The best way to learn Italian is by immersion. When you immerse yourself in a foreign language it means that you live as much of your life as possible in that language; performing your day to day activities outside of your native English.
If you're learning Italian the best place to do this is....wait for it.....Italy! (no surprise there).
Immersion in a language isn't easy, in fact it's pretty intense. However most experts agree it is the most effective and efficient way of learning a new language. In the end nothing beats a full on immersion course.
But not all of us can afford to spend a summer in Naples just to learn Italian. Does that mean the rest of us would be Italian learners are out of luck?
Not at all!
You see, even if you can't travel to Italy anytime soon, that doesn't mean you can't get a piece of the immersion experience. You can actually design your own at home Italian immersion experience.
It might not be as intense as living in the country, but it can still be super effective.
Polyglot Benny Lewis shares his thoughts on immersion without traveling. You can check out more about his method for learning languages here.
The truth is that there are more tools and resources for learning Italian than ever before. Which ones are right for you, will depend a lot on your individual needs and your level in the language.
In this article we'll give you some pointers on what parts of Italian you should focus on as you progress through the language. We'll also recommend some tools and resources to help you based on your level.
But before we do that...
We should probably talk a little about inputs and outputs.
There are four aspects of language learning: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
Four Parts of Learning Italian
Of these four aspects two are inputs: reading and writing; and two are outputs: writing and speaking. You will need to develop all four skills to become fluent in Italian.
But you'll need a different amount of practice for each depending on your level in the language.
If you're just starting out, inputs are very important. After all, it would be a little hard to speak or write in Italian if you haven't learned what to say yet. Inputs will help you do just that.
Don't get me wrong the outputs still have their place, even at the beginner level. It's just that they shouldn't be the main focus of your learning yet. A good beginner course will help you get comfortable with the basics of Italian grammar and vocabulary.
Luckily Italian is a popular foreign language, and beginners will have their pick of tools and resources to choose from.
Here's a few resources that do a great job of teaching you Italian by giving you a ton of inputs.
5+ minutes a day
Duolingo is the best known language app, and for good reason. It's proven to be an affective way to learn basic grammar and vocabulary in a game like setting. Their Italian course features grammar explanations before each lessons. Best of all its free!
20+ minutes a day
The Rocket Italian course is for those who want a full on comprehensive course. Rocket Italian is built around recorded audio. Their Italian lessons are built around dialogues between native speakers (they also feature English explanations). They also feature voice recognition as well as lessons to help you practice your reading and writing.
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Italianpod101 uses primarily audio lessons in a podcast format. It has flashcards, vocabulary, and word sheets. The podcast is a great way to learn grammar, vocabulary, and work on pronunciation. Italianpod101 isn't as structured as Rocket Italian but it's still a great way to develop listening and reading skills (podcast transcripts are available).
Once you reach an intermediate level in Italian, you want to practice writing and speaking more than you did as a beginner. By now you should be at least somewhat familiar with the language, and it's important to use what you've learned.
Reading and listening will still take up the bulk of your learning, so make sure you increase the difficulty of the materials or tools you're working with.
At this stage it's important to protect yourself against plateaus by keeping the time spent practicing inputs slightly higher than the outputs. If you don't you might find yourself practicing the same old words and phrases, without learning much new material, and that's never good!
As an intermediate Italian speaker, your skills probably aren't sharp enough to jump into a conversation with any person on any topic. Still, speaking Italian with native speakers is absolutely important at this phase.
It's a good idea to work with an Italian teacher, tutor, or super patient friend. At first you'll want to practice communicating on basic and specific topics, until your skills improve and you can branch out into other subjects.
You can find native speakers/teachers online or in person. They will be able to help you through any bumps in the road and you're likely to get a lot out of your talks with them. Whether you practice with a friend or a teacher it's important to level up your Italian speaking practice!
30 minutes a day
Pimlseur is a completely audio based course. It's centered around a call-recall-response method that helps you practice responding in Italian, much like the way you would when talking with a native speaker.
Pimsleur strikes a great balance between inputs and outputs (it's the only audio course I know of that does this). It's also a great tool for improving your Italian pronunciation, and expanding your practical vocabulary.
$6+ per hour (varies between teachers)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
An intro video from one of Italki's Italian teachers.
Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.
You can connect with language speakers from around the world and practice your speaking skills. There are 250+ Italian teachers on Italki
*with a purchase of $10 or more. After your first purchased lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
Starts at $15 per month
5+ minutes a day
Fluentu is an awesome site that helps you learn a language through native videos. Use in site flashcards, captions, and games to learn new words in context while watching Italian TV shows, movies, commercials, and more. It's a great way to push your listening skills and Italian vocabulary.
The advance level is where things really get fun. By now you should be working with an equal amount of inputs and outputs. It's very important that as an advance student of the language you keep yourself challenged and continue to hone your skills.
Your Italian training wheels should be completely off by now. Feel free to engage with the language any way you like (as long as it's challenging). At this point any practice or conversation with a native speaker should be beneficial.
Now you should be able to engage with Italian movies, music, news, and even literature. Dive into all of it, as I'm willing to bet that's probably the reason you started learning the language in the first place!
It's also a good idea to work with a professional teacher every now and then. They can help refine your Italian skills. A skilled teacher can show you your blind spots in pronunciation, slang, idiomatic expressions, and other parts of the language that aren't always easy to pick up on.
Write posts in Italian and post them to Lang-8 to get feedback from native speakers. It's one of the best ways to practice your writing, and it's free! This site is simple to use but very effective.
Speaky is a free online language exchange where you can meet and practice with language learners from over 180 countries. Practice with Italian speakers over video, audio, or text chat. Just remember to help them with their English too!
$6.50+ per hour (varies between teacher)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
Verbling is a site similar to Italkli. While it doesn't have the selection of Italian teachers Italki has, Verbling favors teachers with experience and certification, so their overall quality of teachers is a little higher.
There are a plethora of opportunities and tools out there for Italian learners. What's right for you depends on your needs and ability in the language.
Remember to strike the right balance between practicing your inputs as well as your outputs. Most of all remember to have fun learning Italian!
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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