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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. 

 

#calabriaisbooming!

View from the terrace
Sun
Orso Marso
Chris at the top of the hill Orso Marso

Ciao Belli!

If you are in any way, shape or form an Italophile, I am sure you are always on the lookout for hidden treasures and tucked away gems. You are interested in tiny hill towns bursting with culture and community and perhaps you have even thought about purchasing a property in one of these little pockets of beauty, tight knit community, culture and history.

Pete and I have been drawn to Italy since we were both teens and young adults when we visited Italy and each made a decision that some day we would make it a huge part of our lives.

That day came in 2011 when we purchased our house in the little Calabrian hill town of Santa Domenica Talao.

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao

At that time we saw the treasure that was this town and all the other hill towns and seaside villages that dotted the mountains and shores of Calabria. And we could not believe that they were not overrun with tourists breathlessly discovering the spectacular mountains, the freshest air, the beautiful crystal-blue waters that make swimming a joy and the food, wine, community and culture that are the most valuable hidden treasures here.

Calabria has always been off the beaten path for travelers, in fact a very famous guide book publisher told us that “Americans don’t go to Calabria”. Well, that may have been true at one time but it is not true now.

In fact, I get a lot of emails from people looking to purchase property in Calabria and researching retiring there.

Calabria is an excellent tourist destination and retirement destination for so many reasons.

Calabrian Atmosphere
Calabrian Atmosphere
Pizza Bella Vista
Pizza at the Bella Vista

It is inexpensive.

Properties here are so amazingly affordable. Apartments can be found in the 30,000 Euro range. And with them you have proximity to the beast beaches in the world. In Amalfi, these places would be unaffordable. In addition, a fabulous wood fired pizza in our village costs as little as 6.00 Euros. The cost of living is a whole lot less than just about anywhere.

YUM!
YUM!

The food is unparalleled

We have dishes in Calabria that are now setting the world on fire with their uniqueness and flavors.

Recently there was a festival in our village where we had speakers and cooking demos using the products unique to Calabria. I learned that there are 380 food products unique to Calabria. The cedro and the Calabrian Black Truffle are only two of the products that grow only in Calabria and famous chefs who love Italy are discovering the food treasures found only here.

Scalea
Scalea

Calabria has some of the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Our village of Santa Domenica Talao is between the mountains and the sea and you get spectacular views of both. The Pollino Mountains rise up forming a rocky spine just inland. In one sweeping view from our terrace you can see the most spectacular mountains anywhere and the endless Mediterranean.

Anywhere in Calabria you are close to a spectacular beach, a beautiful town or village and art and architecture that takes your breath away.

Roseangela at Al Caminetto
Roseangela at Al Caminetto
My Beautiful Friends Nunzia
My Beautiful Friend Nunzia

There is a special culture unique to Calabria.

You see, Calabria is the REAL Italy. Now this is no dis to Rome or Florence or Venice who all have their charm but they are big famous celebrities while Calabria is, well, its home.

I love my friends there. They made us feel welcome from the very beginning and we are a part of something bigger than ourselves or our families. We are part of a village with all its joys and sorrows, all its trials and triumphs.

I feel that much of this feeling of belonging is missing for a large number of Americans. Depression and loneliness are almost foreign here, Since my husband is still working in America, I spend a lot of time solo. When I get lonely I simply go up to the piazza and see all of my friends.

We are parts of their lives and they are part of ours.

Most recently I have seen a huge interest in Calabria not only from our website but from many sources.

Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun just wrote an article in National Geographic Magazine all about the cultural and culinary riches of Calabria,

In addition, Air BNB’s recent magazine prominently featured Calabria as a tourist destination.

In short, Savvy Travelers everywhere are finally discovering Calabria and the Italian government and the local towns and villages are all aligning in the same direction,

Last Summer while I was there, our village featured  a major culinary festival spanning two days. A famous local chef was invited and a panel discussion was held and later cooking demonstrations featuring typical Calabrian products.

A week later, I was honored to speak at Santa Domenica Talao’s 350th anniversary. All of the mayors of the local towns and villages were there and wanted to know what it was about Santa Domenica that drew Pete and me there and made us decide to invest in a business there.

They listened intently as I told them how much we felt loved and welcomed into this amazing village and how it gives us things we have not found at home, things like a real sense of community, and a feeling of being a part of something important. We are now a part of this Italian village and we could not be prouder or more humbled.

Happily a local reporter was there who interviewed me and wrote a nice article on the event.

Here is an exerpt in English:

Great astonishment was aroused by the testimony of Chis, a naturalized Cristina, a middle-aged woman from California, who found her dimension in Santa Domenica Talao. The American citizen explained how after a trip she fell in love with this place, even coming to buy a house in the middle of the historic center, where she now spends five or six months a year. The passion for this land has also infected his sister, who has become her neighbor. And that's not all, because a year ago Cristina decided to buy a second building, this time to turn it into a b & b. To make it known to overseas tourists, Chris writes about it on his blog, which can be found on the website www.supersavvytravelers.com, in which he describes, in detail, what comes in the small community that overlooks the Tyrrhenian coast at an altitude of 304 meters. Between thunderous applause and great enthusiasm, the evening ended with the cake cutting tradition.

 

In addition many of the mayors who attended stood up and spoke. I learned that the Italian government has provided certain grants to these villages and towns in Calabria to assist them in promoting themselves.

As a result we have seen a lot of new interest in Calabria by travel magazines, famous chefs, and travel writers. All of this has created the beginnings of a boom in our beloved part of Italy.

Nunzia's Store
Local Calabrian products

There has also been a surge of new businesses, including a gorgeous new BNB in Praia a Mare owned by our friend Giacomo’s son and his two friends. Together they purchased a crumbling ruin in the historic center of Praia a Mare and renovated it into a high end luxury BNB called Praja Vecchia.

Their message to the young people of Calabria is that you don’t have to go away to find work in Rome, Milan or London. You can create your own work where you are. You can stay with your families and in the place you grew up.

And this is what they have done.

Pete and I have also purchased a ruin to renovate and turn into a BNB in our village. While I was meeting with Antonello, our amazing architect, and designing our new BNB, he told me that this last Summer, every BNB, every room in a house and every apartment in Santa Domenica Talao was full all Summer.

And that makes me tremendously happy.

Since #calabriaisbooming, perhaps you want to come and be the first among your friends to discover its charms.

Chris in Santa Domenica Talao
Chris in Santa Domenica Talao

Pete and I can help you arrange you trip. Recently we have purchased a rental property in Praia a Mare with sweeping views of the Mediterranean from your private terrace and private patio.

We can help you arrange all of your travel to get here and a property manager will be there on scene to ensure that you have everything you need.

Your morning view
View from Casa Gorasole
View from the wraparound terrace of Casa Girasole

 

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