Author Archives: jtaylor395

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 However when the replicants are life-expired, out of date models or if they escape to try and do their own thing, they have to be hunted down and eliminated by a fellow replicant known as a “Blade Runner”.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?!!

 

 

 

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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 🙂

 

 

Micromastery and Italian songs

Since I got back from my trip to Italy I have been super-charged with enthusiasm for learning Italian, in fact I would go so far as to say I have been quite obsessed with how to make progress. On a recent road trip to the Lake District I listened to the one CD of Italian music that I possess all the way there and all the way back. This worked out at seven – yes seven!- hours of Marco Mengoni’s songs, from his album Le Cose che non ho , by which time you can imagine I was getting pretty familiar with the lyrics but wasn’t feeling entirely certain how this might help improve me.

A week or so later I took an Italian lesson on Skype and I was really struggling. The nouns were coming back to me but every verb I ever learned seemed to  have disappeared out of my cervello.  Or the required verbs were only in the INFINITIVE which was next to useless in the midst of the flow of conversation. Until a great thing happened : I needed the word dicono ( they say) and I remembered one of Marco’s lyrics  dicono,dicono,dicono parole in circolo. The right word was ready and waiting  for me. I swear this was the only time in the entire hour of my lesson that I knew a verb.😂

This led me to thinking why singing the language helps so much, the words just stick in your head better with the music,  and the repetition, and before you know it the words seem to belong to you. It’s a short cut to really owning those words !

This past weekend I went to Wales – another long road trip where this time I wasn’t the one who was driving. I spent the journey trying to remedy my lack of verbs by chanting all the imperfect verbs that had eluded me in my lesson. Andavamo,  andavamo, andavamo a fare la spesa la mattina. Eravamo, dicevamo, facevamo,dovevamo, potevamo.And so on. All in the first person plural for some reason. Time will tell if this will improve my conversation. Yes indeed and there were times when I wondered at what point this obsession with Italian might be considered an actual problem for me.

In amongst the imperfect verbs on my grammar book, I was also reading a book called Micromastery by Robert Twigger. Now I was finding this book really interesting because although I hadn’t bought it to help my language learning, it turned out that it was directly applicable.

THe following is the quote from inside the book because it explains the premise of the book better than I could :

“We are often told that we must be passionate about only one thing : that 10000 hours of hard practice is needed to achieve mastery, but in fact most highly successful people including Nobel Prize winners spend their free time learning new skills and activities. Whether it’s making a perfect souffle, painting a door or lighting a fire, when we take the time to cultivate small areas of expertise we change everything. We become more fearless learners, spot more creative opportunities, improve our brain health and boost our well-being. We see knowledge itself completely differently.”

Robert Twigger defines a ‘micromastery’ as ‘a self contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field’. For example, learning to make the perfect omelette. Once you have mastered the skill, you could get hooked and use this as a springboard to go on to become an amazing chef. Or, you might decide to stop there, but every time you make an omelette in future it will be An Incredible Omelette,  and that will give you great satisfaction, as well as impressing anybody else who eats your omelettes.

The book gives about forty diverse examples of micromasteries including Make a Perfect cube of wood, Do an Eskimo Roll (in a kayak), Mix a Delightful Daquiri and Walk the Tango Walk. Micromasteries for language learning that he mentioned were for example, learning a simple set of greetings in Chinese, so that you could greet anyone from a child to an emperor; learning to read Japanese in three hours by learning the katakana; And learning  a song in another language. The song he suggested learning was “La Marseillaise”( by singing along to the Youtube clip from Casablanca. )

For any complete beginners who are planning to visit Italy I would recommend learning to order specific things such as coffee or gelato (details such as which flavour , how many flavours, and if you want it in a cone or a little coppetta) as micromasteries since you are guaranteed to need these phrases when you are there, and you will get a real kick out of being able to do this perfectly! And you will immediately impress your travelling companions. You might decide this is as far as you want to go with learning Italian…. OR you may decide to devote yourself to achieving fluency, however long it may take.

Anyway I highly recommend his book, it’s pretty short but gives you some cool ideas to think about.

And I’m off to browse for more Italian music , I might need a little change from Marco,  Please do share in the comments any Italian songs that you enjoy and that have helped you learn, and I will give them a listen!

 

 

Best way to see Lucca

Cycling around the Mura storiche, the historic medieval walls of the city of Lucca in Tuscany, is absolutely the most fun way to view the city for all the family – €18 rental charge per hour for the small size family bike. Kids sit in front pretending to steer the bike 🙂

 

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