Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fun Resources for Learning Italian!

Winter is a great time for learning, and another activity I've been indulging in is improving my Italian. As time goes on, there are more and more fun ways to learn Italian, regardless of the learning level you desire. And there's no need to be in Italy to learn it!

My all time favorite way to learn Italian is talking with Italian friends on Skype. I've been doing this since 2006 through a language exchange website called My Language Exchange. The site matches you up with native speakers who want to learn your language. I've made many friends this way, and talk with 4-6 of them on Skype every week, for an hour each time. Over the years of our sharing, we've become good friends, and I visit them when I'm in Italy. I have Italian friends in Trento, Padova, Bologna, Modena, Grottammare, Parma, Rome and Salerno that have become like my extended family.

There are so many advantages to having a language exchange, not the least of which is learning the language. My friends teach me about their language, but also share information and news about their culture, politics, food, traditions, history: so much more than I could every learn from a class or a book. And since my Italian friends live in different regions, I get the benefit of hearing different accents and idioms. I've heard of other language exchange websites, but I recommend this one:

Lately, I've come across several new FREE language learning websites that I've been enjoying, and each has something fun and interesting to offer.

Two that I've become addicted to, with their quizzes and challenges are Memrise and Duolingo:

Memrise - Learning, powered by imagination  (also has an app)
Memrise is an online learning tool with courses for many languages. Memrise uses flashcards augmented with mnemonics and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning.  Memrise was founded by Ed Cooke, a Grand Master of Memory, and Greg Detre, a Princeton neuroscientist specializing in the science of memory and forgetting. (from Wikipedia)
Duolingo  (also has an app that can check your pronunciation)
Duolingo is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. The service is designed so that, as users progress through the lessons, they simultaneously help to translate websites and other documents. (from Wikipedia)

Another GREAT site is LearnItalianPod, which has hundreds of free podcasts by native Italians.  (The podcasts are great, but you have to subscribe to use their scripts and other tools.) 

LingQ, which has conversations and scripts so you can read as well as listen
(Lots of free stuff, but they want you to subscribe to use some of their tools.)
LingQ is a Vancouver-based language learning website that focuses on language learning through structured reading, rather than grammar instruction. (from Wikipedia)

Some other resources
Italy Magazine, which has a section of dual language articles, in both English and Italian

La Bella Lingua - a website that explains Italian words and phrases in English

And just for fun, my friend Massimo told me about:  
YouTube videos of the David Letterman show, with Italian subtitles:

So, settle in and check some of these sites out. You'll have fun while you're learning!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Big Snow, Big Chill

The big news here in Kansas is that it's a ccccoooooooooooold winter. Earlier this week Winter Storm Nika hurtled through the Midwest, and within 24 hours dropped 14 inches (@36 centimeters) of snow on us. Actually, it was a lovely storm, though it brought with it sub-zero temperatures, which has not been so lovely. Currently it's 6 degrees F (-14 C) and it got down to - 9 F (- 23 C) last night. The city  basically closed down for two days, and schools are still closed today, while city crews are trying to get all the roads cleared.

After the storm, the sun shines.
Fortunately for me, I don't have to worry about driving to work in the snow, since I work online in the comfort of my home. And I can walk to the supermarket down the street, if need be. But there's still the need to clear the sidewalks, and since I live on a corner, I have a lot of sidewalk to clear. The city gives us 48 hours after the end of the snowfall to clear a path for pedestrians: after that, property owners are subject to getting a fine if the sidewalks have not been cleared.

One side of the long sidewalk around the house.
Another saving grace: my neighbor has a large snowblower, and he routinely clears my sidewalk after a large snow. He cleared a path after the first eight inches, which saved me a lot of work. My son also helped out that first night. But during the night, another six inches fell, and I've been working on clearing the sidewalks and driveway for the past several days.

Mike with his snowblower. He's a treasure!
For some reason, perhaps due to the roundabout at the end of our block, our street was one of the last to be cleared. We have a good amount of traffic through here, and many cars got stuck trying to maneuver through the piles of snow that had been churned up.

Uncleared streets two days after the storm.

In contrast, my friends in Italy tell me that their winter has been warmer and wetter than usual, and flooding has occurred in many regions. For my part, I prefer the cold and snow. At least the sun shines most days! I have orchids and an aloe blooming in my house, and lots of sunshine. And if I need some exercise, I can always shovel more snow!