The Italian Christmas: A (survival) guide

ita-xmas.pngThe Italian Christmas, aka il Natale, is the archetype of a typical Italian celebration.

It involves two main things: family & loads of food.

Online there are many articles and resources that explain in details what Christmas in Italy is like, but in this article I’d rather explore the quirky side of the Italian Christmas, the one that happens in Italian houses with all the family around the table. The one that may seem a bit odd at the beginning, but it’s actually what makes Italians… Italian.

Because when we Italians celebrate, we celebrate BIG!!

But, first all let’s make its origin clear: Il Natale in Italy is commonly considered a Catholic celebration to honour Jesus’ Birth. That’s why, if you want to understand better Italian Christmas, we must start with these words:

Gesù bambino means Baby Jesus. And Italians knows exactly the time of his birth as well as the day. Can you believe it? 🙂 According to the Italian tradition, Jesus was born on the midnight of the 24th of December. Not earlier, nor later. That’s why If you enter a local church before the 25th of December and see a Nativity scene with little Jesus missing, don’t be surprised. He’s not born yet!

L’albero di Natale e il presepe: l’albero di Natale (Christmas tree) and il presepe (nativity scene or crib) are two main must-have items, if you want to properly celebrate Christmas in an Italian house. Although everyone knows about the Christmas tree, you may not know about the Presepe, which is especially widespread in the South of Italy, where it is considered a real art.

Artisans make wonderful and detailed Presepi, representing not only the Nativity, but also popular and traditional scenes of common peasants getting on with their lives, jobs and families while they wait for little Jesus to be born. A presepe is a sort of still, theatrical comedy that can magically transport you in a seventeenth century looking world, full of colours and emotions. Would you like to admire these little Christmas masterpieces? Naples is the best place to go, as there is a whole neighborhood dedicated to the artisans that make the Presepe. It’s called San Gregorio Armeno.

Zampognari. These are musicians that you may find at the street corner or at your house door that play traditional Christmas carols like this “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (“You come from the stars”, a traditional Christmas song having the rhythm of a lullaby dedicated to little Jesus)  a with their “zampogne” ( a sort of bagpipe). Just imagine an Italian version of a Scottish man with a bagpipe…that’s what a zampognaro looks like.

Along with these popular Italian Christmas symbols, there are also other things that make an Italian Christmas really Italian…

If you are lucky enough to celebrate Christmas in an Italian family, here are some of the things you should be aware of :

Il cibo. It means “food “and Italians eat loads of food over the Christmas holidays. In fact, Christmas is always the period where Italians expect two gain weight because they have to get through the followings meals:

Il cenone di Natale, il pranzo di Natale, il pranzo di Santo Stefano…
These are the names of the festive meals that Italians love and, at the same, hate as they always reveal to be a struggle to get through. Just the fact that they use the word “cenone” (big dinner) to describe, some of these meals, says a lot. In my house,when we have “il cenone di Natale” on Christma’s Eve, we start eating around 8pm and finish around midnight. On Christmas day, we have il pranzo di Natale and we start around 1pm and we finish around 4-5pm. Because there’a lots of food to eat! And some families also have a big lunch on 26th of December, when we celebrate Saint Stephen (it’s, in fact, called Santo Stefano!).

Oh, and later on, we also have the Cenone di Capodanno (on the 31st of December) and then the Pranzo di Capodanno (on the first day of the year), but that’s another story… After all, our ancestor were Romans, remember? (But we don’t throw up later!)

Tutta la famiglia (all the family). In addition to lots of food, be prepared to see also lots of people around the house. You may wonder how many people we are talking about. This may vary, but in my family we are at least 10 and I also know of one of my closest friends who goes crazy every year as she has to organise a Cenone for 50 people. I KID YOU NOT!

Cin cin: when the big meals are over, Italian always toast with a glass of “prosecco” or “champaigne” and say “cin cin” which means “cheers”. Here’s the trick for a perfect Italian toast: look in the other person’s eyes when you touch their glass. It shows the other person respect and care.

I regali: At the end of cenone of Natale, we normally open “i regali” (the gifts). Remember: Always open a gift in front of the people that have given it to you. Plus, you must remember to say ” grazie,mi piace molto!” (Thank you! I like it very much!). Because you’re not allowed NOT to like it!

Auguri: this word means “wishes” and Italians can also use it as a greeting over Christmas holidays. If you go to someone’s house and it’s Christmas, you’ll greet every person in the room by saying “Auguri ” and kissing them on both cheeks.

La tombola: this is the Italian version of Bingo, and Italians play it a lot over Christmas holidays (with ALL the family! 😉 ).How do they mark the numbers on the bingo card?  Italian love using beans! And, by the way, in the South of Italy, every number of the tombola (they are 100) identify a specific object, fact, event or superstition that reflects national as well as regional traditions and beliefs. The funny thing is that some Italians, when calling out Tombola numbers, love saying the fact associated to the number, rather than the number itself. This creates a game in the game, as people playing the tombola try to guess the number associated with the fact mentioned.

La nonna. just one last warning: if grandma is offering you more food after a big meal, that is “an offer you can’t refuse”. You don’t want to get her upset. Eat it up!!

So, what do you think about Italian Christmas? How would you describe it in one word? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

And if you want to learn more Christmas related words in Italian, have a look at the flashcards I’ve recently added to my Italian Quizlet class. They include the words in this article and many more! You can access them for FREE by joining The Language Rose Learning Club! Sign up  right here!

Wishing you “Auguri di buon Natale”,

Ermy***

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The “secret” to fluency

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I spent last weekend salsa dancing with my friends in Blackpool at the biggest salsa party in the UK. IT WAS FAN-FREAKIN’-TASTIC!

I’ve been dancing salsa and other Latin dances for a few years now and love it very much.

I must it admit, though. At the beginning, dancing was pretty much like…learning another language.

The steps, the routines and following someone else’s lead are all things I’ve learned little by little and with lots of practice.

I’d do the steps slowly, first. And, then, increasingly quicker. Until I’d internalise them.

And after I’d make those steps mine, I’d be able to build up on them and start learn another routine, with more complex steps.

Surprisingly enough (or perhaps not so much!), my best learning or a-ha moments never came during the actual dancing lessons, but when I was getting my “feet”dirty on the dance floor.

As you can imagine, when dancing with a partner on the dance floor, things don’t always go according to plans (aka the dancing routine).

So, we gotta improvise a bit.

We get over the initial awkwardness, embrace creativity and just dance our way through (using any step available in our repertoire) .

Those moments, filled with goofiness, uncertainty and a nervous laugh or two, are the most helpful to develop our dancing “fluency”.

They put us on the spot and make us become resilient.

We are pushed to use our dancing skills creatively, until doing the steps become second nature.

That’s pretty much how learning a language works too.

You learn a certain set of items to discuss a specific topic.

You start to use them in short sentences. You’d say them slowly first, really thinking about every single word you are using.

You’d practice until you can use those words more naturally.

After you’d master those language items, you’d be ready to learn more complex items and extend your sentences.

Then, you’d have your first conversation.

You’d finally use those words in a real life situation.

You start off speaking pretty well, but then your foreign friend asks you a question you didn’t quite expect.

And you don’t really know the exact words to use.

You’ve got to improvise now.

You’d get over your initial discomfort and appeal to your creativity.

You’d communicate, using any word available in your repertoire (and anything else you’ve got available too, including body language!

These are the moments that help you build up your fluency.

Don’t avoid them. Rather, celebrate them!

You gotta put yourself on the spot and speak.

Try again, again and again, until using the language becomes second nature to you.

This is how we develop resilience and creativity too throughout the learning process .

And that’s why, once we succeed in communicating, the feeling of satisfaction that will follow will be amazing.

The truth is there’s no secret method to learn a language, except practicing it.

Practice makes a language perfect. That’s it.

So, now here’s my challenge for you. Get out there and find a way to practice the language you’re learning.

Ditch any excuse (especially the “ I’m not ready yet!” one). Just go for it.

Get your hands dirty. Or, rather, get your tongue dirty.

Eventually, practice will make it perfect.

And after, you can celebrate with a massive dance party (I definitely would!)

Because you’ll be gliding over the dance floor of your language learning.

Enjoy,

Ermy***

P.S. Don’t know where to start to practice? Join in my conversation starters over at my Facebook page. I hang around in the comments too!

P.P.S. Did you find this article helpful? Share it using the social media button below! 

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Learn a language through songs!

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If you’re anything like me, music plays an important role in your daily routine.

Well, it can play an important role in your language learning routine too.

Songs are a brilliant way to learn the language you love and develop your listening, reading and comprehension skills.

Using music and songs to learn a language can be extremely beneficial, especially if you’re an auditory learner or have a well-developed musical intelligence (not sure, if you have such intelligence? Have a look here to find out!).

Songs can spice up your language learning sessions and lift your mood when you’re bored of just reading ,writing or studying grammar. So without further ado, here are 10 ways to learn a language through songs. ENJOY!

1.Musical warm-up

In my iPod and iTunes I have a playlist for each language I speak and that I’ve been learning. I use these playlists to listen to my favourite Italian, French, Spanish and English songs before I start a learning or teaching session in that language. In this way, I warm myself up and ease my brain into what I call the language’s “mood”, so that I get ready to speak that language like a pro!

Here’s your next step: create a playlist of songs in your iPod or Itunes in the language you’re learning and listen to it before a learning session. If you dig Spotify, instead, you may  want to check out this brilliant article by Lindsay, from Lindsay Does Languages, where you can find great tips on how to use this fab app to look for songs and other audio material in the language you love. Check it out here!

2. Musical Background

If you love having music around you most of the time, the odds are that you are a strong auditory learner or have a strong musical intelligence ( if you’re not sure, here’s again the article where I talk about this!).  Having music in the background of your learning session may help you focus and remember better what you’re studying.

3.Pronunciation gym

What’s the most common way of using songs in your language learning? To practise your pronunciation, of course!

The good news is that you don’t need to have the Little Mermaid’s voice to sing in your foreign language. You’ll just need a video with lyrics (there are loads on youTube), and the ability to follow along with the lyrics.

Singing along helps you not only to improve  your pronunciation but also to improve your listening skills. Plus, you’ll have some good fun!

4.Superstar singer for a day!

This is a follow-up activity of the previous one. If you love singing, record yourself singing in your foreign language.

Ok! Before you say “this is too weird!”, think about its perks: first, this is a very helpful exercise to improve your pronunciation; second, listening to your recording will make you more aware of any pronunciation issues you need to address to in order to have an amazing pronunciation.

And if you really, really, REAAAALLY dislike your recording, you can delete it afterwards… forget it, completely! Or …you can keep it for next X-Factor auditions!! 😛

5.Missing lyrics

My favourite resource for this kind of activity is Lyrics Training. Lyrics training is a website where you can find 30 different genre of songs in 10 different languages (it’s AMAZIIIING!).

In Lyrics Training, every time you listen to a song, a video and its lyrics will show up on the screen, and, at some point, you’ll get a line with a missing word. You’ll need to type the word in order to continue to listen to the song!

And if you don’t know the word? Fear not! You can hit the little arrow on the right hand side to have the gap filled for you and listen to the complete line again. Excellent way to train your ear!

Lyrics Training has also different level of challenges for each song (the harder the challenge, the higher the number of missing words!), and you can compete with other language learners across the world, if you create an account. The best part? It’s free!!

6.Re-write the refrain

I love taking existing songs refrains and change their words to describe my personal experiences or crazy ideas.

Can you think of the refrain of a song in the language you’re learning? Write it down and see if you can replace some words with other to create a personalised, crazy version. Have fun singing it later!

7.Do you play an instrument?

Yes? No? If not, can you clap your hands? Or tap your feet? or your fingers? Use your guitar, your piano, your drums or the parts of your body to create a nice tune to memorise new words and phrases. This is a creative learning strategy that helps you to remember better new vocabulary.

8.Song Jigsaw

Ready for a comprehension exercise that will blow your mind (in a good way!)? Find the lyrics of a random songs in the language you want to learn. The song must a be an unknown one for you or one you’re not very familiar with.

Find the lyrics online and copy and paste them in a new document. Print them and cut out each lyrics line. Mix the lyrics up. Keep mixing. Mix them up some more. Now, try to put them back together and …GOOD LUCK!

After completing your jigsaw, listen to the song to check if you put the lyrics back in the right order. Also, ask yourself: which lines could actually have been in a different position than the ones in the original version and still have made sense? This is a good way to test and develop your comprehension skills.

Finally, the last two activities are perfect, if you dig translation!

9.Create a musical translation

If you love translation, you can create a musical translation of your favourite songs, either in your native tongue or in the language you’re learning.

In a musical translation, your objective is to convey not only the meaning but also the tune of the song. You’ll realise that in order to do this, you’ll sometimes need to adapt the meaning to fit the right numbers of syllables and words in a line…it’ll challenge you to use the language creatively.

For my master’s dissertation I translated the songs of the musical Wicked in Italian, and I find it so challenging and rewarding that when I finally submitted my work, I could but sing my own translated songs to celebrate!!

10.Compare songs translations

Do you have a specific song in your language that has been translated into another one? I can name many Italian songs that have been translated into English, and some Spanish ones too, but do you wanna know which ones are my favourite translated songs to listen to?

Disney songs!

Disney songs have been translated into so many languages and you can have some fun comparing their original version in English with another language. Or you can also compare two translations, such as Spanish and Italian! Noticing the similarities and the differences between the original and the translation (or two translations) will help you gain a better understanding of the language and learn new words too.

So, here you have them! 10 activities you can use to learn a language through songs.

Which activity is your favourite? Do you know any other activity that will help you learn a language through songs? Share it in the comments below!

And if you liked this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends by clicking on the social buttons below!

Happy learning and singing,

Ermy***

P.S. If you need help to learn Italian, Spanish, French or English, I’m going to have some special deals on my language courses for the upcoming Black Friday! WO-HOOO!  Join the Language Rose Learning Club (it’s free!!) so I can send some sweet coupons your way!

How to learn a language if you don’t have time!

How to-no tme.png

If you could have a fiver for every time you said, “I’ll learn *insert the language name here*” and then ended up not having enough time for it, you’d be a millionaire by now.

The good news is that you’re not alone.

So many language learners have been in your exact same situation. Including myself!

I’m not perfect. Life sometimes gets in the way.

Issues pop up every day, and sometimes I end up like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, running like crazy and looking at my watch shouting “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”.

However, now I know that, if I want to do something this imporntant to me, the only way to do it is to make time for it.

Over the last years, I’ve been learning to use my time more wisely. In fact, I’ve trained myself to dedicate more time to meaningful things, rather than unimportant (or seemingly important!) things that just distract me.

This is how I’ve managed to keep up with this blog every week, to find time for my language learning as well as teaching, without forgetting my family and friends who are a super-uber-important part of my life – without which I could never be happy.

So, if you believe that learning a language right now is important to you, you can and must make time for it.

Here’s how.

1. Beware of time suckers

I know how it goes. You pop on your Instagram account for two seconds and you’re still there after thirty minutes! Scrolling, scrolling and scrolling… You just want to check if your best friend has sent you a message on Facebook, and you’re sucked into the red circle of notifications. And then have a look at your feeds and start to scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll…STOP SCROLLING YOUR LIFE AWAY, PLEASE!

You’d be amazed by the amount of time we waste on social media, watching TV or doing any other time sucker activity (e.i. activity that make you waste lots of time without realising it).

Do yourself a favour: starting from today, limit the time you spend on time suckers activities. Use that time to learn the language you love, instead!

2. Lunch time = learning time

If you have a lunch break at work, dedicate half of that break to language learning.

If you have one hour, can you dedicate 30 minutes to learn the language you love? If you have 30 minutes, can you dedicate 15 minutes to learn the language you love?

Sometimes just listening to a language learning podcast or watching a video on Youtube, while eating is enough to bring your learning forward.

“Little things done consistently lead to extraordinary results.” I didn’t say that. Matthew Hussey did. And he’s right!

3. Learn on the move

Do you take train early in the morning to go to work? Fantastic!

Why? Because train time is the perfect time get some language learning done. I used to get loads done on the train last year, when I was commuting to and from my old school.

Do you rather take the bus or go by car? Get a language podcast to listen to, while you’re driving. Watch a language related video on your bus journey. If you can’t do that, then go over (in your mind) what you learned in a previous lesson. Try to name things you see on the street, make a mental note of the things you don’t know, look them up in the dictionary later…

In short: Make your commuting time learning time too.

4. Make dead times alive

Dead times = doing housework, folding laundry, ironing, waiting for the bus, walking to the grocery shop… can you add more?

Can you listen to a French podcast while you do these things? Can you watch a video about Spanish grammar? Can you listen to the Italian radio (there are apps that help you do that!) ?

Go for it! 🙂

4. Non-compromisable language learning

This is my top tip.

Schedule your time for language learning in your diary or calendar the day before and, make it non-compromisable.

I gave some tips about how to create and stick to your learning routine in this article but, in a nutshell, if you schedule your learning time like you do with any other appointment or commitment, you make it real and official.

It’s in the calendar, so you must taking it into account.

It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time. 40 minutes per day is good enough to start. Can you do 40 minutes? If not, can you find 20 minutes? 10? I bet a pack of tarallucci that you can definitely find ten minutes!

If you can find 10 minutes to check your Facebook profile out, you can find 10 minutes to learn a language too. And if you want to check Facebook anyway… permission granted! Make sure you go on this page (Ah-hem! Mine), and join the conversation starter of the week (Tuesday in Italian, Wednesday in Spanish and Thursday in French). At least, you”ll use social media to practise the language you love – and turn a time sucker activity into a productive one!

 

5. Switch everything off and turn your brain on

If you have a limited and short time to get something done, you want to get the most out of it.

Here’s how:

Step 1 – Before you start your learning session turn everything off (phones, TV, Itunes, whatever can cause you distraction). Tell your family and friends you’re going to be unavailable for the whole duration of your learning session.

Step 2 – Set the timer for how long your learning session needs to be (e.g. 20 minutes).

Step 3 – Start the timer and give language learning all your brain power!!

Have you ever wondered why we always get urgent things done, despite they aren’t the most important? Urgent things get done, and the most important ones for us get pushed away and put off until….forever!

The truth is that no one has time for all the things we want or have to do, we just MAKE time.

Now, then! If learning a language is truly important to you, make time for it!

Think of your why, the reason that brought you to learn that language…because that’s what matters the most in the end.

Don’t worry about the urgent stuff! That one it always gets done, eventually!

Schedule the important stuff. Schedule your language learning. Start right now to make time to learn the language you love.

Grab this free language learning daily planner I’ve created just for you to make time to learn the language you really, truly love.

Here it is – you’re welcome!  😉

I hope this will help you to start and keep your learning up.

Show me your completed version by posting a photo in the comments below.

Let me know how it goes, busy-bee!

With love,

Ermy

P.S. If you liked this post, don’t forget to subscribe to the Language Rose Learning Club. So you won’t miss a single update! 🙂

Need some language practice? Here’s where you can find me!

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EXCITING NEWS!  *Trumpets blowing*

I’ve brainstormed a few ideas to allow you and the other learners in the Language Rose Learning Club to practise more the language you love – and make new friends too!

First of all, make sure you go and like my Facebook page, because this is where also the language party is going to happen! 🙂

Here’s the plan for The Language Rose Learning Club, starting from next week.

  • Monday: Website, blog + Quizlet updates 

From next week, I’m going to publish new articles and videos on my website on Monday (rather than over the weekend). Plus, I shall also update the Quizlet class on this day too! YAY!

  • Tuesday: Italian Conversation Starter on FB page

From next week onwards, I’ll share a conversation starter in Italian on the facebook page. Come on over to learn a few conversational phrases and practice with other learners. I shall hang around too!

  • Wednesday: Conversation Starter in Spanish on FB page

…And on Wednesday, we’ll have a conversation starter in Spanish! 🙂

  • Thursday: Conversation Starter in French on FB page

….While on Thursday, it’s French turn!

  • Friday: Share your language learning goal + wins on the FB page

On the Facebook page, there will be a post inviting you to share your language learning goal for the week to come and share your wins too. Come on over! You might be able to connect with someone which is learning your same language !!

Do you like these ideas? Let me know your thoughts!

I hope you’ll have fun joining in!

Hope to connect with you on Facebook too!

Have a fantastic weekend,

Ermy***

P.S. Don’t miss a single update and sign up  right here, before you go! 🙂

THIS helped me to improve my vocabulary (a lot!)

how to improve your vocabulary

“How can I learn more words?”. This is a question I get over and over from my students.

There are many strategies to learn more vocabulary and I’ve discussed some already in other articles (such as this one or this one). However, I’ve never discussed the ONE strategy that helped me to learn a huge amount of vocabulary, when I was learning my first foreign language: English.

NO! it was not memorising the dictionary!  It was something better and more entertaining: reading cool stuff!

Reading has been the best way for me to expand my vocabulary and see the language in action. Also, it has allowed me to develop my listening skills too, especially when they weren’t strong enough to support me in the acquisition of new vocabulary.

In fact, I used reading to support and develop my listening abilities too. I used to look at the transcript of the audio files of my listening exercises (after I had attempted them!) from my grammar book; I had subtitles on when I watched films in the foreign language (actually, Disney films!! I dig them!); I listened to my favourite pop songs  with their lyrics in front of me (and had massive karaoke time!) and so on.

Reading is key to acquiring a second language as an adult.  In fact, adults, unlike children, are less likely to pick up the language by just listening to it.

Plus, reading in a foreign language can help you discover the real pleasure of reading. At least this is what happened to me!

Before learning my first language, English, the only things I used to read were comics strips, graphic novels and mangas (and I have shelves filled with these, along with Disney films!). They all  had one thing in common: lots of visual, very little writing!

However, something changed when I started to learn English. Learning a foreign language let me have access to a world made of texts to discover and “decipher”. It engaged my brain in a different and challenging way.

Believe it or not, the first long novel I have ever read in full was in English (not Italian, my native tongue!). It was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (and my favourite character was Alice, not Bella!). Up until that point, I had never managed to complete a book, as I had always found reading pretty boring!!

Now, you may think: “how could you possibly enjoy reading in a foreign language more than your native language? You must’ve spent every single minute with a dictionary in your hand!”

Here’s the truth:  I used the dictionary very little and for two reasons: A. The level of what I was reading was the right one for me; B. I engaged in extensive reading, rather than intensive reading.

Extensive reading is a reading technique that involves reading texts for enjoyment by understading their gist, rather than every single detail of the text. This technique is different from intensive reading, which involves learners reading in detail with specific learning aims and tasks.

In other words, extensive reading is what you normally do when you are basking at the park and reading the last book by Seth Godin sitting on a bench enjoying the fresh air; intensive reading is what you do when you’re doing reading exercises in your Italian language guide, which require you to look for specific details in a text.

So, here’s how I did my extensive reading in English (the first foreign language I ever learned): I’d read a few pages, without worrying too much about words I didn’t know, as long as I was getting the storyline. Only at the end of my reading sessions, I’d go on wordreference.com to look some unknown words up, especially the ones i was coming across over and over.

Yes, sometimes I’d write the words in my vocabulary notebook, but, to tell you the truth, that  rarely happened. Since I was reading mainly for pleasure, I was never that organised to have a pencil near me. Yet, I benefited from this kind of reading, because I was enjoying the reading process in the first place, and my brain was operating under stress free condition which allowed me to remember things better. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even need to underline or write a new word down as I’d just remember it, because I would come across that word many other times in the text.

Also, every author has got their own style and voice, so they use consistently specific vocabulary or grammar structures; this means that they have certain words that they use over and over in their book. So, the reading process becomes easier and easier, the more you approach to the end of the book, as you’re constantly coming across the same vocabulary items.

Nowadays, reading a book in a foreign language is even easier. By reading an ebook on a Kindle or a tablet, you can access a dictionary just by tapping on the word. It means you can do extensive and intensive reading almost at the same time (how good is that!).

However, here’s the million dollar question: if you want to start reading in your foreign language today, what should you read?

Well, below are my suggestions according to your level. The best part? All of them allow you to read in your foreign language either for free or by spending next to nothing.

If you are a beginner willing to progress to an intermediate level, you could try….

Graded readers – they are books that have simplified language to allow second language learners like you to read them. The language is graded for vocabulary, complexity of grammar structures and also by the number of words. The best thing about Graded Readers is that they cater for all levels from beginners through to advanced, so you can always use them while you progress in your language learning. My first graded reader was an intermediate version “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brönte and I loved it! It included not only the story in a simplified version, but also the audio version and some exercises for more intensive reading.

Graphic novels, comics or children books– these are good for beginners as there are pictures that aid understanding. The only disadvantage about them is that sometimes you may find slang language or idioms that can be slightly difficult to understand (especially in comics strips!). You may find comics strips online for free. On Deviantart, an online art community, you can find loads!

Leaflets and brochures – these ones normally feature short chunks of text that can be easily understandable . Every time I go abroad I love collecting them and reading them for pleasure. The great news is that you don’t need to go abroad to find them! I bet a scoop of Mint & chocolate chips gelato, that if you go to a tourist place near your home town, you’ll find leaflets in different languages that you can read for free !

Parallel Texts– These are books having one side of the page with the original language, and on the other side its translation. These books are good to support your reading, especially if you are a low intermediate learner. However, sometimes you need to be careful about some words that may “get lost in translation”…

If you are at an intermediate level and want to progress to an upper intermediate or advanced level, you could try…

Young adult novels – if you’re at an intermediate level, I’d suggest starting with young adults novels. They normally contain standard language that is not too advanced as target readers are teenagers (“Twilight”, my first foreign book, definitely fits this category!). If you really dig translation, you may also consider to read novels translated from your native language and see how they’ve been translated…you’ll be amazed!

Short stories, novels or non-fiction books about any topics that interest you – for these texts, the register (the degree of formality of language) may vary according to the author and the target readership, so ensure you choose the right one for you (keep reading to find out how!).

Newspapers or magazines  – the best thing about these is that most of them are available for free online. Again, their register may vary according to the target readership.

The bottom line is: if you’re choosing a reading resoruce for your language learning, peer inside first and ask yourself: “is it the right level for me?”

Read a few pages first; if you can understand everything, it means that it’s too easy for you, and it wont’ serve you to develop your vocabulary — it may just serve you to keep you level up. Similarly, if you start to read a book and you don’t understand much about it, it means that it’s not the right level either, because it’s too difficult for you.You don’t want to spend every minute looking words up in the dictionary!

When you flick through a reading resource and it makes you think “I understand most of it, but not everything”, it means that you’ve level the right level for you.

That’s the sweet spot you’re looking for which allows you  to stretch out of your comfort zone (and progress to the next level!) but also to have a reasonably pleasurable reading experience.

Now, tell me: what are you going to read next in your foreign language? Are you reading something already? Share your reading choice in the comments below and…

Happy reading,

Ermy***

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3 cool ways to use your vocabulary flashcards

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If you are familiar with The Language Rose (aka this website! :P), you know that every week I create free flashcards sets in Italian, Spanish and French to help learners like you to become fluent in these languages.

One of the reasons why I create flashcards every week is that I believe that they are one of the most fun and effective way to learn vocabulary in a new language.

Although many just flip through their flashcard deck in order to aid memorisation and revise vocabulary, you can do so much more with them!

Here are 3 cool and simple ways to use your flashcard deck and get to memorise more words:

1. Personalise them with pretty pictures

If you are a visual learner (to find out if that’s the case, have a look at my blog post about discovering your “Learning Superpowers”), personalising your flashcards with pretty pictures or your own drawings is super helpful! It’s not much about the flashcard itself, but the process of its creation. In fact, by creating or searching for the right picture for your flashcard, you’ll create a very specific memory in your brain that will help you remember that word better. So, start your picture hunt right now!

 

2. Create a cool screensaver for your phone

Get 10 or more flashcards in your target language (e.g. Italian), arrange them in a nice way and take a photo. Add a nice filter, crop the picture in order to fit the background of your phone, iPad or laptop and, finally set it up as a screensaver or wallpaper. I bet, you’ll be able to remember those words for sure, after looking at them so many times!!

 

3. Play “Snap” with a friend

Get a set of bilingual flashcard (e.g. Spanish/English) and your best friend (or your brother, sister, mum or grandma!) to play “snap”. Your aim in this game is to recognise a specific word that is featured in the flashcard deck. Here’s how:

1. Choose a word in English (or your native language) that is featured in the flashcards set (e.g. if you have a set of Spanish/English flashcards about furniture, your English word could be “chair”).

2. Shuffle the flashcards and then start to throw them on the table, one by one. Ensure that the side with the target language (e.i. Spanish) is facing up.

3. When the previously chosen word in the target language shows up (in our case, it’d be “silla”), as soon as you recognise it, shout “snap” and spat your hand on it. The first learner that recognises the word gets the point.

This is a good game, if you are just starting to learn those words. And if you want an added level of challenge, you could try this with words that have similar spelling. Be careful not to spat your friend’s hand, though!!

Can’t wait to try these strategies but you don’t have a flashcard deck? Make sure you grab my online flashcards by joining the Language Rose Learning Club right here.

You’ll receive a welcome email that gives you access to my FREE online classes that feature over 100 flashcards in Italian, Spanish and French -that you can also print out and personalise!

Do you have any more flashcard game or activity you’d like to add to this list? Share it in the comments below!

Happy learning for now, my friend!

I’ll see you next week,

Ermy***

P.S. You can now  tae the 5 days language learning challenge, if you’ve missed it (there is also a link to it on my new shiny sidebar! 😀 )! Find out right here. what some learners said about the challenge.

P.P.S. I’ve sold out the spots available for my Personal Learning Programme in French! However, there are still available some spots for Italian, Spanish and English. For more info, just go right here!

Be like Ramazan!

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“Language is a performing art that requires practice, nuance, and personality to convey an idea. Those who master communication master their world.”
Michael Schutzler, CEO of Livemocha

I love doing my English conversation classes! Students are very keen and sociable and, despite having a very basic level of English, it’s amazing how they manage to get their point across in a way or another.

There is one student who always stands out among them all. He’s an 18 years old boy from Turkey, called Ramazan. Ramazan doesn’t stand out because of his variety of vocabulary. And he doesn’t even stand out for the accuracy of his grammar. Ramazan stands out because of his grit. He tries hard to communicate, regardless of the fact that he may or may not know a particular word.

Ramazan tries it out, speaks up,  gets it wrong, brushes it off, laughs with us and keeps going. He stands up, draws something on the board and asks “what’s the name of this, Ermy ?”, “Is it correct?”. He is always ready to learn more. Finally, he encourages the others to join in and speak out too. Because he intrinsically knows that someone can become fluent in a language only by speaking it. Period.

Ramazan is an example of how someone can communicate in a foreign language regardless of their level. He is the evidence that knowing a specific word is not essential to communicate effectively. It is always possible to find a way to get your point across (creatively!).

It’s all about your communication skills rather than your language skills. And language skills without communication skills are useless.

You may learn the whole Oxford dictionary, but if you aren’t brave enough to speak out, you’ll never do much with those words.

You may know all the grammar rules in this world, but if you don’t practise your speaking because you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll never become fluent.

You may wait until you know how to pronounce a sentence perfectly before saying it out loud in front of a native speaker, but how do you know if you’re saying it right, if you don’t try it?

So, be like Ramazan.

Be brave. Speak up.

Get things wrong and brush it off.

Don’t beat yourself up. Laugh it off.

Make mistakes and learn from them.

Don’t wait until you’re ready, because, the truth is, you’ll be ready only once you’ve started!

Don’t hold back. Have fun speaking.

Speak up like Ramazan!

Ermy***

P.S. I’m curious! If you feel that something is blocking you from speaking the language you are learning, what do you think it is? Tell me in the comments below, maybe I can help!

 

Scholarship winner announced!

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Can’t believe it’s already time to announce our winner!

First, I want to thank everyone who entered. It’s great to know the reasons that lie behind someone’s choice of learning Italian, Spanish, French or English, as that’s the biggest motivator of all!

With that said, I’m going to announce the winner of the scholarship for the Personal Learning Programme which is…

 

Imagine drum rolling…

 

Sparkling confetti raining…

 

Folks cheering and waving their hands…

 

Robert Brooks! Congratulations!!!

 

I’m beyond excited to have you join me for my Personal Learning Programme in Spanish.

You should have received an email from me asking you to have a first meeting on Skype to arrange your learning sessions and everything else! So, keep an eye on your email!

And, if you weren’t selected for a scholarship, I really appreciate your thoughtful entry and would love to have you join us if you can. Rememeber that  Personal Learning Programme is still available at a discounted price until tomorrow!

If you still have questions about the  Personal Learning Programme  have a look at this F.A.Q.. It should help you make a clear decision. And, if you still have questions after reading it, just email me at thelanguageroseATgmail.com.

I’ll answer you as soon as possible.

 

See you soon,

Ermy***

WIN A SCHOLARSHIP TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE YOU LOVE [Closed]

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Quiz time:

  • Have you ever learned a language in a packed (and boring!) class and felt you were going soooo slowly (or so quickly)?

  • Do you ever think that Duolingo is a cool way to learn a language but you’d definitely skip the animals unit because it’s not what you need to talk about when you’re on your next trip to Italy?

  • Do you ever get that pit in your stomach that makes your face go pink, whilst thinking “I don’t have the words to say this” in the middle of a conversation with your Spanish speaker friend?

If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above questions I got the solution for you.

I have created a programme. It’s called Personal Learning Programme.

And the reason why is called “Personal” is that the curriculum of this course is created just for a learner like you and according to your own needs (no standardized stuff!). And the “Learning” bit is about learning the language you love in a way that works for you. And, more importantly, in a way that doesn’t let the fear of making mistakes preventing you from becoming the confident and fluent speaker you’ve always desired to be.

If…

…you want a trip abroad where you are no longer a tourist but a keen and confident traveller.
…You want a trip abroad that is filled not only with amazing views but also with interesting conversations that feed you mind and soul.
…You want a trip abroad during which you can truly connect to people of a differen culture by speaking confidently the language you love
…You want a trip abroad during which you can create the memories and the friendships of life time.

The Personal  Learning Programme is for you.

This is not a standardised language course with a ready made curriculum. It’s a course where you create your own curriculum so that you learn what you really need.

These are not language classes that you need to attend at a set time and date every week. These are one to one learning sessions that you schedule at your own convenience (because I know you have a busy schedule!).

This is not a language course that makes you learn a language. This is a programme that enables you to speak the language from day 1, packed with self study activities that will get you out of your comfort zone and become a confident speaker of Italian, Spanish,French or English.

The Personal Learning Programme is the “language course” that you have always desired to take and you thought it didn’t exist.

This is an invitation to create your own language course, so that you’ll be able to learn (and speak!) either Italian, Spanish, French or English in a way that is suitable to your schedule and relevant to you.

The Personal Learning Programme is available now at a discounted price until October 15th

Now, you may think you are not ready to invest your time or your money in this programme.

The truth is, no one is ready until they decide to be ready. And, I’m aware that especially if you are a student, you need to be mindful about the money you are spending. But, for a matter of fact, I also know that when you invest in yourself like you’d do with this programme, your motivation to succeed increase and you’ll achieve your goal.

So, if not now, when?

Because, here is the best part: the programme is not only available here at a discounted price, but I am also offering a scholarship that will allow you to take this programme completely for free (and you are also free to choose the programme plan too, either plan 1 or plan 2).

Entries for this scholarship close on October 15th at 11AM (London time) so make sure you do it now!

Don’t miss out on your chance to win a spot inside the Personal Learning Programme (click here to know more about the Programme). The winner will be announced on Monday, October 16th.

 

TO ENTER:

  • Download the blog post image above.
  • Post the image on the social media platforms of your choice (Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest) or post it on your blog with the caption:I want to join the #PersonalLearningProgramme with Ermy to learn Italian/Spanish/French/English (you need to pick one language!). Come join me at: http://www.thelanguagerose.com
  • You get major bonus points if you post it on multiple platforms (and those bonus points definitely make a difference when picking a winner).
  • If applicable, tag me on instagram @thelanguagerose and remember the hashtag #PersonalLearningProgramme
  • In the comments below, let me know your name, your best email, where you shared the scholarship and a written or video response to these three questions: why do you want to learn Italian, Spanish, French or English? What would you be able to achieve if you learned the language of your choice?
  • Written responses must be under 200 words and submitted in the comments below.
  • Video responses must be under 2 minutes and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo and linked to below in the comments.
  • Don’t forget to join the Language Rose Learning Club to be the first one to know who the winner is on the day of the announcement. Click here to join the club, if you haven’t already!

***If you decide to join the Personal Learning Programme before the winner is announced (remember that discounted early bird prices are available now right here!) and you win the scholarship, I’ll simply refund your payment. 

I believe that learning a new language is a life changing experience that opens up a whole new world of opportunities. I’m so glad I can make language learning more accessible to everyone thanks to this initiative and with your collaboration.

I really can’t wait to see your aw-mazing entries!

Best of luck,

Ermy ***

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