How to Learn Italian: 5 Top Tips for Italian Learners (Plus 5 Great Reasons to Learn Italian)
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.
We reached out to some of the most popular Italian YouTubers and teachers. We asked them for their top tips for people who want to speak Italian, just like you, and the reasons why everyone should learn Italian.
Table of contents
- 5 Top Tips on How to Learn Italian
- How to Learn Italian Tip 1: Start with Italian Pronunciation
- How to Learn Italian Tip 2: Make the Most of Shower and Pillow Time
- How to Learn Italian Tip 3: Listen to Native Speakers
- How to Learn Italian Tip 4: Discover the Italian You Already Know
- How to Learn Italian Tip 5: Try this Easy Approach to Spoken Practice
- Bonus Tip: Take Action to Learn Italian, Today
- Could You Do the Same in 90 Days?
Enter the Italian experts…
Manu from Italy made Easy says:
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:
- 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.
- Then move on to syllables (BA, BE, BI, BO, BU), words (BROCCOLI, FINITO, etc) and entire phrases.
- 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, but it will do wonders for your Italian pronunciation!
Mark from Coffee Break Italian says:
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.
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.
Katie and Matteo from Joy of Languages say:
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!
Benny Lewis, founder of Fluent in 3 Months, says:
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.
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.
If you asked me “How long does it take to learn Italian?”, I would say:
If we break down the hours of learning Italian to just 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, you could learn enough Italian to have a conversation with a native in 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 following videos.
Nina’s Day 0 Italian Video
Nina’s Day 90 Italian Video:
Most people are surprised by this result, including Nina herself.
After helping thousands of language learners speaking their target language in holding at least a 15 minute conversation 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.
Original article by Brian Kwong, updated by the Fluent in 3 Months team.