Have you learned a language you hate

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Old-fashioned language learning can be painful, but there’s a better way to learn. Find out how technology can make learning easy.\

Taylor is a music and film journalist and one of the last truly enthusiastic redheads in New York City. She tries to read every book that's recommended to her.\

Taylor is a music and film journalist and one of the last truly enthusiastic redheads in New York City. She tries to read every book that's recommended to her.\

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Taylor ist Journalistin für Musik und Filme und eine der letzen wirklich enthusiastischen Rothaarigen in New York City. Sie versucht jedes Buch zu lesen, das ihr empfohlen wird.\

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Taylor é uma jornalista cultural e uma das últimas entusiastas realmente ruivas de Nova Iorque. Ela também tenta ler todos os livros que são recomendados a ela.\

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Taylor es una periodista musical y cinéfila, y una de las últimas pelirrojas verdaderas de la ciudad de Nueva York. Intenta leerse cada libro que le recomiendan.\

We can safely assume that you’re reading this article for one of two reasons. Either you’re an avid reader of the Babbel Magazine and never miss a new post, or the title struck a chord with you: when listing your strengths and weaknesses, language learning falls into the latter category (not that you’d admit that publicly).\

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We could comfort you with those barely comforting words, \you can’t be good at everything\, but it’s more pertinent to say that \you can’t be bad at everything\. Using a language implies numerous different skills, from reading and writing to conversing, improvising, and remembering vocabulary. You’ll undoubtedly be better at some of these skills than others, and you certainly won’t be terrible at all of them.\

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It’s worth taking time to identify your strengths and weaknesses before embarking on a new language. Then it’s a matter of playing to your strengths and reinforcing your weaknesses.\

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1) Memory\

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Everyone purports to have a good memory for some things but not for others. Memory normally serves us best for the topics in which we’re most interested. If you’re a huge football fan, you’ll probably be able to remember the entire line-up of your favorite team. If you’re into music in a big way, you can probably indulge in some heartfelt karaoke without looking at the lyrics. But when it comes to grammar rules and irregular verbs, your neurons go on strike and picket your long-term memory. What’s the solution? Create connections between topics that interest you and the language you’re learning. How are you going to use the subjunctive in Spanish to express your desire to see your team avoid relegation? \“¡Deseo que mi equipo no \baje\ a la segunda liga!”\ And how are you going to employ German verbs to translate your favorite Britney Spears song? \“Oops!… Ich \habe\ es wieder \getan\, ich \habe\ mit deinem Herz \gespielt\, ich \habe\ mich im Spiel \verloren\…”\\

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2) Pronunciation\

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Perfect pronunciation isn’t fundamental to communicating in a language, but people will understand you more easily if you can train yourself to avoid the most common pronunciation errors. Just as speakers of English as a second language often possess very particular accents, English natives typically struggle with novel sounds in their learning language; the rolled r at the front of the mouth in Spanish and Italian, or the cheeky umlauts that usurp the German u, for example. Fortunately, there are always \tricks to elevate you from pronunciation purgatory to enunciation ecstasy\. There are specific tricks for every sound — I picked up the German r by gargling progressively smaller amounts of water while saying \trinken\ — but it’s most important to pay attention to the way native speakers talk, and then imitate them. This may sound absurdly obvious, but \many learners focus so much on their own voice that they forget to \really\ listen\.\

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3) Speak, speak and… you guessed it, speak!\

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Sitting at home and listening to French on your television, computer or smartphone is all very well, but at some point you’ll have to get out there and speak the language. For many, this is both the scariest and the most fulfilling part of learning a new language; that priceless moment when your first self-constructed sentence tumbles awkwardly from your mouth to be met with… comprehension! Get speaking and get familiar with the music of the language. Have you ever noticed how people who speak more than one language seem to have more than one voice? Sometimes they even seem to have a whole different personality. Don’t be afraid of playing with the sounds and intonations of your new language. Imitate the music of Italian, the conspicuous consonants of German, and the gentle lisps of Spanish or Danish.\

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4) Face your fears\

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The mind goes blank and one can only focus on the fear itself: Whether it’s flying, heights, spiders or a dark street, the fear response is hardly conducive to complex cognition. Everyone who’s ever learned a language knows the situation: \You’re sitting in a circle and everyone’s chatting away animatedly in another language. Suddenly, someone asks you a question and all attention turns to you. You’ve understood the question, but the fear factor has invaded your brain and swept away all the vocabulary you ever learned.\\

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Take a deep breath, remember that empathy exists and everyone in the circle will, assuming they’re capable of basic human decency, afford you the time necessary to collect your thoughts and deliver your response. Recognise also that learning a language is a humbling experience. Learn to laugh at yourself now and again, and you’ll learn even more quickly. \Errare humanum est.\\

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5) Apply your skills from other fields\

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Are you good at math? Programming? Cooking? Craft work? Now’s the time to identify your strengths and apply them to the world of languages. Personalize your learning techniques. For example, if you’re good at math, you may want to focus on grammar. Often you’ll hear the complaint that \grammar is so difficult\, but it’s nothing compared to even the most basic of equations. What’s more, understanding the grammar will provide you an entire schema into which you can slot new vocabulary. If the very thought of grammar gives you the heebie-jeebies, there are other methods you can adopt and adapt. In possession of an excellent spatial memory? \Attach new vocabulary to familiar environments\. More in favor of \learning by doing\? Write out your shopping list in your learning language, head to the supermarket, and follow your foreign language recipe. Verbalize the steps as you execute them, and then regale your dinner table audience with the process you went through to prepare the delicious meal in front of them.\

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6) Read and understand, and concentrate!\

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We often read in something of a haze, flitting between thoughts and external stimuli, returning to the book to reread the passage. This is, perhaps, one of the joys of reading. It’s relaxing. You can disconnect and let your mind wander while your body remains motionless. When you read in a foreign language, however, it takes much more effort. If you read a Spanish novel in bed, you’ll probably find it especially taxing in the morning and detrimental to staying awake in the evening. When starting out, it’s important to set aside some quiet time — free of distractions and at a time of day when you’re alert — to read. Select a topic which interests you, or an author you like, and read.\

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7) Don’t fret!\

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There’s no need to impose pressure upon yourself, nor rush toward unreachable goals. Accept from the beginning that you’re in it for the long haul, and organize your learning so that it can become as integrated into your daily routine as doing your hair when you wake up and brushing your teeth before you go to bed. Be sure to recognise and reward your progress, and you’ll soon see what you thought was impossible becoming possible.\

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Remember: speaking a language badly is the first step to speaking it well.\

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Have you tried and failed to learn a foreign language? Looking back, can you identify the reasons why you didn’t succeed? Here are seven tricks to ensure you stay on the track to proficiency. It’s time to try, try again!\

Cristina Gusano started to speak before she could walk, and some would testify that she’s never stopped since. She’s lived in Berlin since 2011 and joined Babbel as a writer in 2015. Rather than emailing, she sends “old-school” letters to her family and friends and likes to sing while riding her bicycle. \Follow me\ on Twitter.\

Cristina Gusano started to speak before she could walk, and some would testify that she’s never stopped since. She’s lived in Berlin since 2011 and joined Babbel as a writer in 2015. Rather than emailing, she sends “old-school” letters to her family and friends and likes to sing while riding her bicycle. \Follow me\ on Twitter.\

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Cristina Gusano konnte sprechen, bevor sie laufen konnte und manch einer würde behaupten, dass sie damit bis heute nicht aufgehört hat. Sie hat Kunstgeschichte studiert und sich auf Kommunikation, soziale Netzwerke und Kulturmarketing spezialisiert. Seit 2011 lebt sie in Berlin und ist seit 2015 als Autorin bei Babbel tätig. Sie schickt ihrer Familie und Freunden Briefe auf die gute, alte Art und singt, während sie auf dem Fahrrad unterwegs ist. \Folge ihr\ auf Twitter.\

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Cristina Gusano a commencé à parler avant même d'apprendre à marcher, et certains disent d'ailleurs que depuis, elle ne s'est plus jamais arrêté. Cristina a étudié l'histoire de l'art et s'est spécialisée en communication, réseaux sociaux et marketing culturel. Elle vit à Berlin depuis 2011 et a rejoint Babbel en tant que rédactrice en 2015. Plutôt que d'envoyer des e-mails, elle préfère écrire des lettres de la vieille école à sa famille et ses amis. Elle aime aussi chantonner en pédalant. \Suivez-moi\ sur Twitter.\

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Cristina Gusano Sanz ha imparato a parlare molto prima di camminare, e alcuni potrebbero confermare che da allora non ha mai smesso. Ha studiato storia dell'arte per poi specializzarsi in comunicazione, social network e marketing culturale. Vive a Berlino dal 2011 e si è unita al team di Babbel nel 2015. Preferisce scrivere lettere \"alla vecchia maniera\" alla sua famiglia e ad i suoi amici e le piace molto cantare mentre va in bicicletta. \Seguimi\ su Twitter.\

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Cristina Gusano começou a falar mesmo antes de aprender a andar, e podemos comprovar que ela não parou até agora. Ela estudou História da Arte e se especializou em Comunicação, Redes Sociais e Marketing Cultural. Moradora de Berlim desde 2011, ela se juntou à Babbel como escritora em 2015. Ela gosta de enviar cartas, à moda antiga, para sua família e amigos e de cantar enquanto anda de bicicleta. \Siga-me\ no Twitter.\

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Cristina Gusano zaczęła mówić jeszcze zanim nauczyła się chodzić i niektórzy twierdzą, że od tamtej pory robi to nieustannie. W 2011 roku zamieszkała w Berlinie, a cztery lata później dołączyła do zespołu Babbel jako autorka tekstów. Jeśli właśnie nie pisze „klasycznych” listów do rodziny i przyjaciół (woli je od e-maili), jeździ na rowerze, podśpiewując. Obserwuj ją na \Twitterze\.\

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Cristina es historiadora del arte y especialista en comunicación, redes sociales y marketing cultural. Empezó a hablar antes de que empezara a andar porque sintió la urgencia de comunicarse y hay testigos que dicen que no ha parado desde entonces. Vive en Berlín desde 2011. Síguela en \Twitter\.\

\\\Illustrations by \Elena Lombardi\.\\\\

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\As a writer madly in love with everything related to words and the pure joy of \\ars oratoria\\ (the art of speaking), I owe all my feelings of nostalgia to the mesmerizing and fascinating melody of my mother tongue: Italian. I have friends who come from all over the world, and while I speak to them primarily in English (with \the gestures that make us Italians famous\, of course), I still have the habit of translating beloved Italian idioms that I consider perfectly suited to specific situations. \\

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\Don’t be surprised, then, if most of my sentences begin with, “You know what? In Italy we say [\\insert one of many Italian sayings here\\].” \\I can’t help it! \\È più forte di me!\\ (“It’s stronger than me!”) So let’s take a look at my favorite Italian idioms:\\

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1. \Stare con le mani in mano\\

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\Lit. Translation: \To be with your hands in your hand / hold your hands with your own hand.\

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\English Equivalent: \To sit on your hands.\

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If you are at least a little bit familiar with Italian \body language\, you will immediately understand why this expression has a negative connotation for us: do you realize how frustrating it is for Italians to stay still without frantically gesticulating to express ourselves?\

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This idiom could address someone who’s doing nothing while everyone else is working.\

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  • Italian:\ “Non \stare lì con le mani in mano\, aiutami con questa valigia!”\\
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  • English: “Don’t just stand there! Help me with my luggage!”\
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You can also use this Italian idiom to \highlight people’s poor manners\ if they were supposed to bring something (a gift or some food, for example) but didn’t, but came holding their own hands instead of holding something nice.\

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  • Italian:\ “Che maleducato! È arrivato alla festa di compleanno \con le mani in mano\.”\\
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  • English: “How rude! He came to the birthday party holding his own hands.”\
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2. \Non ci piove\\

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\Lit. Translation:\ It doesn’t rain on it.\

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\English Equivalent: \No doubt about it!\

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The \weather is one of our favorite topics for small talk\ and our mood tends to drop when the sun isn’t shining: take those two things, put them together, and you’ll probably understand why there are so many Italian idioms related to weather.\

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Ending a discussion with \non ci piove\ means you’re very confident of your closing line and that what you’re saying is so conclusive that it can’t possible be up for further discussion.\

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  • Italian: \“L’Italia è il paese più bello del mondo, su questo \non ci piove\!”\\
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  • English: “Italy is the most beautiful country in the world, there’s no doubt about it!”\
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3. \Piove sul bagnato\\

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\Lit. Translation:\ It rains on wet ground.\

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\English Equivalent: \When it rains, it pours.\

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On the topic of rain and weather, here’s another Italian expression that I often use to describe a situation — one usually unfair or paradoxical — that will never change. For example, when someone who’s already insanely rich wins the lottery, or someone who’s very unlucky receives bad news.\

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  • Italian: \“Ho perso il lavoro, la mia fidanzata mi ha mollato, adesso mi hanno anche rubato il portafogli… \piove sul bagnato\!”\\
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  • English: “I got fired, my girlfriend broke up with me, and now I’ve lost my wallet… when it rains, it pours!”\
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4. \Acqua in bocca!\\

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\Lit. Translation: \(Keep the) water in your mouth!\

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\English Equivalent: \Keep it to yourself.\

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As you can see there are many Italian idioms concerning the weather. Let’s stay in this humid micro-climate for a little while longer. In Italy, we love gossiping — \non ci piove!\ We are also very careful not to reveal the source of the leak, however: nobody wants to be blamed for talking about other people’s business. Every time we want to say something we shouldn’t reveal, we always make sure our gossip-partner isn’t going to blow our cover. \Acqua in bocca\ (keep the water in your mouth) is what we usually say as a warning.\

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  • Italian: \“È un segreto, \acqua in bocca\!”\\
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  • English: “It’s a secret, keep it to yourself!”\
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5. \Non sei capace di tenerti un cece in bocca.\\

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\Lit. Translation: \You’re not able to keep a chickpea in your mouth.\

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\English Equivalent: \You can’t keep your mouth shut.\

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This is what happens when someone is not able to… keep the water in his mouth! Was it really \that difficult\ to swallow a tiny chickpea? Why did you let it out?!?\

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  • Italian: \“Non dirgli niente, \non si sa tenere un cece in bocca\!”\\
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  • English: “Don’t tell him anything, he’s not able to keep his mouth shut”\
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6. \Pietro torna indietro\\

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\Lit. Translation: \Its name is Pietro and it has to come back.\

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\English Equivalent: \Its name is Jack and it has to come back!\

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I’m very possessive of \my books\, and I could become your worst nightmare if you decide to borrow one from me. Don’t be surprised if, right before giving away one of my paper-based offspring, I warn you with a, \“You remember his name, right? Pietro! Very good.”\\

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This trick works in Italian because of the rhyme \Pietro-indietro\. If I had to translate it in English (and I’ll do it… \“non ci piove!”\), I would probably say, \“Its name is Jack and it has to come back!”\\

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  • Italian: \“Mi presti questo libro?”\\n\
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    • \“Sì, ma c’è scritto \Pietro\ sulla copertina!”\\
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  • English: “Can you lend me this book?”\n\
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    • “Yes, but Pietro’s written on the cover!”\
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It is Italian idioms like this one that I \truly adore\.\

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7. \Non avere peli sulla lingua\\

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\Lit. Translation:\ To have no hair on your tongue.\

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\English Equivalent: \To make no bones about something.\

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This Italian idiom isn’t used to describe someone who’s particularly attentive to oral hygiene. No, nothing to do with that. People “without hair on their tongue” are not afraid to be too honest, even if they run the risk of offending someone; there are no filters between brain and tongue.\

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Similarly, we also say \non le manda a dire\ (literally: “he doesn’t send someone else to say things on his behalf”).\

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  • Italian:\ “Non rimanerci male, non è cattivo… semplicemente non ha \peli sulla lingua\.”\\
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  • English: “Don’t be disappointed, he’s not a bad person… he just makes no bones about this kind of thing.”\
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8. \Chiodo scaccia chiodo\\

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\Lit. Translation: \A nail drives out another nail.\

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\English Equivalent: \You’ll get over it.\

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If you ever break up with someone and ask for advice from an Italian mamma or \nonna\ (and believe me, Italian moms and grandmas are always the wisest), you will hear a phrase that goes like this: \“Chiodo scaccia chiodo!”\\

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In other words: You’ll forget about this rusty, nasty, bad nail because very soon a new shiny one will replace it! This encouragement is normally used in \painful love affairs\, but can be leveled at anybody who’s trying to come to terms with something (a job, a friend who’s not calling back, a fight).\

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  • Italian: \“Sei ancora innamorato di lei? Dai, troverai presto qualcun altro… \chiodo scaccia chiodo\!”\\
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  • English: “Are you still in love with her? Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else and get over it!”\
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Are’t Italian idioms so versatile?\

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9. \Avere un diavolo per capello\\

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\Lit. Translation: \To have a demon for each hair\

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\English Equivalent: \To be mad as hell.\

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Is there anything that better describes the look and the mood of someone furious? This person is not simply as angry as a demon, nor does this person simply have \one\ demon sitting on his shoulder. To explain this amount of rage, one must involve a horde of nasty demons ready to whisper bad advice and evil things into your ears. How many? As many as you have hairs on your head!\

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And now, imagine the scene and tell me if you can find a better expression!\

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  • Italian:\ “Lasciami stare…ho \un diavolo per capello\“\\
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  • English: “Leave me alone… I’m seething!”\
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10. \Da che pulpito viene la predica!\\

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\Lit. Translation: \Look from which pulpit this sermon is coming!\

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\English Equivalent: \Look who’s talking!\

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Religion, as you probably know, is a big deal in Italy — my grandma still tells me stories about being terrified by Sunday sermons. Why? Back in the day, it was very common for priests to expose their parishioners’ sins during the \omelia\ from the pulpit. They didn’t say names and surnames — the secret of confession was “safe” — but they certainly knew how to make it clear who they were talking about.\

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This expression carries a truckload of emotional baggage and it’s one of the worst things you can say to describe a hypocritical person. Is that rich and greedy man saying that poverty in the world is a huge problem, and yet does nothing to ease the woes of the poor? Look from which pulpit this sermon is coming!\

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  • Italian:\ “Pensi che dovrei mangiare meglio? Senti \da che pulpito viene la predica\!”\\
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  • English: “You think I should eat more healthily?! Look who’s talking!\
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11. \È il mio cavallo di battaglia\\

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\Lit. Translation:\ It’s my battle horse.\

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\English Equivalent: \It’s my forte.\

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If you hear an Italian talking about horses and battles, don’t be scared. We are not in a \\Game of Thrones\\ episode. Relax. We’re just bragging a little about our skills. After all, isn’t the battle horse the fittest, strongest, leanest one, the one you trust to save your life? Then, believe me, having the possibility to see other people’s battle horse is certainly a good thing.\

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This phrase is used to indicate someone’s \forte\ (another \Italian word\, yeah!), and can be said in every context. If you’re not into horses, you could also use \punta di diamante\ (“the sharp end of the diamond”).\

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  • Italian: \“Il falsetto \è il suo cavallo di battaglia\!”\\
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  • English: “His falsetto is his forte.”\
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Want more tips on speaking Italian idioms and phrases like a real Italian? Check out the video below to become even more \Italianized\:\

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The Italian language is not exclusively musicality and gestures — here’s a rundown of 11 marvelous Italian expressions that you can use to impress the locals.\

Giulia is a writer with a passion for true crime, family trees and historical eras she hasn’t lived in. In her spare time, she plays the ukelele and collects faded photos of people she doesn’t know.\

Giulia is a writer with a passion for true crime, family trees and historical eras she hasn’t lived in. In her spare time, she plays the ukelele and collects faded photos of people she doesn’t know.\

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Giulia ist eine Schriftstellerin mit einer Leidenschaft für Roman noir, Familienstammbäume und Epochen, in denen sie nicht gelebt hat. In ihrer Freizeit spielt sie Ukulele und sammelt verblasste Fotos von Menschen, die sie nicht kennt.\

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Giulia est une écrivaine qui se passionne pour le roman noir, les arbres généalogiques et les ères historiques qu'elle n'a jamais vécues. Pendant son temps libre, elle fait du ukulélé et collectionne des photos ternies de gens qu'elle ne connaît pas.\

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Giulia Depentor è una scrittrice appassionata di cronaca nera, alberi genealogici e epoche che non ha vissuto. Nel tempo libero, suona l'ukulele e colleziona fotografie ingiallite di persone che non conosce.\

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Giulia é uma escritora apaixonada por histórias de detetives, árvores genealógicas e épocas em que ela não viveu. No seu tempo livre, ela toca ukulele a coleciona fotografias desbotadas de pessoas que ela não conhece.\

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Giulia es una escritora amante de las novelas negras, los árboles genealógicos y las épocas que no ha vivido. En su tiempo libre toca el ukelele y colecciona fotos antiguas de gente que no conoce. Escucha su podcast en italiano \\"4verticale\"\.\

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