Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want!

March 16, 2016
Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want!

Easter is one of the most important religious holidays in Italy. It’s mostly spent with family although it’s also common to organise a trip to the countryside and rent a farmhouse or ranch with friends as a kind of early spring break celebration. In Italian we say “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” [Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want!] which is why it’s usual to spend Easter Sunday at home with family and Easter Monday – “Pasquetta” or “Lunedì dell’Angelo” [Little Easter or Angel’s Monday], out and about with your friends having picnics or barbecues, relaxing in parks and enjoying the fresh spring sunshine, playing football or badminton or going to a B&B in the countryside to indulge in some traditional Italian spring-time meals!

Playing Easter egg games is another of our big traditions in Italy. Nowadays, kids go crazy for surprises in hollow chocolate eggs, but when I was young there was an annual egg fight where we used to decorate boiled eggs and smash them against our opponent’s egg hoping that theirs would crack first. It’s still such a big tradition in some Italian cities that they even organise competitions in the local squares. There are egg and spoon races, too.

Food plays a hugely important role at Easter in Italy (and in many Mediterranean countries) with many dishes having religious connotations. On our tables you’ll find huge chocolate eggs, “Colomba”, a dove shaped sweet bread and “agnello” (lamb) with roasted potatoes. In Rome, my city, we love to have “Abbacchio allo scottadito” meaning roasted lamb that burns your fingers. And here is the magic recipe taken from the Dellalo website, if you’d like to have a try:


• 8 to 12 lamb chops
• 3 fresh bay leaves, finely ground
• 3 sage leaves
• 1 sprig fresh rosemary
• A few juniper berries
• DeLallo Natural Coarse Sea Salt
• Black peppercorns
• 1/2 glass dry white wine
• 6 tablespoons DeLallo Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 2 lemons, cut into wedges


Layer the lamb chops in a large container.
With a mortar, a knife or an electric grinder, finely grind all of the herbs and spices—including the salt and pepper. (If you use a knife, use the flat side to first crush the juniper berries, peppercorns and salt.) Place them in a bowl then mix with the wine and the olive oil, stirring with a fork. Pour this marinade into the container with the layered lamb chops. Marinate overnight.
Ideally, lamb chops are best grilled on an open coal fire or barbecue, but you can also cook them on the stove in a cast-iron grill or a heavy pan. They will be ready very quickly—lamb chops (unlike pork chops) can be served rare or medium-rare, according to your preference. Serve with a couple of lemon wedges.

Enjoy them piping hot… and before your friends steal them from your plate! Yum!

Irene Capanna, Translation Coordinator, Verboo


Franglish anguish

March 3, 2016
Franglish anguish

I’d taken forever deciding what to wear and how to do my hair. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited to meet someone new. I arrived in good time, my heart pounding in my chest. I’d been looking forward to this all day, even rehearsing some conversation starters in my head. Finally, I went over to our table and there he was. A tall, dark, handsome stranger from a foreign land… Let the language exchange event begin!

I have to say, having now been to one myself, language exchange events are the perfect way to practice your spoken language skills and gain lots of confidence in doing so. I spent my Wednesday evening at a bar in Central London at an event hosted by Franglish. When you arrive, you collect your name badge and buy a drink as a donation to the cost of the event (I was happy to contribute and hoped that heading to the bar would help to calm my nerves!).

“Anglais ou français?”, my language partner asked. I boldly chose French and we started chatting away about our hobbies and favourite TV shows for 7 minutes. The event hostess then went from table to table instructing everyone to switch languages, and we seamlessly continued talking in English for another 7 minutes. As I became more and more confident, the discussion topics soon went from favourite artists and dream holiday destinations to funny anecdotes, interesting cultural differences and François Hollande! There’s a great atmosphere, everyone was happy to offer criticism (and receive it), and you’re even provided with a pen and paper to jot down any suggestions your partner has. I was pleasantly surprised to leave the event equipped with a list of French TV shows (that I would later become addicted to), and some indie hip-hop songs to attempt to understand!

After all is said and done, everyone tends to grab another drink and chat to anyone they didn’t get the chance to meet during the event. You can breathe a sigh of relief, let your hair down and confess any embarrassing blunders you may have made during the conversations! It’s the perfect chance to make some new friends and encourage each other to achieve your language learning goals.

Amongst the many different ways to improve your language skills, this type of event is something innovative, giving you the opportunity to practice your language with a native speaker and pick up phrases and colloquialisms you might never have come across before. At Franglish, everyone had varied levels of proficiency, mainly ranging from intermediate to advanced, but don’t worry if you’re not quite ready for that yet, there are plenty of language exchange events across London for all levels. So whether you’re learning a new language or just brushing up, definitely give it a go and let us know how you get on!

Charlotte Fraser, Project Manager, Verboo


Boosting language learning with subtitles

February 17, 2016
Boosting language learning with subtitles

Have you ever been astounded by the proficiency some non-natives have of the English language? When I meet people from countries like Israel, Iceland and Norway, who chat away as effortlessly as the average Brit or American, I’m always completely baffled (and quite jealous, I must admit!).

When I ask these people how they got to this amazing level of proficiency, I’m given the same, simple answer every time: ‘I’ve just always loved watching TV!’

We watch a lot of TV in Germany, too, but all the programmes are either domestically produced or, when imported, dubbed into German. The same is true in Hungary and France. Language studies in Germany take place in a purely educational context at school – which, despite all efforts, is apparently less fruitful than learning a language leisurely by watching TV programmes with subtitles. Only TV will give you the ability to speak like an actual Brit or American, as opposed to like an odd historical character from a book. Sadly, the only non-dubbed TV programme from an English-speaking country I could watch as a child was Mr Bean – and the mute, grimacing fellow wasn’t of much help to my language success…

A recent study published by the European Commission highlights the positive impact of subtitled TV programmes on language learning. According to the study, participants from countries where dubbing of imported TV programmes or movies is the norm have a significantly lower level of foreign-language proficiency than those from countries where the use of interlingual subtitles is common practice – despite a high standard in foreign language education. Currently, there are 15 out of 27 countries within the EU that use subtitles. Some of them, for example Bulgaria, Iceland and Sweden, broadcast 90% of their TV programmes in English with subtitles in their respective languages – an approach that the European Commission champions.

Do you use subtitles to boost your language learning? Tell us which shows you love to learn to!

Stefanie, German translator and Verboo project manager