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Learn Italian

There’s so much about Italy that’s beautiful; the architecture, cuisine, picturesque locations, and of course, the Italian language. 

Italian is a Romance language spoken as an official language in Italy, San Marino, and Switzerland, and as the primary language in Vatican City. It is spoken by over 85 million speakers—native and non-native—globally.

There are many reasons to learn Italian. Traveling to Italy, connecting with Italian friends or family, exploring Italian art and culture, or simply having an interest in the Italian language, these are all valid reasons to start your Italian learning journey.

If you already know how you want to learn Italian, and you like to cut to the chase and read our reviews and recommendations for various Italian learning resources, take a look at these posts:

If you’re thinking about learning Italian, it’s a good idea to identify your learning goals and preferences. This way, you’ll be able to create a study plan that works perfectly to help you reach fluency.

So if you want to learn Italian, stick around. Learn Italian on your own with this self-study guide. How to speak Italian? How long does it take to learn Italian? Best way and easiest way? Find out here.

How to Learn Italian on Your Own

Teaching yourself Italian can be an enriching and rewarding experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Start with the Basics: Begin by familiarizing yourself with Italian pronunciation and the alphabet. Learn basic greetings, phrases, and essential vocabulary related to everyday topics like greetings, numbers, colors, and common objects.

2. Utilize A Range of Language Learning Resources: Take advantage of a variety of language learning resources available online and in print. Language learning apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone offer structured lessons and interactive exercises for beginners. Additionally, textbooks, grammar guides, and online courses provide comprehensive instruction on Italian grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

3. Immerse Yourself: Immerse yourself in the Italian language and culture as much as possible. Watch Italian movies or TV shows with subtitles, listen to Italian music and podcasts, and read Italian books, newspapers, or websites. Immersion exposes you to authentic language use and helps improve comprehension and fluency.

4. Track Your Progress: Keep track of your progress by reviewing what you’ve learned and tracking your vocabulary and grammar knowledge. Celebrate milestones along the way to stay motivated and encouraged.

Best Way to Learn Italian

The best way to learn Italian will depend on your language learning goals and your preferred learning style. Someone learning Italian for a two-week trip to Italy will likely follow a different learning program than someone who is learning the language to become fluent.

In this article, we look at some of the best ways to learn Italian, with an emphasis on the resources that are best for learning to speak the language. Reading and writing Italian are also included, but our experience is that most people who learn a foreign language want to start speaking, so our recommendations will reflect that.

Learn Italian with Online Courses

One of the best ways to learn Italian is with a course that uses the immersion method. Immersion teaches you large chunks of the language at one time so that you learn new words in the context of a full Italian dialogue or conversation.

The traditional method of learning Italian isn’t immersion, but rather a translation-based method (think Duolingo, Babbel, etc). With the traditional method, you are given a list of Italian words and their English translations.

With the traditional method, you are taught sentences based on grammar rules and then asked to translate sentences over and over again until you remember them.

The problem with this is that when you want to start speaking Italian you’re stuck in the habit of translating Italian words from English in your head before you speak. This makes it difficult to speak in real-time to native speakers. It also makes it difficult for you to understand them when they talk to you because you have to translate what they say in your head.

Immersion cuts out the translation step and gets you thinking in Italian from day one, making speaking and listening in Italian feel like second nature.

Download an App to Learn the Italian Language

Apps are a great way to learn Italian, but if you are a beginner you want to be careful about which ones you use. Many learners start out using the most popular apps that they see on the social media, but there are many others that may help you learn Italian better. Check out our Best Apps to Learn Italian post for our up-to-date recommendations.

Listen to Italian Podcasts

Listening skills are a vital part of being fluent in a foreign language. Another best way to learn Italian and one of the best ways to practice, is by listening to Italian podcasts. If you’re new to the Italian language then your best bet is to listen to podcasts specifically recorded for language learners. These podcasts are essentially short audio lessons with an English-speaking host to help introduce the material. There are also some podcasts for learning Italian that aren’t lessons, but rather Italian news or stories recorded at a slow speed with simple words for beginners. These are also a great way to practice your listening skills.

Once you get past a beginner level in Italian, you can start listening to podcasts outside of language learning and start downloading native Italian content. There’s no shortage of podcasts for Italians. You will be able to find shows about news, entertainment, history, sports, and a lot more! It can be fun to learn the Italian language this way.

So which ones to try out? See our Best Podcasts to Learn Italian post to find out our favorites!

Watch Italian TV and Movies

Watching Italian TV and movies exposes you to Italian culture and can help you learn new words and phrases. Perhaps when you watch the characters speak, you will be able to pick up Pharisees to speak Italian. Here’s how you can use Italian media to help you improve your Italian language skills.

Start by watching a short clip of a movie or TV show without any subtitles. Play it back and listen to it a few times. While you listen, write down or make note of the words and phrases you understand. Using the words you already understand try to guess what the rest of the phrases mean using the context of the whole conversation.

After this play the clip back with Italian subtitles and repeat the process. Sometimes you’ll recognize an Italian word after seeing it written out. Italian speakers talk fast so it’s easy to miss words you know if you’re not used to listening to native speech.

Once you’ve listened a few times with Italian subtitles, you can watch the clip one final time with English subtitles to see what the full meaning of the conversation is.

This method helps develop your listening comprehension skills and also teaches you useful vocabulary. Watching Italian TV and movies is also a great way to learn slang, figures of speech, and informal phrases that you’re unlikely to learn in a course. Italian media is a great way to get your feet wet with informal everyday speech.

Learn Italian Pronunciation

There are two common misconceptions people have when it comes to pronunciation.

The first is thinking that speaking the language with a natural-sounding accent is the result of having a special talent or Italian genes. At the end of the day, pronunciation is nothing more than knowing where to move your tongue and how to position your mouth. It’s a physical skill that anyone can master if they practice it.

The second misconception is that pronunciation isn’t that important when it comes to learning a foreign language. I think people think this way because Italian pronunciation is rarely taught. Most Italian courses focus on reading or speaking and spend little time covering correct pronunciation. This is unfortunate because pronunciation is a powerful aspect of learning a language.

Once you know how to form the sounds of the Italian language physically it’s much easier to understand native speakers when they speak. It’s also easier to learn new words just by hearing them. This is because when you can pronounce Italian sounds your brain has an easier time recognizing Italian speech.

The Italian language sounds beautiful, and the first time you heard it you most likely noticed sounds that your brain couldn’t recognize. This is what makes the language sound foreign and even mysterious. Once you break down Italian speech into its individual words and syllables, that mysteriousness goes away as you learn to produce the sounds yourself.

After doing this the next time you hear Italian it sounds familiar. It’s suddenly a lot easier for you to focus on what is being said because you’re not straining to understand unfamiliar sounds. This is the power of learning pronunciation.  

We have listed a few great resources that should help improve your Italian pronunciation.

Learn Italian Online with Professional Teachers

One of the best ways to learn Italian fast is to take online lessons with a teacher or tutor. An Italian teacher will know what parts of the language are most difficult for foreigners. They will also know how to help you overcome these difficulties faster than you could if you were studying on your own.

A good Italian teacher will also give you helpful learning resources based on your goals and learning style. If you ever feel stuck on your language learning journey, your teacher will work with you to help you overcome plateaus. 1-on-1 tutoring doesn’t necessarily mean big bucks. You should check out some of our favorite tutoring platforms in our Best Italian courses post.

Practice Speaking Italian with Native Speakers

For beginners speaking Italian can feel like a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s scary and intimidating to talk with real people. On the other hand, speaking is also one of the most fun and fulfilling parts of learning a language.

A lot of Italian students make the mistake of putting off speaking until they are “ready”. The problem is that if you’re not careful, you’ll never feel ready to speak. It’s all too easy to tell yourself you need a little more time before you can start speaking with people. As a result, a lot of people focus all of their time on learning to read and write Italian instead.

In my opinion, it’s better to rip off the metaphorical band-aid and start speaking the language as soon as possible. You will get stuck at times. There will be other times you don’t understand what someone is saying. You can also be sure that you will make mistakes. All of this is okay, and a natural part of the learning process.

Where to Find Native Speakers to Practice Italian With

If you want to find native speakers to practice your Italian with, you don’t have to book a plane ticket to Italy (though that is one way to do it). An easy way to find a language partner is simply to look for an online language exchange. My Language Exchange is a great free site you can use to look for language partners online.

Alternatively, you can also look for the Italian conversation club or language exchanges near where you live. Meetup is a great place to find conversation clubs if you live near a major city. Another good place to look for Italian speakers is your local university. Most universities will have a foreign language program and host regular language meetups.

Learn Italian Grammar

If you’re using the immersion method to learn Italian then you will start using the language before you know or understand all of the grammar. Italian grammar is another essential aspect of learning Italian. The reason we recommend this style of learning is because grammar is much easier to understand and remember after you’ve already been using Italian. Think of how you learned English. You didn’t start out as a toddler learning grammar rules and sentence structure. You started using your native language long before you ever learned grammar.

But even if you’re learning Italian through immersion, you will have to learn grammar eventually. Once you have basic Italian phrases and words down, knowing grammar will help you rapidly increase your vocabulary.

The Italian language does have some grammar concepts that are difficult for native English speakers. Things like verb conjugation, verb tenses, and correct pronoun placement will seem very strange at first. Make sure that whatever resource you’re using to learn Italian helps break down these concepts.

Learn Italian with Sentences

Research shows that we learn better by relying on speech and mimicking, just like we did when we learned our first language.

But mere repetition is not fun, and worse yet, not enough. Programs such as Think in Italian guide you to discover grammar patterns and retain the vocabulary you are exposed to, ensuring that the learning process is structured and effective. What makes this method even more appealing is its efficiency. With just 20 minutes of focused learning each day, you can completely transform your Italian level in just a few days, leading you to start thinking directly in Italian. It’s an approach that marries the natural instincts of language acquisition with a structured and time-efficient learning process. The same is said about Pimsleur Italian.

Through thousands of bilingual sentences, you can acquire grammar patterns and vocabulary naturally. This method is perfect for those desiring an immersive experience and who are tired of traditional grammar study. It’s definitely an efficient and engaging way to start speaking Italian faster and with confidence.

Read Italian Books

Once you reach an upper beginner or intermediate level in Italian, reading is a powerful way to learn Italian words and phrases. While we do recommend starting out speaking Italian as much as you can, don’t be afraid to incorporate reading into your learning program as well.

A lot of Italian courses have a reading component in them so you can practice reading Italian. Italian language uses a Latin alphabet and has a lot of words that are similar to English, so learning to read shouldn’t be too difficult.

Another program that will help you a ton that you should try is Think In Italian (formerly: Ripeti Con Me) which I mentioned earlier. It has a huge collection of bilingual readings with audio, and it has clearly laid out lessons to help you learn Italian.

Make sure that whatever you use to practice reading is appropriate for your level. Your Italian book shouldn’t be so easy that you breeze through it, but it also shouldn’t be so difficult that you can’t make sense of anything.

Use Flashcards to Help You Learn Italian Fast

Spaced repetition flashcards are a powerful tool that every Italian learner should use.

Spaced repetition systems use an algorithm to automatically show you old cards right at the precise moment before your brain forgets them. The flashcard system is always updating automatically so that cards you remember easily won’t be shown for a while, while the cards you struggle with will be shown more often.

Why is this important? Because it helps you study more efficiently, learning more but spending less time doing so.

So how can you use spaced repetition to help you learn Italian faster? Flashcards are great for learning vocabulary. If you want to learn Italian fast, start by finding a list of the 500-600 most commonly used verbs, nouns, and adjectives in Italian. Here’s a list of some of the most frequently used Italian words to get you started.

After that, download a free-spaced repetition flashcard program like Anki. Then go through the list and make a flashcard for each word. If possible we recommend using pictures to help you remember words instead of English translations. This will help you remember words without having to translate them in your head.

Once your deck is made, start by studying 10-12 new cards each day. Before you know it you’ll know hundreds of Italian words! As you learn grammar it will be easy for you to take the words you know and start producing your own sentences.

Take a Trip to Italy

For a lot of Italian learners, a trip to Italy is the ultimate language-learning goal. Many hope that knowing the local language while traveling abroad will open up cultural experiences and friendships that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

For the most part that’s true. If you know Italian well enough, your trip to Rome or Naples will be a lot richer than if you didn’t. The problem is that many learners assume that just by being in Italy their language skills will improve. If you’re planning a trip to Italy to learn Italian then you’ll need to set realistic expectations.

If you have a beginner to low intermediate level in Italian then I wouldn’t recommend going to Italy for the expressed purpose of improving your language skills. Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. So as a tourist, it’s much more likely that locals will speak to you in English rather than Italian, even if you try to initiate a conversation in Italian. Your average person on the street or someone running a business isn’t going to have the time or patience to wait for you to speak in Italian, or to repeat themselves in Italian if you didn’t understand them the first couple of times.

It’s all too easy to visit Italy and only speak English during your visit. To be clear, I’m not saying don’t visit Italy if you’re a beginner in Italian. By all means, if you have the opportunity to go, take it. Just don’t expect it to be a language-learning experience. Treat it instead as a tourist trip to be enjoyed, since that’s what it is.

The one exception to this would be enrolling in an Italian immersion program while in Italy. A lot of private language schools give foreigners the chance to learn Italian through immersion while in Italy. These programs provide the structure and instruction beginners need to build their skills, and they provide a unique and fun way to spend time in a foreign country.

If you have a higher level in the language, and have some speaking practice under your belt, then spending some time in Italy could be a great way to level up your skills. Once you’re able to carry basic conversations with ease, you’ll be able to talk with locals more than a beginner could.

Easiest Way to Learn Italian

The easiest way to learn Italian is to immerse yourself in the language and culture while making use of engaging and interactive resources.

Start by familiarizing yourself with basic Italian pronunciation and common phrases. Majority of Italian language learning apps offer structured lessons that make learning Italian fun and accessible. Watching Italian movies or TV shows with subtitles, listening to Italian music, and reading simple texts in Italian can help you become familiar with the language in a natural context.

Additionally, practicing speaking with native speakers or language exchange partners, either in person or through online platforms, allows you to apply what you’ve learned and gain confidence in your speaking abilities. By incorporating these methods into your daily routine and staying consistent with your practice, you can make learning Italian feel effortless and enjoyable.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Italian?

1. Basic Conversational Level: Achieving basic conversational proficiency in Italian, where you can engage in simple conversations and understand everyday phrases, may take approximately 6-12 months of consistent study.

2. Intermediate Level: Progressing to an intermediate level, where you can hold more complex conversations, comprehend basic written materials, and understand more advanced grammar and vocabulary, may require around 1-2 years of study.

3. Advanced Level: Achieving advanced proficiency in Italian, where you can understand complex texts, express yourself fluently in various situations, and comprehend subtle nuances of the language, typically takes 2-4 years or more of dedicated study.

How to Learn Italian Fast

The fastest way to learn Italian involves a combination of intensive study, immersive experiences, and consistent practice.

Starting with a strong foundation in Italian pronunciation, basic grammar, and essential vocabulary sets the stage for rapid progress. Utilizing interactive language learning resources such as language apps, online courses, and textbooks can provide structured lessons and practice exercises. Immersing oneself in the Italian language and culture through activities like watching Italian movies, listening to Italian music, and engaging with native speakers accelerates language acquisition.

Additionally, finding opportunities for conversation practice with language exchange partners or tutors allows for real-life application of language skills. By combining these strategies and maintaining a dedicated study routine, learners can achieve fluency in Italian more quickly.

How to Speak Italian

To learn to speak Italian effectively, immerse yourself in the language and culture while utilizing a variety of resources. Start by familiarizing yourself with Italian pronunciation and basic greetings, phrases, and vocabulary. At the beginning, we recommend using apps and programs that offer more structured lessons and interactive exercises tailored for beginners so that you will stay motivated.

Additionally, watch Italian movies or TV shows with subtitles, listen to Italian music and podcasts, and read simple texts in Italian to expose yourself to the language in context. Practice speaking regularly with native speakers or language exchange partners, either in person or through online. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – speaking is an essential part of the learning process. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine and staying consistent with your practice, you can develop fluency and confidence in speaking Italian.

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