Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Importance of Pronunciation

As the following video clearly shows - correct pronunciation is important when learning English. Steve Martin (one of America's favorite comedians) stars in the newly made Pink Panther movie. In this video - he is playing a Frenchman who is going to America - and wants to practice his English before he goes. The video is pretty funny - because of the troubles he has correctly pronouncing the English words.

This is why I stress correct pronunciation in my classes and urge you to listen to English songs or even to sing along - as it is a great way to learn how to pronounce English words correctly.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miniatur Wunderland

To see a video clip (in English) of the largest model railroad in the world, click on the link below.

It is simply amazing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


1. Learn and memorize Phrases.

That is the most important step. We might be related to Primates but remember we do not learn a language by learning it one word at a time. Our cuckatoo Fray Paco memorized entire phrases and sentences. Lest you forget, the gray and yellow crested cockatoos or kakatua as they are known in Indonesia are capable of cognitive thought.

2. Don't study Grammar.

That comes later. First concentrate on the phrases such as "I am tired." "I am happy". "This is a lovely day." "This is a great pesto." " The wine is very good."
There are many people out there who have an expert's knowledge of English where Grammar is concerned but are incapaple of conversing in English.

You need to communicate. Everyone does - or should.

3. Concentrate on listening to the correct pronunciation. Avoid saying "eat" for "it". You are risking to be misunderstood. If this happens don't let your feelings of embarassment last long. Don't give up. Develop an attitude. Onward!

4. Repeat words, phrases and sentences many times. Especially those words which give you a bit of trouble such as "This" "That" "Those" Them" "They" and the all important "THE." Again, don't lose heart, repeat them 25 times until you get it right. Until it becomes a habit. Never forget: the"H" is ALWAYS pronounced in English. "Hotel" How" "House" Here" "Happy" " Henry" ' Hurrah." Other difficult words are "Three" Thorough" Thought" "Thrice" "Thirty."

5.Concentrate on phrases and sentences as well as stories with a point of view. The classics are wonderful but only after you have mastered the everyday use of English.

6. Use only English materials such as CD'd, DVD's videso and movies, which you can download through your PC or Mac. Read comic books and magazines like Batman, The Simpsons, Vanity Fair and the National Geographic, The Times of London and the International Herald Tribune.

Read my various blogs since I will place homework there for the various classes particularly in my English for Italians.

Watch for my communiques. From time to time I shall send emails to each of you to exchange points of view.

7. Always have an important dictionary handy. The pocketbooks are useless. Try to obtain the Zanganelli dictionary in Englisn and Italian. You can find waycool computer dictionaries that fit in the palm of your hand. Sharp has one that seems to assist my alumni and alumnae very well.

8. Write down the phonetic pronunciation of words. I always try to give you the correct pronunciation by writing on the board or spelling the way certain words are pronounced. Example: "Walk" is phonetically pronounced "wok" " Talk" idem. The "L" is always silent.

9. Use, Listen, and write stories of your own. Even if they are paragraphs of your work, your trips or your troubles. Again concentrate on the words, not the grammar.

10. Keep a consistent and constant attitude. You are not going to have a command of any language much less one so rich, varied and everchanging as English in 40 hours of classes. Keep at it.I repeat, do not give up!

My classes are deep immersion. Six hours a week divided into three hours each. It is a ball for me to teach them. So far, none of my students fidget or yawn during my classes.

11. I have compiled a small dictionary of American and British slang, including a compendium of my own personal dictionary based on my inventions and creations out of many foreign words or English words.

Let's get to it and enjoy ourselves.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Remember that, when the 17th of March comes around.

In addition to Columbus Day, the 12th of October, the world has Saint Patrick, San Patrizio. Two portentous celebrations. The consequences of these daring and spiritual acts by both men of Italian descent became catastrophic throughout the centuries for the autonomous peoples of Ireland and America respectively.

Patrick was blameless, which is why he became a Saint.

Columbus is another story. I think he personally felt a need to convert the Indians to Christianity but did not protest too muc when the unfortunate natives became indentured servants or slaves.

Patrick's father was Calpurnius and his mother Cesenna. They lived in Roman Britania. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates, sold into slavery and taken to Ireland where he spent seven long years before he escaped back to Britania. It takes a Christlike man to forgive his former savage captors and choose to return to their boggy lands and attempt to imbue them with Christian love - to civilize them.

I can imagine how fiercely the Druids must have resisted his efforts. He must have known and endured every kind of suffering. In the end, this Jesus-like endurance and unchanging faith gave the Irish their strength to fight the British continuously for centuries. It wasn't a war about religion. It seldom is. Their struggle was political. It is usually all about politics.
Therefore, I think Italians should also remember Saint Patrick because he was one of them.

Hurrah! Down a wonderful mug of Guinness stout or sip a superb Irish whiskey.

Perhaps the Italians should join the celebration.

To learn more about St. Patrick go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


If you would like to test my sententious statement about Englisb being the lingua franca of the world, I suggest you do the following. Pretend to get "lost" in Shanghai, find a pavement stuffed with people. They will be going in different directions but, as in a two lane traffic road the Shanghailanders will do the same. Ready? Get set. Turn around slowly, very slowly, taking care not to stretch your arms and bump against people who are all hustle and bustle.

"I am looking for Nanjing Dong Loo,"( Nanjing Road) you say as loudly as your vocal cords will permit. You need to project you voice because the sounds of traffic and humans are LOUD.

Dozens of men, women and children will reply in a tris- trice."Madam, you are on Nanjing Road. Perhaps you are searching for a particular street corner?"

You'll find yourself staring at them wide eyed and open mouthed. To be sure,many of their inflections are typically Chinese but their pronunciation is by and large correct. People are just delighted to practice their English with anyone who speaks the language.Any opportunity is a good one for the gregarious people of Shanghai.

KL - Kuala Lumpur is another such place. But then, the English ruled over Malaysia when they called it Malaya which is not altogether wrong. The lovely brown -skinned people come from the Malay race as do Indonesians and Filipinos.

Shanghai is exceptional because almost everyone speaks English and many of them sacrifice a part of their hard earned money to have private lessons with native English speakers such as I.
American movies shown in English without subtitles used to be standing room only.Now words like reservations and advance booking has entered their vocabulary.

It is difficult nowadays to hear English spoken well on the streets of London. Professor Higgins of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady fame would be revolted at how the language is not only mangled if spoken at all, but how London has turned into a babel of languages.

Italians are the worst offenders in the little knowledge they possess regarding their verbal, conversational and reading skills in English. I would venture to say that their English language skills and comprehension is quite low.

It isn't entirely their fault. Until the year 2007, English as a subject matter wasn't even taught in the public or private schools. Now children attending pre-school are lucky to have English lessons but only for an hour a week. That is hardly enough to enable any child to have a command of English anytime soon. That will not assure them a good position in the services industries, tourism, marketing, electronics, engineering, certainly not in banking, finance, economics and research. And let us not even mention those who are in the legal profession. Familiarity of legal and juridical terms would be of great assistance to them in International Law, Corporate Law or in abuses regarding Human Rights.


You must not be afraid or ashamed of making mistakes. We all make them in learning a new language. Just throw yourself in the melee, so to speak.

There are many schools throughout Liguria which charge thousands of Euros for courses in English. I have yet to meet one student who can hold a proper conversation in English after years of wasting their time and having their pockets cleaned out.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



"I thought you said the King had a weak spot for drop dead gorgeous girls," hissed Gina.

"Well, yes he does," replied Nina, not knowing what would happen to them next.

"You ding-a-lings! You bimbos. You have upset his punctilious Majesty," shrilled Mina, Head of King Engly's Security, for the King trusted only women to advise him and protect him.

"Get yourselves off to our nunnery where the lot of you will be taught English pronunciation, enunciation and conjugation eight hours a day, seven days a week. I shall escort you myself before His Majesty in six months time."

"My pretties, if anyone of you dares to say 'ouse, 'otel, de girel, dis n dat, tree instead of three, and ringginge, I shall cast my famous language spells and turn you all into repulsive hags without an aye or a bye. I have spoken. All those who engage in English Manglish will not be tolerated."

Taken from the book "THE ADVENTURES OF NICCOLO".

Hello. Welcome to my English Salon. I hope you enjoy your visit. I promise you, mad King Engly would never have the balls umm ... I mean courage to show up here, not unless Niccolo summons him, which he would never do because his grandmother - that would be yours truly, would place him on an indefinite timeout.

English is a language, which is easy to learn badly and pronounce atrociously. The mediocre and banal teachers of English I encounter; are legion - trust me. They have all been unceremoniously banished to King Engly's realm.

I know, the world needs Love, not yet more ugly men and women but there you are. Che ci vuoi fare?

English is without a doubt the richest modern language in the world. Arabic, Russian and Mandarin are second to none, but they are not as fluid as English. By that I mean that English is evolving continuously. Almost every language in the world has been used and is now in our English lexicon.

Here are just a few examples:

Amore - Love. It's from ancient Latin.

To run amok - comes from Indonesian Bahasa and means exactly the same as in its original usage - amok.

Boondocks - it means some God forsaken place, far, far away. The original word came from Tagalog Filipino, bundoks which means far away hills.

Baby - the French bebe.

Finito. Halas. We won't discuss it again. Finito is Italian for it is finished. Halas is Arabic for the end.

Pajamas - comes to us from India to describe clothes worn at night.

Hasta la vista, baby -- comes to us from Arnold Schwarzenegger (Austria)

To see more English words of foreign origin visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Lists_of_English_words_of_foreign_origin

I shall give you more examples as I initiate the lessons which I hope will not only be great fun but will give you the tools necessary to become proficient in English, the Lingua Franca of the 21st century.

Ciao Carissimi!

Tanti baci!

Isabella Vacani