Category Archives: Mix ups

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!)

 

 

 

 

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Bei fiori, bei ricordi

“Bello!” The Italian word for “Beautiful” – One of the first words I learned in the language. So short and simple, right?
Or maybe not…
These are a few of the reasons why “bello” has caused me problems over the years…
It can go either before or after the noun , and depending on where it goes this can slightly alter the meaning of the whole expression.
Una bella persona (good natured person) versus una persona bella (good-looking person).

When placed before the noun, bello has FOUR different masculine forms and follows the same rules as the definite article,
Bel bambino / bei bambini / bell’attore / begli attori.

Bello isn’t used for talking about food. For example A nice meal should never be described as “bellissimo” – and it would be totally wrong to say , for example, “Ho mangiato un piatto di pasta molto bello” . I have definitely made this mistake!!

The photo of the flowers was taken in the garden of the cottage where we stayed on holiday – the bumblebees just loved big globe flowers so much – at any one time there could up to four or five bees on one globe! Bellissimo!!!

My phrases for the day:
Un tramonto bellissimo
Ho fatto una bella passeggiata
Begli occhi
Ho fatto molte belle foto.

Why you cannot forget ‘che’

image

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the effectiveness of how I teach myself Italian. I’m now into my tenth year of learning – there have been gaps along the way mind you, weeks, months where I haven’t studied. The longest gap was probably  a whole year following a holiday in Italy . During the trip I’d managed a few conversations in Italian and was thinking to myself I was making a bit of progress. We got back to the airport and I ordered a slice of pizza for lunch. The lady asked me if I wanted it heating up ( I think) and I completely failed to understand her. I was a bit frustrated, thinking the only way to get any better would be to stay there and practice….. The year later I got over myself and carried on!!!

So my approach is entirely scattered, and is not exactly following a syllabus (!!) – time is short and I’m not that disciplined. Some days I only learn (or only retain!) one word- for example the other day I learned lo scivolo ( pron. SHE-vo-lo) meaning ‘slide’ whilst I was playing in the park with the kids. Words for everyday things that I repeat often tend to stick better. Sometimes I label things round the house. That really works. Sometimes I give the kids instructions in Italian – lets go downstairs. Scendiamo per le scale! Let’s go- Andiamo!
As often as I can I listen to the language being spoken , I watch lucrezia’s videos on YouTube (learn Italian with lucrezia) – she is awesome, very clever at explaining things. And when I’m in the mood I read Italian novels very slowly : which brings me to the point at which I left off my last blog post “an astonishing lack of adjectives“…..
I am a few chapters into my book ‘Il Suggeritore’ translated in English as The whisperer, when I come across the following sentence :

“sono una che apprende in fretta.” (I’m a fast learner)

And because I am being perfectionist about understanding everything properly and not skimming along as I often do, I realise I don’t know why ‘che’ is being used here, in fact I’m puzzled why ‘chi’ is not in its place.
Which exposes a glaring hole in my grammar learning. Out come the grammar books.
I think this is the explanation: che is being used as a relative pronoun in this situation – it can be used to mean ‘who’ or ‘whom’ (in a statement); it can also mean ‘which’ or ‘that’ . And whilst it might be omitted from the equivalent English sentence, in Italian it cannot be forgotten.

another example : la prima volta che sono andata in Italia era nel 1996.  In English you can choose whether to leave out the equivalent of che or include it in the sentence – the first time (that) I went to Italy was in 1996. In Italian che cannot be left out. Shall I say that one more time?? Che has to stay.

I remember reading this same chapter about uses of ‘Che’ in my grammar book a few months ago and the ironic thing is that I clearly am not a fast learner because the subject was still a total blank.

Non sono una che apprende in fretta

Chi should not be confused with che. Chi is a question word, used to ask about people.
For example “Chi ha mangiato il gelato?” – Who has eaten the icecream?
In proverbs and generalisations it can be used to mean ‘he who, those who’, etc – for example “Chi va piano va sano e lontano “.

My favourite mix up of the past few weeks was regarding the word for chimney- camino– ten years of learning and I somehow hadn’t registered that one and had been translating it to myself as something to do with walking.
Cammino, I walk. Or, the path.
Il camino, the chimney.
Not the same, enough said.

no laughing matter

Ridai and ridi – here are two words I have already mixed up this morning. I was wondering why the sentence I was reading made no sense at all when I read the English translation and realised that “ridai” means ‘you return / you give back’ and not ‘you laugh’. Indeed ridere and ridare are two entirely different verbs!!…. so there you go.

as a bonus for this morning I have learned a great phrase “cosa c’entra” – meaning “what’s that got to do with anything???”