How long does it take? : Italian lesson problems #1

I feel like I should find this a lot easier by now, but something I get stuck on every week in my Italian lesson is when I want to talk about how long something takes.

in general, I seem to have a block on anything to do with time. It has taken me 12 years to learn to say how long something has been happening for, using da for example.

“Da quanto tempo studi l’italiano ?”

“Studio l’italiano da 12 anni.”

How long have you been studying Italian?

I’ve been studying Italian for 12 years.

Having finally got the hang of that, I now wrestle every week with how long it takes to do something. A direct translation doesn’t work here. The verb volerci is used to express the need for something or how long something takes.

some examples : degli esempi

ci vuole un’ora : it takes an hour. (Use vuole as an hour is a singular thing )

per arrivare in centro ci vogliono 20 minuti. It takes 20 mins to get to the centre. (Use vogliono as minutes are plural!)

my own example from yesterday, talking about when I was on the phone for half the day trying to buy life insurance. (Assicurazione di vita!)

ci è voluta tutta la mattina. it took all morning!!

Tantissime domande, tipo, Hai mai fumato ?

Ultimo esempio: vi racconto la storia di l’anno scorso quando ho fatto una torta grande a forma di 4, per il mio figlio più piccolo. È stato un incubo perché la torta era così grande, si devono mettere 12 uova. Ho pensato che la torta non si sarebbe MAI cucinata …. alla fine si è cucinata ma ci sono volute tantissime ore!!

final example, I’ll tell you the story of when I made a big birthday cake shaped like a 4 , for my youngest son last year. It was a nightmare because the cake was so big, it needed 12 eggs. And i thought it was never going to cook, it did cook eventually but it took HOURS! I had almost given up 😂

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How to sound more Italian in 7 easy words

Today I am talking about those “filler” words that exist in every language and which native speakers naturally drop into conversation, without even thinking about it.

Those little words and phrases such as “like”, “I mean”, “well” and  “basically” which people use to buy themselves thinking time, to clarify their meaning, or just to fill a silence when they’re not sure what else to say, for example, “So….”

Let’s identify some of these in Italian. If you get the hang of sprinkling them into your chat I guarantee that conversation will go along better and you will ultimately feel more Italian!

1. “Ehhh” This first one isn’t even a word, more a thinking sound, the equivalent of “ummm…” in English. But why not start converting to the Italian version instead?!

2. “Tipo” – This word is equivalent to the English “like” or “I mean”, used when you’re stuck in your thoughts and need a little more time, or to introduce an example.

3. “ Cioè” – this little word is incredibly common, another way of saying “I mean”, to sort of clarify or better explain your previous statement.

4. “Beh” – This simply means “well…” as in the ‘thinking’ well you use when you’re a bit unsure about something. Don’t say it too many times though or you risk sounding like an Italian sheep 😂

5. “Diciamo” – Literally meaning “let’s say” in English, this can be liberally used in conversations when you’re trying to explain something.

6. “Praticamente” – with the meaning of “basically” in English, this is a very useful word if you need some extra thinking time, as with its 4 syllables you can draw it out  a bit whilst you figure out what to say next!

7. “Allora” – Last but not least, I love “allora” which has many meanings in different contexts but very commonly is used to mean “So…”. Incredibly useful as a filler! And at the start of a question for example, “Allora, cosa facciamo?”… “so, what are we doing?”.

Seven is the magic number for today, although arguably I really should also have included “quindi” seeing as that’s very very common as well. That one can save for next time.

Ciao, a presto!

The meaning of poliziesco

 

I have not been a good Italian student lately, I have to confess.  Although I restarted my lessons after a long break, they have only been monthly and in between I have just read the occasional news articles from il post or sometimes watched an Italian video. The end result of this is that lessons have been funny and full of mix-ups but clearly any progress has stalled!!

In yesterday’s lesson I decided that I had been lazy (pigra) previously by not asking many questions in the flow of conversation, so I attempted to challenge myself … “Dovrei fare piu’ domande,” (I should ask more questions), I pointed out at the beginning of the lesson, so my lovely teacher patiently waited whilst I attempted to put together some questions. In English my favourite subject is books that I’ve read, so I asked her what she likes to read, and then managed to tell her that I like reading crime novels, however I mixed up the word “poliziesco” which means crime novel, with the word “poliziotto” which means policeman.

mi piace leggere un poliziotto… I like to read a policeman.

Not really what I was intending, however I try to believe that all my mistakes are useful, as I might remember them and not make them again? Partially true in my case, as there are some mistakes I have definitely made way too many times. Fortunately my teacher is incredibly patient!!

Another fact : Italian also has another word for a crime novel “il giallo” which is the word for “yellow”.

At the moment I am working my way through the wonderful commissaire Adamsberg series by Fred Vargas, in a combination of English and French versions ( the reason for my lapse in Italian studies, being the French distraction!!!). Fred Vargas is a French author (scrittrice francese) and is also a lady! The books are very quirky, funny and dark at the same time. You don’t expect to find too much humour in a crime novel, but she makes it work  in a surprising way.

Anyway I could talk about books all day….

i plan to write my next blog post on the topic of words to describe books in Italian for any bookworms out there,

ciao a presto!

 

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.

AND TO END WITH :

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?!!