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Whether you’re trying to learn a few words for your trip, or have simply fallen in love with the language, the best way to learn Italian is the one that works for you.
Here we share the different resources available online to help you to speak, read and write in Italian. We’ve included free as well as paid resources – such as our favorite online course Rocket Italian – for you to try on your Italian language journey.
But no matter what tools you choose, the key to learning any language is practise and consistency. We’ve also included a few tips on making sure you keep up the momentum towards the end of this article. Just to make sure you’re ready to order your favorite gelato flavor as soon as you reach Rome!
Free online app – Duolingo
Duolingo has to be one of the best uses of the internet I have found. This website and app is a great way to start learning Italian. Through gamification techniques Duolingo teaches you Italian grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation in a fun interactive way. You can learn anywhere you can access your phone making it a great way to learn the basics on the go.
But, while Duolingo is a great way to start your Italian language journey, it has some drawbacks. Firstly, the app launches straight into learning the language but gives you no overview of how the classes and lessons are structured. This becomes especially challenging because you need to go through many lessons before you get to a point where you can construct sentences on your own. So, if you want to prepare for a conversation at a cafe or restaurant you need to complete lessons that may not be relevant. Some of the phrasing is a little clunky too. When you’re learning to speak in another language you don’t want to sound old fashioned or like a computer!
If you’re serious about learning Italian then a structured online course is a great way to get results quickly. You can structure your learning around your day – commute times work well or when you’re exercising. Most online courses come with an app that combine pronunciation and sounds with vocabulary recognition and grammar.
There are many options available online these days and choosing one can be quite overwhelming. We use Rocket Italian but here is a summary and quick review of the most popular online courses to choose from.
- Pimsleur – is an audio based program that promises to help you speak Italian at an intermediate level in just 30 days. The emphasis is on speaking Italian rather than written communication or grammar rules. This makes the approach an ideal way to get started if you are wanting to use your new language skills on your travels.
- Rocket Italian – if you’re like me then you need to see and as well as hear words being spoken for a language to sink in. I like to know that I am not only pronouncing words correctly and that I can visualize how they are written in my mind. I’m also a bit of a stickler for grammar. Rocket Italian combines pronunciation, grammar and written Italian and so it is the best all round option I have found for learning Italian. If you’d like to check it out they have a free trial. Or you can read our full review
- Babbel – aimed at beginner or intermediate level users, Babbel uses a quiz style format to teach the basics of vocabulary and grammar. With over 1 million users it is very popular but we think it misses the mark for verbal communications. Using this approach alone you would find it quite difficult to construct sentences on your own.
- Rosetta Stone – offers a full immersion program relying on audio and images with little to no English used to explain the Italian vocabulary. This approach can be useful but as there is little focus on grammar and sentence construction I find it quite frustrating.
These programs are very structured and come with apps and lots of resources. If you’re looking for a cheaper course without all the whistles and bells then have a search on Udemy (a global marketplace for learning and instruction) where there are over 100 Italian language courses aimed at different learning styles and requirements for as little as $15 > browse Udemy Italian courses
Listen to podcasts
We think listening to podcasts is a great way to immerse yourself in the Italian language. You can pop on a podcast while you’re in the car or exercising or even before you go to sleep at night. Podcasts are a great way to supplement a more structured course based learning approach and this is how we have made the most progress ourselves.
Some of our favorite Italian language podcasts are:
- Coffee Break Italian – 15-30 minute lessons focused on building confidence around every day experiences using Italian
- 5 minute Italian – bite sized fun Italian language lessons
- News in slow Italian – current affairs for those with an intermediate understanding of Italian
Watch You Tube videos
YouTube also has some fantastic resources for learning Italian. We love the way you can see, as well as listen to, Italians speaking their language. Getting your accent right has just as much to do with how you use your mouth as the sounds that come out of it. Also, don’t forget the hand gestures are an important part of communicating in Italian!
The challenge with YouTube videos for us is that the videos are rarely structured or organized in way that is easy to follow and learn from. Plus you need to be paying attention to the images so it’s less easy to absorb than an audio file if you are driving or exercising.
Here are some of the top YouTube resources for learning Italian:
- Learn Italian with Lucrezia – at just 25 years old, Lucrezia has built an incredible following thanks to her fun vlogs and Italian lessons on YouTube. She also has a masters in Modern Languages for International Communication so you know you’re in good hands
- Italian Pod 101 – has some great resources for beginners. There are literally hundreds of videos so go to the playlists section and choose one that is right for you
- Italy Made Easy – Manu has a huge catalogue of resources to help you learn Italian. Each video has subtitles in English so you can easily follow along
use Italian language books
Some people learn by watching and observing and others prefer to read to absorb knowledge. There are hundreds of Italian language books available to help you to learn the language. Using a book may also be a great way to supplement your studies if you mainly want to use an app or online resources that may not be so structured.
Here are some best selling options to get you started
The top rated book on Amazon gives you the basics in Italian for situations like asking directions and ordering food. They’ve also provided the phonetic spelling of every word and phrase to help with your pronunciation.
Full of practical phrases for everyday situations, this is a great book to bring with you on your travels.
When there’s no time to spare, this book gives you the absolute essentials to hit the ground running as soon as you land in Italy.
Use flash cards
Memory and recall are an important part of learning any language. And while you’ll never completely learn how to speak Italian by simply using flash cards, it’s a great way to supplement your learning by other methods. In fact most of the online courses and apps we mentioned earlier have built a digital flashcard concept into their program.
If you prefer a physical rather than a digital product, here are some options to consider:
Business card sized cards organized by category that are suitable for beginner and intermediate users.
Basic vocabulary to get you started on your Italian language learning journey
Face to face course
Before the internet, people mainly learned Italian by attending a language school in their city or town. And you can absolutely still do that. It is a fun way to meet people with similar interests, practise speaking Italian and learn in a structured way all at the same time. Of course you need to commit attending to regular classes and this may not be as flexible as an online course. Face to face classes are also usually much more expensive than online courses and if you’re struggling to juggle a busy routine you may not stick with it long enough to make much progress.
To find the best face to face courses where you live, look for your local Italian cultural institute. As native speakers they can point you in the right direction of expert teachers and the best classes.
Go to Italy!
Honestly, being in Italy and immersed in the culture is simply the best way to learn Italian. So book that trip to Italy if you haven’t already. From ordering at a restaurant to buying train tickets and asking for directions, you will pick up key words and phrases in no time. There’s also something hugely satisfying about communicating in a language other than English. You may make a few mistakes along the way but no doubt they will be some of your favorite stories to tell and after all, that’s how you learn.
And you’ll also meet and be able to converse with people in Italian. This is actually the absolute best way to learn Italian as there is nothing like being put on the spot to generate automatic recall of words and phrases. Italians are kind and generous people and they appreciate it when you try to speak their language. And they will help you out when you get stuck.
Italian language schools in italy
Those who are really serious about learning to speak Italian fluently should consider an immersion based language school based in Italy. This is probably the fastest way to learn Italian and become fluent. Generally these schools offer language tuition in the morning with excursions in the afternoon.
There are literally hundreds of schools in different parts of the country to choose from – in Tuscany, Rome, Sicily and beyond. Choosing the right one for you will depend on what you are looking for from the experience. There are definitely schools that emphasise learning the language over a cultural experience and vice versa. Some are pitched at different age groups and you’ll want to consider the type of accommodation and inclusions. So know your criteria and ask lots of questions before choosing the school that is right for you.
Talk to Italian friends
Do you have some Italian friends? I am sure they would love to help you learn to speak their language. Talking to native speakers is a sure fire way to improve your vocabulary and those natural phrases that you often don’t learn via an app or course. You’ll also pick up on the accent and intonations they use.
For example, a very common word used in Italian that is not often mentioned when you’re formally taught is “Allora“. Meaning – so, then or well – it’s a kind of filler word that starts or joins sentences together. It’s usually said quite slowly with the emphasis on the “ahh” and it’s used naturally and very often in daily conversation.
So if you have some Italian friends, make some time to practise with them over coffee or even aperitivo!
Our best tips for learning Italian
As you can see, there are plenty of options and techniques for learning Italian. You just need to find one method that works for you. Personally I like a combination of an excellent online course like Rocket Italian, speaking with friends and listening to podcasts. But the secret sauce to getting it to stick is in your mindset. If you want to learn Italian and make time each day to spend time on that goal then you will. Here’s how we approach making our learning successful:
- Make a plan – review all the available resources and determine the best way to learn Italian for you. What works for me and others may not suit your learning style.
- Stick to it – consistency is key. If you do 10 minutes a day you will build skills and confidence in no time
- Speak Italian – make sure to practise talking in Italian. Reading, writing and flash cards will only get you so far. Your confidence grows as you speak words. And even though you are going to make some mistakes, that’s ok. It’s how you learn any new skill.
- Book that trip – do it! There’s nothing like a deadline to get you focused. And once you reach Italy your language skills will come on in leaps and bounds.
Final words on learning Italian
Italian is often described as la bella lingua or the beautiful language. No wonder so many people want to learn to speak its beautiful phrases. Whether you want to learn Italian to enhance your travels or to speak the language of love then there is a method that will work for you. Just make a plan and start and you’ll discover that you will make progress in now time.
Allora, che cosa state aspettando! That’s – “So, what are you waiting for?” in Italian.