Friday, August 27, 2010

Feature Friday: Tips for Learning Italian

Yes indeed! Italian can be quite a struggle and tiresome to the brain when first learning this beautiful language. When I first began learning Italian, I was confusing it quite a bit with French, seeing as French was my first foreign language pursued.  After eight years of learning French, the different tenses were still mind-boggling. In my honest opinion, from my experience, if you are not taught it correctly or have not had it explained well to you the first time, you will be utterly lost.

My first French teacher (who was not even French) was a complete idiot, and never really bothered to explain anything. If a student is struggling with understanding the material, I feel it is the teacher's obligation to spend extra time on certain areas of question, either with everyone in class, or on a one-on-one basis. Apparently this was not how my first French teacher operated. Upon entering high school, with my mother's request, I repeated the first level. It all began to eventually sink in, as my teacher's were much more proficient at explaining things.

It was not until I got to the university, from which I gained my BA, did I begin to work backwards again. My first professor for French was horrible and rude. He loved to belittle all of his students for their mistakes. Being a shy person, and for fear of making mistake, I rarely ever spoke. I continued taking French the following semester, and began yet again to grasp the grammar of French, as I had an intensive grammar class. That was my last French class I took, and began learning Italian.

Let me just say that I absolutely loved my Italian classes. There was no one to belittle me, and all the teachers encouraged students to speak, even if they made mistakes. Just to know you were trying was good enough for them. From having learned French, I quickly picked up Italian, but it was not until I began taking conversation courses that my Italian skyrocketed. Though I did have to work very hard to achieve the level that I am at now. Even in the conversation classes, we were required to do readings and debate about the different topics that arose. With the readings we had to do, our teacher would say, "read the readings without a dictionary. Try to at least understand the basic concept behind the article/story."

Well this did not work for me. Instead, I read the entire article, stopping at each word I did not know.... which was usually every other word. With my dictionary in hand, a highlighter and pen, I highlighted the word I did not know, and wrote the translation above it. It was quite helpful when the word was used more than once! Other times I wrote the translations in the margins. You can imagine how colorful my copies were! After reading through it once, and not having absorbed anything because of how long it took me to get through what I was reading, I re-read it with the translations.

It was during my first conversation class that I decided to make the leap to study in Italy when everyone in class jumped at the opportunity. And I have not looked back since.

So what have I learned about learning a new language from all this? Here are some tips:

1. Make sure you have a teacher who actually likes to teach the language. If possible, change your class for a new teacher. Learning a new language should be fun, not the cause of your nervous breakdown.

2. Do not be afraid to speak. It is important that you practice. Find a classmate who enjoys learning the language, and is not just taking the class for an 'easy A' (so they think). In fact, surround yourself with those who are equally passionate, and practice with them.

3. Study abroad! I cannot stress how important this part is... if you have the opportunity of course. Immersion does indeed help, though if you have a basic knowledge of the language. If you go to an area with non-English speakers, it will force you to use the language and not revert to your native tongue. If a study abroad option is not available to you, find a conversation group, such as the Dorothea House in Princeton, New Jersey.

4. Listen to music. This is probably the most simple way to pick up new words and begin to hear the distinction between each word, and not just hearing sounds. The sounds become words the more you listen to them. (If you understand what I mean.)

5. Read. Even if you have to sit there with a dictionary in your hand, reading is a great way to learn. It helps you learn the sentence structures of the language and of course teaches you new vocab. If it is too tedious, read a little bit at a time. Set a goal for yourself, like say, 5 pages in one sitting, depending on the complexity of the material.

What was/is your experience like learning Italian? Share with us your story!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Final Days

There are only three more weeks left until my departure. My room is a complete disaster, and looks much like a hurricane has passed through. Clothes are piled all throughout the room, while small collections of bags of things to be thrown out are in my room... Must remove those bags as it would probably create more room for me to work in.

How exactly does one decide what to bring with them when they are making a move that is possibly forever? I know I will be back as frequent as possible, and will be able to bring more things with me with each trip. However, the thought of having to pack my entire life into two to three small suitcases (small to me as I have lots of clothes) is saddening. My mother continually antagonizes me about all the things I will miss her. It has become a ritual of our evening tea/chamomile before we wander of to bed. She asks, "how on earth will you continue to do that without me?"

I have to admit that there are many things that I will indeed miss, but most of all it's my family I'll miss the most. Is it possible to miss something/someone even when you're still in his/her/their/its presence? The thought of missing out on my father's birthday, my relatives' birthdays, Christmas with my family

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feature Friday: Mach's Grun

That's German for 'Make it Green'! Mach's Grun is a program which was started in Germany to reduce the carbon footprint caused by blogs. The Arbor Day Foundation plants trees for those who participate, and will be doing so until late summer. The plan is to offset the carbon dioxide emissions for up to 50 years.

For now, the trees are being planted to help the reforestation of the Plumas National Forest, which is located in the Sierra Nevada, United States. Once reforestation has been completed in this area, the program hopes to continue with the planting of more trees in another national forest.

According to the Mach's Grun site, Harvard University physicist, Alexander Wissner-Gross, calculated how much carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere per visit to a blog. He estimated that approximately  .02g of carbon dioxide for each visit is emitted, and if there are an average of 15,000 visits per month, that would calculate to 3.6kg, or 8lb, of CO2. How could a blog create so much pollution? Well, think about the amount of electricity that is used to run your computer and the mainframes, especially if you sit for hours. It was further estimated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that the yearly absorption of CO2 by a tree is between 10 to 30 kilos, or 20 to 70 pounds.

How can you participate in this movement? Visit the Mach's Grun website to find out more details! There is no reason not to do it because it's free!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recap of Cortona

No post for today, but I wanted to share some photos that I took on my trip to Cortona two years ago. For some reason, I found this antique store to be absolutely fascinating, and probably could have stayed in there for hours pouring over its treasures. If you are ever in Cortona, be sure to stop by here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Seeing Stars

One of my favorite pastimes during the summer is seeing the meteor showers during the month of August. Every year, the Earth passes through debris of a comet. This year was the Perseids meteor shower. Perseids has been observed in the night skies for over 2,000 years, and orbits the sun every 133 years. The debris is made up of ice and dust from the comet, which burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. It is certainly a sight to see.

The height of the meteor shower was August 11-12, or 12-13. The past two nights have been really cloudy here in New Jersey, so once again my mother and I were a bit saddened that we were not able to see it at its best. However, throughout the month of August, one is able to see a few stragglers.

According to NASA, and their live feed video, meteors actually create sounds - pings, whistles, and blips. Hearing these sounds from ancient objects that have flown through the depths of space is eerie, yet beautiful at the same time. Who would have thought they could make music?! Visit the NASA website in order to hear the sounds.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's Cooking Wednesday - Brindiamo: Capesante

The other day I was flipping through the channels and found one of my favorite shows, Brindiamo, after having seen it only once. The host Ornella Fado showcases many of the finest Italian restaurants in the United States, and gives insight to Italian culture and trends. In each show she visits a restaurant and the demonstrates cooking of some of their best dishes. View the video below to get an idea of the show.

It has only been recent that I have fallen in love with seafood, whereas before it faceva l'impressione, roughly translated as scared me. It is all thanks to my boyfriend's mother's fabulous cooking that I have come to enjoy foods such as mussels, scallops, and the like.

I'd like to share the recipe featured. Hope you enjoy!

This episode is from the restaurant, Marcello's, which I believe is located in New York City.

Capesante (Scallops)


cherry tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
shitake mushrooms

Before beginning with the directions, the scallops can be marinated for as long as you prefer up to 24 hours, or they can be cooked right away. First halve the cherry tomatoes. With the scallops on dish, pour the olive oil on them. Next, add oil to your pan on the stove and heat the oil. Add the scallops to the pan. Do not overcook the scallops as they will become too hard. Instead sear them.

In a separate pan, add olive oil. Cut the onions and leeks julienne- style. Place them into the pan. Next, add the mushrooms and then the arugula.
It's a very simple recipe. Buon appetito!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fear of the Sea

I have a need to apologize to any faithful readers out there. My blog has been so boring - for those of you who are not interested, nor pursuing dual citizenship. So I will continue where I've left off with the adventures in southern Italy. We had last left off with the creepy waiter who was continually calling my phone, not even to speak to me, but to my friend! Let's backtrack though to the part where we were swimming in the warm waters of Capri.

Not many people know this about me, except for perhaps my parents, my brother, and a friend or two, but I have a fear of the sea. Yes indeed. It has not always been like that however. When I was little, you see, I was a fish... or at least like one. As a child, I spent every summer at the local pool, swimming until my lips were blue, teeth were chattering, and fingers pruned. On rare occasions, my family made the trip to the beach. At the time, it was a forty-five minute drive in the car, which is now only a fifteen minute drive since we moved some years ago. I absolutely loved the ocean, and loved body surfing. The bigger the waves, the better. It was depressing with 'little baby waves', and not as fun.

This all changed five years ago when I went to the beach with my brother, Rhythmic Gymnastics coach, her two children, and two girls, my age, who were visiting from Germany. One day, we decided to go to the beach. As always, this was exciting to me. A day at the beach! What could be better?! The water that day was pretty cold, and I am not one who likes cold water. So I waded up to my shins, and watched as everyone else cringed, torturing themselves with the icy waters. (The waters around here do not heat up until August, which is also when the jellyfish hatch. How exciting...... if you like little snots-like creatures in your hair.) There was an extremely strong undertow (and later learned a riptide), which I did not pay much attention to but should have. As each wave pulled back from the beach, it pulled me as well, my brother and my coach's two children.

Keep in mind that one of my coach's children has a learning disability and was only six years old at the time. His older brother was eight or nine years at the time. At some point, the younger child began going underwater. He did not know how to swim, inspite of his mother's efforts to have him taught during swimming lessons. His older brother also had swimming lessons, but obviously was too young to be a strong swimmer. Since the younger of the two children could no longer stand, as the water was getting deeper since we were going further into the water, I decide to help him, and hold him up. By now the water was up to my chest, and the older of the two could no longer hold his head above water. My brother decided to help him. We decided it was time to head back. But it was too late. We were slowly being sucked out to sea, and any efforts we made to head back to shore made no progress. The current was just too strong.

My brother and I then realized we were in trouble when we could no longer keep our own heads above water, due to the current and trying to keep the two little kids above water. It is very difficult to try to swim or tread water, while holding someone. Finally we saw some relief, as four lifeguards came to our rescue. They gave us little buoys  to hold onto, and helped  us out of the water. It was great to be back on shore.

Luckily, a half hour after we were rescued, all swimmers had to get out of the water because there was a shark siting. There must have been someone looking over us that day because we either could have drown, or been eaten by a shark. We slowly made our way back over to my coach and the two other girls who did not come into the water. I told my coach what happened, and she said, "we just got here and already you have to be saved?" All I could think of was, "wow! We just tried saving your kids because you don't seem to bother to watch them, and you say that?!"

 A couple of days later, she called and said, " I talked to my son (the younger one), and he said he wasn't going under the water, that nothing happened." I said, "really? Apparently he didn't know what was going on, and I was holding him up out of the water so he wouldn't drown." Perhaps I should've just taken care of myself then.

From that day, both my brother and myself are afraid to go into the water at the beach. My time at Capri was probably the only time I went in the ocean since that day, and have only been in the water in Pesaro where they have huge rock walls in circle formations so as to prevent tides and waves. Otherwise I don't go in the water.