learning languages with the Tandem app

So I’m all about the pen-pals when I’m learning languages. Here are the reasons:

  1. Free!
  2. Easy…there are apps!
  3. I’ve made some AMAZING friendships that began as language pen-pals!

My first pen-pal was the old-fashioned type…through snail mail! I was in 5th grade and it was an opportunity through girl scouts to write with another girl scout in England. I remember that is was the coolest thing when she sent me a little photo of herself and I sent her a homemade friendship bracelet. We wrote to each other off and on for some years, but you know, in growing up and all that, we lost touch. Actually, I should totally try to find her old address and send her a letter. I’m gonna do that. Now I’m excited.

Anyway, I picked back up the pen-pal bug when someone mentioned it to me as a way to help me learn Italian. I joined a website called conversation exchange and met several native Italians who were learning English. We started emailing each other and I actually met one of them in person in Italy a few years ago. It was super cool and we still Skype and keep in touch.

About a year or so ago, I came across another platform for pen-pal meetin’…an app called Tandem. It’s super user-friendly and has many cool extra functions other than just a way to find new pen-pals and text and video chat them. You can search for pen-pals based on which languages you are learning and which you speak, specifying if you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or native speaker. The app gives you suggestions on statuses for your profile. These are conversation starters that help you connect with like-minded language learners. One I see often is, “Let’s talk about where we will be in 10 years.” So…some are kind of deep, but there are lighters ones like “Who wants to discuss our favorite movies?”, among others. You can also search others by categories that you’d like to discuss: like food, hobbies, art, etc. Also, if your are texting with someone, there is a cool feature that allows you to easily correct what your pen-pal wrote if it wasn’t grammatically correct. It allows the other person to quickly and easily see their mistake and understand the correction. Disclaimer: sometimes I take it a little too personally if the pen-pal I’m speaking with uses this feature too much, haha. Just saying.

Another awesome feature of the app is language tutors. There are certified language teachers that you can access and have video chats with for lessons of various lengths. They cost $5 for 20 min, $10 for 40 min, $15 for 60 min, and $22.50 for 90 min, BUT the first 15 minutes with each tutor is free! I’ve had two lessons for Spanish and Italian and have had great experiences with them. Very caring and professional. And about the cost, $15 for an hour every couple of months or so isn’t that bad of a deal. I like the idea of learning the language on your own and then checking in with a tutor for some speaking practice and native speaker pointers every so often. That way, you really learn a lot in those 60 minutes!

Well, that’s all I have to say here. Tandem app is free to download and use! BTW, I’m totally not getting paid for this and have not been contacted by Tandem in anyway for writing this post. I was just realized that this is starting to sound like I work for them or something. Nope, just a satisfied user! Oh gosh that sounds bad too…

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa


assessing how you learn

One (of the many many many) things I learned in my first year in PA school was the importance discovering which type of learner you are. Are you auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile, something that is not mentioned here, or a mix? I’m pretty sure everyone is a mix, but it may depend on which test you take. Secondo me, this is très très important. Not only is it important in learning everything you could ever want to learn, but it is important in learning languages too! Did you know that’s where I was going with this? 

Without further ado (ado, not adieu), click here to find out your learning type. Or just google search learning style quizzes and you can usually find one. Then come back to discuss!

I myself, am 59% visual, 24% kinesthetic, and 18% auditory. So, if you are close to being the type of learner I am, you probably find this blog more useful than someone who isn’t. Uhhhhh, Uh-oh, this is the first time I am thinking of this. Noted. 

So now take this info and apply it to your language learning! Auditory learner? Use podcasts, YouTube, and books on tape! Visual learner? YouTube, Workbooks, free language learning apps! Visual and auditory? Movies with or without subtitles! Kinesthetic? Try to write in the language you are learning! Use a dry erase board. (This is particularly helpful when learning a language that has a different alphabet like Arabic!)

Ok, come at me with your tips and comments on this post!

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa

foreign film review

Bonjour à tous!

So I wax and wane on foreign films. I really enjoy watching them and it’s like my favorite category when watching the Oscars (does that sound snooty? I really don’t mean to sound snooty.) However, sometimes it can get a little tedious reading the subtitles when you are in a mood to relax (does that sound too third world problem-ish. Well yes, I think it definitely does.).

Side note: I actually really love subtitles. Much of the world uses dubbing, and while it’s more convenient to watch dubbing compared to having to read the subtitles, the best way to watch a movie is in the language it was written in, right? Even if you can’t understand it. side note to this side note: really this is an over-generalization that all the rest of the world uses dubbing and I also gloss over historical elements of why countries use the dubbing/subtitle/cinema translation system they do. All that is for another post! Moving on…

But there are occasions, especially when I am in the middle of one of my “learn ALL the languages” binges that I love watching foreign films. I will spend like an hour or two on Netflix or Google just to find THE best foreign film in whichever language I am in the mood for.

Quindi, in the past few weeks I’ve been in said mood and have watched two foreign films: Corazón de Leon and L’Auberge Espagnole. The first is an Argentine movie in Spanish and the latter is a French movie with parts in French, Spanish (it is set in Barcelona), and English too.

The purpose of this post (or posts, might make this a regular kind of posting topic!) is not to give the plots away, but to suggest movies that will help you learn your desired language (I mean, in this case, if one of those desired languages is Spanish or French.) Additionally, I watched them without subtitles, so I probably couldn’t give you a plot summary anyway (ideally, that was a joke. I mean, of course I understood every word in every language…uhh.) But below you will find a language learning tailored review for what I learned watching these movies and maybe what I didn’t learn too! Enjoy!

Corazón de Leon: This movie is ADORABLE. Hilarious, sweet, and with a good message, all at the same time. It’s all in beautiful Argentine Spanish, which I find to be one of the easier forms of Spanish for non-native speakers to understand. This is a romantic comedy, so it is nice for Spanish learners since the plot easy to follow and actually pretty predictable (like most romantic comedies). There are several scenes when the female lead feels strongly about her words and speaks rapid fire Spanish with no hope of me understanding anything (I watched those scenes like 3 times each and still got nuttin’). But other than that, my intermediate Spanish brain really enjoyed it!

L’Auberge Espagnole: This gem is from 2002. I had never heard of it, but my husband knew the Italian translation of the title and remembers it. I LOVED this movie because it had parts in all my favorite languages (except Italian, although there was an Italian character who said a bit of Italian parolacce, which I am very well-versed in). What I really liked about this film is all the different cultures represented in it. The “auberge espagnole” is actually an apartment full of foreigners in Barcelona, all living together in (somewhat) perfect harmony. I also liked that they switched languages throughout the film so many times. Sometimes I didn’t even register which language they were speaking. Maybe they start speaking Spanish after speaking English for a while, and I didn’t even realize they have switched. Ahh, so cool. Love it. 

Et voilà! Let me know what foreign films y’all are watching too, whether it be with subtitles or without! Or for language learning or just for fun! Also, don’t be discouraged if you feel like you don’t understand a lot while watching a foreign film in the language you are learning. Just try is the key! I have no idea what is going on when I watch a lot of these films, but I ALWAYS, however small it is, learn something.

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa


Arancini and Fresh Pasta

This past weekend I hosted a pasta-making party! This is actually the third pasta party I’ve done. Pretty soon, I’m gonna be a pro! So this pasta party thing kind of came out of just us and some of our friends getting together to make a bunch of pasta and several sauces. Sage, fig, and goat cheese ravioli and salmon and cream spaghetti. Yum. And since it is a time consuming process, it just makes since to spend an afternoon making it with friends and then to making extra!

Side Note: You may notice on this blog that I reference Italian culture, language, and food more often than other cultures and their languages and food. As a little disclaimer, I am married to an Italian who was born and raised in Italy. So, I reference Italy a lot because I have a lot of experience with it! 
My second pasta party was spent with my parents and good family friends, making fettuccine with bolognese sauce. We added pasta made with semolina flour to this party! So good. And, lastly, we had last weekend’s party. I just finished my didactic year of Physician Assistant school, so some other PA-S2’s (what what) decided to celebrate by making copious amounts of pasta (although is it really ever enough?) and throwing some vino into the mix too. And (this absolutely amazing) cake! We made fettuccine and ravioli. <<Pause for easy pasta recipe>>

1 lb of pasta (we usually make 4 lbs each time. it freezes well!)

  • Put 3.25 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour on the counter
  • Make a well in said flour
  • Add 4 large eggs to center well
  • Use fork to slowly & gradually incorporate eggs into flour
  • Use hands to finish mixing ingredients together
  • If dough is too dry, add water a tsp at a time
  • Cover ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and let dough rest for 1 hour
  • Roll out and cut pasta. We have both kitchen aid with pasta attachments and a hand-crank pasta roller/cutter. Both work well!

For our sauces, we made spinach & ricotta ravioli filling, bolognese, and classic carbonara. The ravioli filling and bolognese sauce turned out WONDERFULLY. They were both very flavorful, but not troppo salati. Comunque, the carbonara, which is a common offering of bacon, egg, and cheesy goodness at our house, fell short. I didn’t see it coming, but the soft freshness of the eggy pasta contradicted the lack of sauce found in the carbonara recipe. As weird as it is to say, use a boxed, store bought pasta when making carbonara. However, the problem could have lied with the fact that the carbonara was our third pasta course of the night and we were pieni and all pasta-ed out.


So pasta night was a success! And because I have a few weeks off now before starting clinicals, meaning I have time to cook, I decided to keep the creativity flowing by trying my hand at arancini. The first and only time I have had arancini was in Riomaggiore at a place called Siamo Fritti. See their wonderful creation below.

They sold all sorts of fried foods, as their name explains. My husband cited arancini as a something I had to try culturally-speaking, so even though it was 10 am and we were walking around in the blistering heat, that’s what we did. It was just okay. So basically it is bolognese (meat sauce) + a bit of cheese, wrapped in creamy rice (made to look like an egg), then breaded and fried. Oh, and there is some saffron in there for coloring. But I didn’t mess with that mess in my recipe. The name actually means little oranges due to their shape and color, and they have roots in Sicilia (Sicily!). 

So I think they turned out how they were supposed to, but this is probably the last time I make them. Mainly because they are like really fried and made my kitchen smell like the point of no return from fried. I mean my eyes burned all night from either oil droplets in the air or maybe the smoke that filled the apartment when I burned a batch of them. Who knows, really? Everything was just full of friend smell! OK, I digress. All in all, not bad, but I won’t make them again. On another unrelated note, anyone want to help me eat all these little oranges?

I have linked most of the recipes I mentioned in this blog, but if anyone would like more information on recipes I used or just about making pasta or arancini in general, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Note: the arancini recipe I used is in Italian, but it has a video! Might be worth it for ya to learn Italian just to use this recipe website…giallo zafferano. I think actually some recipes are in English too. Everything is so good and they make it easy to make! 

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa