Category Archives: new vocabulary

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???


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!)





When vassoio doesn’t sound like a tray

The other day I learned the Italian word for tray, il vassoio, and had one of those moments of incredulity when I looked at the dictionary. Vassoio? Tray? Really? naah, that can’t be right. Vassoio does not seem like it would mean tray. I could believe it meant vase, or some other kind of vessel, that would be fine with me; For example annaffiatoio means watering can, and I am happy with that. However, a translation of a word is not something you can argue with, it just is ! This internal struggle made me smile as I could have ended up thinking I’m the only one to have issues like this with vocabulary, had I not recently read a book by Rachel Cusk, called The Last Supper : A summer in Italy. 

Towards the beginning of the book she talks about her approach to learning Italian, and how she likes learning vocabulary:

“It is in the area of vocabulary that I feel my resources can be most securely invested. An identifiable object has a kind of neutrality, like Switzerland : It is a place that seems to offer the possibility of agreement. I have no difficulty with an armchair being una poltrona or a rug il tappeto : indeed I almost prefer calling a mirror uno specchio , for it seems to suit it better.”

This is all fine until she reaches the word scarpa 

“But sometimes I cannot escape the feeling that the word in my hand is counterfeit money, for there are other words that have no ring of truth about them at all. They are false somehow, I can’t believe they’ll work. How could a scarpa for instance be the same thing as a shoe? If i went into a shop and asked for a pair of scarpe, I would surely be handed a brace of woodland fowl, or two fish with particularly bony spines..”

I think this is my problem too in this case, for some reason I am unwilling to relinquish the reliable tray-ness of my native word.. although I have no problem with accepting the translation for the majority of other Italian words I have so far come across.

I would love to hear if anyone else has experienced a similar problem with learning a particular word, an Italian word, or in fact a word in any other language, especially Latin 😉




The cat purrs

I thought it might be nice to share my discovery, my favourite new phrase that I learned yesterday in my Italian lesson – at least for any cat-lovers out there who might like to talk about their cat purring. My teacher recommended that I should listen to a canzone carina “La Gatta” by Gino Paoli, after I had confessed to her that I didn’t know that la gatta existed in Italian, and had thought cats were always referred to as il gatto, whether male or female. She shared the lyrics with me ( il testo ), and the song is about a cat who has a macchia nera sul muso, just like my cat 🙂

The song continues like this:

Se la chitarra suonava, la gatta faceva le fusa, ed una stellina scendeva vicina, vicina, poi mi sorrideva e se ne tornava su.

When I translated faceva le fusa, I realised that listening to the guitar made the cat purr…. so my new phrase of the day is Il mio gatto fa le fusa (my cat purrs) because my cat is a boy cat!

After having spent a while this week studying pronominal verbs – farcela, andarsene, cavarsela, avercela – I also discovered that hidden in this song is another such pronominal verb – tornarsene –  which was a new one for me. The little star smiled and returned back up.

My particular favourite of the pronominal verbs I learned about is farcela ( to manage to do something) which is great to use in conversation at a moment of triumph – Ce l’ho fatta! I did it! I managed to do it! Remember it next time you want to celebrate something good that you have achieved in Italian 🙂 🙂