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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Babbel Introduces New RUSSIAN Language Course!

GOOD NEWS! Babbel recently introduced the thirteenth foreign language, Russian, as part of its overall offering. I'm super excited when I saw this notification through my email! Since I'm subscribed to the annual All Language Pack, I intend to explore for a bit.

A screenshot of the initial offering. I'm sure it will only get better from here!

Why am I excited (apart from the fact that I'm a current subscriber/learner)? Recently, during my trip in the south of Italy, specifically in Puglia, I had the good fortune of becoming a housemate with a very nice, intelligent, and articulate Belarusian named Natallia. She speaks fluent English, Italian (achieved C1 certification of the language), and of course Russian. I've always been fascinated by the Russian language and to me the characters seem complicated, so when I saw that Babbel is now offering this language, I took it as a sign from God to dabble with it.

Natallia, if you happen to find this post and read it, please get in touch with me. I have forgotten to ask for your contact details and I hope to reconnect with you. All the best in your future and I wish you all happiness for you-know-what!


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Latest Book Acquisitions in Italy

I was on a mission! I went to la Feltrinelli in Bari, Italy, with a few types of books in mind that I wish to buy such as dictionaries and language references. My mission was successful and I came home with some goodies. I've also included in this post some excerpts from the books and they are indicated in blue.

Here's my latest collection. Total damage: €33.70

BOOK 1: Corrispondenza commercial d’affari e di lavoro in inglese
(a cura di Clive)
What I liked about this book is that there is a side-by-side comparison and samples of English and Italian business letters in various situations. For the Italians, the business writing style is very different from casual settings, so I definitely need this book for review and study. For example,

In English (Job Interview Invitation): Dear Mr. Stephens, I acknowledge receipt of your letter and references of (date) concerning the vacant position of Manager in my shop. I should be pleased to discuss the matter personally with you, so please call my secretary, Mrs. Higgins, to fix an appointment. Yours sincerely,

In Italian (Invito al candidato a presentarsi per il colloquio): Egregio signor Stephens, Le confermo di aver ricevuto la Sua lettera del (data), con la lettera di referenze allegata, relativa alla posizione di Direttore del mio negozio. Sarò lieto di parlare direttamente con Lei a per questo Le chiedo di chiamare la mia segretaria, la signora Higgins, per fissare un appuntamento. Cordiali saluti

BOOK 2: Il tuo inglese senza errori (a cura di Adrian Wallwork)
What I liked about this book is that it groups similar words together—in alphabetical order—and explains them in Italian for learners of English. So, this book, in fact, is for Italians who wish to learn English. This enables me to reverse-counter-check my understanding and spot common errors and doubts in using the correct phrase or words for every situation. The only prerequisite in using this book is that you must already have a good comprehension of the Italian language. For example,

Original sample explanation in Italian: ANCHE PERCHÉ, ANCHE SE (p.8). L’inglese non ha un equivalente unico di anche perché. Questa espressione va resa in modi diversi a seconda del caso: se introduce il motivo principale per fare o non fare qualcosa ci vuole especially because, particularly because o qualcosa di simile. Se invece è solo uno dei motivi, si può ricorre a in any case, another reason is that, for one thing, partly because. Also because si dice di solito solo dopo and e but.

My translation into English: There is no single equivalent of anche perchè. This expression must be made in different ways, depending on the case: if introducing a principle motive to do or not to do something especially because, particularly because or something similar is needed. If it is used instead to express only one of the motives, one may use in any case, another reason is that, for one thing, partly because. Also because is used only after and and but.

Original sample sentence in Italian: Dovresti studiare su questo libro per poter superare l’esame ma anche perché credo che lo troveresti molto interessante. (In English: You need to study this book to pass the exam but also because I think you’d find it really interesting.)

Other examples of words include ANCORA, APPENA, GIÀ; ANDARE, TORNARE, USCIRE; FRA, TRA; LASCIARE, PARTIRE; METÀ, MEZZO; SOLO, UNICO; etc. It would be very good to know the differences and use the correct words in the right setting or situation. I find this book very useful!

NOTE: Another similar book that I bought while in Milan was Phrasal verbs compatto inglese italiano (di Laura Montixi Comoglio). This book tackles the differences and precise meaning of exactly what the title of the book is stating—phrasal verbs. For example, what is the difference between go out, get out, and get off? It is also a book for Italian learners of English, so you will require a good level of Italian to read this book as explanation is done in the language.

BOOK 3: The Rizzoli Larousse Mini Dictionary—Français-Italien, Italiano-Francese
This French-Italian dictionary is good for my attempt to easily compare words in the foreign language which I’m already familiar with i.e. Italian with the new one I’m currently learning i.e. French. It’s also easy to carry around due to its small size and lightness.

BOOK 4: The Rizzoli Larousse Mini Dictionary—Español -Italiano, Italiano-Spagnolo
In addition to sharing the same learning spirit as described in Book 3, I would also like to point out a feature I particularly liked in the Italian-Spanish section which is of GREAT help in my continuous learning of the Italian language. In the Italian-Spagnolo section, the Italian words are marked with a dot beneath a syllable each of word to show where to correctly accentuate or prolong the pronunciation.

My book acquisition is a little unconventional in the sense that 1) it involves getting books that Italian learners are using to learn English; and 2) mixing two foreign languages together but of which one I have more or less already mastered. I will not be as crazy as last year in Rome where I lugged home almost a full luggage of books when I returned to Malaysia. But still, it's too early to tell...


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alice Travels: Castel del Monte, Andria, Puglia (iPhone Edition)


Castel del Monte is awesome and its geometric design was unique. It lies in the comune of Andria, built on top of a hill where you can see a good part of the Puglia region, and the cities of the coast with a beautiful landscape. Shaped as an octagonal prism with an octagonal tower at each corner, the castle is described by the Enciclopedia Italiana as "the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II", and the site is protected as a World Heritage Site. It also appears on the Italian version of the one-cent euro coin.

Guided visits to the castle starts at 10:15 AM and I do suggest that arrive early in the day with a pro loco guide. There are many external guides available ranging from 1.5 hours to 2.0 hours visits which will cost around US$20 or more. Usually, such guided visits do NOT include the entrance ticket, shuttle bus service and parking ticket. Secondo me (in my opinion), a visit with the pro loco guide is much more affordable and equally good (if not better). For more information about the castle, ticket prices and how to reach, please go to Associazione Turistica Pro Loco Andria website at

My total cost for the one-hour visit is €15, which comprised of the entrance ticket of €10 and contribution to the guide of €5. For the contribution, you can choose to pay any amount you like. After the guided tour, you are free to roam around. If you choose not to have a guide right from the beginning, that is OK too (but I strongly suggest you opt for a guide because without one, you won't be able to enjoy the significance of the castle). All photos in this post is taken using my iPhone5.

This was our pro loco guide. Maria Zingaro speaks English but I joined the Italian session which was about one hour. Please feel free to contact her at +39 347 6939234 when you're planning a visit to Castel del Monte. She's great!

Do take note of the mini trulli (plural for trullo) on the ground!

The magnificent Castel del Monte, ladies and gentlemen!

And for now, let's take a look of some of snapshots inside the castle... It was later turned into a prison, used as a refuge during a plague, and finally fell into disrepair. It originally had marble walls and columns, but were stripped by vandals or re-used in constructions nearby. What a pity! Apparently vandalism is quite common in historical sites in Italy.

This is how the ancient toilet looks like. To do your business, you sit on right side where the arch is...
Some of the remaining original marble panels in the castle.

This looks like a face that is surprised!
Walking down the very narrow staircases; probably not good for people who are claustrophobic...
Every time you will pass through a small window while scaling the stairs.
Our pro loco guide explaining details of the various parts of the castle and their significance.

WIKIPEDIA: More about the Castel del Monte here.

WIKIPEDIA: In Italy, Pro Loco (the term is both singular and plural) are grass-roots organizations that seek to promote some particular place, almost always a town and its immediate area; pro loco is a Latin phrase that may be roughly translated "in favor of the place". Usually the town is a full-fledged comune, but not always: frazioni and other small places with a high level of civic pride may have their own Pro Loco. [More details here]


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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Winner of To Sleep...Pe​rchance to Die, by Donald R. Grippo

I'm sorry for the late announcement, but here it is: The winner of the Donald R. Grippo's new novel, To Sleep…Perchance to Die is... TRAVELER! Congratulations! Your email has been sent to the publisher and they will be getting in touch with you.

Eurasian beauty Mai Faca plots to marry Jake Warden, a successful oral surgeon forbidden to her because of family honor. In an unheard-of scheme, fellow oral surgeon, Bret Manley, falls victim to Mai's seduction as she and Jake play a cruel trick to be together. Jake acts with surgical precision to clear the path to Mai's happiness, threatening lives including his own. In a wake of turmoil and destruction, Bret's uncle and well-known criminal attorney, Hubie Santos, attempts to find out if a surgeon would use his knowledge to kill.

P/S: For more updates, LIKE me on my Facebook pages at Alice Teh and The Weekend Traveler, OR FOLLOW me on Twitter and Instagram. See you there!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

While I Am Flying... Stopping at Frankfurt, then Milan

I'm currently up and away tens of thousands of feet up in the sky, and thought I'd schedule this post ahead of time and let it pop while I fly. I'll be transiting at Frankfurt, Germany, before arriving in Milan, Italy today. This is my second trip to the beautiful country; the first was last year in November making Rome my base to Naples, Pisa, Florence and other beautiful medieval villages.

There will be lots of things to keep me busy while I travel. I have my iPad with me that is already installed with Kindle and Zinio. Kindle will handle all my bookish needs and it's loaded with language books, novels and non-fictions. Zinio takes care of all my magazine needs and it's loaded with English and foreign language mags in Italian (of course!) and French. I'll be adding Spanish to the collection soon. I wrote a Zinio-related post on Reading Foreign Magazines to Learn a Language, and thought I'd share it with you again. Now, all I have to ensure is my devices are fully charged to survive the journey!

Meanwhile... I strongly encourage you to participate in a Book Giveaway I'm currently hosting for author Donald R. Grippo for his book To Sleep...Perchance to Die. Check out the giveaway and author interview here. It's open internationally until Sunday, 29 June 2014 23:59 Eastern time. Please leave your email and state book preference (e-book or print copy) in the Comments section in the post and you will be entered for the draw. I will be announcing the winner on Monday, 30 June 2014 while I'm in Italy. The publisher will then get in touch with the winner to send the book. In bocca al lupo! Good luck!

Lastly, catch my travel updates and Italian adventures using the links down below.


P/S: For more updates, LIKE me on my Facebook pages at Alice Teh and The Weekend Traveler, OR FOLLOW me on Twitter and Instagram. See you there!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Off I go to Italy!

Buon viaggio! Bon voyage!

Follow my trip on the links below #theweekendtravelergoestoitalyAGAIN
My post about the photo above.

P/S: For more updates, LIKE me on my Facebook pages at Alice Teh and The Weekend Traveler, OR FOLLOW me on Twitter and Instagram. See you there!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Off to Italy in... 1 More Day!

Just before I leave for my anticipated trip to Italy, I'd like to share again an old post from my blog in November last year: When traveling, read Psalms 121. I'm going to reproduce the verses here.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

I'm ready for my trip! Sono pronta per la mia vacanza!

Follow my trip on the links below #theweekendtravelergoestoitalyAGAIN
My post about the photo above.

P/S: For more updates, LIKE me on my Facebook pages at Alice Teh and The Weekend Traveler, OR FOLLOW me on Twitter and Instagram. See you there!