Are Italians naughty by nature?

Ronaldinho, St. Jakob Stadion, Basel (Switzerl...


If you are a follower of world football you would know that some Brazilian footballers and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese ones, are better known by their first names only, or their nicknames. For example, there was the Brazilian Ronaldo and one called Ronaldinho, the –inho suffix on the latter meaning “little”. Thus Ronaldinho = little Ronaldo. I myself have been nicknamed Bernardinho by friends and colleagues (because of my interest in European and Brazilian Portuguese, my great footballing skills and my love of football). However, since then I have put on about 10 kilograms and some years so I can’t really be called “little Bernard” anymore, so nowadays Bernardo is more appropriate if I want to sound a bit exotic in a Latino way.

Italian has the same concept, using the –ino and –ina suffixes

  • il ragazzo, the boy
  • il ragazzino, the little boy
  • la ragazza, the girl
  • la ragazzina, the little girl

But Italian also seems to take it further: the suffixes –one and –ona denote “big”

  • il ragazzone, the big boy
  • la ragazzona, the big girl

Following this logic, my exotic Italian persona would be Bernardone ūüôā

Interestingly, Italian also has the suffixes –accio and –accia, indicating “bad”

  • il ragazzaccio,¬†the bad boy
  • la ragazzaccia, the bad girl

Since Portuguese, as far as I know, does not have this concept, and from memory French doesn’t have these type of suffixes at all, this would suggest to me that Italian boys and girls are a lot more naughty than their Romance language counterparts.

So, let’s listen to some music that immediately comes to mind, or more precisely to Bernardaccio’s mindaccio. It’s a live performance of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders singing Bad Boys Get Spanked. Mmmmmm

StateLibQld 1 113036 Cartoon of students recei...

Cartoon of students receiving the cane, 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To spank in Italian is sculacciare, and a spanking is una sculacciata. (Dare una sculacciata is a another way of saying to spank, or to give a spanking.)

My Italian guide books say you should be careful when using the –accio and –accia suffixes in case you offend people, but they do not give any examples of how one might be offensive. This is a pity. Bernardoneaccio¬†(Big Bad Bernie) loves offending people!

Come back for more insults and punishment soon, OK?


Start flying in Italian, sort of

Alitalia Airbus A320 (EI-DTM).

A very subtle choice of picture by Bernardo to go with the flying lyrics and headline of this blog posting. (Alitalia Airbus A320, Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, enough idle chatter about the Eurovision song contest and music and so on, it is time to knuckle down with some language learning, focusing on Italian for no particular reason other than we haven’t looked too deeply at it. To get you in the mood, here is some music in Italian! Click on the link, please, but after you do, do come back to this blog. Don’t get too distracted on YouTube, OK?

That was the moment in 2009 when Marco Mengoni shot to fame, in the Italian X factor series. The song, Dove si vola (Where you fly) went to number one on the Italian charts, as did his Eurovision entry this year, L’essenziale. You can see his discography on Wikipedia here. I had a quick listen to his other hit singles but didn’t much care for them except for the title track to his latest album, Pronto a correre (Ready to run).

Here are the lyrics to Dove si vola... I punched them into a language translator and have pasted the rather perfunctory English translation underneath because I figured you’d be too lazy to do this :). I am right, yes?

Cosa mi aspetto da te
cosa ti aspetti da me
Cosa sarà ora di noi,
cosa faremo domani
Potremmo andarcene via, dimenticarci
oppure giocarci il cuore, rischiare…

What I expect from you
What do you expect from me
What will become of us now,
What will we do tomorrow
We could go on, forget
or¬†play with¬†your heart,¬†risk …

Fammi respirare ancora
portami dove si vola
Dove non si cade mai
Lasciami lo spazio e il tempo
E cerca di capirmi dentro
dimmi ogni momento che ci sei Che ci sei che ci sei

Let me breathe again
take me where you fly
Where you ever falls
Let the space and time
And try to understand me inside
tell me¬†any time¬†you’re there
You’re there¬†you’re there

Cosa ti aspetti da me
Cosa mi aspetto da te
Adesso che siamo qui
nudi sul tetto del mondo, del mondo
Potremmo dirci bugie tranquillamente
Oppure andare per mano per sempre

What do you expect from me
What I expect from you
Now that we are here
naked on the roof of the world, the world
We could tell us lies quietly
Or go to hand forever


E non fermarti a quest’attimo
Che non ritornerà
E dimmi che ogni momento per noi
sarà fantastico

And do not stop at this moment
Which will not return
And tell me that every moment for us
will be fantastic


Cosa mi aspetto da te
Cosa ti aspetti da me

What I expect from you
What do you expect from me

Let the lessons begin

Ok, now that you are in the mood and your expectations are high and we are flying, let’s tackle some basics in Italian.

As in French, in Italian nouns are either masculine (maschile) or feminine (femminile) and the articles and adjectives that go with them have to agree in gender and number. Let’s look at some masculine nouns followed by their feminine counterparts: lo zio (the uncle), la zia (the aunt); il ragazzo (the boy); la ragazza (the girl); il padre, la madre (father, mother); il giorno, la notte (day, night).

Emma Trentini (1878-1959), Italian soprano ope...

Il soprano Emma Trentini (1878-1959)

Nouns ending in o tend to be masculine, nouns ending in a tend to be feminine, while nouns ending in e can be either. Nouns denoting a male person are usually masculine and those denoting a female person tend to be feminine. These are often linked to professions (il cantante is a male singer, la cantante is a female singer). However, in keeping with the o = masculine rule, the word for “soprano” in Italian, which is, um, soprano, is masculine – il soprano, whereas of course sopranos are almost inevitably women in real life but I am not ruling out the possibility that there might be males somewhere posing as sopranos. (Like the ones in the TV series, for example, haha). But note: as in French, all those words that have been borrowed from Greek that end in –a, or more precisely –ema and –amma, tend to be masculine – il problema, il programma.¬†Those Greek words always defy the rules! And another curiosity is the fact that the noun femminile itself (meaning “the feminine grammatical form”) is masculine – il femminile. That is Italian logic for you.

If you are interested in gardening and eating, you might like to know that in Italian most trees are masculine – il pero, the pear tree – but their fruit are usually feminine – la pera, the pear. However, lemons, figs and mandarins are masculine for some reason: il limone, il fico, il mandarino – maybe they don’t taste so good.

The definite article (“The”); l’articolo determinativo

Now, if you have been paying attention, you might have noticed that the definite article (the “the”) in front of some masculine nouns is lo and in front of others it is il. Why is this? It is possibly because Italians are dramatic and like to make things complicated. Or it could be they are sensitive to sounds: they use lo before masculine nouns beginning with what is sometimes described as “an impure s” – that is, an s followed by another consonant (lo sbaglio, the mistake; lo sport) and before masculine nouns beginning with z, as in the above mentioned lo zio, the uncle. It is also used in front of ps– and gn– hence lo psicologo (the psychologist) and lo gnocco (the dumpling).

As in French, the feminine definite article is la before all consonants (la nonna, the grandmother).

Also as in French, in front of both masculine and feminine nouns beginning with a vowel, l’ is used – l’animale (a masculine word), l’automobile (feminine).

The indefinite article (“a/an”); l’articolo indeterminativo

With masculine nouns, un is used before most consonants or vowels (un padre, un animale) but uno is used before z and an “impure” s (uno zio, an uncle, uno scolaro, a male scholar or pupil).

With feminine nouns, un’ (with an apostrophe) is used before all vowels, and una is used before all consonants (un’automobile,¬†una ragazza).

To summarise definite articles:

  • l’ goes with an masculine or feminine noun starting with a vowel
  • lo goes with masculine nouns starting with a z, or s + consonant (or ps- and gn-)
  • il goes with masculine nouns starting with any other consonant
  • la goes with feminine nouns starting with a consonant

To summarise indefinite articles:

  • uno¬†goes with masculine nouns starting with a z, or s + consonant¬†(or ps- and gn-)
  • un¬†goes with all other masculine nouns (both consonant and vowel)
  • una¬†goes with feminine nouns starting with a consonant
  • un’ goes with feminine nouns starting with a vowel

OK, class is over. But we still ¬†have five minutes before the bell rings for the next lesson (which will cover the formation of plurals). So let’s listen to some more music. It’s a lovely melody by a well-known Italian pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi, called Nuvole Bianche ¬†(White Clouds). It’s just the sort of calming music you need when your head is spinning with Italian grammar.

See you next time, a presto, ci vediamo!

How Latin Became Italian

I hope to look at some Italian next, so to get us in the mood I have reblogged the item above from Damyan Lissitchkov’s Blog, which is always very educational in an enjoyable way. I think he has a great sense of humour. (Check out the first paragraph of his item headed ‘Linguistic Diversity’, for example. And do read the other paragraphs too! ) I look forward to his next instalment (hint, hint, Damyan, haha). Cheers

Damyan Lissitchkov's Blog

Today I am going to write about another of my favorite languages ‚Äď Italian. It is, I dare say, one of the finest modern languages.


After the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin evolved (or degraded, as some people might view it) via Vulgar Latin into a multitude of varieties, which later became the Romance languages. I personally don‚Äôt agree with the ‚Äėdegradation‚Äô view because I think that when the world changes, everything else must change together with it. I like the Latin language as well as ‚Äėher daughters‚Äô, but in a different way. Anyway, during this process many things changed in the structure of the language. Here I am going to focus on the changes in the phonology and in the grammar. The latter became less complex, but also more irregular.

Italian is geographically and linguistically the closest successor of Latin. It is a very melodic and neat language…

View original post 2,163 more words

Eurovision wash-up 3: sideburns, mohawks and buffed chests

Sideburns are back! An otherwise very dapper Marco Mengoni belts it out at Eurovision.

Sideburns are back! An otherwise very dapper Marco Mengoni belts it out at Eurovision.

Italy’s Marco Mengoni came a respectable seventh at the Eurovision song contest, getting the top vote of 12 points ¬†from three countries – Albania, Spain and Switzerland – and the second vote of 10 points from Austria, Macedonia and France, for his song ¬†L’essenziale. Perhaps the Italians were hoping for a better result, because apparently he is all the rage in Italy at the moment. Unusually for this contest, he didn’t use any gimmicks or back-up dancers (a maximum of six people are allowed on stage for each entry), but just let his own voice do the talking. I didn’t think much of his song on first listening – it’s earnest – but it has grown on me, and his voice brings out the richness and melody of the Italian language. I am curious to hear more of his work. Here is the video of his grand final performance…

The lyrics are here and the English translation from the Eurovision website is underneath.

Sostengono gli eroi ¬†.. .se il gioco si fa duro …¬†√® da giocare …¬†Beati loro poi ¬†…¬†se scambiano le offese con il bene …¬†Succede anche a noi ¬† …¬†di far la guerra e ambire poi alla pace …¬†e nel silenzio mio ¬†…¬†annullo ogni tuo singolo dolore …¬†Per apprezzare quello che …¬†non ho saputo scegliere
(Heroes say … when the game gets tough … it‚Äôs time to play … bless them when, though … they mistake offences for good acts …¬†Happens to us too …¬†To make war and then long for peace …¬†And then in my silence …¬†I annihilate your every single pain …¬†And now I appreciate …What I wasn‚Äôt able to choose).
Mentre il mondo cade a pezzi …¬†io compongo nuovi spazi …¬†e desideri che …¬†appartengono anche a te …¬†che da sempre sei per me …¬†l’essenziale
(As the world falls into pieces …¬†I craft new spaces and needs …¬†That belong to you too …¬†You, whom I believe to be the essential)
Non accetter√≥ …¬†un altro errore di valutazione …¬†l’amore √® in grado di …¬†celarsi dietro amabili parole …¬†che ho pronunciato prima che …¬†fossero vuote e stupide
(I won‚Äôt accept another …¬†Wrong decision …¬†Love can hide behind loving words …¬†That I uttered before …¬†they turned empty and vain).
Mentre il mondo cade a pezzi …¬†io compongo nuovi spazi …¬†e desideri che …¬†appartengono anche a te …¬†Mentre il mondo cade a pezzi …¬†mi allontano dagli eccessi …e dalle cattive abitudini …¬†torner√≤ all’origine …¬†torno a te che sei per me …¬†l’essenziale
(As the world falls into pieces …¬†I craft new spaces and needs …¬†That belong to you too …¬†As the world falls into pieces …¬†I move away from excesses …¬†And bad habits …¬†To go back to the origins …¬†Going back to you …¬†You, whom I believe to be the essential).
L’amore non segue le logiche …¬†Ti toglie il respiro e la sete …¬†Mentre il mondo cade a pezzi …¬†mi allontano dagli eccessi …¬†e dalle cattive abitudini …¬†torner√≤ all’origine …¬†torno a te che sei per me …¬†l’essenziale
(Love won‚Äôt abide any rules …¬†It takes your breath away …¬†and quenches your thirst …¬†As the world falls into pieces …¬†I move away from excesses …¬†And bad habits …¬†To go back to the origins …¬†Going back to you …¬†You, whom I believe to be the essential).

The Italians gave their top mark of 12 points to Denmark and their second vote of 10 points went to Malta.

And the most scruffy contestants are ... ByeAlex (in the beanie) and his amazing guitarist.

It’s Goldilocks! ByeAlex’s brilliant guitarist shows off his mane.

My sentimental favourite, Hungary’s ByeAlex, came a respectable 10th and got the top vote from the German nation, and the number 2 votes from both the Swiss and the Finns. If Marco Mengione had the most prominent sideburns on stage at Eurovision, the most notorious hairstyle among the male contestants belonged to ByeAlex’s guitarist (according to some websites his name is D√°niel KŇĎv√°r but I don’t know that for sure). He had an elegantly coiffeured mohawk of almost epic proportions. The way his head bobbed up and down as he strummed his guitar while seated on a stool was most entertaining, and his energy offset the static shyness of Mr ByeAlex himself. But let’s not just talk about his hair, let’s admire his guitar work too … to hold a song together in a massive auditorium with just an acoustic guitar is quite some feat. Check out the performance here… (the back-up singer is great too, she’s really lovely, I hope they tour Australia one day).

Azerbaijan's Farid Mammadov got the most number one votes in the Eurovision contest - I wonder why!

Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov got the most number one votes in the Eurovision contest – I wonder why! (But can anyone remember his song?)

Wrapping up the contest from a Romance language point of view (and let’s face it, there is only so much Eurovision one can take, haha), Moldova’s Alione Moon came 11th and Romania’s Cezar came 13th. (See this posting for more information on them and the former’s lyrics in Romanian and English). Romania gave Moldova its top vote and Azerbaijan its second vote. Moldova gave its top vote to eastern neighbour Ukraine and its second vote to western neighbour Romania, which also got a second vote from Greece. ¬†Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest won the competition, getting 281 points to runner-up Azerbaijan’s 234, but this was due more to the fact that all 39 nations barring San Marino (and Denmark itself, no country can award itself) voted to give it some points – just eight countries made it their number one choice. In contrast, Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov was the top pick of 10 countries, but got no points at all from nine countries. He had great backing up from an athletic dancer trapped in a glass cage. Check it out here…

Eurovision wash-up 2: hellish fury of a French woman scorned

Giving them hell... Amandine Bourgeois lets rip for France but got lots of nul points

Giving them hell… Amandine Bourgeois lets rip for France but got lots of nul points … Merde!

France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom are the big five countries which, along with the host nation, are guaranteed a place in the Eurovision song contest final. But that is no guarantee of success. France’s Amandine Bourgeois had to open the competition, singing L’enfer et moi (Hell and me). She gave a gritty, gutsy performance, but the poor girl was confused – this was the Eurovision song contest, not a dingy rock’n’roll dive in the darker suburbs of Marseille! She was supposed to sing pretty girl pop! The rock/blues number that she belted out scored 8 points from San Marino, but just 2 points from Armenia and Iceland, 1 point from Cyprus and Macedonia, and nothing from the rest, and she came 23rd out of 26. You can check out her effort here:

Here are the French lyrics with their official translation into English. I will put them in Hellish red just to keep the theme going.

Tu m‚Äôas mise K.O d’entr√©e …¬†Il faut croire que j’ai bien aim√© …¬†Liens de cuir et mains de soie
(You knocked me out from the start …¬†At the end of the day I kind of liked it …¬†Hands of silk and leather ties‚Ķ.)
Qui blesses-tu et dans quel port …¬†Jusqu’√† faire rougir l’aurore? …¬†Tu m’as jet√© comme un sort
(Where and whom do you hurt …¬†Till you make dawn blush? ‚Ķ¬†You cast me off like a spell)
Je vais te faire l’enfer …¬†De l√† o√Ļ tu te perds …¬†Regarde bien derri√®re …¬†Et ce sera moi
(I’m gonna give you hell …¬†Right where you’re loosing yourself …¬†Have a good look in the rear mirror …¬†I ‘ll be the one standing behind you)
Tu m’as fait pleurer √† vif …¬†Mon cou porte encore ta griffe …J’aimais √©changer de peau …¬†No limits, c’est un classique …¬†J’aimais nos amours toxiques …¬†Celles qui font que tout est beau
You made me cry with burning tears …¬†My neck still carries your brand …¬†Skin to skin , fear to fear ‚Ķ”No limits” that’s a classic …¬†our love was first name for toxic …¬†but beauty justifies it all‚Ķ
Je vais te faire l’enfer …¬†De l√† o√Ļ tu te perds ¬†…Regarde bien derri√®re …¬†Je vais te faire l’enfer ¬†…¬†De l√† o√Ļ tu te perds …¬†Regarde bien derri√®re …¬†Et ce sera moi
(I’m gonna give you hell, etc, as above)
Je vais te faire l’enfer …¬†Tu vas manquer d’air …¬†A moins une, √† moins que …¬†On se retrouve √† deux …¬†A moins qu’il nous faille …¬†Renoncer aux batailles
(I’m gonna give you hell …¬†’til you’re out of breath …¬†unless, unless…¬†two becomes our odd number again …¬†unless¬†we see our battles fall into oblivion)
Je vais te faire l’enfer
(I’m gonna give you hell)

Incidentally, the French gave their top vote to the ultimate winner, Denmark, and their second vote to neighbours Italy. But Italy gave France nothing in return. C’est la vie, non?

Eurovision, the wash-up 1: it’s disdain for Spain

Emmelie de Forest and her drummers, including flautist Jacob (on the right)

Emmelie de Forest and her Danish drummers, including Jacob (on the right), who is a dab hand with the flute as well.

Congratulations to Emmelie de Forest of Denmark for winning the Eurovision song contest with Only Teardrops, one of the few songs I can still remember the morning after. I am thinking of changing my name to Bernardo de Jungle just to cash in on the moment and be trendy. So, it’s off to Copenhagen, presumably, for the next one, unless another Danish city such as Odense, Aarhus or Aalborg wins the right to host the competition. For some reason the song Only Teardrops sounded very Irish to me (some compensation, perhaps, for Ireland, which came last?), mainly because of the flute intro and melody. The flautist and drummers deserve some of the credit for the win: I like a dramatic¬†thrash on the drums! Here, the flautist (or flutist in American English), Jacob, gives a run-down on how to play that melody …

Espa√Īol: El Sue√Īo de Morfeo en un concierto en...

El Sue√Īo de Morfeo en un concierto en Castelldefels (Barcelona), agosto de 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spanish entry, Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End), by El Sue√Īo De Morfeo (in English, Morpheus‚Äô Dream), came second last, getting only 6 points from Albania and 2 points from Italy. (In contrast, Spain gave Italy its top vote of 12 points). A pity, because it is not a bad song and has rousing parts to it, though I doubt it will stay with me to my end, whenever that may be.

The Eurovision website posts the lyrics of all the entries and their French and English equivalents if need be. So let’s try to learn some language from the Spanish song. Listen to the live version during the final in Malmo here…

Here are the lyrics side by side, Spanish first, of course, then French and then English. Because of the sentence construction and each language’s peculiarities, etc, the lines and meanings don’t always match up exactly. It is best probably to look at them in a wider context – verse by verse – rather than each line. (I am not the one who translated them.)

Un cielo azul –¬†Le ciel bleu – A blue sky
gana paso a la tormentaA pris de l’avance sur l’orage Рsweeps away the storm
que amenaz√≥ mi coraz√≥n –¬†Qui a menac√© mon cŇďur – That darkened my heart

Y llegas t√ļ, con todo lo que significas t√ļ –¬†Et voil√† que tu arrives, avec tout ce que tu signifies – And then you come, with everything you are
descubriéndome quién soy pour découvrir qui je suis Рdiscovering me as I am

Eres esa luz –¬†Tu es cette lumi√®re – You are that light
que a trav√©s del universo –¬†Qui m‚Äôinvites √† voyager – That crosses the universe
t√ļ¬†me invitas a viajar –¬†√Ä travers l‚Äôunivers – You urge me to fly
Contigo hasta el final –¬†J‚Äôirai avec toi jusqu‚Äôau bout – With you till the end

La ilusi√≥n¬†de una vida por delante –¬†Une vie qui est devant nous – All the hope of life before us
que comienza justo hoy –¬†Commence aujourd‚Äôhui pr√©cis√©ment et nous remplit d‚Äôespoir – A life beginning right now

V√°monos¬†sin temor –¬†Partons, sans crainte – Let us go without fear
gritemos que al final triunf√≥ el amor –¬†Crions haut et fort qu‚Äôen fin de compte, c‚Äôest l‚Äôamour qui a triomph√© – Let us proclaim that love’s won over all
que ahora somos t√ļ y yo –¬†Que maintenant nous sommes toi et moi – That now it’s me and you.

Eres esa luz¬†–¬†Tu es cette lumi√®re¬†– You are that light
que a trav√©s del universo¬†–¬†Qui m‚Äôinvites √† voyager¬†– That crosses the universe
t√ļ¬†me invitas a viajar¬†–¬†√Ä travers l‚Äôunivers¬†– You urge me to fly
Contigo hasta el final¬†–¬†J‚Äôirai avec toi jusqu‚Äôau bout¬†– With you till the end

The Eurovision tension is rising (and apologies to Aliona)

It's Count Dracula! Oh no, sorry, it's not. It is Cezar, representing Romania.

It’s Count Dracula! Oh no, sorry, it’s not. It is Cezar, representing Romania.

Phew! I have just had a look at the results of the second semi-final of the Eurovision contest, and am relieved to see that my sentimental favourite (“And my Eurovision winner is…),¬†Hungary’s ByeAlex¬†singing ¬†Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)¬†made it through to the final. It would have been embarrassing if he hadn’t. But my second and third choices, Switzerland and Croatia, were booted out. I wanted the Swiss to go through because they included the oldest participant in the competition yet – a 95-year-old. I am hoping to beat his record in the year 2056 – which will give me 43 years to acquire some form of musical talent. Talent scouts, have your cheque books ready!

The most daring entry – a love it or hate it song, It’s My Life, by Romanian countertenor Cezar – also made it to the final round, so perhaps love is in the air and hate has been banished. I am pleased to see that the Icelandic fisherman made it through to the final, as did the Maltese doctor, and I am really warming to the Belgian entry, Love Kills by Roberto Bellarosa. However, I think either Denmark or Sweden will win. I have decided that this year I am going to be shamelessly cheesy and tacky and buy the 2013 Eurovision CD.

Aliona Moon will be doing her bit for Moldova (and the Romanian language) at Eurovision

Aliona Moon will be doing her bit for Moldova (and the Romanian language) at Eurovision.

I have to take back what I said in that earlier Eurovision post about the entry from Moldova, though. I had said Aliona Moon was singing in English, because the Australian broadcaster of the event, SBS, had posted the English version of the song on its website when previewing the competition (which had puzzled me as the song was titled O Mie  which means a thousand or one thousand). But no, she did sing in Romanian after all, so she goes from a thumbs down to a thumbs up, and I hope she does well.

Here is the official preview version of the song, and I have posted the Romanian lyrics underneath from the Eurovision website. I like the “oare”, “oi” and “ut” sounds in Romanian ūüôā

‚ÄúO Mie‚ÄĚ

O mie de-apusuri pierdute in mare, pierdute in noi
Pe gene o mie de raze de soare-aduceau dimineti pentru doi
O mie de stele arz√ģnd cńÉzńÉtoare priviri ne-au furat
In ceruri o mie de nop»õi seculare s-au tot spulberat, noi am rezistat

Între soare si ploi
Se nasc mii de culori, dar noi vedem doar nori
Amintiri despre noi
Însirat-am pe foi, apoi le-am distrus amindoi

O mie de lacrimi nu-mi spalńÉ durerea de c√ģnd te-am pierdut
De-o mie de nop»õi ma inghite tacerea, ea vrea sa te uit, imi cere prea mult
Nu cred ca este-n trecut, fiorul ce l-am avut
Vreau un nou inceput!

Credeam √ģn dragostea ta, speram ca nu va seca
Credeam √ģn visele mari, dar ai ales sa dispari
Credeam ca nu e-n trecut, fiorul ce l-am avut
Vreau un nou inceput!

Intre soare si ploi
Se nasc mii de culori, dar noi vedem doar noi
Amintiri despre noi
Insirat-am pe foi, apoi le-am distrus amindoi

And here it is in English (I like the references to the Maya end of the world predictions, talk about being melodramatic!):

The English lyrics are shown on the above clip from YouTube but I have pasted them here for the record. Note that somehow what was “a thousand” in Romanian has become “a million” in English.

A million sunsets are lost in the ocean, lost in our minds;
Your beautiful smile woke me up in the mornings a million times;
A million hopes were revealed in discretion, at shooting stars;
And we didn’t care that I was from Venus, and you were from Mars

I would give you my love, but it wasn’t enough for us to make it last;
The Maya were not so wrong, it’s the end of the world! It’s done!
cause you are done.

A million tears cannot wash up the sorrow that you made me feel;
A million of memories I try not to follow, but I cannot heal,
My heart is too ill  I thought that we can go on
But you chose to go alone Go away! Now I’m done!

I would give you my love, but it wasn’t enough for us to make it last;
The Maya were not so wrong, it’s the end of the world! It’s done!
cause you are done.

I gave you all that I had
But you broke my heart instead
I built a future for us
But you betrayed all my trust
I thought that we can go on
But you chose to go alone
Go away! Now I’m done!

As mentioned previously, there was no Portuguese entrant this year, but you can hear French, Spanish and Italian in the Final. According to the official website, the 26 acts competing in the grand final of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in order of appearance are:

  1. France:¬†L’Enfer Et Moi¬†by Amandine Bourgeois
  2. Lithuania: Something by Andrius Pojavis
  3. Moldova: O Mie by Aliona Moon
  4. Finland: Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids
  5. Spain: Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End) by ESDM
  6. Belgium: Love Kills by Roberto Bellarosa
  7. Estonia: Et Uus Saaks Alguse by Birgit
  8. Belarus: Solayoh by Alyona Lanskaya
  9. Malta:Tomorrow by Gianluca
  10. Russia: What If by Dina Garipova
  11. Germany: Glorious by Cascada
  12. Armenia: Lonely Planet by Dorians
  13. The Netherlands: Birds by Anouk
  14. Romania:¬†It’s My Life¬†by Cezar
  15. United Kingdom: Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler
  16. Sweden: You by Robin Stjernberg
  17. Hungary:: Kedvesem by ByeAlex
  18. Denmark: Only Teardrops by Emmelie de Forest
  19. Iceland:¬†√Čg √Ā L√≠f¬†by Ey√ĺ√≥r Ingi
  20. Azerbaijan: Hold Me by Farid Mammadov
  21. Greece: Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra featuring Agathon Iakovidis
  22. Ukraine: Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
  23. Italy:¬†L’Essenziale¬†by Marco Mengoni
  24. Norway: I Feed Your Love by Margaret Berger
  25. Georgia: Waterfall by Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani
  26. Ireland: Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan

Some basic French: nouns and articles (les noms et les articles)

Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, MA (Photo credit: thisreidwrites)

This is meant to be a language blog but recently (you may have noticed) I have been studiously avoiding grammar in favour of all sorts of other things: items on food and travel, for instance, or when one of my favourite singers dies then I use that as an excuse to ignore grammar and post some of their music and lyrics instead. But not enough good singers have been dying recently – what’s wrong with them! So I guess it’s time to knuckle down and cover some grammar. Actually, it is not so bad. It is how languages are constructed, and the construction is usually interesting.

In this blog so far we have covered the verbs to be in all five Romance languages here, here, here, here, here and here, and to have¬†here¬†and here. But if we really want to get talking in my five Romance languages we need to look at a lot more: nouns¬†in the singular and plural, adjectives, the formation of adverbs, the definite and indefinite articles (“the” and “a/an”), and regular and irregular verb conjugation. And we will try to have some diversions in between.

Those people whose first language is English have to grasp some different grammatical concepts when they study Romance languages. First they will have to get their heads around the fact that nouns are either masculine or feminine. (How sexist is that!)

What gender Is your country? Check out the map for the French verdict

English: The gender of countries in the French...

English: The gender of countries in the French language: countries with masculine names are green and countries with feminine names are purple. Espa√Īol: G√©nero de los nombres de los pa√≠ses en franc√©s: en verde masculinos, en morado femeninos. Fran√ßais: Genre masculin (vert) ou f√©minin (mauve) de chaque pays du monde dans la langue fran√ßaise. Italiano: Generi dei nomi dei paesi in francese: i verdi sono maschili, i viola femminili. Romanian: Gen de »õńÉri din limba francezńÉ: »õńÉrile cu nume masculine sunt de culoare verde »ôi »õńÉri cu nume feminine sunt mov. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The map to the right, for example, shows which countries, according to the French language, are macho and which are girly. There is probably some linguistic logic to it. According to one of my French grammar books, those countries that end in a mute “e” are feminine (la France, for example), whereas those that do not end in a mute e are masculine (le Portugal, for example). Who would have thought that mute es could be so influential. The same also applies to rivers (le Rhin, la Seine)

Some romance languages, as well as the masculine and feminine nouns, have neuter as well (how non-sexist is that.)

Furthermore, in my Romance languages the grammatical articles and adjectives have to agree with nouns in gender and number. How agreeable or disagreeble is that? All this means is that, in order to master these languages you have to learn heaps of rules off by heart. And just to make it more challenging, in every language there will always be exceptions to the rule. Still, if it was too easy it would be boring.

We will kick off our series focusing on nouns and their matching articles with French. Why? It seems to me the French have managed to keep these things relatively simple. Or maybe I feel that way just because French was the first foreign language I studied at school, so the concepts are pretty clear to me. Portuguese doesn’t seem too bad in this regard either, so I guess Spanish will be like that too; Italian seems to be a little more complicated; and just wait till you see what surprises Romanian has in store!

So, here we go:

The definite article in French

  • le is used with masculine nouns (le p√®re = the father)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la m√®re = the mother)
  • l’ is used in front of a vowel (l’enfant = the child)
  • les is used for both masculine and feminine plural (les parents = the parents)

The indefinite article in French

  • un is used with masculine nouns (un livre = a book)
  • une is used with feminine nouns (une plume = a pen)

“Of” with the definite and indefinite articles

  • MASCULINE: du¬†p√®re = of the father, ¬†d’un¬†p√®re = of a father
  • FEMININE: de la¬†m√®re = of the mother, d’une¬†m√®re = of a mother
  • VOWEL: ¬†de l’enfant = of the child, d’un enfant = of a child
  • PLURAL: des parents, des enfants, des¬†p√®res, des m√®res, etc

These are important to know because there is no possessive in French so these are the possessive by default. That is, le livre du¬†p√®re = the book of the father = father’s book.

“To” with the definite and indefinite article

  • au (masculine),¬†√† la (feminine),¬†√† l’ (with vowel), aux (plural) = to the
  • √† un,¬†√† une = to a

So, which nouns are masculine and which are feminine?

  • Names of males, trees, days, months and seasons, and weights and measures tend to be masculine, while names of females and abstract nouns tend to be feminine (it seems that in French at least males ¬†are boringly functional, females are thoughtfully abstract).
  • For other categories, generally there are clues from the ending of the noun itself.
  • In professions, most words ending in eur are masculine: le chanteur = the (male) singer, un acteur = a male actor. The feminine equivalents end in euse or trice: la chanteuse = the ¬†female singer, une actrice = an actress. But as noted above, abstract nouns tend to be feminine, including those ending in eur: la couleur (colour), la chaleur (heat), la douleur (sorrow).
  • Words ending in –er or –ier tend to be masculine (le plancher = the floor, le papier = the paper), while those ending in –√®re or –i√®re tend to be feminine (une art√®re = an artery, la lumi√®re – the light).
  • Nouns ending in –oir tend to be masculine and –oire tend to be feminine (le pouvoir = the power, la gloire = glory).
  • Other word endings that tend to be masculine are: -eau, -t, -c, -age, -ail, -oir, -√©, -on, -acle, -√®ge, -√®me, -o and –ou.
  • Word endings that tend to be feminine are: -elle, -te, -tte, -de, -che, -aille,¬†-√©, -t√©, -ti√©, -onne, -aison, -ison, -ion, -esse, -ie, -ine, -une, – ure, -ance, -anse, -ence, -ense

But there are exceptions! I told you there was a lot to learn by heart, but as you go along you get to know it by instinct as well.

How to form the plural

  • On most words you simply add s to the singular, as one does in English. But note the following:
  • Singular words ending in s, x or z tend not to change: la voix, les voix = the voice, voices
  • Singular words ending in au, eu and eau tend to add an x: le bureau, les bureaux = the office, offices
  • Those ending in –al tend to become –aux in the plural: le cheval, les chevaux = the horse, horses
  • Words ending in –ou tend to add an s in the plural except for bijoux (jewels), cailloux (pebbles), choux (cabbages), genoux (knees), hiboux (owls), and joujoux (toys). (Funnily enough in our household we have a poodle called Bijou and a turtle called Pebbles but as yet we don’t have any owls)
  • There is one peculiarity: un oeil = an eye, les yeux = the eyes.

So, that is a lot to absorb in one hit. I had a look around on YouTube to see if there were any good tutorials on French articles, nouns, number and gender. A lot of the well-meaning tutors there are a bit slow and laborious, but this chap who goes by the name Rafatheman is brisk and to the point. He covers a lot in almost six minutes, and he has a good accent to imitate. Merci beaucoup, Rafa!

Words of comfort are perhaps the most important


For the past couple of weeks or so at the media company where I work I have had to fill in for a person who writes a weekly newspaper column on men’s health. Since this is not my field of expertise it has required a lot of research, and this blog has had to take a back seat for a while. One of the topics I decided to cover was depression, and it so happened that a charity in Australia called beyondblue, whose goal is to raise awareness of depression, started a campaign this week to highlight a related issue: anxiety. My reporting on the anxiety awareness campaign launch, headlined “Get a grip on anxiety”, can be found¬†here and there is a related story on depression here.

It has been a very interesting experience talking not only to people in the medical profession and those who work for charity, but also to those who at some stage of their lives have had depression or suffered from attacks of anxiety. There are prominent people – actors, writers, sports stars – who have “come out” publicly about having to battle their demons, so to speak, and by doing so they destigmatise these conditions and hopefully encourage other people to seek help and advice, or at least feel they are not alone. These are people who have done something about it and seem to have it under control. But I have also had the chance to speak to people who are only just starting out on that journey and it’s apparent they are so grateful to have someone to talk to about it and to get it off their chest. I also think it is true that at times, particularly in the initial stages, it is easier to talk to a total stranger, say in an internet forum, than it is to talk to friends or relatives. That is, to talk to someone who does not belong to your ‘real world’ and so won’t have the chance to judge you. This is where website help can be important and I will list the help sites that I know of at the bottom of this post.

A common theme among all this is that modern society seems to expect us to be strong and in control all the time; which means we cover up our faults as best we can and are so shy about confessing our vulnerabilities. This is a pity, because really talking to someone and getting that weight off one’s own shoulders can be so helpful, and it shouldn’t be that hard. So when someone actually does speak out about their own experience, the other sufferers are so grateful and find it inspiring. If only it would happen more often.

We all have spells when we are stressed and we all have our ups and downs. Hopefully, for most these are temporary things. For others they can be more permanent, and that’s when they need to acquire the tools to manage it for life.


stress (Photo credit: bottled_void)

Stress is all around us. Today I had to go to my bank. The young woman behind the counter who served me, I could tell, was in some form of emotional distress. She kept sighing, she could not concentrate on what I was saying, her movements were shaky, agitated, and she was a little bit incoherent. It was not very professional but I went out of my way to be patient, and she soon made a mental effort, apologised and said she was having “personal issues”, and became businesslike. I didn’t want to pry into her affairs but just tried to be chatty in a cheery and pleasant way. After the transaction we made some small talk, I thanked her, smiled and wished her a pleasant afternoon. I know I left her in a better state than she was in when I arrived. I thought about going to a shop nearby to buy her a little chocolate to cheer her up even more but felt that would be a bit over the top. I just mention this as an example of how small things can make a difference: if I or another customer had been stressed myself, in a hurry, wanting the transaction done quickly, if I had snapped at her (and I have seen people who can be very rude!) she would have been tipped the other way, into more anxiety. I wonder if I would have noticed her state if I had not been pondering issues of mental health all week?

Anyway, if you know someone who you think may be battling stress, depression or anxiety please pass on the following to them. They are links to charities and research groups in Australia that help people deal with stress and depression and other mood disorders. They have excellent fact sheets, self-help sections, interviews with people who have overcome their difficulties and so on. (Over time I will add links to similar organisations in the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or Romanian speaking worlds. If you know of any, please forward me the links). Click on the name at the start of the paragraph to call up the relevant website.

  • beyondblue¬†… “beyondblue is working to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety in the community by raising awareness and understanding, empowering people to seek help, and supporting recovery, management and resilience”
  • Black Dog Institute“The Black Dog Institute is a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.”
  • myCompass¬†… “myCompass is an interactive self-help service that aims to promote resilience and wellbeing for all Australians. myCompass is a guide to good mental health ‚Äď it points you in the right direction. You can track your moods, write about them and view information and tips. You can also choose to do one of the modules designed to help you manage mild to moderate stress, anxiety and depression.”
  • SANE Australia“SANE Australia is a national charity helping all Australians affected by mental illness lead a better life ‚Äď through campaigning, education and research.”
  • Men’s HealthA weekly column (every Wednesday) in The Australian Financial Review, by award-winning medical journalist and author Jill Margo (except when she is away!)

And my Eurovision winner is …

Eurovision song contest

Garish lights, cameras, action? It must be the Eurovision song contest (Photo credit: kjelljoran)

I think someone should hand Bernardo a stiff drink. He has just put himself through all 39 entries in the 2013 Eurovision contest, which takes place in Malmo, Sweden, on May 14-18. The Australian broadcaster which will carry the event, SBS, has posted all the songs up here. You can vote like or dislike, and there are four other buttons where you can deliver another verdict, a LOL, an MEH (that’s a new one to me, I had to look that up,if you don’t know what it means here are the explanations), an OMG and a HOT (which just means hot stuff, or he/she/they ¬†is or are hot). Bernardo wouldn’t have minded a WTF option too. Note the dates on that website are SBS broadcast times and not the live times.

Some people love Eurovision, others hate it. Bernardo is a secret admirer, lured by curiosity more than anything else. I mean, let’s face it, even with all the internet radio options we have nowadays, Eurovision really is likely to be the only time that someone in Australia will get to hear a song in Armenian or Azerbaijani. That’s if they can be bothered to sing in their own language. Bernardo gets rather annoyed when they all try to be English pop stars.

So, what’s on offer this year at Eurovision in terms of my five Romance languages?

French: France’s entry is L’enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois. Unusually among all this pretty girl pop, it’s quite bluesy and gutsy. Belgium’s entry is in English so this is all the French you are going to get.

Italian: Italy is being represented by L’Essenziale¬†by Marco Mengoni, who if he doesn’t win can at least say he has the longest sideburns. It’s a not unpleasant ballad but a bit subdued compared with others in the same genre. Bernardo can’t really see it doing much (but at the moment it has the most likes on that website – Australia’s Italian community is letting its fingers do the talking). Likewise with Valentina Monetta, who once again will be representing ‘The Most Serene Republic of San Marino’ with her lilting ballad Chrisalide (Vola).

Spanish: Spain’s entry is Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End) by El Sue√Īo De Morfeo, or ESDM for short. It has a very Celtic sound, think the Corrs Go To Spain.

Romanian: Romania has opted for a strange but daring entry, It’s My Life by a countertenor known as Cezar. People will either love it (maybe be astounded by it might be a better description) or hate it. This is the one that you need a WTF button for. Across the border, Moldova is being represented by Aliona Moon, who in this song doesn’t come from the moon, she is from Venus, and her lover is from Mars, and English is the language of interplanetary communication. So, no Romanian language at Eurovision this year. (UPDATE: This was incorrect, the SBS preview website used the English version of the song in its preview, but has since amended it. So we do get to hear Romanian after all. Good luck, Aliona!)

Portuguese: You won’t hear a word of Portuguese at the 2013. The Portuguese telecaster was one of four to pull out of the contest this year for financial reasons (the others were Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovakia).

English: Symbol "thumbs up", great

Thumbs up to the following countries for doing entries in their own language: Albania (boofy bloke rock band); Bulgaria (percussion-driven song with eastern flavours including some sort of eastern bagpipe); Croatia (six blokes doing “kalpa”, a traditional form of vocal music, great voices, will appeal to fans of the likes of the three tenors); Cyprus (woman singing nostalgic ballad); Estonia¬†(young woman doing ballad/pop); FYR Macedonia (earnest young bloke does duet with veteran woman in a WTF flamboyant costume); Hungary¬†(the editor of a tattoo magazine who goes by the nickname ByeAlex sings a whimsical, folksy song. It’s great! It makes the Hungarian language sound really beautiful. I would buy this song.) Iceland¬†(beautiful melody by bloke with long blond hair and a beard); Ireland¬†(I suppose English is the language of Ireland although maybe Ireland should be in the thumbs down category for not having any Gaelic in this. This has a very 2013 night club pop sound, but being part Irish myself I hope it does well). Israel (another woman in another anguished power ballad); Montenegro (deep voiced male rapper and screechy woman do tag team singing); Serbia (three singers, one angelic, one devilish, one like Reese Witherspoon give it a good go; sounds like a nice language); The UK (gosh, it’s Bonnie Tyler! Remember her smash hit Total Eclipse of the Heart all those years ago? Although I much preferred Lost in France. This is OK but doesn’t have the same impact. Good to see her back though.)

Thumbs down icon

Thumbs down to the following for providing an entry in English when they should be promoting their own language: Armenia (boofy blokes singing about trying to “brake the wall” – I’m not sure if the wall is meant to fall down or stay in one piece); Austria (girl trying to do gritty girl rock); Azerbaijan (power ballad by good looking bloke); Belarus (blonde girl trying to be a Latin cha-cha); Belgium (TV talent contest bloke trying to sound like a boy band, nice try though); Denmark (pop song by 19-year-old woman, has a very Gaelic feel); Finland (raunchy blonde in leather does an Avril Lavigne/Kelly Clarkson impersonation with ding-dong wedding bell, door bell flavours); Georgia¬†(earnest, intense man/woman duet – oh, the passion! But yeah it’s quite tuneful); Germany (dance pop from Cascada, not as energetic as The Rhythm of the Night and their other hits); Lithuania (hmmm, this could have been a great song if it had been given more “oomph”, but I am not sure if the fashionably scruffy looking bloke has the voice to carry it); Malta (a doctor by profession lets his hair down in a lah-de-dah folksy way. Wish my doctor performed like this!) Norway (rousing foot-stomper by blonde with rosy cheeks); Russia¬†(ballad with searing orchestral strings by a young female performer; quite impressive really); Slovenia (American-born woman whose song sounds like anything you would hear on the charts nowadays by any number of people); Sweden (the host country is being represented by one of the few male soloists in this competition, Robin Stjernberg; he has a great voice and I can see his song You¬†being a huge international hit and even winning the competition); Switzerland (one of the braver and more original offerings here from Takasa, who include a 95-year-old in their line-up! The song starts out as if it’s going to be a headbanging bit of biffo but it quickly turns into a brooding pop song with a glorious catchy chorus); The Netherlands (brooding ballad by a comparative veteran here, Anouk); Ukraine (another young starlet with a manufactured pop sound).

Thumbs horizontal to the following for doing bits in their own language and bits in English: Greece (men in kilts perform an Balkan-flavoured ska ode to alcohol); Latvia (skinny boys in glitter jump around and do bits of rap in English with an anthemic chorus, or one that is trying to be anthemic, but I think there is a word or two of Latvian chucked in);

So I think this will be very much a Scandinavian contest, and I am tipping Sweden to pip Denmark for the title, perhaps with Norway in the chase too. Don’t rule out: Azerbaijan, Belgium, ¬†Ireland, Latvia, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia – they seem to have got the ‘Eurovision formula’.

However, my vote goes to Hungary’s ByeAlex with this version of the song Kedvesem (zoohacker remix). I will be playing this over and over again at home in my more mellow moods. The Hungarian language is meant to be very unusual, related only to Finnish, I believe, but this makes it sound like one of the most natural languages in the world that everyone should be talking. If I only knew what he was saying!

Switzerland gets my second vote and Croatia my third for doing something classy and traditional. I hope the scruffy Icelandic fisherman type does well with his melodic ballad too, ditto the Maltese doctor.

Now for that stiff drink… cheers ūüôā