluto tornare a scuola.  (ie. I used the perfect tense instead of the imperfect). I suppose this conveyed the meaning but just sounded wrong!

Another mistake that I made was more annoying to me because I have made it far too many times.  Which means I am not learning from it at all and that is frustrating. Whilst discussing Denmark (la Danimarca) I was attempting to say that our family visited Denmark 5 years ago. I seem to have a total block over expressing that I STAYED somewhere or VISITED a place.

Siamo stati in Danimarca 5 anni fa. ( we visited Denmark 5 years ago)

Non sono mai stata in Germania ( I have never been to Germany)

Do I have any useful advice on learning from your mistakes ? Re-reading Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever, he suggests making flash cards of the corrected versions of your mistakes and reviewing these flash cards regularly. I write down words or phrases and stick them up in my kitchen where I can’t help seeing them! The key is in the repetition. Obviously this is in conjunction with listening to the language at every opportunity to hear the words and phrases used in context, which helps you realise how unnatural your mistakes sound.

I will leave you with a useful little expression that I have struggled with remembering many times

Non pensavo!  (I didn’t realise that!)





Chicchirichi fa il gallo : exercises in phonetics

After a month or so of regular Italian lessons with my brilliant teacher on italki, I am taking a couple of weeks’ holiday break, and trying to spend it profitably by attempting to improve my bad pronunciation. I have no doubt that my Italian has been greatly improved by the lessons, (though still painfully slow at times with frequent lapses back into English!!) but feel increasingly aware of my English accent. I thought I would share with you yesterday’s phonetics exercise, which is at first glance a little kids’ verse about animal noises, but it combines lots of different tricky letter combinations ( tricky for the English speaker at any rate!).

Chicchirichi fa il gallo,

Squittisce lo scoiattolo,

la cinciallegra cinguetta,

Facendo cip, cip, cip,

l’asino raglia,

il maiale grugnisce.

If I was clever I would be able to link to a Youtube video of this verse being pronounced, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet, however if you search you should easily be able to find it like I did! 🙂

I really struggled with the word ‘scoiattolo’ (squirrel) and am still not sure I can pronounce it properly. It is also very difficult for English-speakers generally to pronounce words containing the ‘gli’ sound properly, such as ‘raglia’. In my opinion it’s definitely worth spending some time focussing on phonetics if you are feeling pretty serious about improving!! I may add some more exercises through the week as I work my way through them. the other essential element in improving speech is to LISTEN as much as possible. So obvious, so true. I recommend watching Youtube videos on any subject where the person is speaking Italian and imitating them as closely as possible!! Those are all my words of wisdom for the day. Good luck fellow Italian learners. And thanks to my Mum for letting my use her photo of the Red Arrows flying over York, just because I like it 🙂