Friday, 31 January 2014

10 ways to increase your vocabulary in a Foreign Language

  Watch DVDs with subtitles turned on. 
I prefer English audio with foreign subtitles for two reasons.  I learn best through reading and writing, whereas my husband is an auditory learner.  He learns by osmosis picking up many words just by being around me. If I am watching the movie alone, I turn on Foreign audio and subtitles together for more immersion. Try different websites from YouTube to Lingua Media Player and more[1]

Read lots of books: 
library books, textbooks, secondhand books, ebooks, audio books. My favourite is Piccolo Donne.  It is a classic and it is a pleasure to read a familiar text to extend my vocabulary[2] 

 Play Duolingo[3] online with other language learners.
So far, this web based game includes the folloeing languages: Italian, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese. More languages to come including; English for speakers of Polish, Russian, Turkish, Dutch and Hungarian. Duolingo is available as a web application or as an iPhone app. It will always be free, because learns help to translate the internet to new languages. 

 Read foreign newspapers.
After I have a good understanding of about 5 chapters of grammar.   Barry Farber (author of How to Learn Any Language) recommends to start translating the first sentence of the first page of a newspaper.  As you graduate to the first paragraph, the first column, the first article and the first page you are well on your way to become a master of the new language.  Of course, when you find the first few sessions a bit intense, take a break a try the bite size section - the horoscopes.  Smaller sections of 12 horoscopes let you focus for a smaller session as your brain crunches through the vocabulary, verbs and grammar little by little.  Also, it is easier to sink your teeth into a familiar text where you can predict more words from prior knowledge. Try French newspaper: le monde[4], and Italian newspaper: Corriera della sera[5], 

 Speak only in that language one day  a week. 
A parent lead teaching resource encourages you to practice one day a week with your family/household.  The suggestion of Tuesdays is put forward where the family/household/housemates actively use as much foreign language as possible.  Early weeks while be re-enforcing basic vocabulary and greetings until familiar.  Conversations will grow over time to include more and more topics as everyone gains from vocabulary and learns to ask questions, answer appropriately and listen to the other speakers answers.   Beginners will start with short answers of yes and no onto short sentences rephrasing the question to answering with adding more detail. [6]

Make 100 mistakes a day. 
Benny Lewis is a world traveller and an experienced language learner. [7]  One rule of thumb among many others in his Fluent in 3 Months program is to make 100 mistakes a day.  The theory is if you are speaking and writing enough to make 100 mistakes every day, you are talking more, writing more to gain confidence and feedback from each mistake.  As a teacher, I know my students learn more from the questions they got wrong, then their perfect score on a test.  A mistake made and reflected upon is remembered better than from when the rule is first taught to the learner.

Ask questions anytime anywhere. 
A multi-linguist and published author, Bary Farber, encourages list making to allow you to practice with a fellow language learner anywhere, anytime.  If you keep a running list alongside your reading and listening to authentic target langauge sources. If you keep that list of questions in your smart phone, email or handbag, you will be ready when you bump into a native speaker at the shops, cinema or even waiting room.  Maximising each opportunity will fast track you to understanding the ins and outs of your foreign language.[8] 

 Keep a diary in the target language. 
This may start simply while you cover the basics.  You may list your daily activities and the weather to start.  Over time, new topics of vocabulary, verb and grammar will support you to write over topics including: past events and future dreams, opinions and current events in your community, the world and your family. 

 Set your computer to the target language.
If you are technology inclined, you can set the language on your computer in Microscoft word and even your email program like Gmail.  Let’s you learn modern words like email and in box that are evolving all the time.  For example, Italian has used a variety of words already for mobile phones as yet: il cellulare, il telefono cellulare e il telefonino.  Modern words evolve for modern technologies in the 21st century and beyond.

 Learn SMS abbreviations of modern day target language. 
Italians use a different language or abbreviations for texting on a mobile phone.  Just like English, it is about shortening words to make texting quicker while still conveying a complete message.  The challenges start when people use uncommon or unusual abbreviations that may confuse the reader.  The next challenge is to learn to read, write and exchange texts in a foreign language.  It will challenge your vocabulary, knowledge of verbs and grammar and text you on context.  Context can be an issue when context is often assumed and not spelt in the brevity of e text message.[9]

How do you encourage students to brainstorm in your lessons?
Please comment with your favourites :-)


[2] Try websites like

Sunday, 26 January 2014

7 ways to expand vocabulary.

 Purpose: Making word wall encourages students to record new vocabulary, use a greater variety of words and revise words regularly.
Students create dictionary in back of exercise book.
Turn Italian writing book upside and open it from the back.  Fold/ rule of 2 columns (English and Italian) on each page.  If you have a bigger book, use last 26 pages in book.  If not, put 2-3 letters to a page, for example, A-C, D-F, G-I, J-M, N-P, Q-T, U-V, W-Z over 8 pages.
For example, a double page of 2 sets of 2 columns
l’ananas (m)
il delfino
la banana
l’elefante (m)
la foca
§  Group letters as you think appropriate.
§  Keep in mind that in an Italian-English dictionary there are only 21 letters used for most words.
§  Exceptions include: jeans, windsurfing, koala, xylophone and yoghurt from borrowed words.

Decorate a bulletin board as a literacy resource for your students.
Either use Italian flag colours (red, white and green), Italian soccer team (light blue) or theme colours (depends your theme may be sports, places, foods, hobbies etc).  A visually appealing board will create more interest. Decide whether you want student to create words as whole page tiles (in A4 or US letter etc) or cut strips in half length ways.  Ask students to write clearly for legibility but add some colour or draw a symbol to show meaning of the word.
For example,
punto   .
il punto interrogative ?
+ più
- meno
* per
il sorris:-)
or il sorriso
l@ chiocciol@

Students play Scattegories for verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
Based on the board game, students are given a category or theme and have a time limit to brainstorm known vocabulary.
·       You may vary the time limit according to the category difficulty. Start with 2 minutes.  Extend time if they have prior knowledge of topic.  Leave time shorter if you have to determine prior knowledge at the beginning of a new topic.
·       Decide your own scoring system. 1 point per word. ½ point if word are missing the article/not showing gender and number) Extra points if showing mixed gender and number options. i.e. la mela =1 , mela = 0.5,  la mela/le mele = 2.5 points
For example,
A-Z of fruits: l’ananas, la banana, la frutta, il limone, la mela etc.
Smaller themes such as time: lunedì, gennaio, il secondo, la settimana, l’anno
3 letter words beginning with B: la banana, il bambino, il bue, il buio etc.
Small words 3 letters or less: a, di, de, da, fa, ma, io, tu, lui, noi, te, me, dio, mio etc.
·       Option: students may use a dictionary, until they become more confident.  However, dictionary work will slow students while they look up and then copy vocabulary onto game sheet.

Teach with implicit teaching sentences:
changing to singular, plural, negative and affirmative across all topics and grammar rules.
Emphasis in the beginning will give students a strong foundation and allow using language confidently.
For example,
Simple sentence:
Il gatto beve il latte. (singular/affirmative)
I gatti bevono il latte. (plural/affirmative)
Il gatto non beve il latte. (singular/negative)
I gatti non bevono il latte. (singular/negative)

Brainstorm themes for prior knowledge: animals, colours, sports, food etc.
Students share all prior vocabulary and/or grammar that could relate before introducing additional vocabulary.  This activity encourages linking words between topics as opposed to pidgeon holing and separating vocabulary. Student may volunteer borrowed words into English such as Spaghetti.  Teacher may need to give articles from gender and number patterns to complete list as brainstorm.
For example,
Topic of Food
la pizza, la pasta, gli spaghetti, le lasagne
New words to try to predict:
il latte, l’acqua, il caffè, il pollo, il gelato, il zucchino
New words that are less likely to be guessed:
la bistecca, il panino, il pane, il pomodoro, la lattuga, il cetriolo, il sedano, la zuccca.

Introduce variety of texts for reader’s comprehension: news, sports, history are many topics easily available.
In newspaper, books and online, there are many authentic texts on many topics.  Perhaps your students are more interested in tv, movies or sports than reading about historical events in Italy.  If you can engage their attention, it will be halfway to learning a new topic.  It will halve the teaching load over constantly retuning them in to the topic even lesson.
Possible ideas:
l’uomo d’accaio – Man of steel (film)
Francesco Totti (in newspaper and online – soccer)
lo squalo ( movie – Jaws)
Italia’s got talent (TV)
Masterchef Italia (TV)
Mythbusters (TV)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TV)
Art Attack (TV)
A stimulus photo for students to build their colour vocabulary.

Students can start from basic colours:
from red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white.

Extend colours by topic: Oympics medals, more unusual colours in paints (turquoise, sky blue etc.) Activites to expand colours: paint palette, paint by numbers, rainbows. Students draw a paint palette and label colours.  Students draw a symbol / picture of a new vocabulary word and make into a paint by number. Students can complete own or swap with a partner.  Extension activities include writing a descriptive sentence. More complex sentences can describe colours, as well as size, and shape.  Advanced students can include similies such as green as grass and blue as the sky.

What activities do you teach to build vocabulary?
Please comment on favourite activities and/or which ones you would like to try next.

How do expand on beginners' vocabulary?  Please comment with your favourite ideas :-)

Friday, 24 January 2014

FREEBIE - Italian Songs for Kids

Download this FREEBIE @

Product features:
·      Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
·      He has the Whole World in his Hands

Suggestions for use:
·      student copy for reference/ teacher use as display or demonstration
·      print, laminate or print on magnetic paper for whiteboard use
·      A4 or A3 – check printer settings before printing

Made by Italienfrancese 2013

Please visit my blog below to vote in the online polls: see in side bar on right.

A big THANKYOU to my buyers.
I would really appreciate any feedback about your experience with this resource.  Just a simple one sentence comment even would be GREAT:-)
·      Is it what you were looking for?
·      What worked well with your students?
·      Can anything be improved for future users?

Cheers from,

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Italian activities for Valentine's Day

Product features:
·      preforma for colour by number. Heart theme with colour word bank for students to complete. Option: teacher allocate numbers and colours before lesson.
·      vocabulary lists  colour coded for masculine, feminine and verbs.  Lists included as English only, Italian only, and both. Option: English lists could be used for other languages classes. Pack includes:
o   colours
o   adjectives (describing ideal man/woman)
o   verb phrases (describe hobbies and free time activities)
o   vocabulary from Valentine’s Day

Suggestions for use:
·      student copy for reference/ teacher use as display or demonstration
·      print, laminate or print on magnetic paper for whiteboard use
·      A4 or A3 – check printer settings before printing

Please visit my blog below to vote in the online polls in the right hand side bar.

A big THANKYOU to my buyers.
I would really appreciate any feedback about your experience with this resource.  Just a simple one sentence comment even would be GREAT:-)
·      Is it what you were looking for?
·      What worked well with your students?
·      Can anything be improved for future users?

As always, please send any feedback so I can make these high quality learning resources for my classroom and yours.

Cheers from,