Learn Italian and a bit of Italian Music History Along the Way

L’italiano è la lingua della musica!” You can probably figure out at least two of those words (even if you never tried to learn Italian) and come up with a basic understanding of what the sentence means:  Italian is the language of music.  You were able to make that out because a majority of English words derive from Latin, and of all the modern Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin.

Pianoforte or Fortepiano?

You can learn to speak Italian con brio (lively) and pronounce it piano or forte, but always con passione.  No matter your native language, with few exceptions, these words or phrases, describing how music should be played, are in Italian.  Learn Italian A nodding acquaintance with music notation will reveal a generous list of Italian expressions that you may already know. Many of the words will be a ready-made list that will go a long way in increasing your vocabulary while helping you learn Italian.  Just considering these two words, piano and forte, it’s a good starting point as you learn other meanings of these terms in different contexts.  In addition to “softly,” in everyday Italian piano also means “slow.”  Forte is “loud” and it also means “strong.”  Around the turn of the 18th century, the Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori invented a new keyboard instrument. Unlike the harpsichord, it could produce a sound from loud to soft, so someone decided to call it a fortepiano. Later it was changed to pianoforte. It flows better in Italian. Now you know that just calling it “piano” is only half the story.

Learn Italian for speaking and singing too!

You may already know that singers who want to have a career in opera, or in musicals where a more developed voice is required, start by learning Italian and singing old Italian arias.  You may think this is because a lot of operas are in Italian – yes, Italians invented opera – but that is not the reason.  The vowel sounds in Italian, though similar to vowels in other languages, are not articulated exactly the same way. Italian has the purest of vowel sounds.  They are all produced in the front, closer to the nose and lips, and not from the back of the throat.  That notion of speaking or singing “forward” is called in maschera in Italian. Yes, you probably guessed “mask,” and you are right.  If you think of those Venetian masks that cover the upper part of the face and part of the forehead, than you have the idea of where to produce the sound so that it is projected more clearly.  Learning Italian will naturally lead you to speak or sing “from the mask.” Along with proper breathing, learning to pronounce Italian will help develop this technique.  It won’t guarantee you’ll be an opera singer, but you will be enjoying forming those vowels and feel as if you were making music already.

So now you have discovered that while learning Italian, you not only learn a new language, but you also learn quite a bit of Italian culture and history.  And you also know why “L’italiano è la lingua della musica.”

Want to learn to speak Portuguese? Why choose Pimsleur? (Part 1)

So you need to learn to speak Portuguese – for business or for pleasure. Perhaps you’re going to Portugal to meet some potential business partners?  Or maybe you’re going to Brazil – for Carnaval? For the World Cup or the Olympics?  For a vibrant, relaxing, and rejuvenating get-away?

Want to Learn to Speak Portuguese

Want to Learn to Speak Portuguese?

Once you’ve figured out which dialect of Portuguese is right for you to learn, the next big decision is which language course you’re to buy, which method of language learning you think might work best for you.

I’m not just a Pimsleur writer, but I’m also a customer

Now, obviously, this post is on a Pimsleur website, so you can probably guess which course I’m going to recommend. But in a “Remember, I’m not only the Hair Club President, but I’m also a client” kind of way, I’m not just a gal who wrote the new edition of the Brazilian Portuguese course, but I also really love Pimsleur and swear by its underlying methodology. If I were going to another country, there is no way I’d use anything but Pimsleur to get me ready to go there – because I don’t have time to waste on less-effective learning methods. (And I also don’t have an inexhaustible frustration level: learning a new language is hard work, so given my choice, I’ll always go for the easiest way to learn it.)

Most other language courses tend to be the “same old same old” as the type of language instruction you got in school – and you know how that worked! I never get over being excited about Pimsleur because Dr. Paul Pimsleur had such a good idea (one which, in retrospect, is pretty obvious, like so many great ideas), which other language courses just don’t touch:  the best way to learn a language is do it as babies learn their first language (or “milk language,” or “mother tongue”).

Learn a new language the way you learned your first language

And that way involves hearing it – and trying to reproduce the sounds and speak them back – and then feeling the immense satisfaction when you do. That last bit is really important – as part of every Pimsleur course (built in to every unit) is to get you, the “learner,” to feel satisfaction at your progress. We course writers want you to succeed, and we write the courses so that if you put in the effort, you will come away from that “half an hour a day” knowing you’ve made progress. Because frustration doesn’t help you learn – learning can (and should!) be fun.

Babies don’t learn by reading, nor by flashcards, or using software. They learn by hearing those around them talk, and trying to talk back to them, in turn. They make mistakes, and learn from the mistakes. But the main thing is, language-learning is aural/oral, and it’s not built around mindless repetition, but actively trying out words and putting together sentences – listening for replies as confirmation, and learning from them. And that’s how Pimsleur courses work. (Well, there’s a good deal more science to it than that, but it’s where each Pimsleur course starts.)

Spilling Pimsleur Secrets (How do they do it?!)

So, we’re back to you wanting to learn to speak Portuguese.  How does any of the above help you? Because the Pimsleur course is built, from the first unit, to make it as easy as possible for you to succeed – with pleasure – at learning Portuguese.  In Unit One you start by hearing a conversation which you can’t understand … and then, by the end of the unit, you hear it again, and can understand it – and respond!

But it doesn’t stop at just generally helping you to learn to speak Portuguese.  We Pimsleur course writers also know that becoming fluent in another language takes a while (each Pimsleur course takes a month to complete as a learner) and maybe you’ll only have time to do Level I before setting off for Brazil for the sun, food, and culture – or maybe your boss only gave you a month’s lead time before that business trip to Portugal.

So we pack each unit with important words for A.) travel, and appreciation of the country once you get there and B.) building a workable vocabulary so you can best continue learning while your boots are on the ground, and you’re surrounded by Portuguese speakers. (Because, of course, the best way to learn any language is to go to the country, surround yourself with people speaking that language, and just do your best every day to communicate with them. Pimsleur, for as wonderful as it is, comprises only the first steps to real fluency in a language. We give you the boot-straps, as it were, to pull yourself up to getting along in a foreign country in a foreign tongue.  Once you’re there, building a real fluency will happen as you talk to people, learn more vocabulary, and get a more in-depth feel for the rhythms of the language and the more subtle nuances that no language course or class can ever teach you.)

So there is no “La plume de ma tante” (nor “my hovercraft is full of eels”) in Pimsleur – you are taught words you need and can use, and while you are being given those useful vocabulary items, at the same time you are taught the rest of the parts of the sentence to put around them, so that you can talk about yourself, or another person, ask questions – or, if you make a mistake, you can explain and correct that, and learn from it.

The world opens up for you when you open your mind by learning a new language

So that’s why I don’t just work for Pimsleur, I’m a Pimsleur customer. I know that any language I want or need to learn, I can just grab a Pimsleur course, make room for half-an-hour in my day for the guided learning, and I will be able to go to any country – say, Brazil – and communicate with the native speakers of the language. (And, sadly, even if I only have one month to do Level One, they will be surprised and impressed, because, let’s face it, Americans don’t have a very good reputation around the world when it comes to showing up knowing the language.) And that’s why, if you want to learn to speak Portuguese, I would recommend that you, also, grab a Pimsleur course (whether it’s the brand new edition of the Brazilian Portuguese which I just worked on, or the excellent European Portuguese course) – because I can tell you that each course has been built with the express purpose of teaching you the vital language skills you need, in the least amount of time, with the least amount of frustration, so that you can be enjoying a trip to the beach in Portugal, or a museum in Brazil (or watching soccer in either place!) and enjoying new cultures, new friends, and the way the world opens up for you when you open your mind by learning a new language.

Can Drinking 4 Glasses of Water a Day Double Language Learning?

Amazing New Study Reveals Secret to Faster Language Learning

Drinking Water Doubles Language Learning

Photo © Gmaxwell

Researchers have long considered language learning to be a combination of the right method and a motivated student, but one researcher may have discovered the hidden key to unlocking second language proficiency.

In a surprising new study, scientists found that students who drink four or more glasses of water a day are able to double their language learning ability!

Learning a new language isn’t always easy.  While our brains might be capable of amazing feats of dexterity, they can also seize up at the most inopportune moments.  But what if, with just a few small changes to our daily habits, we could increase, or even double our ability to acquire new words and phrases?

According to Dr. Noah Comprenday, that kind of learning could be within reach for almost everyone.  Comprenday, a professor of neurolinguisticpharmacology at the Marlborough Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) has devoted his career to the study of language acquisition.  While his findings are nothing short of amazing, much of his work explodes common misunderstandings and myths about what it takes to learn a language.

In one of his earlier studies, a set of volunteers were asked to eat a large quantity of chili peppers while listening to music in the target language.  Their initial burst of fluency was followed by several days of scatological jokes in their native language, and subsequent testing revealed no increase in overall proficiency.

In another study that showed initial promise, volunteers were asked to keep a written journal describing attempts at getting 6-year-olds to try several new foods, using the target language.  Volunteers quit this study after just 30 minutes.

Finally, Dr. Comprenday asked a group of his graduate students to try drinking various amounts of wine and beer, while using a Pimsleur course.  The control group was assigned to drink water.  As expected, the wine and beer drinkers showed some initial promise, but unfortunately, they were unable to complete the language assessment at the end.   Meanwhile, those in the control group were found to have doubled the rate of new language they were able to acquire.

No single strategy will work for everyone,” says Dr. Comprenday, “But everyone can find a strategy that works.”