Today I have another recording of Italian native-speakers asking and answering questions from our series of free Italian conversation lessons.
If you haven’t tried them with friends from your Italian class, you should!
To get better at speaking, you need to speak.
Over the last five or six months, I’ve been using this approach to prepare for meeting my wife’s extended family and various friends in Stockholm.
Saying anything in a foreign language is hard at first, but the more you try, the easier it gets.
And experience counts for so much, both in terms of expressing yourself and when it comes to hearing what others are saying.
So, if you don’t live in a country where the language is spoken, seek out ways to acquire that experience.
I’ve been doing lessons with teachers online, but often they have little experience and know only how to teach grammar (if that.)
That’s what our conversation prompts are for.
Teachers – adapt them for use in your classes!
Students – study the questions at home and formulate your own answers. Then practice together with others from your class or with an online teacher.
Todays native-speaker conversation is ‘Sei bravo a…?’.
The ‘prompts’ from which the interviewer (my eldest daughter) has chosen her questions can be found here.
Oh, and if you like this one and are wondering where the previous materials from this series are?
You’ll find them on our ‘New’ page.
Today is our first morning in Gothenburg, which I’ve heard is an ace place to visit but have so far been to busy to find out anything about.
But as it’s raining outside our hostel window, before setting out to see the city I thought I’d bring you up to date.
On Friday we were just arriving in Stockholm, remember?
We arrived at my wife’s cousin’s place (a pretty house in a wooded Stockholm suburb) on Friday evening, to find that we were the evening’s entertainment!
As we sat on the ‘deck’ in the garden enjoying the sunshine, various members of the extended family (cousins, their children, an aunt) would arrive to say ‘Hello’.
This was my cue to put 18 months of study into effect! I tried to speak to EVERYONE in Swedish, at least, as far as I was able to.
You can imagine the result, I’m sure, but it was certainly appreciated. People really seem to value the fact that you’ve made an effort to learn their language and use it when you interact with them.
After that baptism of fire, on Saturday morning, bearing passes for the Stockholm urban transport system borrowed from various cousins, we drove to the nearest tunnelbana (subway) station with free parking and caught the underground train into the center.
Our passes were good for the ferries too, so from the center we hopped onto one at random and got an hour-long tour of Stockholm, as seen from the water.
The sun was bright and there was a little wind, enough to propel the many boats, of all sizes, which were heading from the city out towards more open water and a day of sailing and fresh air. Lucky them!
From the ferry, we could see the amusement park, with its rollercoaster and other terrifying devices that I don’t know the names of. Also the Vasamuseet (Scandinavia’s top tourist attraction, apparently), a bunch of impressive-looking churches, the ‘old city’, and much more!
Why do buildings so often have black roofs here?
The whole city is waterfront. Each district seems to be an island, linked by bridges to the others, though the islands are hills, rather than being flat.
In fact, imagine a combination of Venice and Napoli, plonked down at the top of the northern hemisphere, and with all the buildings having pointy black roofs. That should give you some idea.
Or go look at pictures (Google ‘Stockholm’ then choose ‘images’, which will turn up plenty…)
After the boat trip, we saw the parliament building, visited the royal palace to watch the changing of the guard (the navy was taking over from the army by the looks of it), then through hordes of tourists across the Gamla Stan (old town) island, and over a bridge to Södermalm, yet another island, one which my latest online teacher bitterly described as ‘Stockholm’s Beverly Hills’.
As in, “If the politicians, who all live in Södermalm, never get out into the suburbs, how can they possibly understand how voters feel about immigration?”
Lunch was a ‘korv’. Look it up, or don’t, as fast food isn’t really Södermalm’s strong point. It’s mostly chic bars and groups of elegant ladies pushing babies in expensive prams. You could likely eat better, and certainly cheaper, in the ghettos…
And then it was back on the tunnelbana train and into the car so as to be ready for more Swedish practice, this time a gathering of my wife’s friends from teenage summers spent in the Stockholm area almost three decades ago.
We were driven out to another fashionable area, in Stockholm’s archipelago.
Imagine you live in a large, detached house, with gardens at the back sloping down to a private dock. At the front there’s a driveway full of Volvos and BMWs.
You have a ‘deck’ big enough to entertain twenty or so of your friends on, with space left over for the jacuzzi.
As you sip your wine or craft beer, you watch the ferries from Stockholm heading out to Estonia and other exotic destinations. Or wave to your neighbour, one of Sweden’s most famous soccer players.
Once again though, my Swedish was appreciated, which meant that conversation could be in English or Swedish as the mood took us.
When it was the later, I often understood little, but appreciated the opportunity to listen anyway.
With ample food, wine and conversation, the evening went on much too long. I don’t think I’ve been up so late for at least a decade…
On Sunday morning, after much too little sleep, we had to force ourselves back onto the tunnelbana train for a second day in Stockholm.
A club member had strongly recommended the Vasamuseet (thanks Sandra!) We walked there and back from the tunnelbana station, and that was more or less the day done. Except…
Sunday evening was the main event for my wife’s family, who had started gathering at the cousin’s house even before we were back from our museum visit, and stayed all evening.
There must have been four generations there, at least. I think I got most of the names wrong, and I could never figure out who was an aunt, who was a cousin, and who was a cousin’s child (or step-child, as ‘blended’ families seem very much the rage here.)
Nevertheless, it was another invaluable evening of Swedish conversation practice, though this time with a much more moderate quantity of beer.
Monday featured lunch with the oldest member of the family, the eighty-four year old aunt, who still lives independently and had bought a can of her late-husband’s favoured brand of beer for me to drink as I watched Sweden play South Korea in the (soccer) World Cup and she and my wife looked through family photo albums.
The evening was dinner with an old university friend of my wife’s. The two of them went to Japan together as students, and the friend married a Japanese guy but is now married to a Swede and lives in another lovely house in another lovely Stockholm suburb with her ‘blended’ family.
Actually, it was fun. The women chatted in Italian the whole time, while at the other end of the table we talked politics and Swedish history, mostly in English.
That said, several times I had to catch myself when I adressed the (Italian) hostess in Swedish, as you do, only to get a completely blank look back.
Though she’s been with this guy for years, and has lived in the Stockholm area for a year or so, and works here, she seems to get by entirely in English.
And that’s quite normal, apparently.
Back in Malmö, I ordered a beer from a woman who turned out to be British but preferred to speak English to Swedish. I suggested rather apologetically, in Swedish, that her knowlege of the language, given that she is living here, must be much better than mine. I got back just a sour look.
On Tuesday morning, finally, we left Stockholm, destination Gothenburg, where I’m writing this. I’ll press ‘publish’ and go take a look!
Apologies to everyone who has writen in recently but has received only a short reply, or none at all.
Now you know why!
I’ll catch up when I can.