Over 500 people have already listened to Wednesday’s new audio.
Well done to you guys!
But the other nine-thousand five-hundred of you?
Avanti, ragazzi! Don’t fall behind.
The more listening you do, the better. Time and effort are required to develop the neural networks needed for processing speech.
It’s not just some magic process that happens once you’ve studied enough irregular verb conjugations (the opposite, in fact).
Anyway, here’s the third in our new series of ‘Native-speaker conversations with transcripts’.
As these listenings are free, why not do them all?
As I’m typing now on the lower deck of an Airbnb bunk-bed, with the lights off and a sleeping wife above me, I haven’t actually listened to this one myself, though I’m sure it’s a humdinger.
Guessing from the transcript (it’s about food) the speakers are said wife, asking the questions, and my fourteen-year old son giving the briefist possible answers, no doubt so he can get back to his playstation game.
The topic though, ‘Cibi e bevande’ (Food and Drink), is one of his specialist subjects, so expect a precious insight into the dietary habits of Italian youth.
Which reminds me, I once taught English to a young woman who had a part-time job in a pizzeria. She SWORE that Bologna’s most popular pizza was ‘sausage and potato’, rather than the usual ‘margherita’ (which is just tomato and mozzarella).
This, we hypothesised, was because of all the male university students in the city who, not being able to cook or being bothered enough to learn, yet having promised their mothers to eat at least some meat and vegetables at each meal, subsisted on ‘sausage and potato’ pizza from Monday to Friday (Italian students go home at weekends if they can, to eat and to party with their home-town friends.)
And talking of pizza, what’s your favourite day of the week?
Friday, right? Not Monday?
Ask any non-teenage Italian what their favourite pizza is and the answer tends to be equally predictable.
“Margherita!” (read more about that topping here).
Go on, try it! Grab a passing Italian and ask them ‘Qual è la tua pizza preferita?’
Or badger your teacher (or an online teacher…)
Oh, and talking of asking people questions in Italian, the conversation prompts on which today’s audio is based can be found here.
Conversation prompts on other topics are here.
And all recent material, including the so-far three audios in this present series, are here.
Several people wrote to say that they enjoyed hearing about me visiting Sweden to practice my Swedish, so here’s an update.
If it’s not for you, just get on with your own language-learning using the free materials above (and prego!)
So, this morning I’m writing from the shores of Lake Vättern, which looks on the map to be Sweden´s second biggest lake, big enough to have an island in it, to which ferries take visitors and their vehicles.
Both lakes are in central-southern Sweden, to the left and down a bit from Stockholm, which is on the east coast.
We´re in Gränna, a little town on the eastern side of the eastern lake (too many ‘easts’ here I know, but Google it, if you’re curious.)
Mid-morning yesterday we picked up our hire car from behind the station in Malmö, back down there on the south-east coast (opposite Cophenhagen, remember?)
And, oh no!
Instead of the Ford Ka the rental website promised (an ugly little car, but cheap and suitable for our modest needs), they’ve given us a Volvo V40, probably the flashiest car I’ve driven in my life!
Stefi and I spent the day not-quite arguing about who would drive it.
“Well if you WANT to, you can. But if you’re tired, or have indigestion, I don’t mind taking over…”
Turns out the car has so many safety features that we were dangerously oblivious to the (rare) dangers of Swedish traffic while we tried to work them out.
For example, a red glow lit up periodically in the driver’s field of vision.
We wondered whether it meant the car was overheating, or running out of oil, or something.
But no, it seems it only happens when we approach the vehicle in front too closely.
Another red warning light only came on when a car overtook us.
We supposed that must be a heads-up not to pull out at that exact moment.
When I was a lad, you had to look out of the window to know that.
But wait! Now there’s something wrong with the steering…
We’re doing 110 kilometres an hour and getting this rather scary, random, sort-of-vibration thing?
“It’s your driving! You’re doing it deliberately to frighten me. Please be more careful or, at this speed, you’ll have us off the road.”
Eventually we worked out that this, too, was some sort of driver-safety system.
As you veer out of one lane and into another in an un-Scandinavian manner, the car reminds you to pay attention by vibrating the steering wheel and thus causing that alarming little wiggle.
I’m guessing here, but how come it only seemed to happen when Stefi was driving?
She’s Italian and so sees no need to indicate when changing lanes. Could be that if you use the indicators, you don’t get the wiggle-system kicking in to alarm you.
Maybe, then, that only happens if the car doesn’t KNOW you’re changing lanes deliberately?
That is to say ,if you’re refusing to use the indicators in that boring northern-European manner to signal your intentions to other drivers, who should know anyway, so why bother?
If I can get back behind the wheel today, I’ll test that theory. Or if anyone drives a Volvo, do write and let me know.
From Malmò we drove a short way inland to Lund, a pretty little town based around an ancient (by Swedish standards) university.
I read that Lund University was first established in order to ‘Swedish-ize’ the locals after the whole region had been seized from Danish control in the seventeenth century, or whenever it was.
There was a lot about this series of wars in´the museum at Malmö castle, Malmö having been a key defensive point which was captured and re-captured over the years as the two countries fought it out.
Honestly though, I don´t recommend a visit.
Little of the castle survives and, as museums go, it was one of the most-confusing I´ve ever visited.
Whichever way I turned, whatever sign I followed, was bound to take me the wrong way, so I was always starting exhibitions from the end point and thus never quite knew which century or exhibit I was in.
Talking of Malmö, the urban beach is teriffic. There are loads of places to swim and the under-employed lifeguards are just WAITING for you to leap in (the currents looked powerful…) So hop on a plane, lay out your towel, and soak up the sun and views of the famous bridge!
By the way, the uban beach is part of a new development which includes the famous ´Turning Torso’. It doesn’t literally turn, it just looks like it. Do check out the picture on Wikipedia, which describes it as “…a neo-futurist residential skyscraper in Sweden and the tallest building in Scandinavia.”
But what am I doing back in Malmö? Oh yes, Lund, and the university set up to teach the Danes to speak properly.
Pretty as it was, the hour we paid in the car park was more than enough, so from there we headed up to the afore-mentioned Lake Vättern, stopping in Jönköping, another university town but one with much more life to it.
Jönköping is encircled with wooded hills but has its lake view to let some light in, plus busy shopping streets, a much more modern-looking university, and the old ‘torg’ (piazza), home to a three-hundred and seventy-year-old, continuously-in-use court-house, a theater, and an incongruous Ethiopian food truck with no customers when we walked past at four in the afternoon.
Had I been hungry then I would have tried it, and it turns out I should have make the effort. The food offerings in Gränna, later in the evening, were uninspiring and over-priced.
We therefore ended up dining in, on knäckebröd and spreads, purchased as a last resort from the local supermarket.
This feast was washed down with a not-quite-industrial-strength beer known as ‘folköl’ (the ‘people’s beer’, maximum 3.5% proof, you’re kidding me?), the strongest alcohol available in any form from the food store.
Doubtless I’ll have more to say on THAT topic as our road-trip proceeds.
Today, though, we say goodbye to the sticks and head for the bright lights of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm!