Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Italian Travel Memories 1 - Marco in Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa - Gamesforlanguage.comMarco's travels start in Pisa, Italy.

With this post we'll now cover the first city that our Italian traveler Marco visits on his trip through Italy. (Previous posts followed our German traveler Michael in Frankfurt, Daniel in Paris and David in Barcelona.)

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. 

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. Pisa mapIt 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.]

Pisa Airport

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

Ponte de MezzoMarco'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

Piazza dei Miracoli and la Torre Pendente di Pisa

It's just a 15 minute walk from Ponte di Mezzo to the Piazza dei Miracoli - Gamesforlanguage.comPiazza 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. [Eyewitness Travel Guides]

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

Borgo Stretto

Borgo StrettoOn 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."

  • 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 Arno in Pisathe 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 some suggestions? We'd love to hear from you!

Register, or log in again and continue with the Italian 1 course.

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, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments right here!

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to Speed up Your Italian Learning with Facebook and Social Media

Gamesforlanguage Facebook PageAs 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) Facebook Page  Ulrikepull 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.”

Facebook - managing your pages in Italian - Gamesforlanguage.comSETTING 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.)

FACEBOOK VOCABULARY

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”)

Home: (Home)

Modifica Profilo - Change your Profile

Lingua - Language

Preferiti - Favorites

Notizie - News

Pagine - Pages

Gruppi - Groups

Applicazioni - Apps

Seeing a Post and reacting to it:

Reacting to post - Facebook Gamesforlanguage.com

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):

trovare - trova (to find - find! fam.)

cercare - cerca (to search - search! fam.)

commentare - commenta (to comment - comment! fam.)

creare - crea (to create - create! fam.)

visualizzare - visualizza (to view - view! fam.)

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.)

Noun Plurals

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"MosaLingua" - Learning Italian - A Review

Mosalingua - Gamesforlanguage.comHave 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,Mosalingua Flashcards 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

Mosalingua offersWhen 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

Mosalinguag Learning stepsNow, 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. 

DIALOGUES

There are 34, Dialogues. The audio of each is about 60 to 90 Mosalingua Dialoguesseconds 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.

GRAMMAR LATER

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.

ADVICE, TIPS

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." 

BONUS MATERIAL

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')".

COST

The apps are available on iTunes (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android).

See also mosalingua.com for information about the coming Desktop app.

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

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • 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 FacebookTwitter and Instagramand leave any comments with contact or below.

Disclosure: The link above to Mosalingua is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun Italian Language Games Before You Travel

Pisa leaning Tower - Gamesforlanguage.comPlay 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 aItalian snapcloud - Gamesforlanguage.com 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

Question words game - Gamesforlanguage.comQuick 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.

Here is a Game to practice the 8 Italian question words. ( Or click on the "Memory game" screen shot, above left.)

3. Italian Numbers

Mastering the numbers gives you a great tool for dealing Italian number 21+ - Gamesforlanguage.comwith 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

Balloon Listening game - Gamesforlanguage.comIt'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 ItaliaWith 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, Twitter and 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.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Lovers' Language Around the World

Valentine's Day _ Gamesforlanguage.conWe thought our next post would be timely for Valentine's Day by describing how you would say “loving words” in the various languages of our courses, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés.

However, one of the sites we like and linked to before,TakeLessons.com, just published a post with the same topic.

It also let's you learn these love phrases in a few other languages, i.e. Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.

You never know where and when these phrases can I love you come handy...

So instead of reinventing the wheel, you can just read on and find out How to Say “I Love You” around the World.

In the languages we know, here are a few more "love-related" terms we can think of, including terms of endearment, such as (in English), darling, honey, sweetie, sweetie pie.

German

  • "Ich bin sehr in dich verliebt." - I am madly in love with you.
  • "Ich hab dich sehr gern." - I am very fond of you. (But "gern haben" is not yet "lieben"!)
  • "Ich lieb(e) dich, Schnucki." - I love you, sweetie. [Or, other endearments those "efficient" Germans use: "Schatz, Schatzi" (treasure), or "Schnuckiputzi" (sweetie pie).

Lovers' silhouettesFrench

  • "Je suis fou/folle de toi." - I'm crazy about you.
  • "Je t'aime, mon petit chou." - I love you, sweetheart. (Literally "my little cabbage")
  • "Je t'aime bien." - I like you, I'm fond of you. (Note that here, "bien" tones down your emotion.)

Italian

  • "Ti voglio tanto bene, tesoro." - I love you so much, darling.
  • "Amore a prima vista" or "un colpo di fulmine" - Love at first sight or literally, a bolt of lightning

Spanish

  • "Ti quiero tanto, amorcito." - I love you so, little darling. (literally, little love)
  • "Ti amo, cariño." - I love you sweetheart. (Both "amorcito" and "cariño" are used for both men and women.

If you know of any others, please let us now HERE!

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage.com has no business relationship with TakeLessons.com other than having exchanged blogs. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for further details.

 

Posted on by Gabriele Monti

Five Italian Expressions That Will Puzzle You

Friends in a Coffee house - Gamesforlanguage.comIf 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 FigataLeonardo di Caprio

"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

"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!"

Angry wolfIn 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

"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!Gratitude

Meno Male

"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.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage.com has no business relationship with The Language Class and Gabriele Monti other than publishing Gabriele's post. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for further details.

 

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Red Underwear and Italian End-of-Year Traditions

pope sculpture - Gamesforlanguage.comBesides 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:

Red UnderwearRed Underwear Christmas Present

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

Lentils and sausages - Gamesforlanguage.comThe 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

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Uno-Due-Tre: Italian Numbers You Can Learn

numbers 1-10 - Gamesfrolanguage.comReaders 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":

"undici" (eleven), "dodici" (twelve), "tredici" (thirteen), "quattordici" (fourteen), "quindici" (fifteen), "sedici" (sixteen).

Notice the exception: "quindici" (15), where "cinque" (5) becomes "quin-."

For the numbers 17, 18, and 19, the pattern is turned around. You begin with "dici-" and with 17 and 19, you add connecting letters. Italian numbers shootout - Gamesforlanguage.com

Thus for 17, you add "-as-" to say: "diciassette";

for 18, you say: "diciotto";

and for 19, you add "-an-" to say: "diciannove."

The Italian number 20 is "venti."

Once you've memorized the numbers 1 to 20, you've got a good basis for the numbers that follow.

And practicing is easy, if you just Play Italian Numbers 1-20

Counting by Tens: 30, 40, 50, etc.

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).

And practicing is easy: Just play the Italian Quick Game - Numbers 21 and Beyond

Italian Numbers from 101 to 999

The number 101 is simply combined: "centouno," as are all the other numbers to 999. When written out, these numbers are one word.

Here are various number combinations:

"duecentotré" (203), "trecentonovantotto" (398), "quattrocentoventuno" (421), "cinquecentoventicinque" (525), "seicentoottantasette" (687), "settecentouno" (701), "ottocentosessantanove" (869), "novecentocinquantasei" (956).

Italian numbers from 1000 to 10,000

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 numbers - Gamesforlanguage.comItalian 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.

Finding Opportunities...

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.

 

Posted on by Peter Editor

Molten Lead, Red Underwear, Grapes, and other End-of-Year Traditions in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico

FireworksNew Year's resolutions (and Fireworks!) seem to be universal in many countries and many of us use the beginning of a new year - whenever that may be - as a moment to both look backwards and forwards.

And, as the biggest New Year's Eve party in the U.S. is arguably held at Times Square in New York City, other countries also know how to party in their capitals or major cities. Around the London Eye (the giant Ferris Wheel), huge fireworks light up the sky and the New Year's Day Parade with dancers, acrobats, and musicians is the place to be.

The Arab world does not celebrate the New Year, Dubaithe notable exception being Dubai, where this year another spectacle will likely eclipse last year's event at which nearly 500,000 firework rockets lit the sky during just 6 minutes. This year the entire façade of the Burj Kalifa, at 2480 feet the highest building in the world(right), is to be covered with LED screens, which will be part of the fireworks, laser, and video show.

China celebrates its New Year according to its moon calendar, in 2015 on February 19, when the year of the sheep begins with the traditional Chinese fireworks and the country comes to a standstill for nearly a week. However, January 1 is also a holiday in China and in the larger cities the young celebrate the day by eating out and going to parties.

In countries where the four languages of our gamified Courses and Quick Games are spoken, the end-of-year traditions vary quite a bit, even by region in each country. The summary below can only list a fraction of the events and traditions and we invite our readers to comment and add others they know about.

German Speaking Countries

German is the country's only official language in Austria, Germany, and Lichtenstein. It is the "majority" language, and shares official status with the other languages, in Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Germany

New Year's Eve in German speaking countries is also called "Silvester," as December 31 is St. Silvester (or Sylvester) Day. This fourth-century Catholic pope and saint became associated with New Year's Eve, after the reform of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 when the last day of the year became December 31. (Apart from the German-speaking countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Israel all use a variant of Silvester's name as the preferred name for New Year's Eve.)

RummelpotlaufenIn Germany's northern state Schleswig-Holstein, quite a few old traditions survive: "Rummelpottlaufen," quite similar to Halloween in the U.S., sees costumed children with a self-made music instrument (a can, covered with pig skin or thin leather, pierced by a willow-stick, which when turned and rubbed makes hollow and scary sounds), going from door to door on New Year's Eve, singing old tunes and being rewarded with candies and sweets.

Berlin is the site of Germany's biggest New Year's Eve party, which takes place around the Brandenburg Gate; "Berliner" (jam-filled doughnuts) are a particular favorite in Berlin, as in many other German-speaking countries during Silvester.

In the southern parts of Germany, originating from Austria and Switzerland, a cheese Fondue or Raclette is often also a typical New Year's dinner. At midnight a "Feuerzangenbowle," a punch made with red wine, orange peels, cinnamon, cloves, and poured over a burning sugar cone supplements or even replaces the German "Sekt" (sparkling wine).

Austria

In Austria, Vienna clearly holds the top spot for New Year's Eve celebrations. Bleigießen:LeadpouringBefore midnight, small marzipan or chocolate "fortune gifts" (figures of chimney sweeps, little fortune piggies, four-leaf clover, etc.) are exchanged; as in many other German-speaking regions, "Bleigießen" (lead pouring) - the melting of small pieces of lead, dropped into cold water - results in a popular, fun game: the various forms of the the hardened lead pieces let the participants speculate what a person may experience in the coming year. This YouTube video of an ARTE.TV video (see also our post on how to connect to  ARTE.TV) explains to a French audience (in German) how "Bleigießen" is done.

Impressive fireworks are part of the Vienna tradition as is a glass of champagne, and after the midnight countdown, the Danube waltz plays on all radio and tv stations.

I'm not familiar with any particular Silvester traditions in Switzerland, Lichtenstein, or Luxembourg that differ from those in the other German-speaking countries and regions.

French Speaking Countries

French is the second-most widespread language worldwide after English, as only these two languages are spoken on all five continents. French is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form la francophonie (in French), the community of French-speaking countries. It is spoken as a first language in France, southern Belgium, western SwitzerlandMonaco, the provinces of QuebecNew Brunswick and some parts of Ontario in Canada, parts of the U.S. states of LouisianaMaineNew Hampshire and Vermont, among educated classes in North AfricaHaiti, French Polynesia and by various communities elsewhere. [Wikipedia]

While particular end-of-year traditions may exist in most of these countries, we'll just focus here on France.

France

In France, huge municipal firework displays are not the customary way to usher in the New Year these days. French people tend to take things more quietly and celebrate with friends at home or in a restaurant. These New Year's Eve celebrations - le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre - traditionally are a feast that includes plenty of champagne and foie gras or oysters, symbols of prosperity and good fortune. [You say "la" Saint-Sylvestre because it's short for "la fête de Saint-Sylvestre."] At midnight, everyone kisses under the mistletoe and offers their good wishes for the new year.

In Paris, the city ofEifel tower lighted at night lights, New Year's Eve becomes a visual feast: from many vantage points in the city you can see the iconic, illuminated Eiffel Tower. And, you'll find the biggest New Year's party on the Avenue de Champs Elysées, where hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate and wish each other "Bonne année" (Good year). This year, Paris is adding a first-time spectacle before the final countdown: a 15-minute video show projected on the Arc de Triomphe, highlighting the Parisian "art of living." At the stroke of midnight, the skies will fill with illuminations.

On New Year's Day, it's the tradition to have a large family dinner and to give presents to the children as a way to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

Italy

Italy, where San Silvestro died on December 31, 335, 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.

Red Underwear Christmas Present

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, it should have been given to you as a present, for example for Christmas, and worn 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! 

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.

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 most other parts of the world.

Italian is also an official language in Switzerland (Tessin & 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.

­Spanish Speaking Countries

Spanish is a national language in 20 sovereign states and one dependent entity, totaling around 442 million people. For a Wikipedia list of countries where Spanish is an official language, click here.We'll focus here on Spain and Mexico.

Spain

New Year celebration in Spain starts with a family dinner, which often take place in a restaurant that also offers live music. Towards midnight many Spaniards go into the streets and to public squares to meet with friends and clink glasses to ring in the new year. New year's celebrations are lively with fireworks and all kinds of noisemakers. In the town hall, sparkling wine and grapes for good luck are distributed.

Grape holderIn Madrid, people flock to Puerta de Sol for the city's big communal street party. But no matter where they live, Spanish people share the custom of the twelve luck-bringing grapes: at each of the twelve strikes of the midnight clock at the Puerta del Sol clock, you eat one grape and make a wish. (There are even special 12-grape holders as shown in the left picture) At strike 12 all grapes must be gone or else you risk getting bad luck. The strikes of the town hall clock are 3 seconds apart, so the official countdown starts 36 seconds before the hour. Throughout the country, everyone can watch the countdown on television. [It is said that the custom of the 12 grapes goes back to 1909. In that year the grape harvest was overly plentiful that someone had the idea to use up the excess grapes in this way.]

From midnight on, it's time for toasts, hugs, and well-wishing, but not before each person has tossed a golden ring into his or her glass, for good luck.

And similar to the Italians, Spaniards also believe that wearing red underwear on the last day of the old and the first day of the new year brings the wearer luck, health and love.

Mexico

In Mexico, a family dinner, either at home or at a special restaurant is at the center of new year's celebrations. Tradition has it that the meal should start with a bowl of lentils, a symbolic promise of wealth and prosperity. The preferred drink is often tequila. Shortly before midnight grapes are handed out for the traditional luck-bringing ritual. As in Spain, you should eat a grape and make a wish at each of the twelve strikes of the clock at midnight. The grape tradition seems to have migrated to most other Spanish-speaking countries as well.

Also, in Mexico there is a slight "refinement" from Spain's tradition: Mexicans have to choose what is more important to them: Wearing red underwear lets the owner be lucky in love, wearing yellow underwear makes the owner wealthy in the New Year.

Family Traditions

And as countries and regions have developed particular traditions and celebrations, so have many families: In my father's family in Berlin, Germany, the after-midnight snack was "Heringssalat," a Scandinavian/Northern Germany specialty that has many recipe variations. The herring, potato, apple, and pickle combination makes a welcome change after the sweet treats of the Christmas season and we are now continuing this tradition with our extended family here in the U.S.

Posted on by Peter Editor

Update on Watching German and French (Italian & Spanish) movies

CineIn a previous post, 7 iPad Apps we Like to Watch German and French Movies, I had described how to watch German and French movies by connecting an iPad to a TV (with the HDMI/iPad connector). Since then I have tried out a few more iPad apps and also purchased and installed Google Chromcast. Here are some more “discoveries”:

German Apps

The German channel 1: das Erste or ARD

Das Erste” (also: www.daserste.de ) gives several choices with a selection bar at the bottom: “Tipps” (tips for viewing choices), “Live” (which sometimes you can't stream for “legal reasons'!), and “Program,” which lets you see the currently playing program. With the arrow “<” icon you can scan previous programs. Those with a “Play” arrow you can often stream and play. (However, sometimes my iPad does not stream movies which work fine on the laptop and with www.daserste.de or www.ard.de).

Recently, I have found that rather than the app, using Safari on the iPad and with www.mediathek.daserste.de  or www.ardmediathek.de/tv works better. Just select the movies or programs that interest you.

Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg (rbb)

rbb mediathek” is the ipad and Android app of the Berlin-Brandenburg radio station, which can also be accessed via http://mediathek.rbb-online.de/tv. This app actually works quite well and you can see the latest TV-news, documentaries, movies, newest clips, and live streams just by scrolling down the home page. You can even go back and find a program you may have missed with “Sendung verpasst” (broadcast missed) by selecting one in the alphabetical directory “A bis Z.” Under “F” you'll find “Film im rbb” and the rbb movies from the last seven(7) days that you can stream. Because this app work so well, it has become one of my favorites.

French Apps

The France TV Pro app I had discussed previously stopped working for me after I upgraded my iPad to iOS 8.1.1, so I deleted it. I am currently trying France 24. The ads are quite entertaining in French, but the “News Bulletin” as well as the “Business” news are in English, so not helpful for French learners. (Corrrection: top left, "Accueil", you can change the language to "Français"). France 24 is  a news channel and you can listen to news clips in French of events happening around the globe.
I also installed the Télé-Loisirs app but it plays only short previews. It requires access to a box of various French companies (freebox, TV d'Orange, SFR neufbox, Bbox and DARTY BOX) and can't be accessed in the US.

Arte+7 Mediathek  (Arte.tv) still works best for me for French language movies. (For example, if you chose the movie, currently playing: "Plus que 6 jours which will be available for 3 more days, you'll hear High German (as well as Swiss German) and see French subtitles, a multilingual experience for French/German  learners...)

Do readers have any other suggestions for French apps?

Italian and Spanish Sites

I haven't found any worthwhile individual apps that let you stream Italian and French movies.

Italian

The many Rai apps you can find in the iTunes Store let you download some old shows as podcasts. But I have found that the Rai website, www.rai.tv while confusing, is a better bet.  Rai Replay will allow you to replay broadcasts of the last seven days for the listed channels. It takes some searching to find a movie or episode that you can play in the US, even if you focus only on the blue coded broadcasts, (I programmi già disponibili in modalità Replay sono contrassegnati dal colore azzurro) as quite a few can't be played in the US or your country.  

Spanish

Finding Latin American channels in the US is typically not a problem. Many or most of the Cable companies have them as part of their basic package. If you are looking for TV stations in Spain you can chose among five: RTVE, antena3, quattro, telecinco, and Canal+  (which is a subscriber service). Those that I tried for a movie video all require the Flash Player (which will exclude the use of an iPad), 

I also recently came across Bethany's post: Fun way to Reinforce Learning, in which she lists the following sites, and which she recommends especially for dubbed movies in the two languages:

for Spanish: http://www.sipeliculas.com. 

for Italian: http://www.italia-film.org  

I'll try these sites in the coming weeks and report on them later.

Google Chromcast

I succumbed to the urge to buy another gadget: Google Chromcast. After setting up the Chromcast via an iPad app, I was disappointed that I could only “cast” those programs to the TV, for which the iPad app was Chromcast enabled. For example with SnagFilms you can cast all kind of movies, but I haven't found a foreign one yet worth watching. (and you'd have to live with the annoying ad breaks while watching!)

However, using your laptop with your Chrome Browser and after installing the “Google Cast” extension, you can cast any movie or program you can find and play on your lap top. I did so yesterday with several German rbb (see above) and French arte.TV movies. (Unfortunately, you'll also encounter quite a few movies on Arte where you'll get a message like: “Cette vidéo n'est pas disponible dans votre pays” or “Dieses Video ist in ihrem Land nicht verfügbar” (This video is not available in your country), obviously depending on the country from which you are trying to access the site.)

I understand that from an Android device, after installing the Chromecast app, you should be able to do the same and I will report on this later.

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