How to Learn Italian (Or Any Romance Language) Easily

Chris and the Loa Archeological site
How to Learn Italian Easily

Ciao everyone!

I am gobsmacked at the number of people contacting me about moving to Italy. Seemingly everyone has an Italian dream.

But the one thing that strikes horror into them is the fact that they have to learn Italian.

Others hope that they will soak up Italian like a sponge when they get there, after all babies do that all the time.

But there is a difference. As babies, our lives were set up to teach us our new language. Mama takes us to the market and says “potato” a jillion times while pointing to a potato and sooner or later we associate the object with the word.

When I was 17 my family moved to Brussels for a year. Since there were several of us kids, my parents could not afford to put us in American schools and they wanted us to learn French.

So my sister and I were packed off to L’Institut Dames De Marie in Brussels where we started our quest to learn our school work and simultaneously learn French.

But we did not simply sponge up French despite being immersed in it all day. It was not until I enrolled with my parents in the evening classes taught in French to a bunch of disparate foreigners who all spoke different languages, that I really understand how to learn a foreign language and started really learning French.

Happily our instructor was Monsieur Jons who knew exactly how to teach someone to speak French.

I have used his technique to learn not only French but also Spanish and now Italian.

And his technique was different than most because it focused on the verbs.

Every class we had with him was heavily verb oriented. We conjugated hundreds of verbs and in a one year period we knew verb conjugation, irregular verb conjugation and past, present and future.  (Conjugate means to change the verb to fit  in the sentence.)

Once we knew those the rest was easy.

So following in Monsieur Jons’ footsteps, My recommendations are as follows:

First learn who you will be talking about:

I=Io
You (informal)=Tu
He/She=Lui/Ley
They=Loro
We=Noi
You (plural)=Voi

Next, learn the verb To Be. In Italian it is “Essere”

“Essere”

Io Sono= I am
Tu Sei=You are
Lui/Ley=He/She is
Loro Sono=They are
Noi Siamo=We are
Voi Siete=You (plural) are

Practice this by making up sentences with the verb conjugation and don’t worry about putting in some English words as long as you conjugate the verb correctly. :

“Io sono happy”. “Loro sono angry.” “Tu sei pretty.” etc.

Do this until you are very comfortable with the verb “essere” and all it’s present tense conjugations.

The next most important verb you must, must, must learn is the verb “To have” and this is “Avere”. This is vital for when you want to start talking in the past tense in that you can use “I have gone”, “You have seen”, etc and it makes talking in the past tense super simple.

“Avere”

Io Ho=I have
Tu Hai=You have
Lui/Ley ha=He/she have
Loro hanno=They have
Noi Abbiamo=We have
Voi avete=You (plural) have

Again, use these different conjugations in sentences mixed with English until you get the hang of it.

While doing this also download the Duolingo app. Duolingo is a great little app that lets you play fun games that help you drill your Italian without the pain and suffering. In fact, it is really fun.

I also recommend a set of CD’s called “Drive Time Italian“. This program is great in that it starts you from the very beginning and moves up from there. It also goes over verb conjugations, vocabulary and grammar. If you have a long commute you can learn a ton. I bought these and drilled the the CD’s probably about ten times each and it really stuck with me.

I also recommend “Italian for Dummies” as it also goes over the grammar and sometimes it is great to see things in writing. Also Italian for Dummies equipped me with a phrase that I thought was odd when I learned it but later realized how needed it was in Italy. It was “Signor! il Bancomat ha mangiato la Mia carta!” “Sir! the ATM has eaten my card”.

This came in tremendously handy when the ATM in Diamante ate my card and I had to go in the bank and explain what happened.

The book has a ton of other very handy phrases as well.

OK! it is time to get started! Learn these verbs and start using them. I will write another quick lesson for you soon.

For the accompanying Youtube video, check out our Youtube channel. 

 

More Reasons Why Calabria is the Perfect Retirement Destination

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes

Ciao again!

First off I want to thank you all for your interest in my article “Living in Paradise: Why Calabria, Italy is the Perfect Retirement Destination”  .

Of all the articles, this one has generated the most interest and motivated you to put pencil to paper and send me a note and I love that.

Since I wrote that article a lot has happened in our little corner of the Gulf of Policastro and Riviera de Cedri in Calabria (Cedro is a citrus fruit only found in Calabria)

Last Summer while I was there I was privileged to be invited to attend and speak at an event presented by our mayor with all the other local mayors in attendance.

This forum was designed to pull everyone together from the various villages and towns and to coordinate efforts to really promote the beauty and the products of Calabria.

After all Calabria has EVERYTHING!

Maratea borgo

And the Italian government is now making a concerted effort to open the area up for tourism, not only for the Europeans who tend to descend on Calabria every Summer and enjoy her beautiful beaches, but to the world at large.

For far too long, Calabria has been Europe’s best kept secret and the secret is out.

So aside from the points in my first post, what other possible reasons could there be to retire in Calabria?

I gatti
I gatti

There is an amazing group of people there

During the event last Summer, our mayor got up and spoke about how proud he and the entire village was that so many people of different nationalities called Santa Domenica Talao home. We have Americans, English, Irish, Russian, Swedes and Finns in our village. And our village has embraced every last one of us.

Summer is a blast. My friend Bonnie gets everyone together for parties. Occasionally we get invited to Peppino and Rosaria’s for Sunday lunch (Which is an occasion to die for. (Read about our epic meal here!)

Festival
Photo credit Oleg Magni

The festivals!

Honestly Calabria needs no excuse to put on a festival. And why not? The Pepperoncino Festival in Diamante is a massive hit every September.

One of my favorites is the pastry festival in Santa Maria Del Cedro, featuring the knee weakening delights of Pasticceria Arrone (Here is yet another blog post all about their pastries to die for.)

Add to that, festivals for wild mushrooms, pasta, sausages, swordfish, chocolate, red onions and a seemingly endless parade of religions festivals which are so fun and amazing, and you have something going on all the time.

Fried chilis
Crunchy fried chilis with sale and olive oil. AMAZING!

Every day I find another amazing restaurant.

When I am in San Jose, California there are one or two really good restaurants near me and you have to look for them. Most of the restaurants I have visited in California have been ok but not stellar.

Where we are in Calabria we have some really top notch chefs who get up every day and cook for the masses possibly without realizing how spectacularly talented they are.

In previous posts I have sung the praises of The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao, Al Caminetto in Tortora, and Ristorante di Aliga in Maeira.

Ristorante di Aliga
Ristorante Di Aliga

But last Summer,  Bonnie and I grabbed our friends Sarah and Andy and we headed down to Scalea to La Perla del Terreno.

La Perla is a lovely restaurant on a gorgeous stretch of beach in Scalea. You can sit outside and let the sea breezes caress you while dining on amazing seafood pasta, Freshly caught and grilled sea bream, fries, gorgeous grilled vegetables and fruity white wine.

An afternoon spent gazing at the endless, deep blue sea, laughing with friends and eating heavenly food is the best reason to retire in Calabria.

For a Siciilian twist, head into the down town area of Scalea and visit Vulare Sicilane. 

This family owned restaurant boasts a compete menu ranging from swordfish served in a crust of pistachios to the Il Completo sandwich, served on a twisted home made roll topped with nuts and stuffed with sweet sausage, onion relish and delicious friend fries. It is my favorite sandwich ever created and as soon as I arrive in Calabria I head directly to Vulare for an Il Completo.

The first time my son visited us, he ordered the hambugerazzo at Vulare. Be prepared, this thing is massive. I saw the waiter emerge from the kitchen, his knees buckling and his muscles and sinews straining under the weight of the plate he was carrying.

I swear it was so big that  it blocked out the sun for a moment and my son with his back to the kitchen had no idea what was in store for him.

The waiter shoveled it onto the table and backed away saying over and over “piano piano!” Urging my son to take his time or he could hurt himself.

As it was, my son ate part of it and we all ate the rest of it for dinner that night. It was great both times.

After lunch you HAVE to have a canollo. Vulare makes their own and they are like milky heaven. Fresh ricotta is perfectly sweetened and sprinkled with choclolate chips then pressed into perfectly crafted pastry horn. No matter how much you have eaten, you will find that you still have room for a canollo and a cafe.

And unlike some restaurants in Italy, Vulare will give you a doggie bag!

Castle in Calabria
Castle in Calabria

There are secret treasures!

Word on the Strada, mostly from my friend Sarah, is that there is a little farm down the hill from us where the ladies craft their own ricotta cheese. I understand you can go and see how it is done. I have net yet been but plan to soon.

Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao
Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao

In addition there is a thrift type store where you can buy anything second hand. Due to the many renovations happening in Calabria, you can find some amazing hardware, furniture and light fixtures that you would never find anywhere else.

And as I have previously discussed, the market in Scalea is way too much fun. You can purchase anything from freshly made cheeses, to housewares to jewelry and clothing. It is never the same market twice and I always spend however much money I bring with me.

Market day
Market day

Each village has its own market day. Some are better than others. In Santa Domenica we have a smallish one but Tony from Morocco always has beautiful things for sale.

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.

The mountains

I know we have the sea and we all love our sea views but the mountains rising up along the spine of Southern Italy are truly spectacular.

The first time we visited, I looked out the window of the plane and saw the magnificent jutting mountains rising up out of the clear blue sea and I could not contain my awe.

Of all the places God created, I think he must be proudest of Calabria. There is no other place like it.

And when you live there you get to experience these and so many other wonders every day.

Honestly, there are so many reasons to love Calabria. These are just a few. The best way to discover them is to come and see them for yourself.

Come to Santa Domenica Talao and look for us in the piazza. We will be having a gelato on a bench next to the church. We will look for you.

Scalea stair case
Scalea, Staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

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