In this article we over all the bases while recommending the best way to learn Italian. As you can probably guess, there is no one way, no magic bullet that will help you learn the language overnight. However some programs and learning tools are better than others. Here we showcase some of the best options for learning Italian, according to the different needs, goals, and learning styles of anyone who may be interesting in learning the Italian language.
What's the best way to learn Italian?
If we're talking course reviews and learning programs these are some of best choices for Italian learners. No matter what your learning goals are, any of these options are a great place start.
Rocket Italian is an online course and app from Rocket Languages that takes you from absolute beginner to intermediate Italian speaker. The philosophy behind Rocket Italian, is to teach you Italian that you can actually use in real life conversations. The course has two lesson tracks, which you work through side by side. The first track features the interactive audio lessons. These feature a recorded conversation between two native Italian speakers. Each audio lesson explains the conversation and uses it to teach you vocabulary. You're given practical words and phrases so you can speak Italian from day one. You won't find any unnecessary terminology or useless translation exercises.
The second lesson track features the language and culture lessons. These teach you the grammar behind the phrases you learned from the audio lessons. Rocket Italian's one-two punch method of teaching conversational vocabulary and then grammar, set it apart from many other courses. Many programs focus only on grammar and have you translate Italian sentences all day, or they only teach you phrases and you're never sure of the exact meaning of what you're saying. Rocket Languages also offers a collection of testing tools after each lesson, so that you can practice the material. These activities include listening comprehension exercises, pronunciation and speaking exercises (using voice recognition), flashcards, and written exercises. With Rocket Italian you practice all aspects of the Italian language. If you want a thorough and comprehensive method , then Rocket Italian may be the best way to learn Italian.
Italianpod101 began as a simple online podcast for learning Italian. Since then it has grown to be a massive collection of Italian podcast lessons and learning resources. Each podcast episode features a real Italian conversation. Your podcast hosts introduce the dialogue and point out notable grammar and vocabulary from the episode. They also share insights into Italian culture from time to time to. Each lesson comes with full transcripts in both Italian and English. You can also play back individual phrases from the dialogue which allows you to 1) record yourself repeating after the native speaker and compare your accent to the original recording and 2) Role play as one of the Italian speakers and respond to the other recording. Both are great exercises and will help your Italian speaking. Italianpod101 offers a a lot of other learning resources besides just podcasts. There is an Italian to English dictionary, a grammar bank, video lessons, interactive phrase lists, a pronunciation guide, downloadable cheat sheets, customizable flashcards, conjugation charts, an Italian learning blog and more.
While the podcast episodes are sorted into lesson tracks by difficulty level (ranging from absolute beginner to advanced), Italianpod101 isn't set up as a systematic course like Rocket Italian. You are free to jump from one episode to the next, or skip around different difficulty levels. It's more of an independent learning tool than a step by step course.
Pimsleur is an audio course with a single goal: to teach you how to speak Italian. Pimsleur uses a unique prompt-response-correct method that simulates what it's like to practice with real native speakers. In each lesson of the audio course you are taught whole Italian phrases. Pimsleur will walk you through their pronunciation syllable by syllable until you can comfortably recite those phrase like native speakers do. After that you will then be prompted to answer and ask questions using those phrases. The prompts will be spontaneous, and you'll use the phrases in different ways. You have a limited time to answer before the correct response is given. This method teaches your brain to think in Italian. You won't have time to translate words in your head. Thinking in Italian with allow you to speak naturally and with less effort.
Pimsleur also has a nice spread of reading lessons in their courses. You are taught to read Italian phonetically at first, and then gradually you will begin to read for meaning. Eventually you'll be reading the same phrases you learned in the audio portion. Pimsleur doesn't teach grammar explicitly, but you do pick some up through all the speaking. It's real strength is getting you to speak and think in Italian. No other audio course does this as successfully as Pimsleur. You really feel like you make progress with this program. The course is designed to be used for 30 minutes every day.
If you've dabbled in language learning at all, odds are you've heard of this popular app. Duolingo is a freemium language learning app which teaches you basic to intermediate vocabulary and grammar. It uses a gamified approach to provide a learning experience than is fun and effective. Duolingo is a great way to start improving your language skills in Italian. Through a series of audio, written, and spoken exercises you will walk away with a working knowledge of Italian. The app is mostly free to use (with ads). There is a premium version which removes the ads and gives you unlimited access to the app.
Have you ever watched Italian tv or movies and had to pause them to whip out a dictionary or translator app to figure out what someone said? Do you ever start to wish there was an easier way to learn Italian with videos and media? Then it's time you looked at FluentU. FluentU has hundreds of Italian video clips from music videos, commercials, tv shows, internet videos, news reports, and more. Every clip features interactive subtitles in both Italian and English (or neither if you want to turn them off). Click on any word from the subtitles to pause the video and see the translation, definition, and sentence examples for that word. You can also add any word from the video to your own personal FluentU flashcard deck. Video is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the Italian language and practice listening to native speakers. FluentU makes that process easy and enjoyable.
Babbel is a straightforward way to learn Italian with written lessons and quizzes. Babbel lessons teach both grammar and vocabulary. At first you'll learn simple words and phrases, but as you progress you'll start seeing full Italian dialogues in the lessons. There are quizzes and exercises through the Babbel course. You will have to work through fill in the blank, matching, and true or false exercises to complete the lessons. Babbel is an immensely popular app for learning a language, and often brings comparisons to Duolingo or Rosetta Stone. Though it teaches grammar explicitly (unlike Rosetta Stone) and it's not gamified like Duolingo.
This is a legacy Italian course, and it's not always easy to find. This audio course has a unique method which encourages you not to memorize or write anything down while using it. Similar to the other audio programs in this list, Michel Thomas focuses on conversational Italian. Listening to the lessons is essentially like sitting in on an actual Italian class. Michel Thomas is a great way to learn, it's just hard to find.
How long does it take to become fluent in Italian?
According the the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you need around 600 classroom hours to reach fluency in Italian. So if you were to spend five hours a day, five days a week in an Italian class, it would take you 24 weeks (6 months) to be fluent. Keep in mind that the FSI's estimate does not include time spent on self study and homework. So theoretically, if you buckled down and loaded up on Italian classes, you could be fluent in 6 months.
Most learners don't have the time or resources to dedicate five hours a day to learning Italian in a classroom. So in reality learning Italian would take longer than 24 weeks. However you don't need to be fluent in Italian to speak it conversationally. It will take you considerably less time to speak Italian conversationally than it will to know the language fluently. So don't let the FSI's estimate scare you.
How can I become fluent in Italian fast?
The best way to learn Italian quickly is immersion. Immersion is not a passive process. You can't simply sit on the streets of Naples surrounded by Italian speaking people and expect to absorb the language. Being surrounded by the language is only one part of the process. To really learn Italian fast you'll need to actively push yourself to speak and understand the language.
Now there's more than one way to immerse yourself in Italian. Of course you could spend a summer abroad at a language school and learn the language in Italy. But you can also take the concept of immersion, and apply it at home...
Can I teach myself Italian?
The best way to learn Italian by yourself is to set up a personal immersion experience at home. For starters you can set the language of your electronic devices to Italian. After that, think of all the ways you like to spend your free time. Can you do any of them in your new language? Do you like to watch movies or listen to music? Why not watch Italian movies and listen to Italian music? You do watch Youtube videos on your favorite hobbies and interests? Odds are that there is a video blogger from Italy with the same interests as you. Once you've turned your free time into Italian time, then you can start speaking Italian with real people. You can do this through a language exchange, online Italian classes, or connecting with people at a local language club. Add in an Italian grammar course or class, and you'll be all set to immerse yourself and learn as fast as possible.
What's the best way to learn Italian for free?
You don't need to spend a dime in order to start learning Italian. There are a ton of free language courses and resources. Here's some of the most notable ones:
In case you didn't know it yet, Youtube is one of the largest resource banks around for learning a foreign language. Here are some of the best channel to help you get started.
The folks behind Italianpod101 also run a Youtube channel for Italian learners. They have hundreds of videos. There's videos on vocabulary and grammar rules, general tips for learning a language, pronunciation, listening practice, important phrases, and a lot more. If you're serious about learning Italian, then this channel is worth checking out.
Dolce Vita is a channel for anyone who wants to start learning about Italian culture and the Italian language. The videos on Dolce Vita cover everything from Italian grammar, songs, food, travel tips, common expressions, and a lot of other interesting stuff.
If you want to learn Italian as it's spoken in the real world, then this is the channel for you. Each video on Easy Italian features interviews and clips from native Italian speakers answering questions or discussing an interesting topic. Every video has a subtitle in Italian and English so you can follow along even if you're a beginner.
Youtube isn't the only place where you can find free Italian courses. There are also some notable free apps as well (some of which we've already mentioned).
While Italianpod101 is mostly known for its paid premium podcast for learning Italian, most people don't know that they also offer a free lifetime account on their app. With this account you get access to a ton of useful resources like an Italian dictionary, pronunciation guide, essential phrase lists, downloadable ebooks, and some free videos too. You also get access to the first three podcasts in every season on the app (that's over 100!).
Italian for beginners
This free app is for anyone who wants to learn Italian conversationally. Lesson are sorted by subjects and teach basic words and phrases. With this app you will learn how to pronounce, spell, and translate Italian words.
Duolingo already made it on our earlier list, but it makes this list again because it's a mostly free app. As we said before, it's a great way to learn foundational Italian.
What better way to learn Italian than with a native Italian speaker? Language exchanges were created for the sole purpose of connecting language learners with each other. The idea is simple: you find someone who speaks Italian and is learning your native language, then you help each other practice your respective target language. There was a time when practicing with a language partner meant that you were simply pen pals, or both lived locally near one another. But these days most language exchanges encourage and offer video and audio chat. Here's links to some notable exchanges:
Ultimately the best way to learn Italian depends on your needs, goal, and learning style. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Hopefully this post gave you the information you need to find the option that's best for you. Make sure to try out a few before making your decision.
Whatever way you choose, remember that in the end it isn't the learning program so much as the learner that makes the difference. You could have the best program in world to learn Italian, but if you don't apply your self and put in the necessary effort you won't progress in the language. Practice, patience, and perseverance are the surest way to be successful in language learning. Anyone can possess these qualities. If you want to learn a new language you don't need the perfect course. You don't need a special gene or natural talent. You don't even need to be extra smart. You just need to be motivated.