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How to Learn Italian: 5 Top Tips for Italian Learners (Plus 5 Great Reasons to Learn Italian)


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You want to know how to learn Italian? Good job!

Italy is a wonderful country. The food, the architecture, the culture, the history, the romance. It’s one of my favourite places in the world.

When you can parlare italiano, Italy opens up to you in a whole new way.

Over at the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge, we reached out to some of the most popular Italian YouTubers and teachers. We asked them for the best reasons to learn Italian – and their top tips for people who want to speak Italian, just like you.

One more thing: We’re opening up a whole new way for you to learn Italian, with native Italian speakers. So make sure you read to the end.

Enter the Italian experts…

5 Great Reasons to Learn Italian

Reasons to Learn Italian #1: Connect with the History, Heart and Soul of Italy

Manu from Italy made Easy says:

Italy is the country with the largest number of Cultural Sites protected by Unesco. What this means is that, if you like pretty things… you’ll end up visiting Italy sooner or later!

You can probably name a few amazing destinations or attractions yourself. And there are plenty more to discover and explore. From the remains of the Roman Empire to the stunning works of art of the Renaissance, from the natural beauties of the Cinque Terre and the 7,500 kilometers (4,460 miles) of coastline to the canals of Venice, from the churches of Rome to the Vatican museums.

Manu continues:

You’ll never run out of places to visit and things to see in Italy. And while this is true for every country on earth, Italy has a very unique taste and characteristic that can only be felt in Italy which is why people love Italy so much!

Being able to speak and understand Italian is the only way to experience all of this to its fullest potential. This is because Italy is not just art and buildings. Italy is a palette of colorful cultures, vibrant people, old traditions mixed with a modern society, all of which is not accessible without knowing the local language.

It is only by knowing Italian that you’ll be able to experience the real Italy, the Italy you’ve been dreaming about!

And… good news… Italian is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers! So go ahead and start speaking Italiano!

Reasons to Learn Italian #2: Italian is the Language of Music

Mark from Coffee Break Italian says:

Mark from Coffee Break Italian

It's often said that music itself is an international language, but if ever there was a language of music it must surely be Italian.

You may wish to make sense of the “mezzoforte” or “andantino” on a piece of sheet music and Italian is “la chiave”, the key which opens the door to a greater appreciation of music. This stems from the fact that musical notation as we know it nowadays was born in Renaissance Italy and it made sense for composers to write notes on the music indicating how it should be played.

Alternatively, you may prefer to savour the sublime arias of Puccini, Verdi, Rossini or even Mozart, an Austrian composer, who chose to write the libretti of many of his operas in Italian. Perché? Mozart wrote in Italian because of the beauty of the language, the rhythm of the Italian words and the lyrical way in which “le belle parole italiane” are strung together into passionate declarations of love!

So, whether it's opera performed by Pavarotti or the latest track released by Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti or Umberto Tozzi, a knowledge of Italian will help you sing along – and know what you're saying!

Reasons to Learn Italian #3: A Beautiful Language that is Overlooked

Lucrezia from Learn Italian with Lucrezia says:

There could be many reasons for someone to learn Italian, ranging from wanting to speak the mother tongue of their grandparents to wanting to satisfy a simple and pure love for all things Italian. Whether you are learning Italian for one or another reason, the one thing I can assure you is that if you are not passionate about wanting to learn la bella lingua, you will find it difficult to succeed. This is true for any language, really.

However, there is a reason I could win you over with. Very few people in the world know how to speak Italian, compared to the thousands and thousands of people learning to speaking English, Spanish or Chinese everyday. So, it is something that not everyone can do and that’s what makes it special!

Reasons to Learn Italian #4: The Italian Secret to Life

Katie and Matteo from Joy of Languages say:

Katie from the Joy of Languages

One great reasons to learn Italian (apart from ice cream) is the people. The Italians have a saying “il dolce far niente”, which means the sweetness of doing nothing.

Italian people know what’s important in life: they’re not constantly running from one thing to the next and they always have time for you. This is a huge plus when it comes to practicing the lingo with the locals.

They continue:

When you give Italian a go (even it’s only a few words at first) most Italians are patient, warm and happy to help. Also, many Italians feel more comfortable speaking their own language than English. This gives you a real reason to use your Italian, which helps you learn faster.

Reasons to Learn Italian #5: Enjoy Italy Without Breaking the Bank

Benny Lewis, founder of Fluent in 3 Months (this website!) says:

Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months

Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world by tourists, so it's very easy to find English speaking hotels, restaurants with translated menus & guides to show you around in your own tongue. But these come at a price – the “English speaking tax”.

These costs can add up quickly, to decide ultimately how long you'll be in the country, but if you explore off any tourist paths and whimsically find a nice restaurant that hasn't translated their menus, or get advice from locals of where to eat, then you can appreciate the vastness of the menus beyond the simple pizzas and pastas you may be used to.

In my own case, my travel plans fell through once when I was in Italy during the incredibly busy Easter period and in Rome to make matters worse! Finding last minute accommodation would have been pricey, and eating out could have been far too busy in most places non-Italian speakers would go, but because I had local friends and spoke the language, one amico was very happy to invite me to his home and eat with four generations of his family.

An absolutely priceless experience, that ended up costing me nothing!

5 Top Tips on How to Learn Italian

Learn Italian Tip 1: Start with Italian Pronunciation

Manu from Italy made Easy says:

Manu from Italy Made Easy

The Italian language has a very simple phonetic system with just a few tricky sounds and a very predictable and consistent way of pronouncing vowels, consonants and sequences of sounds. Basically, it’s particularly easy to sound good when speaking Italian!

A very smart approach to learning Italian is to start with the pronunciation. You’ll master it in no time and it will give you the best “value for money”. You can have the broadest vocabulary and the most impeccable grammar, but if Italians can’t understand you when you speak, all of that goodness will go to waste.

Focusing on pronunciation is fun and it will give you incredibly fast results.

Here’s the three step process Manu recommends for getting to grips with Italian pronunciation:

  1. Start by mastering the 5 vowels (A, E, I, O, U). Italian vowels are always pronounced clearly and openly and they always sound the same.
  2. Then move on to syllables (BA, BE, BI, BO, BU), words (BROCCOLI, FINITO, etc) and entire phrases.
  3. Start “shadowing”.

Manu explains shadowing like this:

“Shadowing” is a great and very effective technique to improve and master your Italian pronunciation. Find a video (with Italian subtitles) of a single Italian native speaker speaking clearly. Your goal is to imitate the Italian speaker by copying their speed, intonation, pitch and overall melody. It’s not an easy exercise, with it will do wonders for your Italian pronunciation!

Learn Italian Tip 2: Make the Most of Shower and Pillow Time

Mark from Coffee Break Italian says:

Mark from Coffee Break Italian

One of the best ways to improve your Italian is by getting into a habit of spending some time in the morning and evening talking to yourself. That may sound a bit crazy, but you'll be amazed at how helpful this easy technique can be.

In the morning, start with a statement about what you're going to do that day. You can use a simple present tense, e.g. “oggi vado al cinema” (today I'm going to the cinema). If you know more Italian you can start to add in more information, for example when you're going, who else is going, or what you're doing before and after the cinema.

Then, in the evening, it's time to think back over what you've done in the day. Just use present tenses again if you prefer, but if you feel comfortable using a past tense you can talk about what you did (using the perfect), how you felt or what the weather was like (using the imperfect), and perhaps even thinking ahead to tomorrow (using a future tense).

For best results, do your morning Italian session in the shower – you can even speak aloud there as no-one will hear you! Then you can complete your evening session as you lay your head on the pillow to go to sleep.

Learn Italian Tip 3: Listen to Native Speakers

Lucrezia from Learn Italian with Lucrezia says:

One tip I would give to all of you interested in learning Italian is to listen to native speakers talking. Even if you are an absolute beginner. Spontaneous conversation, which is produced by native speakers, is the best way to get started.

Conversation is in itself very spontaneous and immediate, so native speakers are pressured to produce language in the easiest way they know how. This means that following easy conversation between native speakers will motivate you to act, in this case speak, like them. The emulation game starts!

It goes without saying that, if you are just starting out, it is preferable for you to choose very basic conversations or situational language, for example: at the supermarket, breakfast with friends, a discussion about favourite film, etc.

After listening to a recorded conversation of your choice, try to repeat what they say on screen or audio. Stop and play as many times as you like, up until you feel confident enough to record yourself and listen to your recorded voice speaking Italian. This should help you avoid the initial block beginners often feel towards the active part of learning a language, that is speaking.

Learn Italian Tip 4: Discover the Italian You Already Know

Katie and Matteo from Joy of Languages say:

Katie from the Joy of Languages

We’ll let you in on a secret – Italian is easier than you think. Let’s try a little experiment. How do you say the word “fantastic” in Italian? Wave your hands around like an Italian and do your best Italian accent.

Did you guess fantastico?

If you did, bravo, your guess was corretto!

Around 58% of English words come from Latin or Romance languages. This means that that 1000s of English words are simile to Italian words. These words are called cognates, and they’re easy to learn and remember.

Start by learning a few basic rules about how to transform English words into their Italian counterparts. For example, many words that end in al, like “formal”, become Italian by adding an -e on the end and pronouncing the ending slightly differently. So the Italian word for “formal” is formale, pronounced form-ah-leh and the Italian word for “general” is generale, pronounced gener-ah-leh. Google “Italian Cognates” and you’ll find loads more.

Now when you start talking, you’ll already have thousands of words that you can use in conversation!

Learn Italian Tip 5: Try this Easy Approach to Spoken Practice

Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months says:

Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months

Italian was one of the very first languages that I learned, while I was still very self conscious of making mistakes and worried that I'd be frustrating people. Gli italiani were crucial in giving me the confidence I needed to truly progress in language learning.

It was because they are so pleased to hear a foreigner try to learn their language, that they'll very patiently hear you out, and encourage you to keep going. And yet, they'll naturally get back into their bubbly personality of speaking with passion that will keep you on your toes. It's the right balance of easing you in, but still making sure you have to keep trying.

As a learner, and as someone travelling in Italy by himself, I found it incredibly easy to make new friends and loved how curious they were to hear from this traveller.

Bonus Tip: Take Action to Learn Italian, Today

You can have the most amazing Italian hacks, the most comprehensive Italian materials and the most effective Italian learning methods in the world but it’s completely useless if you don’t put them into a consistent learning routine in your everyday life.

If we all know this, why don’t we do it?

Because most of us scare ourselves to death by imagining how many mountains of hours and hours and hours we need to put in BEFORE we can have a conversation in Italian.

But…

What if we break down the hours of learning Italian to just 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week for 90 days?

This is exactly what Nina did in the Add1Challenge (now the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge), you can see her result with learning Italian from scratch in the follow videos.

Nina’s Day 0 Italian Video

Nina’s Day 90 Italian Video:

Could You Do the Same in 90 Days?

Most people are surprised by this result, including Nina herself.

Yet Tina (Day 0 / Day 90), Alex (Day 0 / Day 90) and many, many other language learners who took part in the Add1Challenge got similar results.

After helping thousands of language learners speaking their target language in holding at least a 15 minute conversations with a native speaker in 90 day, what we found is…

We often underestimate the power of consistency, because we have never been consistent for a long enough to allow the result to reveal itself, especially in learning to speak a language.

A routine of just 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week for 90 days is what we found the minimum sweet spot if you want to be able to have a 15 minute conversation with an Italian in just 90 days.

Learning Italian is not so intimidating anymore right? 🙂

You can now implement these hacks into your learning routine on your own.

Better yet, apply for the Add1Challenge and begin this 90 day journey together.

See you inside!

author headshot

Brian Kwong

Founder, Add1Challenge

Brian empowers language learners around the world to hold a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker after just 90 days through the Add1Challenge.

Speaks: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese

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