Before our voyage to Italy, we tried a couple of different methods to learn Italian. Our first was a Pimsleur set of CDs that we had for several years (we had planned to go to Italy once before but had to cancel at the last minute). These are excellent CDs which guide you through conversational Italian lessons, grouped by specific subject.... transportation, shopping, food, meeting people, etc. My wife, Lisa, also bought a subscription to Rosetta Stone, both on our PC and our smart devices, but their approach was not that effective with us... you look at pictures and hear only Italian, supposedly the way a baby learns a language by associating a word with what it is looking at. For us, it didn't work well. And besides, once we finished the first bunch of lessons, they wanted more and more cash to keep unlocking more chapters.
A good idea to try is making a list of phrases that you want to focus on--business versus casual stuff, or specific for kids versus the needs of seniors. Categorize these by subject on paper or in MS Word first, then you can then go to Google Translate and enter them in one by one, saving each (pressing the Star) as you go along. In this way you can build your own personal database of your most important phrases listed by category.
This would be useful to look up phrases before you get into a taxi, for example... scroll down to your section on travel phrases and look for the right one. I had sections for shopping, accommodations, train travel, food and restaurants, etc. Lucas, Lisa and I would have fun sessions testing each other.
I even had a section with translations for curses and other phrases I'd need to use in an emergency. For instance, if I felt threatened, if I wanted to get rid of a panhandler, and other distasteful situations.... like "Va Via!" (hit the road). I even had a nice group of curse words and phrases in there. This actually worked several times to get rid of nefarious types.
Imagine going to a doctor or pharmacist, and think about what you might need to ask or explain. I would need to know how to ask for an inhaler for my asthma, anti-inflammatory for arthritis or even something as simple as lip balm. I needed to know how to let someone know that my son was lost, sick, hurt and where his pain was located. A Google Translate Phrasebook can be endlessly customized to you and your needs.
After you fine tune your own Phrasebook, Google Translate can output a spreadsheet into Google Docs for you, which you can always access online or download document file copies onto your devices for when you can't get an online connection. See mine below...
I copied it my Phrasebook doc onto my Kindle and phones as a ready reference file. I remember studying it right before important events as we were traveling. It helped me retain mainly the phrases and words that I knew for sure I'd need to use that day.
The only warning I'll give is to use a single device when creating your personal phrasebook. It seems that each device saved its own version of the Phrasebook. At the beginning I would use the PC for some translating and my Kindle for the rest. Each list was different. I would have saved a lot of time typing in the list from one to merge into the other if I knew about this ahead of time.
As I researched our Voyage to Italy, I kept Google Translate always open in a browser tab. I could easily pop over to the tab, cutting and pasting Italian phrases that I found on Italian web sites (ones that offered ny English translation), or the reverse... typing in an English word or phrase to see the translation, then using the Italian phrase to find what I was looking for on an Italian website.
You can also hear the translation spoken by clicking the speaker icon on the bottom left of a panel. The only trouble is, the voice is female. There is no way to change the voice on Google Translate. Each language has it's own voice.... some are male, some female.
Here is part of my own list I created of phrases and words I knew I might need...
Even though I'm back in the States, I still use Google Translate every day. I keep adding to my Phrasebook--it helps to keep practicing. I often use it to help communicate with my new Grand Voyage Italy friends in Italy... I just need to keep what I need to say jargon-free and say everything in simplistic ways, otherwise the translation might sound odd to a real Italian.
After all, we want to go back to Italy someday... in una data futura...
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