With over 60 million native speakers, and the fact that Italy ranks as one of the top 5 tourist destinations in the world, it's no wonder that Italian is one of the most popular foreign languages for native English speakers.
On one hand this is great news for us Italian learners! There are literally hundreds of apps, courses, and programs to choose from, if we want to learn the language.
The downside is, with so many options available, it can be difficult to tell which options are worth their salt and which aren't.
In this post we take a look at our top 5 picks for learning the Italian language. But before we get into our list, we should talk about what exactly makes an Italian course or program good.
Here at Live Fluent, we constantly stress the importance of learning all four aspects of Italian: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
These four skills build into one another so that what you read is reinforced by what you write, what you write is reinforced by what you speak, which in turn is reinforced by what you listen to.
If you focus too heavily on only one or two aspects of the language you will shortchange yourself.
A good course should give you the opportunity to practice and develop your skills in all four aspects of Italian.
Grammatically speaking, Italian isn't the monolithic beast that students encounter when they learn a language like Japanese, Korean, or Arabic. Italian comes from the Romance language family, which means that by and large it isn't too removed from English.
A brief intro to some of the unique aspects of Italian grammar
Still, there are some significant grammatical differences between English and Italian. A good course should point out these differences and help you understand them.
Here's a few of the grammatical differences you will encounter while learning Italian.
The english language follows a fairly strict subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. If we change the order of words in an English sentence we will change the meaning.
For an example of this think of the difference between "The dog bit the boy" and "The boy bit the dog".
Italian word order is more flexible. Sometimes it will follow the SVO word order, and other times it won't.
Often times an Italian sentence will omit subject pronouns like "I, he, she, they, etc". This is because Italian verbs themselves can imply pronouns, thus the pronoun doesn't need to be explicitly stated.
A deeper look into Italian verb conjugation
Italian verbs are able to do this because they take different forms based on who or what is performing an action. This phenomenon is called verb conjugation, and it's a bit different from what most native English speakers are used to.
While grammar is immensely important when learning a foreign language, all too many courses neglect to teach you relevant vocabulary that you can actually use in real life.
Many classical courses teach themed vocabulary that focuses on grammar only. Thus you learn lists of fairly useless sentences like "The cat drinks milk", "The ball is under the table", "The boy runs fast", etc.
A good program will help you find a balance between understanding the important aspects of grammar, while also helping you learn Italian you're likely to use in the real world.
20+ minutes a day
Long story short: Rocket Italian does an excellent job of teaching practical vocabulary AND Italian Grammar.
The program is designed around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is perfect for learning conversational Italian)
Rocket Italian also includes in-depth grammar explanations which help breakdown Italian grammar is in a way that is easy to understand.
The course also features a range of activities and exercises which help you read, write, speak (via voice recognition), and listen in Italian.
All in all this is one of the most comprehensive courses on the market, and will help even absolute beginners reach a level of core proficiency in the language.
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Italianpod101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary. Each lesson is designed around an Italian conversation between native speakers, and the teachers do a great job of keeping things engaging.
While it's not as structured as Rocket Italian it's still a substantial learning tool (it's also much cheaper too). The site features transcripts, an in-site flashcard system, and many other useful features.
5+ minutes a day
Duolingo is usually one of the first courses we recommend for learning a foreign language. It's free, effective, and fun to use.
The app is built around a game-like format and largely teaches grammar via example sentences and definitions. Users are required to listen, speak, read, and write while using the app.
Duolingo is easily one of the most popular language learning apps out there.
It's success and popularity pretty much speak for itself. As said before the app is free to use, so if you haven't already, go and check it out!
30 minutes a day
Pimsleur is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is entirely audio based and is specifically designed to develop your conversational skills.
They use a unique and effective question/recall/respond technique to get you on your feet in your new foreign language. With Pimsleur You'll learn a limited but functional vocabulary and have a good sense of pronunciation.
From $6.95+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Babbel features lessons in a quiz based format. Lessons are separated by course categories which include things like difficulty level and specific aspects of grammar.
Babbel works well as a supplement for your daily Italian learning, and it's good for learning the foundations of the language.
There's a lot of options if you're looking for a course to help you learn Italian. Hopefully through this article you were able to find the information you need to help you choose the program that is best for you.
Remember, there is no one size fits all, when it comes to language learning. Each of the courses in this past include some sort of free trial. I recommend choosing the ones you're interested in and trying them out for yourself!
I'm definitely an unlikely language learner. I failed Spanish in high school. I started learning German as a hobby while studying abroad. Long story short...and a couple languages later...I love language learning!
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