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Anna Snyder
Writer, Traveller, Knitter, Tea Aficionado
Writer, Traveller, Knitter, Tea Aficionado


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Take a look at this article I wrote on different cryptocurrencies and how they measure up against each other! Which coin is your favorite?
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Don't be scared off by the smaller altcoins! A few thoughts about penny cryptos, and when they're worth the risk.
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For those of you disillusioned with the way the crypto markets have been going lately... hodl strong!
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Populous - an innovative way to use the blockchain to auction off invoices to global investors!
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5 Italian Pasta Sauces You Can Make From Scratch

An often overlooked yet crucial aspect of Italian cookery is its sauces. We are used to buying any old jar of sauce to add to our pasta, and yet a skilfully prepared sauce can make or break a meal. The thought of making your own can conjure of the image of slaving in the kitchen for hours, but don’t be intimidated. Here are a few deliciously simple recipes you can try for yourself with minimal prep time.

1 Marinara. This classic sauce you’ll go back to time and time again, and it’s far easier to cook than you might believe. All you need is a can of full tomatoes, some garlic, and herbs to taste. Sautee the garlic in olive oil and crush the tomatoes by hand in a bowl, then add the tomatoes and some water to thin it out to the skillet. Season with oregano and salt, and add basil as a garnish.

2. Alfredo. A rich sauce that goes perfectly with linguini is made by combining garlic, heavy cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese in a skillet and stirring until it thickens. Flavor with salt, pepper, and white wine if you wish, or experiment by adding prawns, mushrooms, shredded bacon, et cetera.

3. Carbonara. For a sauce with more bite, try carbonara. Sautee a chopped onion with crushed garlic and strips of prosciutto ham in olive oil. Next, add some cream and two whisked eggs, plus salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture has thickened, add Parmesan cheese and stir in your pasta.

4. Puttanesca. This more complicated sauce packs a powerful flavor for lovers of anchovies and capers. Start by sautéing some onions, and halfway through add some garlic and a handful of chopped anchovies. After the mixture has cooked down, add two tablespoons of tomato paste plus a can of crushed tomatoes, oregano for seasoning, and chopped olives. After letting the sauce cook down for a few minutes, add two tablespoons of capers and simmer briefly. Season with salt and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

5. Pesto. When done properly, pesto can completely transform a pasta dish, sandwich, or salad. Better yet, no cooking is involved in its preparation—all you need is a food processor. Take three cups of fresh basil leaves and combine them with one cup of pine nuts, one cup of olive oil, a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese, and some garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then process the mixture as finely or coarsely as you want. Pesto can be added to pasta dishes of all sorts and provides an excellent zing to anything with chicken or tomatoes.

If you have the interest to go deeper into the intricate world of Italian sauces, you will find an eclectic world and sweet and savory concoctions waiting for you. To learn more, check out some more recipes straight from the source. To do that, why not take a beginner’s Italian course? If you aren’t sure of your level or would like some more information, contact us and we’ll be happy to get you on your way.
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Top 5 Museums in Madrid

Madrid often gets overlooked when compared to Spain’s more glamorous cities, like Barcelona or Seville. While it may not have any beaches or national parks, Madrid makes up for all of that in terms of culture and history. Its art scene is one of Spain’s most thriving, and you’ll never be short for museums and galleries. Even if you’re only in Madrid for a few days, here are the top five museums you absolutely cannot miss.

1. El Prado. Spain’s answer to the Louvre, El Prado is in the center of Madrid, and one of Europe’s finest collections of sculpture and paintings dating back to the 12th century. While much of the collection are works by classical Spanish artists, such as Diego Velasquez, Francisco de Goya, and El Greco, it also contains work by foreign artists as well, most notably Titian and Hieronymus Bosch. For anyone with an interest in medieval and Renaissance art, this is a must-see.

2. Reina Sofia. For lovers of contemporary art, the Reina Sofia (located a short walk from El Prado) is the museum for you. A stunning collection of Spanish art throughout the 20th century, the Reina Sofia houses world-famous pieces by legendary artists such as Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró. By far its more famous work is Picasso’s overwhelming mural Guernica, but with thousands of paintings, photographs, and sculptures exhibiting the Cubist, Surrealist , and Postmodern art movements, it’s sure to be an enlightening visit.

3. Museo Thyssen –Bornemisza. The third art museum in Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art,” the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum started off as a private art collection and now serves as the less famous companion to the Prado and Reina Sofia. But don’t let that put you off; the Tyssen-Bornemisza has an eclectic stash of works by artists such as Cezanne and Carpaccio, covering the art world from the Gothic to the Modern era with a surprising collection of 20th century American paintings in addition to Northern Renaissance pieces.

Can you recognize a Castilian Spanish accent? What about an Argentine one? Play our Spanish Accent Game to find out!

4. Museo Arqueológico Nacional. Located on the same square as the National Library, the National Archeological Museum dates back to the 19th century. What started as an anthropological collection mushroomed into Spain’s most extensive look of human civilization, focusing on the language and cultures of Spain and Latin America, with a fascinating array of relics from prehistoric, ancient Egyptian, Celtic, Greek, Roman, and early Christian and Muslim societies. With only €3 for an entrance fee, it’s definitely worth your while to get a close and personal look at the evolution of humanity.

5. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. For those most inclined towards environmental sciences—geography, ecology, paleobiology, and so on—the Museum of Natural Sciences makes for a great afternoon, especially if you’re traveling with children. Here you’ll find exhibits looking at fossils, geodes, dinosaurs, volcanoes, and much more, and well as hands-on workshops and activities for families.

Madrid has plenty more museums where those came from, as well as a fair amount of cultural districts and historic parks, so don’t be too quick to write off Spain’s capital in favor of its more flashy cities. If you’re looking to make a trip to Spain in the future, prepare yourself by sending us an inquiry about our Spanish courses or take our free online Spanish language level test.
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4 Medieval Towns in Italy For Game of Thrones Fans

If you’re a religious reader or watcher of George R.R. Martin’s series Game of Thrones, then you absolutely owe yourself a tour of Italy’s countryside. First of all, here you’ll find miles of rolling hillsides, lakes and mountains, vineyards and valleys that one can very easily imagine a medieval cavalry riding across. Even more importantly, Italy’s stormy history, filled with knights errant, decadent feudal societies, warring city-states, and political intrigue, could very well have inspired the fantastic world of Westeros. Even if Italy is a modern European nation now, its countryside is full of remnants of its epic past. Relive history by visiting these five fantastical towns off the beaten track.

1. San Gimignano. This small city in the hills of Siena in northern Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as “The City of Fine Towers,” due to its collection of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Once an intermediary city on a pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Rome, San Gimignano also has historical clout in being a hotspot in the now legendary clash between the rival Renaissance families, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines; it once even hosted a visit from Dante Alighieri. Today, it’s worth the visit for its arts and culture scene, as well as its impressive skyline of medieval tower.

2. Costiera Amalfitana. A series of communes on the Mediterranean coast, the Amalfi coast dates back to Neolithic settlements. It went through a series of sieges and lootings until it declared independence and became a key port town with a monopoly on maritime trade in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its beaches, fjords, and grottoes (not to mention perfect climate) make this an ideal town to relax and enjoy the scenery, while centuries of Arabic influence make it fascinating in terms of architecture and culture.

3. Assisi. Another UNESCO heritage site built on a hill, Assisi has especial claim to fame by being the birthplace of the Franciscan order, after its patron saint, St. Francis. Following a series of invasions by barbarians, the city became home to a wide variety of stunning basilicas—the Basilica of San Francesco is decorated by Biblical and allegorical frescoes by Renaissance greats, such as Giotto and Pietro Lorenzetti.

4. Tivoli. This classical city outside of Rome really has it all: a river, waterfalls, hills covered in lush, deciduous forest, plus castles and fortresses galore. Dating back to ancient times as city constructed to be the perfect classical Greek ideal, Tivoli was an important site of political conspiracies and feuds throughout the Renaissance. In modern times, it retains its fame for its lush gardens at Villa d’Este, and for its hauntingly beautiful works of sculpture and architectural ruins at Villa Adriana.

In light of Italy’s larger than life past, a lot of which has been preserved in less-visited cities like these, history is arguably more exciting than fiction. While there may not be dragons, White Walkers, or winters that last for centuries, a visit to the Italian countryside will fill your imagination with thoughts of jousts, tournaments, and epic battles. If you want to learn more about the country that inspired centuries of art, literature, and film, send us an inquiry or look into our various Italian language courses.
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3 Powerful Women of Renaissance Italy

With Italy’s culture of machismo and deeply engrained gender roles, it can be difficult to think of women as serving a function beyond homemaker in Italian society.  However, as with many countries, Italian history is filled with fascinating and dynamic women, you just have to dig a little deeper to find them.  Renaissance Italy, in particular, with its focus on humanism and individuality afforded women (wealthy women, at least) the ability to become educated and ambitious.  

1. Lucrezia Borgia. While history remembers her more for the colorful side of her reputation, mainly rumors of incest with her father, Pope Alexander VI, as well as a bout of serial poisonings, these have no historical evidence. What is known is that Lucrezia had a diverse political career, married to three different noblemen, some of whom were assassinated as they fell from the Pope’s favor. Working as a clerk in the Vatican, which was then a hotbed of lavish feasts and orgies, Lucrezia developed into a savvy businesswoman. As she matured, she became a patron of the arts, supporting various poets and artists, and put a lot of money into funding convents, hospitals, and roads in Ferrara.

2. Caterina Sforza. Alchemist, huntress, dancer, and warrior, Caterina was widely schooled in Latin, the classics, and martial arts at the Sforza court, and she learned from an early age to be bold and imperious. Married at ten years old, she moved to the Roman court as a teenager and quickly became embroiled in the politics of the time. In the chaos following the death of Pope Sixtus IV, Caterina held her husband’s fortress against intruders. Following her husband’s death, she became the regent of his lands for her sons.  Her ruthless efficiency in ruling (she once ordered a swathe of mass executions and torture as revenge for her second husband’s assassination), as well as her rebellion against the forces of Cesare Borgia when he tried to annex her lands, earned her the nickname “The Tiger.”

3. Catherine of Siena. Enduring as one of Italy’s patron saints, Catherine was a mystic and theologian of the early Renaissance, named by the Pope in 1970 as one of only four female Doctors of the Church. She began having celestial visions as a child and, following her joining the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic, she had a prolific career of service out in the world. She became a trusted advisor of many political figures, in both secular and spiritual matters, and is said to have had a mystical marriage with Jesus, which a host of heavenly beings in attendance. The fact that she fasted stringently and is said to have gone for years without eating anything except the Eucharist wafer, may have had a hand in her visions and certainly in her death at 33.  Nevertheless, she was a driven and determined woman, whose writings influenced many and are still read to this day.

If you’re curious to find out more about these amazing women’s lives, contact us for information on Italian courses, or to ask us who our favorite female historical figure is. Alternatively, take a look at our Italian courses for yourself.
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Why Online Translators Inure Companies Entering Foreign Markets

The translating world has been abuzz lately with the revelation of Google’s newest app, which can translate any foreign language phrase in real-time via the camera on your phone.  Many people are predicting this to be the end of translating as a human profession, yet that could not be farther from the truth.  If anything, the internet’s foray into translating only underscores how irreplaceable the human touch in translation really is.

In fact, trusting your international relations to artificial intelligence can be the most hazardous thing a budding company can do, especially if you’re trying to cross barriers between languages from different families.  A sentence in English or a Romance language may not fit easily into the most obvious structure of a Slavic or Asian language.  Plus, computer translators fall into the trap of translating word for word, often presenting a skewed or even completely off the mark final product, where a human translator familiar with phrases, idioms, and both cultures will be able to see the bigger picture and convey more accurately what you’re trying to say.  One crucial aspect of a translator’s job, which a machine cannot factor into its algorithm, is understanding the subtle context of the content it’s translating, whether it be a marketing ad or a personal email to a colleague overseas.

While it may be tempting, especially for a startup business, to save money and take the technological route, hiring a translator will show both your sophistication and your eagerness to connect with a foreign culture.  A translator will safely guide you around common pitfalls of slang and idioms (if you’re trying to warn a colleague that your CEO is “seeing red,” a computer translation of that familiar English phrase would needlessly confuse them) as well as help ease diplomacy between your company and your foreign market, thanks to their familiarity with cultural norms.

If you’ve ever tried playing around with Google Translate, perhaps you’ve noticed that if you translate a block of text to one language, and then translate it back again, you’re often left with something completely unrecognizable to the original message.  English’s wealth of synonyms, homonyms, and connotative language can be invisible to a computer that will translate solely at face value, whereas a human translator will be able to read between the lines.  Moreover, they will be able to advise you on whether your advertising strategies will catch on in an overseas market—take the example of the Nova, a General Motors car that sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries and nobody could figure out why until it was pointed out that no va is Spanish for “doesn’t go.”

Opting for a computer translator, while it may help your business scratch by, will ultimately limit your growth.  Investing in a human translator will earn you more business overseas and stronger brand loyalty from customer, and will bring you greater success and profit in the long run.  Contact us for more information on how multilingualism can help boost your company’s net worth.
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9 Colombian Idioms and Their English Equivalents

You know you’ve finally moved beyond textbook Spanish once you’re confidently using local idioms and proverbs.  While turns of speech can be a fun and often hilarious way of reassuring yourself that you really are approaching fluency, when it comes to Spanish this can be a rabbit-hole with no end.  For one thing, Spanish being the official language of 20 countries, there are 20 different versions of the Spanish language, each entirely different from the next.  In addition to this, quite a few Latino countries have such wildly particular jerga, or slang to make their form of Spanish practically another dialect entirely.  That being said, be careful with these nine idioms—they are uniquely Colombian and may mean something entirely different in another country!

1. Caerle a una chico/chica.  It translates as “to fall at a boy/girl” and means roughly to woo somebody, to shower them with gifts and compliments, to take them out on dates with romantic ends in mind.

2. Echar los perros.  The real meaning behind this one is not so clear as caerle a alguien; translating to “to throw dogs” at somebody, in Colombian street-talk, it means to flirt with them.

3.  Sacar canas verdes.  It translates to the nonsensical “to pull out green hairs,” and roughly means to drive someone crazy.  It corresponds to the English phrases, “to drive someone up a wall,” or, “to give someone grey hair.”

4.  Me importa un comino.  This is what Rhett Butler would say to shoot down Scarlett O’Hara if he was Colombian: “I don’t give a damn.”  It translates as, “It matters a speck of cumin to me,” meaning, of course, that the subject under discussion is infinitesimally small.

5.  Me gustan los cuentos claros y el chocolate espeso.  “I like clear stories and thick chocolate.”  This refers to Colombians’ preference for being honest and straightforward—if you have something to say, say it their face.

6.  Le cuento el milagro pero no el santo.  “I’ll tell you the miracle, but not the saint.”  This is a favorite saying of chismosas, or chronic gossipers, meaning they’ll tell you a shocking story but the perpetrators will stay anonymous.

7.  ¿Y quién pidió el pollo?  A nonsensical way to echar los perros at someone.  It translates to “who ordered the chicken?” and works as a pick-up line when a handsome man or woman enters the vicinity—apparently being compared to chicken is flattering to Colombians?

8.  Estar en la olla.  To be in bad times, whether financially or otherwise.  It translates as “to be in the pot,” and is comparable to the English “to be in hot water.”

9.  Rumbear.  A crucial word to not only know in Colombian society, but to live.  Rumbear means to party, taken, of course, from the dance rumba.  Traveling or living in a country that takes its good times very seriously, you will definitely encounter this word more than once!

If you’re curious to learn more surprising Latin American Spanish phrases, send us an inquiry for information about courses, or take our free online Spanish language level test.
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