Ruote di carro – All about wheels

I have had some difficulty remembering “ruota”, the Italian word for ‘wheel’ : for ten years this word has literally rolled away from me every time I tried to fix it in my memory.
I tried describing this photo of some “ruote di carro” ( cart wheels) which I took the other day, as when I link a word or phrase with a visual image I find I retain it much better.
Ci sono tre ruote. (There are three wheels).
Sono ruote di carro antiche (they are old cart wheels).
Along the way I discovered a couple of other wheel-related expressions,
When talking about a car’s steering wheel you use ‘volante’ not ‘ruota’ so ‘at the steering wheel’ is ‘al volante’.

A ‘spare wheel’ is ‘una ruota di scorta’.

When I learn new words these days I always listen to hear how they are pronounced on Forvo ( I am addicted to Forvo!!) which has the additional benefit of showing you a list of other phrases which include your target word.
Hence I found out today this little gem : “essere l’ultima ruota del carro” which in English means being the least important person, equivalent to being lowest in the pecking order and therefore not given much responsibility-
For example “Non chiedere a me – sono l’ultima ruota del carro”. ( Don’t ask me – I’m the least important person here / I haven’t got any responsibility).

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.

Ways with trees

On a family hike through the woods today I was admiring the beech trees, which are my favourite kind of tree and I felt like describing them in Italian.
Beech trees are very pleasing as their bark is so grey and smooth, and reminds me of the appearance of elephant skin. I love the way the trunks gleam in the rain. The beech trees with low branches look as though they are wearing skirts, and with their sinuous trunks they seem female to me, whereas oak trees with their crinkly bark would be male.
Another great thing about beech trees is that if they sustain any injury to the trunk they smooth over the edges of the wound,and round it off. You probably would have to look at a beech tree to see what I mean, but it is really awesome.
The Italian for beech tree is il faggio – in Latin they are Fagus sylvatica.
I didn’t know the word for bark, and ended up learning two words for the price of one – la corteccia, or la scorza.
I faggi hanno la corteccia liscia, meaning beech trees have smooth bark.
I spent a while looking at some fabulous roots, Radici, pronounced ra-DI-ci, which I just listened to on Forvo (my absolute favourite language website!!) and realised I have always pronounced wrong – sigh!  I Radici is also a feminine word even though it seems it would be masculine.

 

Ramo is branch and Tronco is trunk, also new words today.

Woods in early springtime and Italian, a happy combination…. And only a couple of weeks to wait for new leaves, Foglie 🙂

Language learning for tortoises

image

In the summer of 2016 I will celebrate my 10 year anniversary of learning Italian. Honest assessments of my abilities : shaky intermediate at best.
Given that it is technically possible to learn Italian in 24 weeks of intensive study I decided it was time to reflect on my tortoise-plodding progress towards fluency, and what I could be doing differently to improve my Italian in the limited time I have available for study.
For inspiration I turned to Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever – the author is an opera singer who speaks at least 5 languages fluently. His methods for teaching himself new languages quickly involve learning correct pronounciation before anything else, never translating and using spaced repetition systems (flashcards).

instead of translating words from English to your target language it is proven much more effective to attach the new word to an image – by using the incredible super-powers of our visual memory. I tried this today to learn a bunch of Russian words attached to pictures ( I have always wanted to learn Russian, it is right there on my To Do list haha) and it really did work! I learned how to say white wolf which sounds something like Beely Volk. So awesome.
Meanwhile back to Italian….

As temperatures here in the UK have recently plunged today’s lesson has a cold theme:(freddissimo!)
Piedi congelati – frozen cold feet
I guanti.
Il cappotto (exploding) – coat
La neve
Scivoloso – slippery
I brividi
Dita fredde
il pinguino (exploding)

Masculine nouns are exploding, feminine nouns are on fire and neuter nouns are shattering like glass in his book.

Back to plodding on – lento, la tartaruga si muove piano 🙂
Ciao !

the meaning of ‘zagara’ : a book about lemons

image

I have a thing about Italian words that start with the letter Z. Who knows why, they are just very pleasing. Here are some favourites. Zaino (backpack), zigomo (cheekbone), zenzero (ginger),  zanzara (mosquito , love that word!), zampa (paw, as in animal’s foot – i remember it by thinking as quattro zampe).

Today I found another Z word – zagara (DZA-ga-ra) which means citrus blossom. It is a Sicilian word derived from Arabic which has subsequently been adopted by the whole of Italy, used to name blossoms of lemons and oranges and a variety of other exotic citrus trees.

hubby came back from a visit to the big city and presented me with this book “the land where lemons grow”. I was very excited to receive a present, especially as it was a book, but I was also slow to realise it was not just a book about lemons –  it was a book about Italy!!

I’ve only had chance so far to read a few chapters but as the author sets the scene for how abundant various types of citrus tree are in Italy, it got me to thinking about wild foraging. In the opening chapter she describes her first visit to Italy, arriving by train and seeing lemon trees growing by the side of the station platform and the impression that this made upon her. Imagine lemons growing the same way apple trees do in the UK! Wild foraging is a fun occupation for our family. Last week hubby and older son came back with a bagful of apples from a tree on our local Common ( They had to climb for them, all the ones within easy reach had been picked already). We also make nettle soup in spring, and eat wild garlic leaves in omelettes when they’re in season. summer is foraging time for bilberries, coming home with hands and knees stained purple. So as I read about the lemons I wondered if it is usual in Italy just to forage outside for a lemon when you need one in your cooking? Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to stay there long enough to find out!!

I’d love to hear what other people forage for. please comment and let me know! Or share your favourite Z words too!