Learning a new language is usually a lifelong process but that does not make it an impossible one. (Or at least that is what I am discovering having already lived in Rome for 10 years). There are always new ways to build understanding, learn new vocabulary, and stretch towards fluency. Depending on your goals, timeline, and location you there are multiple ways for how to learn Italian.
Maybe you want to learn more Italian before a trip, maybe you want to be able to work in a second language, or even move to Italy yourself someday. The best way to get better is simply to start. So between books, immersion, apps, and lessons, here are the best ways to learn Italian.
There are many ways to pursue independent language study, but I want to lead with lessons because this is truly what made the difference for me when my own Italian skills plateaued. I personally have a private teacher who can tailor the lessons to areas I need to polish while keeping track of my progress.
Lessons are more structured, but they also come with a lot of accountability, which can keep you moving forward.
If you live outside Italy, you may be able to enroll in community college courses depending on your level of Italian.
Inside Italy, there are multiple language schools. One of the most famous is the University for Foreigners of Perugia.
In Rome, some of the most popular language schools are Dante Alighieri, Kappa Language school, and Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci.
However, most schools are extremely limited at the moment, and coming to Italy is a big leap. To start learning from home, there are also great, structured online classes like Italian with Davide. Davide has a massive social media following because his approach to teaching Italian is so relatable. However, his classes to learn Italian go far beyond his helpful videos. The beginner course has 125 videos and 900+ exercises, as well as a private community. The best part is that you can go at your own pace so you don’t have to find a specific time every week to commit to the lessons. If you want something even simpler, the Italian for Tourist course takes you through the most common situations.
Apps are a great way to make learning Italian a part of your daily routine. There is really very little barrier to pulling out your phone to interact with Italian for a few minutes a day.
If your goal is to understand basics, learn easy phrases, and prepare for a trip, downloading a few apps is a great way to do it. Here are my favorite apps for learning Italian.
I think apps are a good complement to other strategies, but they won’t be enough on their own to get you to fluency.
Depending on your level of Italian, you can select books to help you learn. If you are stuck at the intermediate level, you might consider reading books aimed at adolescents while you work on your vocabulary. There are also dual-language texts with English on one page and Italian on the other to help you quickly check translations without needing to flip through a dictionary every few lines.
Other books are designed to help you work on your Italian reading skills, and include comprehension quizzes or recaps of vocabulary at the end of each chapter. Here is an example of Italian short stories.
Grammar exercise books are a pretty unavoidable part of any language journey. I personally use Barron’s Complete Italian Grammar Review.
Magazines, which are available at low prices at edicole all over Italy, are another great way to read something short and interesting if you are in the country.
Finally, wherever you are, you can also read Italian news sites to keep up with current events.
Watching films is a great way to learn more about a culture while also working on your language comprehension skills. With the popularity of Netflix, you can easily find Italian series and switch it to Italian language (or turn on subtitles) in order to listen to conversational Italian.
Classic Italian movies that are easy to find via streaming services include:
- Cinema Paradiso
- Pane e Tulipani
- Non ci resta che piangere
- And for a fun one on Netflix- Rose Island
Here are some of the best movies about Rome if you are looking for even more!
If you want to learn Italian, come to Italy! It may seem like a dream, but fully immersing yourself will do wonders for your language skills because you will have no choice but to practice all day: at the supermarket, taking the bus, meeting for a coffee, simply walking around and exploring – it all requires Italian!
Begin by studying using some of the above methods because it will help to have some foundation for the basics before you come.
Italians are generally really open to you trying to speak Italian, even if you can’t use it perfectly. They may even help to correct your pronunciation and grammar. This is always done to help, rather than to mock, so try not to feel discouraged if you are feeling corrected often.
If you want to improve your conversational Italian, I recommend making a new friend to do a ‘scambio.’ You usually meet up (or Zoom) to help them with English while they help you with Italian. You spend your time alternating languages so you both have a chance to practice. There are several websites set up to help you find a partner.
And it may seem silly, but the best way to learn Italian is to date an Italian. There’s nothing quite as motivating as wanting to share everything with someone you love. That didn’t work for me, however, because I married an Irish guy I met in Rome.
Do you have any tips for how to learn Italian that really helped your skills get to the next level?
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