Tag: italian.2007

Thursday morning

No Italian last night (again) and no workout this morning. Ugh! For a while there I was like a smoothly spinning top, and now I’ve been knocked off balance somehow and can’t quite get back into the swing of it. But I’m trying.

It’s been a productive morning so far, but it gets a little busier this afternoon, when I have to give a presentation like the one on Tuesday.

I heard from the managing editor at IGMS, letting me know that my contract and check for my story “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” is in the mail. More than likely, it will end up arriving while I am in L.A. next week so I shot an email back to let her know that I might not be able to return the signed contract until I am back home.

We have another softball game this evening and it looks like we have an even better player turnout than last time. We’ve got 16 confirmed players for an 11-player lineup, and that means that we’ll have 5 substitutions today, which is a record for us, at least in the last three years. I think I put together a pretty good lineup for the game and I’m looking forward to getting out there later today and playing.

No Italian, no gym

I didn’t get up for the gym this morning. I wrote longer than I intended last night, which was good, but which kept me up later than I’d planned. I also owed Dan a phone call. Originally, I was going to call him at 8 PM and talk for half an hour. Instead, I called him close to 9:30 PM and talked for nearly an hour. It was 11 PM before I finally got into bed and given that the day had been particularly long and busy, the extra hour of sleep could help, so I slept in until 5:30 AM and don’t think I don’t feel guilty about it.

The writing last night (and the fact that I watched my TiVo’d episode of Heroes also kept me from doing any Italian lessons yesterday, although I was mumbling phrases to myself throughout the day.

I’m glad this is “season finale” week, for the most part. No new shows to watch, except on HBO and once those seasons are over, I’m done with TV for a while.

Italian, Level 1, Unit 1, Lessson 6

I only managed to get in one lesson yesterday instead of the two I was aiming for, but one is better than none. Yesterday’s lesson was called Numeri e l’ora which is a bit of a misnomer because telling time was introduced, but much of the lesson was a reviews of the previous lesson on singular and plural forms. More complex sentences were added. And some additional numbers (15, 20, 30). New vocabulary, too, as always.

Here is what is tough for me. I have no problem quickly learning what is being said in the language. It is much harder for me, however, to try and formulate an Italian sentence, even though I can understand the language. I have to slow to a crawl just to think of the words, and the correct form of nouns, plural, singular, verb, etc. I think it used to be like this with Spanish too, and eventually, I “got it”. I suppose the same is true with Italian. I have no doubt I will be able to understand what people are saying; I’ll just be slow when it comes to have to speak it myself.

Italian, Level 1, Unit 1, Lessons 4-5

I got through two Italian lessons last night: numeri cardinali da 1 a 10 (the counting numbers, 1-10), which was the easiest of the lessons I’ve done so far. I also got through singolare e plurale: nomi e verbi nel presente, presente forma progressiva (singular and plural nouns and verbs, present tense). This turned out to be the toughest of the lessons I have learned thus far.

It seems as though Italian (like Spanish) has different forms of nouns when those nouns are plural, and combine those nouns with the masculine and feminine versions and you’ve got four combinations. What’s different from Spanish (and English) is that the plural form does not end in “s”, which takes some getting used to. (I recall Hebrew being like this, with the plural form of the noun ending in the -om sound.) From what I have been able to infer, the masculine plural tends to end in an “i” sound (“i bambini”) and the feminine form tends to end in “e” (“le bambine”). In some cases, the article changes and I haven’t figured out the pattern yet. For instance, whereas “the boys” is “i bambini”, “the eyes” is “gli occhi”. “Gli” is not the easiest thing to pronounce, even when you hear it repeated 20 times.

And then there are the plural form of the present tense verbs (“stanno”), which combines with the plural forms of the nouns described above.

All of this, mind you, is inferred, as there is no explanation as part of the software. This, I think, is the trick of learning the language. Rather than having a teacher explain the mechanics to you, you just have to figure it out yourself, piecing it together as best you can. But after a while, the patterns start to make sense, even if you don’t know why.

I also learned that prepositions also change form with the singular or plural, something that I don’t think happens in either English or Spanish and it means yet a third form that you must be aware of.

Tonight, I’ll be going through lessons 6-7, which I think deal with more on plural verb forms and also simple question and answer forms.

Getting my act together

What with Sunday being the first day of a new week, it’s as good a time as any to try and get my act together. I barely made it to the gym last week, which is not a good sign. Good habits like that are hard to form and easy to break. It takes an extra effort to stick with them and with 50 days to go before the cruise, I’m moving into the final stretch and really need to stick with it. I need to get back on my schedule of getting up at 4:25 AM, and getting to the gym before 6 AM and I need to stick with it.

I haven’t touch the Italian lessons in more than a month now, and again, with 50 days before vacation, I don’t have a lot of time to waste. I’m going to aim for two lessons per day between now and then and cram as much Italian into my system as I can.

I’ve done very little writing. I’ve been disjointed and confused, not sure whether to work on the expansion of “Graveyard Shift” or to work on something shorter. The shorter things are just not working out for me write now, so I’m sticking with the expansion. But that means I’ve got to stick with it. I’ve made myself a goal for this, but I’ve been doing nothing to achieve the goal. That changes today as well.

What it all amounts to is that I’ve grown lazy. I could blame it on the fact that I am busy and I have a lot of balls up in the air at once, but the truth of the matter, when you get down to it, is that I’m just plain lazy and need to get my act together. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things beginning today.

Italian Lesson #2

This morning, I made my way through Level 1, Unit 2, Lessons 2 and 3. I was introduced to some basic present-tense verb forms and sentences such as, “The boy is running”, “The girls are jumping”. These got more complex, with sentences like “The girls are running after the boy”. Lesson 3 involved adjectives, things like old and new for objects and old and new for people. Also things like some basic colors.

Still no memorization and everything is presented in a way that you can intuit what the meaning is (and through repetition, you remember it), but I’m pretty good at memorizing too. I find that I can hear the sentences in Italian and know almost at once what they mean in English. But if I see a picture and try and say the sentence in Italian, I hesitate. So what I am going to do is put together a set of flashcards (I love flashcards) based on the vocabulary that I am learning, with the English word on the front and the Italian word on the back. I will then use these to improve my English to Italian translation speed; that is, until I get good enough to where I can see a word in English and instantly say it in Italian.

There are some things that I have picked up, such as which nouns are masculine and which are feminine. Also, there are some subtleties to pronunciation. Some words are pronounced with sounds that don’t seem to be included in their spellings. I am trying to remember these.

Here are words I’ve learned so far, from memory

My first Italian lesson

When I finally got home from work last night, my new Rosetta Stone software was there waiting for me and I was eager to try it out. I got it installed and completed the entire first lesson, which took about 45 minutes. In fact, when I took the test, I only missed one question and that’s because I wasn’t paying attention when I answered it.

It is really a fascinating method for learning a language, unlike anything that I had in school while learning Spanish. They say that there is “no memorization required” because there is no translation. You are taught entirely in Italian. This is true. The amazing thing is how well it works (so far) for me and how much deduction and plays into the learning process.

It starts out very basically. You are shown four pictures, and then a native speaker speaks the Italian word for each picture, for instance: un bambino, una bambina, una palla, una cavello. Then the speaker will speak one of the words and you have to click on the appropriate picture. I would repeat outloud anything that I selected so as to work on my pronunciation, etc. (There is a whole section of the application that analyzes your accent and pronunciation in great detail, but I only played around with that a little last night.)

As you progress through the lesson, more words are added via pictures. At first, these are mostly nouns, but then, other words are subtly added. For instance, you’ll see a picture of a man and a boy and then speaker will say, Un uomo e un bambino (thus, you deduce that e means “and”). That evolves into learning some prepositions. You see a picture of a girl on a horse: una regazza su un cavello. You see a picture of a boy standing under an airplane: un bambino sotto un aereo. All the while, new words are being added by the pictures: boat, elephant, dog, cat, etc. It is really an ingenious way to learn. At first when I saw the boy sitting on the wing of the small airplane, I couldn’t decipher the word su, but then I saw the girl sitting under the table and immediately understood the word sotta and from the that was able to deduce the word su.

I started the second lesson last night, which introduces some verbs, entirely in the basic present tense form of is —ing (“is walking”, “is running”, “is swimming”, etc.) I didn’t complete the lesson because I had to get to bed and I will start it from scratch again today, but even in learning the verbs, you are left to yourself to decipher the meaning from the pictures which I think is very useful because your mind has to work at it and you begin to learn the words directly rather than have to translate them. Also, they continue to add subtleties along the way that expand your knowledge. For instance, after doing sentences for pictures like, L’oumo sta cominando (the man is walking), they will throw in a picture of several girls running together (Le bambine stonno caminando) and you begin to learn plural forms of nouns and verbs.

The thing that impressed me most is that this morning, I remember most of what I learned last night as though I just had it fresh. I can hear the native speaker’s voice in my head saying the various words and I know what they mean without having to think about it too much.

Rosetta Stone software is not cheap, but so far, I am very impressed with how it works so it seems to be well worth the money spent.

My (not so) super-secret project

[Working from home today]

My original plan was to keep this project super-secret and then surprise everyone at the beginning of July. But after mentioning it to jen_ashlock and jkashlock over the weekend (no more secret) and thinking about it harder, I decided it would make an excellent example of an experiment, the results of which may benefit other people.

So what is this super-secret project?

I am leaning Italian.

I have ordered the Rosetta Stone software for Italian Levels 1 & 2, which is supposed to be the best software out there for learning a new language. I should have the software by the end of the week, and then I get started.

I can already speak fairly decent Spanish (and I am nearly fluent in my reading of Spanish). I am told that will make learning Italian even easier. My goal is to be able to speak Italian well enough to understand what I need to understand (directions, ordering food, simple conversation, etc.) in time for the Big Summer Vacation in July. It is a lot of effort for only perhaps a week or so worth of time being spent in Italy, but it will hopefully be worth the effort. For one thing, I think you get better service if you try and speak the native language. For another, hey, it’s another language that I can try out.

So, in addition ot keeping up with my workouts, and keeping up my commentary on SCIENCE FICTION AGE, not to mention my regular reading and writing, and softball, which will be starting up in a few months, I now have something else to fill my time.

Those interested in following along on my Italian language progress to see how well the Rosetta Stone software works for me may do so using the following link:


Stay tuned…