Other resources?

drewster

drewster

Ciao Italians,

What other sources do you use to supplement your Rocket Italian? What have you found really valuable?

Cheers,
Drew
Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Hi Drew,

Being an Italian native I'm not certain I can offer that much of a help, but I'm still a language learner at the core and have tried many learning methods in my learning career!

I can speak for the languages I've studied: English, German and Icelandic. There you go, three Germanic languages.

What I find valuable? Repetition. Like, drilled repetition! I've used many resources and found out that I'm much more likely to remember a new word, or a new set phrase, if I listen to it first and then pronounce it. Often I like to recap the new words in my head while walking or doing something, or even associate it with some kind of picture. This applies to my mother language as well.

Let's take the Italian word culaccino, for example. It stands for that wet circle that you sometimes see after you pick up a glass of water from a surface, or for that drip that stoically remains inside the glass after you empty it. It's a pretty abstruse word, but it stuck in my head as soon as I bumped into it because I associated with the sound of culaccio, which is a particular meat cut (rump). Culaccino literally means "small rump". This is also valid for grammar rules, like the infamous qual è we talked about a few days ago.

What I find really valuable is the website forvo.com, which is like an audio dictionary. Natives of many languages can contribute with their own audio recordings that are generally one word long. This allows for a wide range of recordings and words available, and I can say its archive is huge!

Italian pronunciation is on the easy side, but there might still be tricky words. First words that come to mind are scandinàvo (which many pronounce scandìnavo) and mollìca (mòllica is widely used, but wrong). When in doubt, forvo is the quickest and best reference, as it's not always straightforward to get the right pronunciation through the IPA only.

If you can get your hands on some Italian movies, beware that many actors have a really heavy accent - sometimes even I can't understand what they are saying! Dubbed movies are another matter, because all dubbers have been trained to speak with a neutral accent.

Books are also very useful, if you are willing to jot down every new term you encounter. You might want to try with something easier, like the Italian translations of books you've already read in your first language, or you might dive into the Italian literature which is overwhelming! Two contemporary authors you might like are Stefano Benni (a favorite of mine, very straightforward writing style) and Alessandro Baricco (very straightfoward, but a bit baroque sometimes). You could also read Italo Calvino's books, he has a very rich style and it shouldn't be too hard to read as it's usually in the recommended books for middle school students - maybe you could begin with his short stories in Marcovaldo.

These are my two cents! :)

Lucia
drewster

drewster

Hi Lucia,

Thank you, I always value your input! I love it when I come across a word that doesn't exist in English. I'll try to commit culaccino to memory!

I'm probably at an upper beginner / low intermediate level. Like most, I'm pretty confident with my reading but speaking is poor. I'm trying to increase my vocab to at least make reading & listening better.

Would you say that those authors write in simple enough language for my level? I don't need to understand everything, but certainly a lot of books I've tried are just way too advanced for me. I've found blogger websites quite good as they invariably write very simply.

Cheers,
Drew
Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

My advice would be to search for online excerpts of the books that catch your eye. Amazon almost always provides a few free pages, and then you can find some sentences here and there when people mention their favorite paragraphs on websites like Anobii.

This one is taken from the incipit of Benni's L'ultima lacrima. Italian syntax allows for longer sentences than English syntax, so you might be better off searching for authors who keep their sentences somewhat short, like Benni. Sometimes he inserts very looong sentences, but he is a heavy user of parataxis and this makes them still easy to read. The vocabulary is as colloquial as it can get here. From what I can tell by your replies on the forum, you should be able to at least get a general idea of what is happening in the text. A few words could be tough (salatini - salted crackers, pansé - a kind of flower, derived from French, becchetta - from becchettare, to hit something with your beak, here used as a figure of speech hinting at the tap tap produced by high heels... as if they were as pointy as a beak!). Fammi sapere come va! :)
È tutto pronto in casa Minardi. La signora Lea ha pulito lo schermo del televisore con l'alcol, c'ha messo sopra la foto del matrimonio, ha tolto la fodera al divano che ora splende in un vortice di girasoli. Ha preparato un vassoio di salatini, un panettone fuori stagione, il whisky albionico e l'aranciata per i bambini. Ha lustrato le foglie del ficus, ha messo sul tavolino di vetro la pansé più bella. I tre figli la guardano mentre controlla se è tutto in ordine, si tormenta i riccioli della permanente e becchetta coi tacchi sul pavimento tirato a cera. Non l'avevano mai vista in casa senza pantofole.
I'd suggest you to stick to short stories in the beginning. When there are many words you don't know, reading can get boring, and then getting to the last page of a long novel will require every bit of your willpower. Short stories are a way to... fast gratification. You finish one and you're happy to know how it ends, so you want more. Taking little steps at a time is the key here, as you don't want to overload your brain with too many new words to learn. When I first read the Lord of the Rings - I wanted to run before I could walk, ha - I used to read 10 pages at a time... an odyssey, like Frodo's journey.

Then every author has their set of favorite words. If I had a dollar for every time I read "mummer's farce" in one of the GoT books, I'd be as rich as Uncle Scrooge! If you can get past the first dozens of pages of a novel, everything gets much easier because terms tend to repeat themselves.

Then, if you like fantasy, there's a great fantasy books reviews blog here: http://fantasy.gamberi.org/
It was last updated long ago but there are tens of articles available and they are really easy to read (there's a lot of sarcasm involved too, no sympathy for bad fantasy books). Books are not marked with stars but with shrimps, hence the name of the blog (gambero = shrimp)! :D

You might want to try a few comic books as well! If you like Disney characters, go for Topolino. It's a weekly magazine that contains comic strips and articles aimed at youngsters, but it's perfect for a beginner-intermediate level.

Last but not least, this website: http://www.grimmstories.com/it/grimm_fiabe/index

Lucia

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