This blogpost might not be suitable for some people, since we talked about the geography and stereotypes of our home countries. Of course stereotypes are not true, but sometimes there might be some true things.
To start off, there is of course the pizza and pasta. This one is as true as it gets, since it’s their specialty and they are very proud of it. However, never, and they take this very serious, put pineapple on a pizza. If you would do this, you might not make it out.
The second stereotype is how the Italians are a little disoriented from time to time. They are not very reliable if you have to be on time and are not very good at organizing. In some cases this is true (their traffic) but I guess every country has some places or events that are a little disorganized.
Just like their cars, they like everything to be pretty, even though their reliability might not be good at all.
My partner is from Milano, which is located in the North. From the people in the north there are some grudges held against people from the South and the other way around this might be the same. The people from the North think the people from the South don’t work and are lousy.
This is almost the exact same in Belgium, I explained to her how the country is very divided. We have the Flemish part (which I am from) and the French part. The Flemish part also holds some grudges against the French, because they also don’t want to work and are not very respectable.
Italy is a very diverse country, they have mountains, beaches, country sides and many more beautiful places. It is a country where you can see almost everything, also their cities are very pretty with nice monuments and beautiful buildings.
Then I had to explain to her that Belgium is not very beautiful, we also have some diversity in our country and the fun part is, that you can cross the entire country in a couple of hours by car. We have some small hills in the south, an ugly coast and some pretty cities.
It was interesting to hear that some countries have the same internal problems and grudges against their own people. The stereotypes were also fun to talk about since they can either be offended by it or say that they are actually true.
Since our last meeting was around music, we decided to go on with the same subject. This time it was for something more cultural. My partner likes Eurovision a lot and watches it every year. In Italy, there’s a big event to choose the artist to send to the contest, this is called ‘Sanremo’. We met up on the evening of this event and watched it together. All the songs were sung in Italian and the hosts were of course Italian as well. When they were saying something important she would translate it for me.
It was a big show with a lot of performances, which I kind of expected it to be.
One of the songs (voce) was on our playlist (previous post), so I already knew it. This was one of her favourites, but the artist didn’t win. While all the artist were performing one by one, she made a prediction of who might win and in the end she was right.
It was fun to see some Italian TV and some of their culture. Now we know who will perform for Italy this year in Eurovision.
We also discussed a little about previous Eurovisions and the times Italy ‘should have’ won.
I was also sure Belgium once won and looked it up, we won in 1986, this was the only time ever Belgium won. The song was in French and not in Dutch, but I decided to show it to her anyway. There were also some more recent ones she already knew and liked.
We also ended up talking a little about the songs we put in the playlist during and after the last session.
During our fourth meeting we decided to go through some songs in our mother languages. To be able to listen to them and add more on the go, we made a shared Spotify playlist. The playlist needed a name, so I named it after one of the first Italian songs she showed me (la canzone nostra). The name of the playlist is ‘le canzoni nostre’, the first time I named it I made a mistake in making it plural, but this was fixed very fast.
Then we could start adding songs, for her this was a very easy task, since she likes listening to Italian artists. She added a lot of songs of her favourite artist (Gazzelle), which I liked as well after listening to him. I had a harder time adding songs since I don’t really listen to Dutch music, but in the end I was able to find some recent songs that are popular in Belgium and I also added some classics.
Then we explained some of the songs to each other, this was a nice thing and taught me a lot. When you listen to the songs a couple of times, you start to remember the text, even though you might not know what the lyrics are about. But when the lyrics are explained it is very easy to remember, because you understand the message of the song and remember what it is about. Also some basic words that are used a lot, start to make sense and start to have a meaning.
I also explained some Dutch songs to her and she liked it as well.
I think this was a very educative and fun way of learning some basics and a couple of words in another language. The playlist is shared, so we can listen to the music and add some music anytime. I have been listening to it for a couple of times and found myself singing along to some of the songs already.
The third meeting we had, we decided to learn each other how to count.
This was not very easy for me, I think almost everyone knows at least a couple of numbers in Spanish and maybe some in Italian. Another problem is that they are very similar, so they are easy to mix up.
We went over them a couple of times together and then tried repeating them.
First I tried the Italian, since we are focussing most on Italian. I kept mixing up some numbers for the Spanish ones. But after a couple of tries, it went more and more fluent.
After that we tried the Spanish one as well, I was able to repeat this one a little more fluent than the Italian one, I think the cause of this might be that Spanish is a language that is used more commonly than Italian. But I decided to try the Italian one some more and I started mixing them up again, so I decided to keep my focus on the Italian one.
Then I decided to teach her the Dutch numbers up until 11. She was very good at it, except for one number, this is because they don’t have the same sound for the letter ‘g’ in Italian. That’s why number 9 (negen) was very difficult for her.
In the end we were both pretty fluent. To remember them for longer, we wrote them down on paper (see pictures).
For the second meeting we decided to do something less intensive. We watched the series “fate, the winx saga”. You would think that this is not the best thing to learn about a language, but this series actually was useful for some words and some culture.
The first thing that was discussed was the title of the series. Apparently there was a big misconception about the title in Italy, because “fate” is an actual word in Italian which means fairy and since the series is about fairies it could be possible. However this was not meant to be this way.
In the episodes you get to know the characters and get familiar with their names. The names were al names that were actual words in Italian, this made it very easy for me to remember them.
Some examples of names: Terra (which means dirt or the ground outside), Stella (which means star) and some more.
It was the first time was taught words by watching a series, but I found it very useful and easy to remember since you keep hearing the names and “words” and then think about what they mean in the other language. It also keeps it playful and easy to absorb.
For our first meeting we decided to meet up in one of our rooms. Since my partner is not enrolled in the course, this was useful to show her the main part of the course. We also went over the preliminary plan I made and she was really excited about it.
To start off we decided to go through the Italian alphabet, which is commonly done in other courses as well. In basics of Finnish we did this as well, but fundamentally the Finnish alphabet is the same as the Dutch/ English one, but with different pronunciation. However the Italians decided to throw some letters away because they don’t use them in Italian (they do use them in words derived from other languages). J, k, w, x and y are not used in their alphabet. However her favourite football team “Juventus” starts with a “J”, the pronunciation of the word is just “Uventus”.
After the alphabet she taught me that you have to pronounce the “c” and “g” differently when there is an “i” behind the letters. This was clearly explained by the use of words she made me read on things she found, for example ciao (hey) and cane (dog).
To end the lesson we went over the letters from the alphabet and formed one word for each letter.
Since I am not a very linguistic person, I have a hard time remembering words and sentences, but I hope this will improve during our next lessons and I will try my best to keep up.
She is really good at staying patient and explaining everything and you can see she has a passion for teaching and talking about her culture.
I am looking forward to more meetings.