My (first) retirement is now already a few years behind me. I was very lucky when we were able to sell the consulting firm I had co-founded. I was still in my fifties.
However, while I was looking forward to a less stressful life, I was also aware that retirement can have its own challenges.
I had read the usual books about retirement, how to stay busy, get or continue with a hobby, etc. Yes, I also had the typical list of house projects I never had time to complete earlier.
But during the months leading to the day when I didn't have to go to work anymore, my wife Ulrike and I made plans for an extended stay in Italy.
Preparing for Italy
Both Ulrike and I already spoke several languages: German, English, French, and she also Dutch.
These were languages we had either learned as children or young adults living/working in the respective countries. Italian was to be the first language we were going to learn as mature adults.
A few months before our travels – my wife was working as a development editor at Pimsleur International at that time - we began using Pimsleur's self-teaching Italian language courses and completed all three levels of the program, 90 lessons in all.
This was an accomplishment. We felt quite smug about being able to understand basic Italian, but we also knew that the real test would come upon our arrival in Rome.
First Impressions and Lessons
We were picked up at Fiumicino Airport by our landlord's driver. When we tried out our Italian on him it became clear immediately that his English was much better than our Italian.
Our first apartment was in a narrow street above a grocery/bakery in Trastevere (see picture of Romand and Guiseppe), and located just opposite a wonderful little restaurant, Le Mani in Pasta. (This restaurant is now listed on Tripadvisor as #27 of 327 restaurants in Trastevere.)
We became regulars there, and as the owners and waiters spoke very little English, it was great place to practice our Italian.
Seeing “Le Mani” everyday when we left our building, it was easy to remember that “la mano” (the hand) is one of the exceptions in Italian, as most nouns ending in an “o” are masculine.
Other feminine nouns ending with “o” are: àuto (car), mòto (motorcycle), dìnamo (dynamo), ràdio (radio), mètro (subway), libido (libido), etc.
We also quickly realized, however, that we were far from being fluent in Italian. Yes, we had completed maybe 45-50 hours of learning with the Pimsleur audio courses.
While we got compliments for our pronunciation, we still had to rely a lot on pointing and gesturing for buying groceries in our grocery/bakery or local market (see picture).
For several weeks, our vocabulary clearly continued to be insufficient. And to our dismay, the Italian on TV was an incomprehensible garble of words for us.
We were lucky to find a tutor who discovered quickly via a first test that our Italian spelling was atrocious. With Pimsleur's Italian audio course we had not learned how to read and write and our spelling was automatically based on the French we knew.
The daily 2-hour lessons with required homework kept us busy learning for half the day. The other half we spent exploring Rome and its surroundings. We tried out our Italian wherever we could.
After a few weeks, the Italian TV garble dissolved into individual words that we began to distinguish where they started and ended. While we still did not know a huge number of words, we started to guess what words meant from the context. That accelerated our learning further.
Over the next months, as our tutor worked with us and monitored our progress, our confidence grew. We started to understand and enjoy Italian TV and movies, and increasingly conversed with shopkeepers and people we encountered during the day.
Language Learning during Retirement
There have been many research findings about the benefits of mental exercises for older adults. And learning a foreign language is near the top of that list - ahead of playing Lumosity games or solving crossword puzzles.
Learning a new foreign language as an adult takes effort and discipline. But our brain is certainly able to acquire new vocabulary and new grammar patterns through practice.
“When younger people are sitting in bars discussion politics, love, and pop music with passion, we are getting ready for bed. Since my wife and I've been married more than fifty years, neither of us can go out and find a lover! In short: The quickest avenues to fluency are now closed to us.”
Acquiring fluency in a foreign language is certainly harder when you don't speak it all the time with your partner. That's true even if you stay in the country where the language is spoken.
If you can take advantage early on of one of retirement's key benefits: Planning your day and doing activities that YOU like – you'll never be bored.
Then, if language learning is on that list, you'll open a new world to explore: articles to read, conversations to have, movies or TV shows to watch, planning a trip to a place where your new language is spoken.
Beyond Retirement – “Un-Retiring”
For me personally, learning Italian (and later continuing with Spanish and Dutch, see my post about P.M Tools.) also led to our starting up Gamesforlanguage.
Using my interest in languages and my project management skills, plus Ulrike's background in teaching and course development has given us a wonderful way of combining our passion with a purpose:
Helping others practice languages we have learned as well, and sharing our experiences about language learning, culture and travel on our Blog.
And when we get a Thank-you note such as this one from a 80+ year old woman, who had completed both our German courses, we also know that it's never too late to learn and practice a new language:
"Thank you for such an interesting way to practice and learn German. I have really enjoyed doing this each day and am hoping to go to Austria in the Fall for a week at a spa. I liked the way you varied the learning process, also that you had a score at the end of each lesson, which, if not good enough, you could redo. Thank you again, M."
So who knows – once you start learning another language during your retirement – you may also discover reasons to “un-retire” again.
Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.
Like German and French, Italian has full official status on the federal level in Switzerland: all laws and official documents have to be written in these three languages.
Romansh has "partial" official status, i.e. it is used on the federal level when needed for communication with Romansh speakers.
However, each Swiss canton and, generally, even each community can choose which language to use for its own official communication.
Italian is the only official language of the Canton of Ticino and one of the three official languages of the Canton of Graubünden.
Romansh is recognized as an official language only in the Canton of Graubünden, (the largest Swiss canton, but with less than 200,000 inhabitants, also the canton with the lowest population density).
According to an article about Swiss languages published in July 2016 by swissinfo.ch, German (both High German and Swiss German) is spoken by about 63% of the population, French by about 23%, Italian by about 8%. Romansh is spoken by less than 1% of the total population.
The Third Swiss Language: Where Italian is Spoken
Swiss Italian is the Italian spoken in the Canton of Ticino and in the southern part of the Canton Graubünden. (see map of Ticino, right and map of Graubünden below)
The territory of present-day Ticino was annexed from Italian cities in the 15th century. With the creation of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, the lands were named Ticino, after the largest river in the area. To read up on the history of Ticino: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ticino
The official name of Ticino is Repubblica e Cantone Ticino (Republic and Canton of Ticino). Because of historical ties, the people of Ticino have a strong cultural affinity to their Italian neighbors.
Ticino is the only canton where Italian is the sole official language. Over 87% of the people speak Italian as their native language, around 666,000 according to Ethnologue. (About 10% speak German, and about 5% speak French.)
In the Canton of Graubünden about 15% of the population speaks Italian (just under 30,000).
Please note: The numbers and percentages I'm quoting show some variation in the French, German, English, and Italian articles I consulted about Swiss languages.
Swiss Italian - Svizzero Italiano
Over the centuries, the Swiss Italian language has been influenced by the local Ticinese dialects and the other national languages, French and German. There are Helveticisms (words typical for Switzerland), differences in idiomatic usage and syntax, and loan words (not known in Standard Italian).
Here are a few loan words that come from French or German:
To book, reserve (a room or table) Italian: prenotare. Swiss Italian: riservare. French: réserver.
Change, money back Italian: resto. Swiss Italian: ritorno. French: retour.
In addition to Swiss Italien, a part of the population of Ticino speaks Ticinese, which is a group of dialect varieties of the Lombard language. For many Italian speakers, Ticinese is difficult to understand.
Ticinese has now been named an endangered language. (According to Ethnologue, there are 303,000 speakers of Ticinese in Switzerland.)
The Fourth Swiss Language: Where Romansh/Rumantsch is Spoken
The Romansh language is spoken primarily in the southeast of Switzerland, in the Canton of Graubünden, where it has official status alongside German and Italian. (Besides the two spellings above, there are a number of other ways to spell the language.)
Romansh is a descendant of Vulgar (or spoken) Latin. In 2012, it counted just over 36 thousand people who called it their main language. At 0.9% of Swiss citizens makes it the least spoken of the four official Swiss languages.
The spoken Romansh language is generally divided into 5 dialect groups, which together form a continuum. Still, there are recognizable differences even from village to village. The most widely spoken dialect is Sursilvan, which is used by more than half of the speakers of Romansh. In addition to the 5 major dialects, there are a number of other recognized dialects.
Although they are closely related, the Romansh dialects are not always mutually comprehensible. For that reason, when speakers of different varieties talk with each other, they tend to use Swiss German rather than their own dialect. Apparently for Romansh speakers, identity is tied largely to the local dialect region.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, grammar and spelling guidelines were developed for the regional written dialects. Now, each of the 5 Romansh dialect varieties has its own standardized written language. Romansh is taught in some of the local schools.
In 2000 a bilingual high-school diploma was introduced in Graubünden. Since then, if they wished, students have been able to follow studies and graduate in Romansh/German or in Italian/German.
Pan-Regional Rumansch Grischun
There were attempts to create a unified written Romansh language in 1867, and again in 1958, but these did not gather much support during the early days. A main criticism was that such a created language would be artificial and destroy the Romansh cultural heritage.
Nevertheless, attempts to introduce the standardized Rumansch Grischun in local schools have continued. Finally, in 2015, a hesitant compromise was reached: This unified version of the language is not to be introduced before grade 7. As expected, both supporters and opponents are unhappy.
How do the Swiss Manage?
In researching this topic, it became clear to me that accommodating these four languages and various dialects remains a challenge for Swiss communities and their government.
Resentments between language groups continue to exist. And still Switzerland, a small country of only 8.5 million inhabitants, is somehow managing.
One key may be the autonomy that the individual cantons and communities have in choosing their official language(s), and how and where the languages are taught, etc.
Maybe direct and frequent voting gives the citizens a sense of control? Maybe becoming bilingual by the time they get to school let children become more tolerant towards other languages?
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram, and leave any comments right below!
The Italian Travel Memories expand on our GamesforLanguage travel-story based courses, which use the cities' real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc. We visited many of them ourselves and tell you a little more about each Italian city.
The travel stories, which are the basis of our GamesforLanguage courses, use real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc., many of which we visited ourselves.
In future blog posts, we'll provide additional details for the other cities our young travelers visit in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
Pisa is Marco's first stop in Italy, a university town with a long history, and known the world over for its Leaning Tower.
Visiting Pisa? Here's a short introduction to this historic Tuscan city to help start your own Italian travel memories.
We'll follow Marco's discoveries in Pisa, for those of you who have done or are doing our Italian 1 course: Marco in Italia.
In our travel-story course, you learn everyday conversational language. Here, we've listed a few basic terms in Italian that will help you in your travels.
Quick Facts about Pisa
The city of Pisa is located in Tuscany, one of Italy's 20 Regions. It lies near the mouth of the Arno River, about 50 miles west of Florence and around 5 miles from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
(Note: Italy is further divided into 96 provinces, with the city of Pisa being the capital of the Province of Pisa.)
Pisa's origins date back at least to the time of the Etruscans, 5th century B.C. Later, it became a Roman colony and rose to the status of an important port city. During the early Middle Ages, the Republic of Pisa developed into a powerful maritime nation, involved in lively trade and power struggles around the Mediterranean.
Pisa's decline was accelerated after the 15th century when the Arno River started to silt up.
Now a quiet university town of around 90,000 inhabitants, the city of Pisa is renowned for its art and architecture.
[Please Note: PISA is also an anagram that stands for The Programme for International Student Assessment. That has nothing to do with the city. PISA is a recurrent study that measures the scholastic performance of 15-year-old pupils worldwide.]
Marco Magini is a young student who learned some Italian at home and later studied it in school. However, this will be his first visit to Italy.
During his flight to Pisa, Marco chats with the flight attendant and with the woman who sits next to him - all in Italian. It's a perfect way for him to practice his language.
His flight lands at the Pisa International Airport, also named Galileo Galilei Airport, and the main airport in Tuscany.
Marco continues to use his Italian as he goes through passport control. He explains to the officer why he is traveling to Italy and how long he'll stay.
Corso Italia and Ponte di Mezzo
Marco's aunt, uncle, and cousin Valeria live on Corso Italia, which leads through the city center, from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II to near Ponte di Mezzo.(see picture)
If you're in Pisa at the end of June, you could watch a traditional spectacle, the Battle of the Bridge (called "Gioco del Ponte") which takes place on the Ponte di Mezzo. Two teams battle it out: the Mezzogiorno (the neighborhoods south of the Arno) against the Tramontana (the neighborhoods north of the Arno). It's Pisa's most important annual event. (Find more information HERE .)
The centrally located Ponte di Mezzo takes you over the Arno River to the other side of the city. Standing on the bridge, you get a stunning view of the river bank and the shops and buildings there.
la città - the city
la bocca - the mouth (of a river)
mezzo - central, half, halfway
il gioco - the game
il mezzogiorno - the south, midday, noon
la tramontana - the north, north wind
Travel Memories in la Piazza dei Miracoli
No Italian travel tips about Pisa without the Leaning Tower! It's just a 15 minute walk from Ponte di Mezzo to the Piazza dei Miracoli (also called Campo dei Miracoli).
The Piazza dei Miracoli includes a number of magnificent buildings: The Cathedral (begun in 1063), the Baptistry (built between 1153-1284), the Campo Santo cemetery (started in 1278), and the Leaning Tower (completed in 1350).
The buildings combine Moorish elements (arabesques) with Romanesque colonnading and spiky Gothic niches and pinnacles.
Apparently all of the buildings on the Piazza dei Miracoli lean to some extent (which you can see on the picture above). They're constructed on soft soil composed of mud, sand and clay, which started settling soon after building began.
Because of its height, the Tower was most in danger of eventual collapse. It was closed to the public from 1990 to 2001, as an international team of engineers found a way decrease the lean and to stabilize the tower.
la passeggiata - a walk, stroll
15 minuti a piedi - a 15 minute walk
l'edificio - the building
il campo - the field
il duomo - the cathedral
la torre - the tower
pendente - leaning
il campanile - the bell tower
la terra - the soil, earth
On the way back to Corso Italia, Marco and his cousin Valeria stop at Borgo Stretto, a picturesque street with shops, bistros, and cafés, on the northern side of the Arno. There, Marco buys a travel guide.
Afterwards, they go to a café for an Italian-style coffee and pastry: Marco orders "un macchiato," Valeria "un cappucino," and they both have "una crema di mascarpone con i cantuccini."
(And, if you are like us: Many travel memories come back with the food or drinks, we tried while there.)
il borgo - the borough, district (in a town), village
stretto - narrow, tightly bound
la strada - the street
i negozi - the shops
una guida turistica - a travel guide
un macchiato - an espresso with a "stain" of milk
macchiare - to stain, add a splash (of sth)
crema di mascarpone - dessert made of Italian cream cheese
cantuccini - twice-baked almond cookies, biscotti
Other Places to visit in Pisa
Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights' Square): Historically the headquarters of the Order of Knights of St. Stephen, the square is located in Pisa's student quarter.
Banks of the Arno: A walking tour along one of the banks of the Arno River is especially beautiful in early evening.
Mural "Tuttomondo" by the artist Keith Harding: 1989, painted on the back facade of the church of St. Anthony. It shows 30 characters put together like a puzzle, each one representing an aspect of the world in peace.
Museo delle Navi Antiche (Museum of Ancient Ships): Archeological museum of ancient ships with nine well-preserved Roman ships, discovered during an excavation in 1998.
Marco's Next Stop
From Pisa, Michael takes the train to Florence. There he gets together with a friend he had met in Boston.
Have you been to Pisa and have more travel memories and suggestions? We'd love to hear from you!
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram, and leave any comments right here!
As we and others have suggested, setting your phone, tablet, Mac/PC, etc. to the language you want to learn is a great way to increase your daily exposure to that language.
Maybe you're not yet ready to do this for all your electronic gadgets and applications. But, if you're a Facebook user, that's a good place to start. You'll be able to pick up Italian social media terms and pay attention to some Italian grammar forms at the same time. (Gamesforlanguage's Facebook page in Italian, above, left)
SETTING YOUR COMPUTER OR LAPTOP
You easily can set your Facebook language on your computer or laptop (temporarily, if you want) to Italian. On your personal Facebook page, (see mine, below, right) pull down the arrow, top right, click on “Settings” then click on “Language” (left margin).
Beside “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” click on “Edit,” pull down “Italiano,” and Save Changes.
Setting your language back to English:
To get back to English, you just need to do the reverse, but now use the Italian links: Pull down the arrow, top right, go to “Impostazioni” (Settings), then click on “Lingua” (Language).
Beside the question “Che lingua vuoi usare in Facebook?” click on “Modifica” (Edit). Pull down English, and save by clicking on “Salve le modifiche” (Save the changes). “Annulla” means “Cancel.”
SETTING YOUR iPHONE/iPAD OR ANDROID DEVICES
On an iPhone or iPad, you have to set the language by going into your iPhone or iPad Settings and change your iPhone/iPad Language. You cannot do it just for your Facebook app, etc. (I imagine that it's similar for Android phones and Tablets.)
Click on Settings, General, Language & Region, and change your iPhone/iPad language to Italiano.
Setting your language back to English:
Go to “Impostazioni” (Settings), then “Generali” (General), “Lingua e Zona” (Language & Region), “Lingua iPhone/iPad” (iPhone/iPad Language), and finally, “English/inglese.”
THE FAMILIAR “TU” FORM
To interact with you, Facebook uses the friendly, familiar “tu” form. For example, “Your pages” is “Le tue pagine.”
Or, see the familiar imperative form. “Describe who you are” is “Descrivi chi sei.” The polite forms would be: “Le sue pagine” and “Descriva chi è.” (See more about the familiar imperative forms below.)
The vocabulary you'll learn by navigating your Facebook page in Italian is both sophisticated and generally useful. Besides, you can learn some basic grammar forms pretty painlessly, simply by seeing them over and over again in a functional context.
Cerca persone, luoghi, e cose - Search persons, places, and things
Trova amici - Find friends
Diario - Timeline (“diary/log”)
Informazioni - About (“informations”)
Altro - More (“other”)
In the Profile (Profilo) section:
In breve - Intro (“briefly”)
Descrivi chi sei - Describe yourself (“describe who you are”)
Modifica Profilo - Change your Profile
Lingua - Language
Preferiti - Favorites
Notizie - News
Pagine - Pages
Gruppi - Groups
Applicazioni - Apps
Seeing a Post and reacting to it:
X ha aggiunto - X has added
X ha condiviso - X has shared
X ha aggiornato - X has updated
Mi piace - Like (“I like it/It pleases me”)
Commenta - Comment
Scrivi un commento - Write a comment
Condividi - Share
Rispondi - Reply
Visualizza traduzione - Show translation
Creating a Post:
A cosa stai pensando? - What's on your mind? (“What are you thinking about?”)
Avvenimento importante - Life Event (“important event”)
Managing your Pages:
Le tue Pagine - Your Pages
Crea una Pagina - Create a Page
Gestisci le Pagine - Manage the Pages
Crea un gruppo - Create a group
Nuovi gruppi - New groups
Impostazioni - Settings
Esci - Log out (“leave”)
Centro assistenza - Help (“help center”)
EXPRESSIONS WITH “PIACERE”
To translate “Like,” Italian uses the verb “piacere” for the idiomatic expression “Mi piace” (I like it/I enjoy it, or more literally: It pleases me).
You often hear “mi piace” and variations
“ti piace” (you like),
“gli piace” (he likes), etc. in conversational Italian.
The word “piacere” is also a masculine noun and used in common expressions such as
“per piacere” (please);
“con piacere” (with pleasure/gladly);
“che piacere vederti” (great to see you);
“è un piacere conoscerla” (pleased to meet you);
“fare un piacere a qn” (to do sb a favor), and others.
(Our Italian Quick Game “Mi dispiace” (I'm sorry/I regret) let's you practice a few of the “piacere” variations.)
TWO USEFUL GRAMMAR FORMS
Familiar Imperative Forms
For commands like “find, search, comment, share, view, write, log out” etc., you can learn the Italian familiar imperative forms. It's a fun and easy way to get these forms firmly into your mind.
These take an - a ending (which is also in the infinitive ending):
These take an -i ending (with verbs that have infinitive ending of -ire or -ere):
condividere - condividi (to share - share! fam.)
gestire - gestisci (to manage - manage! fam.)
risponere - rispondi (to answer - answer! fam.)
scrivere - scrivi (to write - write! fam.)
uscire - esci (to log out - log out! fam.)
Masculine nouns ending in -o:
il gruppo - i gruppi (group)
il commento - i commenti (comment)
il luogo - i luoghi (place; note the plural spelling)
Masculine nouns starting with a vowel:
l'amico - gli amici (friend, m.)
l'informazione - gli informazioni (information)
l'impostazione - gli impostazioni (setting)
Feminine nouns ending in -a:
la persona - le persone (person)
la lingua - le lingue (language)
la pagina - le pagine (page)
la cosa - le cose (thing)
This is just some of what you can do. There are lots more tabs you can pull down, for example the “Informazioni” (About) or the “Altro” (More) tabs.
Or click on other options in “Impostazioni,” (Settings), such as “Notifiche” (Notifications), or “Persone che ti seguono” (Followers/Persons who follow you). One click leads to another and to more Italian.
Since the language is functional and you may already know the English for many of the terms and sentences, you'll be able to easily guess what the Italian means.
Whatever you don't know, you can quickly check against your English Facebook page, or look up online.
Have fun! It's a taste of what immersion in Italian may feel like.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.
Have you heard of MosaLingua? I hadn't, until a few weeks ago, while I was looking for an iOS app to practice and improve my Italian.
I had put Italian aside for a couple of years, because I wanted to focus on Spanish (and was afraid of interference between the two languages).
It's been a nice way to ease myself back into Italian. I've actually found that using a different program for Italian (than for Spanish) helps me to minimize interference between the two. (I have a visual memory. When I'm recalling a word, I also remember the visual context in which I learned it.)
WHAT IS MOSALINGUA?
MosaLingua is a range of flashcard-based vocabulary apps for iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Android devices.
It has a great, uncluttered design, easy to use layout, and a number of cool features.
The vocabulary you learn is extensive and highly practical. Moreover, you can choose what to learn and at what level.
Your learning is driven by a spaced repetition system for refreshing your memory. Ideally, whatever you learn will be reviewed 8 hours later, then 2 days, 8 days, 1 month later, at which time it should be in your long-term memory.
Currently, there are apps for 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Brazilian Portuguese, and for any language combination between them (eg. French for Italian speakers; German for Spanish speakers, etc.).
There are also individual applications that teach Business language, Medical vocabulary, and, for those learning English, Test preparation for TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] and for TOEIC [Test Of English for International Communication].
CONTENT SETTINGS, LEVELS, CATEGORIES
When you start, you're asked to set a learning objective: Travel, Speak and socialize, Work and do business, Improve grades, Pass an exam, Other. You can change your objective at any time.
Within an app, you can change the teaching language. I, for example, have the option to learn Italian from any of the 5 other languages. At the moment, my "preferred language" setting is English.
My husband Peter is currently using Spanish as the teaching language to practice his Italian. He actually says that it helps him to not mix up the two languages (as he usually does).
In a couple of weeks, I'll start learning Italian from Spanish to find out whether it works for me as well.
When you begin, you can take a "Level test" (find this in "Settings"), or you can choose a level of difficulty to start with. You can change the difficulty level at any time. Italian has 12 levels.
Next, choose what type of vocabulary you'd like to start with. For Italian, there are 16 Categories and 4 Episodes of a Travel Story: Fabrice's Trip to Cambodia.
The categories include many which you'd typically find in a travel guide, e.g. Eating, Accommodation, Transportation, Shopping, Tourism, Emergencies, Time and Weather, etc. But there also are others, such as Hobbies, Socializing, People, Telecommunications, etc.
Optional Packs for the more advanced users offer further possibilities. There are many materials included in the fee-based Italian apps, as the above screenshot shows. You'll find over 3,000 Flashcards, organized in 16 main and 100 subcategories and 10 levels of difficulty, Tips for studying, 37 Dialogues, 200 "Bonus" items, and more.
Just for registering on MosaLingua's website, you can download an ebook: "The 6 essential tools to learn a language," as well as 5 Phrasebooks (French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese), and more.
LEARN and PRACTICE
Now, you're ready to start learning the 5 flashcards that show up.
You'll follow these Learning Steps:
Listen & Pronounce: Then Repeat and Record.
Memorize: An English cue and a picture help you remember the word or phrase.
Write: You translate words, or arrange words into short sentences.
Self-Assessment: You test yourself with an English cue and a picture. Your self-assessment determines the recall schedule. (You can choose: Again, Difficult, Good, Perfect.)
(As I already knew the first batch of Italian words, I clicked on "Perfect," only to be alerted that this "assessment" will not provide any information for the recall schedule. So, I set a more difficult level and switched to "Good" for the next few times.)
You'll practice these flashcards again eight hours later or the next day, before you start learning with new flashcards.
There are 34, Dialogues. The audio of each is about 60 to 90 seconds long. They depict specific situations, such as Introducing yourself, Taking a taxi, Talking about your trip, Buying a bus ticket, On the phone, etc.
As with individual words and phrases, you can listen to the full dialogue with several options: Audio only, Audio with target language subtitles, Audio with English subtitles.
With each of these options, you learn a little differently. Following a conversation by just hearing it, allows you to focus just on the sounds, while your brain figures what the rush of words means.
It's exhilarating to suddenly start getting the meaning of what you hear.
Finally, you can choose to go through the dialogue sentences to memorize them, with the option of adding any of them to your learning stack.
Under the section "Dialogues," you'll find "Travel Stories." With these, you not only learn travel language, but also follow the adventures of Fabrice on his trip to Cambodia.
At this time, there are 4 Episodes in Italian. The approach is the same as with other Dialogues.
There are few explicit grammar lessons in the early MosaLingua lessons.
Co-founder Luca Sadurny explains: "In my opinion, it's best to start to learn a language by listening, memorizing vocabulary, repeating loud sounds, words and sentences. ... Especially at first, when you learn grammar it can be a real drag when learning how to speak. ... But, [grammar] will prove to be useful later on."
We actually do agree with Luca on this. Focusing on grammar rules too early will inhibit you from speaking. Once you have absorbed the basics of the language and acquired sufficient vocabulary, you'll begin noticing and remembering some of the grammatical patterns. And then you'll want to know more about some of the grammar rules.
From time to time, at the end of the day's practice session, some grammar tips do appear, and, I assume more frequently as I progress.
Also, under "Categories" and "Lessons: Tips for Success," you'll find a section on "Italian Conjugation." It explains the conjugation of the auxiliary verbs "to be" and "have," as well as the conjugation rules for the various tenses of regular verbs.
Some of the tips are not available in the "Lite" version.
The MosaLingua Italian iOS app, which I am using, offers lots of advice and practical tips. Two quick examples out of many:
At the end of the list of words in Level 0 (The Basics), you can tap on "Our advice on how to initiate a conversation with a stranger." You get practical tips, as well as 12 easy conversation starters. These are flashcards with audio, and a translation. For each, you have the option to add it to your learning stack.
Or, after a flashcard practice, I'm told that I've put them into my long-term memory: "Long-Term Memory? What does it mean to have flash cards in your long-term memory? It simply means that the review sessions for these flash cards will be 30 days apart."
As an inducement for continued study, MosaLingua offers "Bonus Material," which only unlocks after you have reviewed more cards and progressed.
They include historic facts about Italy, quotes of Italian celebrities, Italian proverbs and jokes, as well as further learning advice, memorization techniques, and much more.
As I've just started and have only studied about 50 flashcards to date, there's a lot of bonus material still waiting for me. One of the "language facts" I recently unlocked:
Around 59 million people are native speakers of Italian.
In total around 85 million people speak Italian around the world.
Italian is obviously the official language of Italy, but it's also an official language of Switzerland.
You'll find many Italian speakers in Malta, Vatican State, Croatia, Slovenia and France (especially in Corsica). In addition, Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina.
etc. (Source: Wikipedia)
Another example would be these two Italian quotes, which are easy to memorize and help to remember some of words they include:
Un viaggio de mille miglia inizia sempre con un singolo passo. (by Lao Tzeu): A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. (I would, however, translate it as: ... always begins with single step.)
Ho un'ottima memoria per dementicare. (by Robert Louis Stevenson): I've a grand memory for forgetting.
You then also have the option to click on an icon and "put this flash card in your learning stack (menu 'Memorize')".
The apps are available on iTunes (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android).
There is a free "Lite" version with reduced content, for each of the languages. Individual language and test apps are +/- $4.99. Business language apps, and app bundles are also available. Check for special offers or discounts.
The advanced learner can buy additional packs: Advanced Vocabulary, Master slang, Sound like a native speaker, Speaking online, Manage at school/university; News vocabulary. (You can find those in Optional Packs, under Categories.)
In Next dialogues (under Travel stories) you can add the final dialogues of Fabrice's trip to Cambodia and his complete trip to the USA, for $2.99.
Compared to the monthly subscription prices of many of the popular online language programs and their free apps, the MosaLingua apps appear like a real deal. And there are the Free "Lite" versions, so you can first try out whether you can learn with them.
Especially when considering that - after purchasing the basic apps - the all-inclusive packs are currently offered at a substantial discount ($10.99 iOS, and $6.99 Android).
WHAT WE LIKE
The fun, clean design
The feature to record and play back your voice to check your pronunciation
Spaced repetition system for memorization
Option to set level and choose categories of vocabulary
Option to add and remove and word or phrase from the learning stack
Frequent advice and practical tips
The dialogues to start practicing listening comprehension
The forthcoming desktop app for PC, Mac, Linux users
For some, the many options may seem a little overwhelming at the beginning. Once you get familiar with it, however, you'll discover many more ways to learn and practice (and to buy other packages).
While the iOS and Android apps are excellent, some users may prefer a larger screen and full keyboard. (A Desktop option is in development.)
The travel stories are like a "dubbed" film: eg. in Cambodia everyone speaks Italian. A story happening in the target language country could better address what is particular about Italian culture and language.
MosaLingua is based on memorization, which is not the only way we learn. For example, longer stretches of listening and reading - without memorization - help the brain to recognize and process linguistic patterns. (We'd advocate more stories.)
No online program or app is going to make you a fluent speaker. You need to line up other resources to practice speaking: a tutor, a language-exchange partner, local language meetups, friends who are native speakers, etc.
Both the iOS and Android apps are well made and easy to use. They offer motivated learners a great way to learn and practice their target language on the go, while commuting or waiting.
And anyone traveling to one of the countries whose languages are offered can quickly pick up some essential travel language with the apps and/or with the free phrase books you can download.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of :GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter andInstagram, and leave any comments withcontactor below.
Disclosure: The link above to Mosalingua is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase.
Play these 4 fun Italian Language Games a few times before you travel to Italy or to a region where Italian is widely spoken.
The four games in this post are just a taste of Italian, of course. It takes more to become fluent in Italian, but they're a start. And we hope that they'll inspire you to learn more.
For us, knowing some everyday vocabulary, essential travel phrases, and the numbers 1-100 has been a must for our travels in countries where we don't speak the language.
Some Simple Tips
Always say the words and phrases aloud. The more you do this, the better you'll remember them. It will also greatly improve your pronunciation over time.
Focus on practicing any expressions as "chunks" and try not to think about them as individual words. Like that, you'll directly link sound to meaning.
Whenever you can, associate words and expressions with an image in your mind. That way you'll remember them better.
It's essential to repeat words and phrases many times. Hearing or saying something just once doesn't cut it.
Speaking involves using various mouth muscles to produce the right sounds. The term "muscle memory" well describes how we learn to produce sounds that are not in our native language. And ultimately, our brain has to attach the correct meaning to a particular sound sequence.
Whatever your preferred method for learning may be - saying the Italian out loud and writing words and phrases out by hand helps you to internalize the language.
1. Basic Everyday Italian Phrases
Learning greetings and pleasantries in a language is a start, especially if you practice them so you can say them spontaneously and with good pronunciation.
There are lots of situations you can use them throughout the day - when getting your morning coffee in a café; visiting the local market; browsing in a store; having lunch or dinner; hanging out in a bar; socializing with new friends, etc.
Click on Basic Phrases or the screenshot right to play this Italian Quick Language Game. "What is it?" may be a question you can ask the waiter when a menu item is unfamiliar to you.
2. Italian Question Words
Quick questions help you to orient yourself in a city; to get information about when shops and museums are open; to ask for the price at markets; to start conversations with people you've just met, etc.
Common English questions words - with the exception of "how" - begin with a "wh-" sound (which, where, when, why, what, who, whom).
Italian interrogatives have greater variety of sound and form. There are contractions, such as: dov'è (of dove + è = where is). Chi (who/whom) combines with the prepositions a, di, con, and per - which go before. There are three ways to ask "what?": che cosa?, che?, cosa? - which are interchangeable.
Mastering the numbers gives you a great tool for dealing with daily tasks in another language. But you need to practice them enough to understand them easily and to say them automatically.
Numbers come in handy for setting appointments, paying in stores or restaurants, making reservations, purchasing tickets, etc.
The Italian numbers from 1 to 20 can be easily memorized. And, once you know the round numbers 20, 30, 40, to 90, you won't have any trouble with the numbers from 21 to 100.
One thing to remember is that from 21 on, you contract the compound number slightly when the second number starts with a vowel, which is the case with "uno" (one) and "otto" (eight). So you say "ventuno" and "ventotto" in contrast to "ventitré" or "ventinove." This is consistent right through 99: "novantuno" and "novantotto" versus "novantatré" or "novantanove."
Here's a game to practice the numbers 21 and beyond in a fun way. (Or click on the "Word Invaders" screen shot, above right.)
4. Making a Phone Call in Italian
It's quite a challenge to make a call in a foreign language. But hey, if you do it often, it'll become routine and give you quite a boost in confidence.
When we were staying in Rome, I was the one who regularly called in to make a tennis court reservation at a local club where we played. At first I was nervous and read off what I was going to say. Even then I made mistakes.
After a couple of weeks, though, it became automatic and I actually enjoyed doing the call. It also prepared me for making other and more difficult calls later.
Every call you make is going to be a little different. But with a little practice, you learn how to prepare and how to deliver what you want to say.
Here's a Game to learn and practice how to ask for someone on the phone, and possible responses. "Non c'è" is a common phrase meaning that someone isn't there. Click on Pronto or the screen shot of the listening game above left.
Free Italian with Gamesforlanguage
If you enjoy our approach and these games, look for more Quick Games for French, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.
Or why not try our FREE Italian 1 travel-story course: Marco in Italia. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn close to 750 new words.
But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Italy, or a country or region where Italian is widely spoken.
These include the canton of Ticino (Switzerland), the peninsula of Istria (Croatia), the island of Malta, the state of Monaco, and the micro-state of San Marino.
Any of these would make fascinating travels, by the way!
And, just maybe, you'll also get enchanted by Italian songs such as by one of our Italian favorites: “Dimmi Quando...”. This early 60s song, first performed by Tony Renis – who also wrote the music – was translated into many languages and later sung by Pat Boone, Connie Francis , and others. You can learn more about this song and its lyrics with the typical Italian constructions, by clicking on the above blog post link.
Learning Italian Easy & Fast?
Not everyone will agree with Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, that learning languages is easy.
But, if you're serious about learning Italian - and even before you buy or subscribe to any expensive courses, you may want to learn more about Benny's approach by clicking on his explanation of Why Italian is easy!
We recently discovered a very effective App for learning Italian: MosaLingua. We like the iOS and Android Apps and you can try out the Italian "Lite" version App for FREE!
And even if you don't have the time or motivation to learn the language to fluency before traveling to Italy or an Italian-speaking region, knowing some basic vocabulary will make your trip more enjoyable.
We certainly always find it helpful to know some key vocabulary and phrases, and who knows, perhaps they will also get you out of some tricky circumstances.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.
Disclosure: Some links above are to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.
If you're learning Italian, you surely know that what you read in books is not enough. There are lots of expressions that you won't find in a dictionary, but that you'll learn on the street or hanging out with local people. Understanding and using these expression in your conversations means that you're actually improving. Moreover, your way of speaking will turn out to be really funny!
Here's a short list of strange expressions that Italians use, compiled for you by The Language Class.
"Che figata!" [keh fee-GAH-tah] is a very common expression. It was at first used by younger people, but today everyone says it. We can translate it with the English "What a cool thing!", but unfortunately it cannot be directly translated.
Therefore, you can use it in many different situations, as it expresses both amazement and admiration: If for example, you're amazed should someone tell you: "I've met Leonardo di Caprio in person!" or admire your best friend, if she tells you: "I've learnt to make tiramisu!" You could answer in both cases: "Che figata!"
"Dai!" [dahyee] is a commonly used expression as well. The pronunciation is actually similar to the English verb "die", but the meaning is absolutely far from that!
If we want to give it an English translation, we can simply choose "Come on!" and we can insert it, as Italians do, in almost each of our sentences! For example, if you suggest to a friend "Let's go to the beach!" and he or she answers "No, I really don't want to", your response will inevitably be "Dai!!!" Or you would use it even to encourage someone to do something that he or she does not want to do at all: "Another beer, dai!"
Don't forget that the expression can also be used as a way to stop someone from doing something! If your friend does not stop stealing your dessert, you just have to say a curt "Dai!"
In Bocca al Lupo
"In bocca al lupo!" is an expression that demonstrates that the Italian language is very... creative! It literally means "into the mouth of the wolf" and is used to wish someone good luck by inviting him to be eaten by a wolf. (The English expression "Break a leg" has a similar meaning!)
The answer to this expression is "Crepi il lupo" and we must admit that at least this seems a bit more logical, as it means "The wolf shall die". When someone wishes you "In Bocca al Lupo!" you certainly don't answer with "Grazie", as this implies bad luck. You don't want to be thankful for being eaten by the wolf.
"Magari!" [mah-GAHR-ee!] is the Italian corresponding to the English "I really wish!" or "Let's hope so". It is clear that we use this expression when we really wish something from the bottom of our heart - but not only.
In fact, in many cases we would use it with an ironic connotation. If your friend asks you "Would you ever marry an American billionaire?" you'd say "Magari!" meaning that of course you would, even if, in all likelihood, it will not happen!
"Meno male!" [MEH-noh MAH-leh] literally means "less bad", but it is not used with this meaning. On the contrary, we can translate it with "Thank God!" and we use it when we actually feel blessed!
Did I really pass the test? "Meno male!" And, don't forget that you can also say "Grazie a dio!" which has the same meaning.
Mini Bio: Gabriele Monti studied Modern Languages at South Bank university in London, and he has been teaching languages ever since in many countries including Japan, Great Britain and France. Currently he loves to write about learning languages and travel.
Besides Italy, Italian is also an official language in Switzerland (Ticino & Graubünden), San Marino, and Vatican City, and a second language in Malta, Slovenia, and Croatia, but we know little about particular end-of-year traditions in these regions or countries.
The fourth-century Catholic pope and saint became associated with New Year's Eve. This was after the reform of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the last day of the year became December 31, the day of his death in AD 335.
Italy, where San Silvestro died, obviously has a special relation to the Saint and uses the term "Notte di San Silvestro" (as well as "Vigilia di Capodanno") as names for New Year's Eve.
There are some particular Italian Notte di San Silvestro traditions that you may not know about:
The most curious one must be to wear red underwear during the last day of the year. It is supposed to bring you luck, health, and love. Importantly, a piece of red underwear should have been given to you as a present, for example for Christmas, and you'd be wearing it for the first time on New Year's Eve. This centuries-old custom, originally just observed by women, is now also being adopted by men! Anything for luck, health, and love, right?
Lentil Stew & Pork Sausage
The San Silvestro dinner, eaten with family and friends, varies quite a bit from region to region, but it often includes fish and seafood. At midnight when the bells ring, a traditional lentil stew is often eaten, one spoonful per bell, served together with "zampone" (pig's trotter, stuffed with spicy ground-up pork, usually dried and cured) or "cotechino" (a rind-and-pork-meat sausage). The round lentils, representing coins, are supposed to bring wealth and good fortune.
Grapes and dried fruit are traditionally served at the end of the dinner. Preserving grapes for the Capodanno dinner - rather than eating them earlier - means that you have willpower and are a frugal person. Everybody at the table eating the grapes will therefore be frugal and wise with their wealth.
Throwing out old "Stuff"
Throwing out of the window unused or unusable stuff - pots, pans, clothes, and kitchen utensils - will "clear the deck" for next year. While few Italians still seem to practice this tradition - it was more prevalent in southern Italy in the past - you may still want to watch you head when celebrating New Year's Eve in Naples and further south.
At midnight, fireworks are also displayed across much of the country and the first day of the year, "Capodanno," is an official holiday in Italy as in many other parts of the world.
Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on Facebook, TwitterandInstagram, and leave any comments with contact.
Readers of our previous posts on German and Spanish numbers know that we are big fans of at least learning the numbers in the language of the country we want to visit.
To prepare for a five-month stay in Rome, Italy, we spent a several months learning Italian. As this was several years ago and online programs were not yet readily available, we just used CD's. Neither of us had the time nor the patience to work through a textbook.
Once we arrived in Italy, it was clearly helpful to know basic phrases and be able to ask simple questions. In addition, knowing the numbers proved to be essential.
As a matter of fact, numbers were everywhere. We heard and said them when shopping, when paying a bill, or buying tickets; when arranging a time to meet someone, making a restaurant reservation, or asking about bus or train schedules; when hearing or asking about historical dates, or simply chatting with locals about travels in the past.
We were using Italian numbers often during the day and felt pretty good that we had learned them.
Italian pronunciation is quite different from English, so you really have to practice saying the numbers out loud.
The good news is that Italian is largely phonetic, which means that letters or letter groups are nearly always pronounced the same way.
Italian Numbers 1-20
With a couple of exceptions, Italian numbers from 1-10 resemble those in English, and are not hard to learn.
Sometimes seeing them written out helps: "uno" (one), "due" (two), "tre" (three), "quattro" (four), "cinque" (five), "sei" (six), "sette" (seven), "otto" (eight), "nove" (nine), "dieci" (ten). Not to forget that Italian "zero" is "zero."
For the numbers 11 to 16, you combine a mostly shortened form of numbers 1 to 6, with the ending "-dici":
The round numbers 30 to 90 are for the most part delightfully regular.
The number 30 is "trenta," but starting with 40, the tens all have the ending "-anta": "quaranta" (40), "cinquanta" (50), "sessanta" (60), "settanta" (70), "ottanta" (80), "novanta" (90).
Italian Numbers 21-99
The other numbers from 21 to 99 should not be too difficult either. (If you know French, you'll probably agree with me.)
The Italian numbers are combined as in English: for example, "ventidue" (twenty-two), "trentasette" (thirty-seven), "quarantasei" (fourty-six), "cinquantatré" (fifty-three) etc. Note that in these combined numbers, "-tré" (-three) has an accent.
Also, all numbers are said, and written out as one word, without a hyphen.
One thing to remember is that in these numbers, you drop the middle "-i" or "-a" when the second number is "-uno" (one) or "-otto" (eight).
So, you say "ventuno" (21) and "ventotto" (28), in contrast to "venticinque" (25), and "ventinove" (29), etc. You do this consistently right through 99: "novantuno" (91) and "novantotto" (98) as opposed to "novantatré" (93) and "novantanove," (99), etc.
The Hundreds from 100-900
The Italian number 100 is "cento." Multiples of a hundred, simply combine the number 2 to 9 with "-cento."
So you have "duecento" (200); "trecento" (300); "quattrocento" (400); "cinquecento" (500); "seicento" (600); "settecento" (700); "ottocento" (800); "novecento" (900).
Note that a thousand (1000) is "mille," but a multiple of thousand uses the suffix "-mila": 2000 is "duemila"; 5000 is "cinquemila"; 8000 is "ottomila"; 10,000 is "diecimila."
Not to forget that Italian uses a period, where US English uses a comma; and conversely, a comma for the US English decimal point. So, in Italy, ten thousand is 10.000 (with a period). On the other hand, for the US English decimal point, as in 10,450.10 - Italian uses a comma and the number is written in Italian as 10.450,10 - which can indeed be a little confusing.
Italian Historical Dates
Historical dates, of course, are rarely written out. But there are conventions on how to say them.
In Italian, unlike in English, you use "thousands" (not hundreds) to say a specific year between 1101 and 1999. Note also, that Italian written numbers can get very long because they are written (and said) as one word.
So, 1829 - should it be written out - would be "milleottocentoventinove."
MILLIONS, BILLIONS, TRILLIONS
A point of frequent confusion for speakers of American English are the high numbers that are often quoted in news reports about global finances, as for example, in the recent negotiations between Greece and the European Union regarding Greece's financial obligations.
Italian and English agree on "one million" (1,000,000) - "un milione." (Note that "two million" is "due milioni," for plural agreement.) But, for the US English "one billion" (1,000,000,000), Italian uses "un miliardo"; and the US English "trillion" (1,000,000,000,000) is the Italian "bilione." Some misunderstandings are bound to come up here.
We've found that there are many opportunities every day to really learn and internalize Italian numbers:
Practicing them when exercising (e.g. counting numbers of repetitions), while waiting (e.g. counting passing cars or people), or even "counting sheep" before falling asleep.
And, just perhaps, the last suggestion may even have you "learn during your sleep." While not quite the same, recent experiments by seem to indicate that foreign words heard during nonREM sleep may be recalled better later on. We looked into this research later on in Foreign Language Learning While You Sleep?
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.