Learning Italian: The verb to like

Welcome back for another installment of Learning Italian with Jennifer Avventura. This week we take a close look at the verb to like – PiacereI hate this verb with every fiber in my being. I started to study Italian 5 years ago using a fabulous work book called Italian Now Level 1 by Marcel Danesi and I have just dusted it off in hopes to get this one verb mastered. This book has been a god send and I recommend it to anyone who is just beginning to learn Italian.

Piacere – to like

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014

I’m tired of asking people “piace?” when I should say “ti piace” or “vi piace” depending on whom I’m speaking to.

Then things get really confusing if the noun is plural, not only do you have to change the article, you also have to change the noun and the verb! In English we have one article ‘the,’ however, in Italian there are seven and they are gender specific – il, i, lo, l’, gli, la, le.

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (2)

Here’s a little exercise I did using the verb ‘piacere.’

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (3)

Can you see all the eraser marks? It wasn’t an easy chapter to master and I’m still learning the basics of this very difficult verb.

Here’s a little hint:

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (4)

Are you left confused by all this madness? Don’t worry, so am I.

Non mi piace il verbo piacere. Non e facile a imparare questo verbo e la mia testa gira quando devo pensare per piacere! Pero, mi piace mangiare pizza. Vi piace mangiare pizza?

How did I do above?

Can you offer any advice on how to master this difficult Italian verb?

For more in this series:

Learning Italian – At the local doctor’s office
Learning Italian – The ancient Italian coffee machine and an expat accident
Learning Italian – Studying for the Italian driving permit
Learning Italian – At the Gynecologist
Learning Italian – You said what?
Learning Italian – An attempt to learn Italian prepositions

Learning Italian: At the local doctor’s office

The last three months of 2013 were absolute hell for me, I’m glad 2014 is here and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a healthy new year. At the beginning of October I came down with ‘colpo d’aria’ which roughly translates into a ‘stiff neck’. Now, this wasn’t just a little stitch in my neck it was a HUGE pain in my ass neck; you know the kind where your ear is glued to your shoulder and any movement you make sends shivering, painful shocks down your neck, back and arms. Heck, even sitting on the toilet was painful.

Then, I came down with a head cold which lasted two weeks. All that sneezing didn’t help the pain in my neck. By the middle of October my stiff neck was finally back to normal but I was still suffering from a serious bout of influenza which was now attacking my chest and lungs – I was a beautiful snotty, coughing mess.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

By mid-November I was slowly getting back to my normal healthy self when I caught a nasty stomach virus which lasted a good three weeks. I thank the heavens above that I didn’t spill the contents of my stomach but the pain was enough to send me to the doctor for antibiotics, which I was instructed to take for a month. I dutifully took my medication and was beginning to feel better, at least I was finally eating full meals and enjoying a little Nutella on the side.

Just when I thought I was getting back to normal; one early, dark morning I awoke to make the morning coffee when the coffee pot fell from its perch on the stove sending the boiling contents down the top of my leg and onto the side of my calf. You can read all about it here, it was horrible. I couldn’t walk, sleep or shower for a good two weeks and the pain was incredible!

Four days after the scalding accident, I stubbornly threw on a pair of old track pants and limped into town for coffee at my favourite bar. It was nice chatting and catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few weeks due to my illnesses. As I made my way out of the bar I slammed my thumb in the door causing blood to splatter on the door and the side of my good leg. I cried, and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes until I gathered enough courage to limp back home.

During the Christmas holidays I discovered a womanly problem that only a doctor could diagnose. The following morning I made my way down to the local doctor and this is what happened:

Me: Buongiorno.
Doc: Buongiorno.
Me: Oh, um … Dr. Fantastic isn’t in today?
Doc: No, he is on holiday and will be back on the 4th. You can leave and come back then if you prefer.

I wasn’t mentally prepared to tell this very young and rather stubborn doctor my womanly problem. I was used to Dr. Fantastic, who usually visits me in my home if I call him and smiles and laughs and makes me feel comfortable. This temporary doctor had me flustered from the moment I walked into the office.

Me: Okay. Um. I have a little problem, here, and I think I need to take an exam.
Doc: Who sent you here?
Me: Uhh, huh? No one sent me here, I came on my own. I found this little problem and maybe I need to have an exam done.
Doc: Okay, but who sent you here?

Seriously, at this point I wanted to sucker punch him. What was he trying to get at with this question? I was beginning to think I was in the wrong office – it felt all Godfather-ish.

Me: Umm, uhh. No one sent me here. However, I would like to have an exam done please.
Doc: Yes, but I asked you WHO sent you here?

Really? Again.

Me: No one told me to come here, no one! This is a doctor’s office right? And you are a doctor, correct? I have a problem, please …
Doc: WHO SENT YOU HERE?

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer Avventura

Internally I made this face at the doctor.

At this point I was a little freaked out and wished my husband was with me, cause one swift look from Hub the doc would have shut his idiotic trap.

Me: Listen. Dr. Fantastic is my doctor. I live in this town and I have a health problem.
Doc: What is your name?
Me: Jennifer Avventura.
Doc: Write it down.

He quickly throws a pen and paper in my direction and I write my name down.

Doc: So, what is your problem?

Big internal sigh.

Me: I’ve already told you, three times!
Doc: Oh, then you will need an ultrasound?

Did he really just ask me what type of treatment I needed? Oh, heck yes he did!

Me: I don’t know what type of exam I need. I am not a doctor, you are.

He rudely types away at the computer, then the printer starts. Dr. Stronzo throws the la ricetta medica in my direction and tells me to have a nice day.

SAY WHAT?

Without an examination!

What did I learn?

  • Never visit the doctor’s office during the holidays.
  • La ricetta medica – is the little piece of paper from the local doctor that you take to see a specialist.
  • Colpo d’aria – a perfect translation is ‘air shot,’ however – it’s a stiff neck.
  • 13 is no longer my favourite number.
  • It’s probably better that I wrap myself in plastic bubble wrap the next time I leave the house.

More in the Learning Italian series can be found here:

Have you had any strange expat experiences while visiting the doctor? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

P.S. a total clean bill of health. Finally.

Learning Italian: The ancient Italian coffee machine and an Expat accident

It was a dark and cold morning much like every morning during winter in December. Lazily I slung my legs out of bed, wrapped la sciarpa around my neck, slipped on my furry slipper Crocs and headed to the kitchen for morning coffee.

When I told my Sardinian mother that our electric coffee maker was broken, she happily opened the door to an old wardrobe and gave me one of hers. You see, in Italy every house has at least three; the one gifted to us is roughly 25 years old and I was proud to brew the morning’s coffee, daily, until nine days ago.

Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life

The culprit aka la caffettiera

My scream pierced the frigid morning air and Hub flew out of bed faster than a lion chasing a long-awaited meal, it gave me just enough time to turn off the flame and rip my boiling hot pajama pants off. When he reached me I was naked from the waist down, standing in a pool of steaming hot coffee with painful tears streaming down my face.

The gift, the ancient Italian coffee maker fell from its perch on the stove and spilled its boiling hot liquid down the front of my thigh, then did a fast flip as the bottom of the coffee maker scorched the outside of my calve. Small splashes of scalding coffee fell to the top of my foot making an abstract form of burnt skin on canvas.

“Che cosa è successo? Oh mio dio!”
“It’s hot, it’s hot, I didn’t know what to do.  There’s no skin! OMFG! The skin?! OoooooooHHHoooooooo. It hurts.”

He helped me to the bed, and in all honesty I don’t remember much after that. The fog cleared twenty-four hours later and I learned that the lovely neighbour heard about my plight, and was given an ancient secret potion that is brewed in the mountains of Sardinia. Hub religiously administered the potent medicine to my leg, through my heavy protests and tear-stained face. The neighbour spared only what she had left, leaving her household bare of this essential medicine, I am eternally grateful at her kindness.

We have since finished the secret brew and have switched to natural aloe vera. It’s a lovely miracle that my Sardinian mother has a giant aloe plant growing in her forest of earthly delights. Daily, Hub chopped large leaves of the golden liquid and administered it to my healing burn.

That was nine days ago.

A large aloe leaf, sliced in half sits slippery upon my wound, as I type this post. It’s a slow process, one I have never experienced in my life and one I hope to never experience again.

Today was the first day I tied my shoes myself, touched my toes, went for an hour walk and had a beautiful hot shower without the plastic bag duck-taped to my leg, and most importantly, all the above relatively pain-free.

The locals in town have been very helpful in offering advice and well wishes. I am a stubborn one, and during this nine-day ordeal, I still made it a point to get the daily groceries and enjoy the lovely December sunshine.

“Oh, Signora, che cosa hai fatto?”
“Ho bruciato la mia gamba.”
“Con cosa?”
“Caffe.” As I stimulate with my hands the turning of the ancient Italian coffee machine.
La caffettiera?”
“Si, Signora. Sopra tutta la mia gamba.”
“Devi andare a Cuppodia. Li, c’e una donna che si prenda cura di te. E ‘doloroso, ma non ci saranno cicatrici. Ho sentito che brucia l’ustione con una bruciatura.”
“Ummm…Cosa?”
“Vai al Cuppodia.”

A woman in Cuppodia who can take care of me. It’s painful but there won’t be scars. Words from every local in town is that this mysterious healing woman burns the burn, with another burn!

Yeah, I don’t do pain very good and decided to pass on the mysterious woman in Cuppodia. I said my thank you s and have a nice days and limped on home with fresh bread and local tomatoes in my recyclable shopping bag.

Words learned:

  • cicatrici – scars
  • la caffettiera – Italian coffee machine (possibly only known as such in My Town, Sardinia. In other parts of Italy it’s known as La Moka).
  • bruciare – to burn
  • And that sometimes, ancient remedies are the best.
  • Scarpa – shoes and sciarpa is scarf. Thanks my virtual friend. 🙂

Have you had any expat accidents? Did you prescribe to the ancient forms of medication? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

Learning Italian: At the Gynecologist

Continuing on from the super successful post on Learning Italian: You said what?, I thought it only fair to share another one of my embarrassing moments from my expat life Sardinia. This story involves vagina’s and doctors, so if you are easily offended I suggest you click here and if you’re one of the millions of weirdo’s who gets giggles out of others’ follies then, by all means, please read on.

At the Gynecologist the first time:

We had just driven an hour into Sassari and we were lost. All the buildings looked the same, they looked like pale, sick apartment buildings not a doctor’s office, there wasn’t even a sign. A young woman came walking down the street and stops in front of us “Lèi e Jennifer?” With a rather perplexed look on my face, I nodded yes. “Sono dottoressa Venere.”

I followed her into the cold, dusty archway and whispered to my husband “This is a little weird.” He nodded and continued on my heel.

Dr. Venere opened an ancient wooden door to reveal a small apartment turned into a gynaecologist office: one tiny bathroom, one bedroom and a living room/waiting room, it felt like I was in the doctor’s apartment. The red sofa stood out against the white walls in the waiting room and she said to my husband “Lei signore resta qui.” Dr Venere pointed to the luscious sofa and gave my husband a wink. Yes, a wink! I decided to ignore it.

She gestured for me to follow her and I obeyed her stern look. She opened her bedroom door and in place of a bed was a canary yellow gynaecological examination table complete with remote control and pillow.

Togliti i pantaloni e sedersi lì.” Say what? What she say? I’d only been in Italy for a year and my grasp on the Italian language consisted of: Io, pasta, pizza, ciao, mi piace, tu and spagetti. The examination table reminded me of Big Bird and I was scared.

Pantaloni. Pants? Yes, she wanted me to take off my pants, right! She can’t check out my vagina if my pants are on, why isn’t she leaving the room?

The doctors in Canada leave the room when a patient gets naked and provides a lovely, white paper robe. I gathered enough courage to ask her “un vesitito? one dress?” as I pointed to the recyclable white paper adorning the yellow chair.

She looked at me quizzically, pointed her pen at my waist and motioned for me to remove my pants and sit down as the procedure was about to begin.

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer AvventuraI was mortified.

How could I do this without a dressing gown? I’ve never done it without a dressing gown! WAH! Cue internal freak-out and escape plan.

She was staring at me, I was staring at her, and the Big Bird chair was staring at my vagina. Somebody help me!

I did what I always do in situations like this – throw caution to the wind and just do it. After all, this is Italy, and I learned a new word that day: pantaloni = pants.

Are you an expat? What was different on your first visit to the doctors?

Stay tuned for more horror stories from the gynecologist’s office.

© My Sardinian Life/Jennifer Avventura. All rights reserved 2010-2017. All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are property of My Sardinian Life. Do not use without written permission.

Learning Italian: You said what?

Okay, I’ll admit it, or maybe I don’t want to just yet it’s a little embarrassing. I mean it has been five and a half years and all, I should know this stuff, but I don’t.

My Italian sucks!

Well, it doesn’t suck in the big sucky way, but it could be better. Where I get confused is the moment I have to open my mouth and speak Italian.

“Buongiorno.” Okay, that was easy.

“Come stai oggi?” Alright, maybe my Italian doesn’t suck as bad as I think it sucks.

Let’s pretend I’m at the local farmers market conversing with the sausage seller.

“Salve Jennifer!”

“Ciao Pablo! Come stai?” It’s so easy these one-on-one conversations.

“Sto bene. Il solito – the usual?” Pablo is cute and short, and has a super big smile each Monday morning.

“Si, il solito. Mio marito va pazzo per tuo salsiccia.” Now, it’s time to cue the laughter card because I just told the sausage vendor:

“Yes, the usual. My husband goes crazy for your sausage.”

If you don’t have a dirty mind then the above statement will blow right on over your head. I on the other hand was dying inside the moment the words left my mouth.

Pablo looks at me with a wide-eyed grin knowing what I want even before I arrive at his table.

“Senza busta vero?”

What I said:

“Si, no busta. Non mi piace ad avere la plastica a casa e poi fa male per nostro mondo.”
“Yes, no bag. I don’t like to have the plastic at home and then it’s bad for our world.”

What I wanted to say:

“Correct, no bag. I find it unnecessary to have a large collection of plastic bags at home, there is no need for it, plus plastic takes about a billion years to disintegrate thus making it bad for the earth.”

And with the same smile I’ve seen every Monday for the last five and a half years Pablo hands me the sausage without a bag and I smile graciously yet embarrassed, turn on my heel and search out the fruit and vegetable vendor.

Fig porn by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian LifeNow let’s pretend I’m speaking with the fruit and vegetable vendor:

“Ciao ragazza!” I really hate it that he calls me ragazza – girl. I’ve bought his carrots and figs for years, he should know my name.

“Buongiorno. Mi dai per favore cattru figa. Mi piace molto la figa.”

The fruit vendor is beside himself and nearly crying with shock and laughter. The two elderly women beside me seem to be suffering from some type of cardiac arrest, shock or there’s a new disease around that leaves your mouth hanging open.

What I said:

“Good morning. Can you please give me four vagina’s. I like vagina’s a lot.” Okay so, this is something I said years ago, not recently, but it was said and still today the shock and giggle factor remains the same. I also said four in Gallurese.

So you see, learning a new language is not easy and at the best of times can be a whole lot of embarrassing.

There are still a number of things I screw up on like when to use UN, UNO or UNA – A, One, A.

Let’s try a little excercise and please feel free to correct me in the comment section below. I’ve just looked around my house for the following word list and I hope get them all correct. I’m aiming high!

Una banana – a banana
Un portacenere – an ashtray
Uno libro – one book. I wanted to say A book, would I write un libro?
Una penna – a pen
Una finestra – a window
Un divano – a sofa
Uno frigo – one fridge
Un cafe – a coffee
Una mela – an apple. And if I wanted to say One apple would it be Uno mela? I don’t think so, cue confusion.
Un asino – a donkey

I think this is all too much for 7:30 in the morning. I have system overload and need more coffee but this is the life of an expat in Italy. There are always questions, there will always be questions and I will always admit my mistakes and laugh at myself. It’s the only way to learn a new language.

What linguistic blunders have passed your lips?

An attempt to learn Italian prepositions

For anyone new to learning Italian – it’s not easy. I’ve been in Italy since May 2008 and I still haven’t wrapped my head around the Italian prepositions. Plus, I’m a little lazy. Okay, I’m a lot lazy. The first two years in Sardinia I studied and I studied hard with Italian workbooks, Italian learning CD’s, repetition and more repetition. Then it got boring and I studied by watching TV, listening to the radio or having a coffee at the local bar each morning.

Jennifer Avventura Learning Italian My Sardinian Life

I should know these off by heart by now, but I don’t. My husband speaks to me in Italian or Gallurese, and depending on my mood I’ll respond first in English, then Italian, and sometimes I’ll throw him for a loop and respond in Gallurese. The look on his face is priceless when I respond to him in his first language and the giggle that escapes from his lips makes me want to do it all over again.

So, in a haphazard attempt to fully memorize the Italian prepositions I wrote them on a white-board magnetized to the fridge.

I’m not sure it’s working.

What are your study tips?