Tag Archives: learning italian

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).

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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

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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 !

Why you cannot forget ‘che’

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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.

Adventures in Pesto Making

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This week I had fun making pesto sauce for the first time! I like to keep things simple when I’m cooking, and you can’t beat pesto for simplicity. no heating required, just gather your ingredients, chuck them in a blender and Hey Presto… Hey Pesto!!

The thing that took longest in the whole process was plucking the leaves off two whole basil plants – 50g of basilico was required, that’s a whole lot more basil than you might imagine!!
Here’s the recipe that I followed, which is Lucrezia’s recipe as she described in her video (if you haven’t already, then check out her Youtube channel, she is awesome – LearnItalianwithLucrezia).
1 SPICCHIO d’aglio – a clove of garlic
50 g basilico – basil
70 g parmigiano grattugiato – grated parmesan
15 g pinoli – pine nuts – pronounced pee-NO-lee
100 ml Olio d’oliva extravergine – extra virgin olive oil
sale – q.b. (quanto basta) – salt, a tiny pinch

The recipe described washing and drying the basil leaves, then putting all the ingredients in the blender to achieve the desired creamy (CREMOSO) consistency. I had a mini crisis once I had prepared the basil as I don’t have a food processor….. before I remembered I had a small hand-held blender which just did the trick!! (that mini blender is definitely the most useful kitchen appliance ever)
Useful verbs learned in the process:
FRULLARE – to blend
ASCIUGARE – to dry
TAMPONARE – to blot

The end result was pretty tasty 🙂
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In other news I have learned some great words this week:
Madria – a herd, as in a herd of elephants. pronounced MAD-ri-a
Rammarico – regret – Pronounced ram-MAR-rico. just a beautiful, beautiful word and worth saying over lots of times !!! That is all 🙂