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Adriano, Il Cane di Pompei (Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii)

Adriano, Il Cane di Pompei (Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii)

Reading dual-language children’s books is a great way to expose your child to Italian and improve your vocabulary. My daughter and I are enjoying the book Adriano, Il Cane di Pompei (Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii), written by Matthew Frederick and illustrated by Leo Latti.

Adriano, Il Cane di Pompei is about a dog who lives in the ruins of Pompeii. Adriano enjoys his  life in Pompeii of running around the ruins with his friends and eating cose buone da mangiare (treats) the tourists give him. One night he is awakened by the sounds of a group of robbers stealing a painting from one the rooms. Adriano investigates and unwittingly becomes a hero. To find out how, you’ll have to read the book.

My daughter enjoys the book because of the fun story and colorful pictures. While I enjoy those aspects too, I also like that it infuses history into the story by referencing things like il dio Dioniso (the god Dionysus). The introduction of the story also provides a short description of Pompeii.

By reading Adriano, Il Cane di Pompei aloud, I get to practice my pronunciation of Italian, and my daughter gets exposure to a foreign language. She can’t understand English or Italian very well right now, so she gives me a pass if I mispronounce a word. Check out the book, and explore the ancient city with the lovable cucciolo (pup). For more dual-language children’s books, check out my post on Cucu’ Mio Piccolono and Io Sono Piccola.

Below is some fun vocabulary from the book:

  • dipinti: paintings
  • turisti: tourists
  • edificio: building
  • antico: ancient
  • sabbia: sand
  • cane: dog
  • ladro: thief
  • opera d’arte: artwork
  • visitatori: visitors
  • cosa buona da mangiare: something good to eat / a treat

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How to Say Dad in Italian

How to Say Dad in Italian

With Father’s Day (Festa del Papà) quickly approaching, this is a good time to learn how to say “Dad” and other family members in Italian. “Dad” is “papà.” The accent on the a is very important, because without it, you would be referring to the pope. The word for “father” is “padre.”

Mia figlia

Depending on where you are in Italy, you may hear different words for “Dad.” In the Tuscany region, “Babbo” is also used for “Dad,” and “Babbino” is used for “Daddy” like in the famous song, “O Mio Babbino Caro.” To hear the song and read the lyrics, you can check out my post about it.

The following are other members of la famiglia: madre (mother), mamma (mom), sorella (sister), fratello (brother), figlio (son), figlia (daughter), cugino/a (cousin), nipote (niece, nephew, grandson, or granddaughter), nonno (grandfather), nonna (grandmother), zia (aunt), and zio (uncle).

We can’t forget about the in-laws and step-family members: suocero (father-in-law), suocera (mother-in-law, and my favorite family word because it sounds like sorcerer, coincidence?), cognata (sister-in-law), cognato (brother-in-law), patrigno (stepfather), matrigna (stepmother), figliastro (stepson), figliastra (stepdaughter), sorellastra (stepsister), and fratellastro (stepbrother).

Thanks for stopping by and for all the padri out there, “Buona Festa del Papà!”

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L’incontro Fortuito

L’incontro Fortuito

On my way home from work recently, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a small town called Traver. Traver is in California’s Central Valley, between Tulare and Fresno. Although I pass it almost everyday, I rarely stop in Traver, because there is not much there except for a restaurant and a couple of gas stations. For some reason, I stopped this time, and I’m glad I did.

I placed my order and waited for my food. While waiting, I noticed a man and a woman in their mid-to-late twenties in line to place their order. I sensed they were foreign tourists because of their European fashion and the backpack the man was wearing. When I heard them speak Italian to each other, my suspicion was confirmed.

When my food was ready, I moved to a table near them and asked them if they were Italian. They confirmed they were, and I told them that I speak a little Italian. They were surprised and pleased, and we started talking in their language.

The couple was from Milan and had just spent two days camping in the Sequoia National Forest. They were headed to San Francisco for the weekend, before flying back to Italy. They explained that the people they encountered in America, especially in California, were friendly, which pleased me, having been a tourist in a foreign country. They enjoyed American barbecue, and even had a friend in Milan who recently started barbecuing for his friends. I told them about my time in Italy, and how much I liked the language and culture.  We spent a half an hour talking to each other before I wished them a “buon viaggio” and continued home.

I admit I was nervous speaking with them. Although I have studied Italian for a few years, a sense of anxiety creeps over me when I talk to native speakers. It is one thing to do grammar drills on a computer program. It is a completely different experience to engage a fluent speaker in his native tongue. Making sure the verbs are correctly conjugated and the adjectives match the nouns in gender and number can send my head spinning. I did it, though, even if I may have stumbled over my sentences and sounded like a child at times. It was rewarding experience, one that I will remember for many years.

This was not the first time I have encountered Italians in random places. Seven years ago, I met an Italian couple at a burger stand in Big Sur. These chance encounters add a serendipitous richness and excitement to life. Even though I had never met these people before, I was able to connect with them and establish instant rapport. That is the beauty of learning another language. Italian provided an instant social glue with people who live thousands of miles away. Grazie ai miei amici italiani per la bella esperienza.

If you have had any chance encounters with people who speak a foreign language you are learning, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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An Italian Christmas Carol: Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin

An Italian Christmas Carol: Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin

It’s Christmas season. While you are decorating the tree this year, you should incorporate an Italian Christmas carol into your playlist. “Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin” is a famous one that I like, and you can find some great arrangements of it online. I’ve included one of my favorite arrangements with the lyrics and translation below.

Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Fa la nanna o fantolino / Go to sleep, baby
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep, o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin./ Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa la, la, la
Perché piangi, o mio tesor? / Why do you cry, o my treasure?
Dolce amor, dolce amor / Sweet love, sweet love.
Fa la nanna, caro figlio / Go to sleep, dear Son
Tanto bel, tanto bel. / So beautiful, so beautiful.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin / Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin / Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Fa la la la (Repeat 7x)
O bel Bambin. / O beautiful Baby.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Fa la nanna, o fantolino / Go to sleep, baby
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.

Here are some fun Italian words and phrases for the holidays:

una mangiatoia
una mangiatoia

Soprammobile: ornament
Angelo: angel
Albero di Natale: Christmas tree
Buon Natale: Merry Christmas
Babbo Natale: Santa Claus
Biglietto d’auguri di Natale: Christmas card
Mangiatoia: Manger
Regalo di Natale: Christmas gift

I can’t write a post about Christmas in Italy without mentioning “La Befana.” La Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). Epiphany is a holiday that celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child.

un albero di Natale

According to Italian folklore, La Befana fills children’s shoes with candy and presents if they are good or coal if they are bad. Instead of milk and cookies, the children’s family leaves Befana some wine and food. She is sometimes portrayed as a friendly witch because she flies around on a broom.

Slate has a fun article about her that you can find here: “Forget Santa. You Should Celebrate La Befana.” If you are tired of Elf on the Shelf and want to add a fun Christmas story to your child’s library, check out La Befana: An Italian Night After Christmas or The Legend of Old Befana.

If you have a favorite Italian Christmas tradition or carol, please share it in the comments below. Buon Natale!


 

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New Dual-Language Children’s Book: Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino

New Dual-Language Children’s Book: Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino

As I mentioned in a previous post, dual-language stories are a great way to learn Italian. Regardless of which language-learning program you use, you will eventually need a break from the grammar and vocab exercises. Dual-language stories provide that welcomed relief and are a fun way to learn.

D.J. Higgins, an Italian teacher from Staten Island, New York has written a dual-language children’s book called Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino (A Day in Staten Island with Grandma and Santino). The book is about Santino, an American born Italian who runs a restaurant in Staten Island with his grandmother (or “nonna”). Santino falls in love with a woman and prepares the meal of a lifetime, while striving to live in two cultures at once.

The “warning” at the beginning of the book gives us a glimpse into Santino’s mind and the shenanigans that are about to enfold. He states, “There are no snobs allowed! Non sono uno snob! If you are looking for a conventional ‘learn Italian’ textbook put this book down and save us the frustration! You are entering into the wild world of Santino and sono pazzo!”

Complimenti a Mr. Higgins for creating a “dual language learning vehicle” that both young and old fans of Italian will enjoy! Check out this fun book here:  Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino.

Buon divertimento!

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Review of Living Language Italian

Review of Living Language Italian

Product: Living Language Italian*

Price: $150/year for Italian Online Course; $49.99 for Italian Complete; $179 for Italian Platinum Package

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10

After completing the Fluenz program, I decided to work through the Living Language Italian program I received many years ago as a gift. I’m currently on Lezione 4 and am 80 pages into the coursebook. In this post, I’ll give you an overview of what Living Language has to offer, and I’ll tell you what I like and dislike about their products.

Living Language’s Four Step Method. Living Language’s teaching method contains four steps:

  1. Build a Foundation: use your native language as a bridge for Italian and start speaking immediately using essential words and phrases.
  2. Progress with Confidence: use a building block approach with each new lesson building on the prior lesson.
  3. Retain What You’ve Learned: combine audio and visual input and written exercises to help you retain the material.
  4. Achieve Your Goals: clear and simple explanations of Italian grammar help you develop practical language skills and build confidence in your speaking and comprehension abilities

Course Content

I am using the coursebook and audio CDs from Ultimate Italian Advanced. In full disclosure, the version I’m using was published in 2003, so there have been many improvements. The version I am using is most equivalent to the Italian Complete product that is currently offered.    

This is the 2003 version I am currently using.

The lesson starts with a dialogue in Italian, followed by the English translation. After the dialogue there is a discussion of the vocabulary used in the dialogue. The bulk of the lesson comes next in “Grammatica E Suoi Usi,” which contains about four short grammar lessons. The “lezione” I am currently on currently working through contains discussions about direct and indirect object pronouns, the conjunctive pronoun “ne” and plural nouns and adjectives. After working through “Grammatica E Suoi Usi,” you will likely need a break, because the material can be challenging, but the process is rewarding.

Idiomatic expressions follow the grammar portion, and there is a short article about business in Italy before the exercises. There are five different kinds of exercises ranging from conjugation to translation, and the answer key is in the back of the book. Don’t cheat!

Pros and Cons

Pros

    • Course Book. I really enjoy being able to use a book for the lessons. I can read, highlight passages and make notes. I can also take it anywhere with me and do not need access to the internet or an electronic device to use it.
    • Content Amount. A lot of content is packed into every lesson.
    • Idiomatic Expressions. To really sound like a local, you need to be able to say more than just “Mi chiamo Will.” You need to learn some idiomatic expressions that may not translate precisely into English like “Ragazzi, avete un bell’aspettare,” which means, “Guys, it’s no use waiting.” Each Living Language lesson provides many idiomatic expressions which you will find useful when traveling to Italy.
    • Price: For just $49.99, the Italian Complete package is one of the best values on the market.

Cons

  • Lack of Repetition. The courses could use more exercises and repetition of the content you learn. Fluenz does a great job with this. To compensate, I write down new phrases and challenging vocabulary in a spiral-bound notebook which I review after every one or two lessons. To be fair, though, I am using a version from 2003. Even with this version, I still have access to 100 additional exercises with answers online. The new products Living Language offers offer even more exercises.  

    The notes I take as I work through the course.
    The notes I take as I work through the course.

  • Lack of Different Levels. Unlike Rosetta Stone and Fluenz, Living Language does not offer products for different levels of comprehension. There is a course for the beginner, but there is not an intermediate course or an advanced course offered anymore. If you already have some background in or comprehension of Italian, you can still purchase one of the older products like I’ve been using by clicking here: Living Language Ultimate Italian Advanced, although the cultural and business references may be a little outdated.

Conclusion

The ability to use a book and have access to online materials is really appealing and a nice change from digital only products. If you prefer having something in your hands to mark in and read like you did in school, Living Language is the way to go. If you are content with just a book, some audio CDs, and access to online exercises, the Italian Complete product is a great deal. If you want the option to do the lessons online and have access to a personal e-tutor and the online community, you can get the Italian Platinum Package.  Living Language could its product line by offering different levels of Italian like it used to.

If you have used or are currently using Living Language, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it below.

Affiliate Disclaimer: Like most of my other reviews, I use affiliate links in this post. This means I receive a commission if you click on the link and end up purchasing the product. This process saves you time and helps fund this site so I can continue to provide you quality content. Whether you are starting or continuing your journey in learning Italian, I hope this post is helpful to you.

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