This page is a work in progress. Please feel free to suggest resources that have worked for you in the comments.
I first started studying Italian seriously in 2010 primarily because it was required of me for my university major. When I
I’ve assembled this guide to share some of the books and language learning materials I have used and found to be effective.
The Italian Language
Italian, or italiano, is the official language spoken in Italy, the Vatican City, San Marino, and is one of the official languages of Switzerland. There are approximately 59 million native Italian speakers. Italian is a descendant of the Latin language and the closest in vocabulary of all the Latin languages.
So why would you want to learn Italian? Well, that’s entirely up to you. A couple great reasons are 1. most of the world’s heritage sites are in Italy; 2. food – the language has more words to describe food than most (understandably); and 3. music. Regardless of the reason, make sure it’s a language you want to learn! If it isn’t, you’re learning won’t be as effective and you’ll struggle to learn the language.
So, let’s look at a few resources you can use to help learn Italian.
How to Decide Which Italian Language Resources to Pick
Language learning texts and resources can get real expensive real quick. So rather than going at it randomly or by trial and error (which you’ll probably have to do some of anyway), I’d like to make a suggestion first.
The ability to use and understand a language is based upon four basic abilities: reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension. Depending on what your goals are, all four may not be necessary.
Let’s say, for example, you hope to take a trip to Rome in six months. What language skills will you need? Basic communication and comprehension and basic reading (street signs, etc). You probably won’t ever have to write in the language. So, in this case, you might focus on developing your speaking and listening skills. If this sounds like you, I suggest checking out the audio or audio/text resources and the online resources below.
On the other hand, maybe your goal is to read Italian literature (Dante anyone?). In that case, learning to speak and understand the spoken language aren’t necessary and you can dedicate your energy to text. If this describes you, I suggest checking out the text and online resources below.
Ideally, you should probably develop some skill in each area, but the areas you focus on need to align with your goals regarding the language and how you plan to use it. I highly suggest picking resources based on this alone. Don’t get distracted with the temptation of shiny, new books (like me) and only buy materials you think you’ll actually use. You’ll save yourself a headache and a lot of money. Money that you can put aside for a trip to Italy!
A Few Things To Consider Before Taking on Any Language
- What is your motivation behind learning Italian? Take a moment to write down your language learning goals. It increases the odds of you achieving them. You can also join us as part of our Clear the List goal setting linkup!
- How many hours a day are you willing to study a language? Set realistic expectations for your progress.
- How do you plan on studying Italian? Are the methods that work for you available?
- You should setup up the Italian language keyboard on both your computer and your phone. It will help you with spelling and make chat easier on Skype/HelloTalk/etc.
- Be accountable. I keep my blog to help me be more accountable and use AskMeEvery to keep track of my daily study.
Italian Audio Resources
- Pimsleur Italian // try a free lesson
- Librivox // get audiobooks read to you in your target language for free!
- TuneIn // Italian language radio
Italian Audio & Text Resources
- ItalianPod101 // An online course that includes both audio and supplemental text resources to help you learn the Italian language.
Italian Text Resources
- Why Italian is Easy from Benny Lewis // This is a great book that takes some of the aspects of the Spanish language that may scare learners away and explains them in a clear way that eliminates any fear of the language.
- Harry Potter in Italian
- Books in Italian on Amazon
- Lang-8 // Get your writing in your target language corrected by native speakers.
- How to Start Learning Italian // A post over at Fluent in 3 Months.
Online Resources for Italian
- FluentU // The Italian course isn’t yet available, but you can sign up to get a notification for when it is. Read our review here.
- Speak in a Week // Another great resource from Benny Lewis that gets you speaking your target language quickly.
- iTalki // A great site where you can find language tutors or language exchange partners.
- Watch Italian TV and the News Online // You have quite a few choices when it comes to watching the news or TV online including: Rai.TV, LA7, EuroNews, TG1, TG2, TG3, TG4, TG5, and TG7.
- Games for Language // I have yet to actually demo these games, but I like the concept behind them.
- Children’s Library
- Watch Italian TV
- Tatoeba // sentences translated from any language in Croatian
- Learn with Oliver (formerly Antosch & Lin) // A flashcard based system with audio and a variety of exercises to help you learn your target language.
One of the best ways to learn a language is to listen to music in the language. It not only helps with improving one’s accent, but it also can increase overall comprehension. Plus it’s fun to translate the lyrics of your favorite songs. Here are a few artists I enjoy.
- Foreign Language Music Blog – a great blog with music in various foreign languages with lyrics and their translations
Learning about the culture that is tied to the language you’re learning is so important – the more you love the culture, the more you’ll love the language and vice versa. Discovering a new culture also enriches your life, particularly if it’s one quite different than your own. I highly recommend it if you haven’t started already!
Here are a few books on the history of Italy and it’s culture. You can also check out television shows or movies. I don’t suggest cartoons or films for kids because a lot of the language is often invented and you won’t get as much from it as you might from a drama geared towards an older audience. But if cartoons are your thing, go for it!
- Culture Smart! // A great series with introductions to various cultures around the world. For Italian, you can get started with Italy.
- Langbook // For a little bit more of an in-depth look at the history of the Italian language, plus a few phrases, try Langbook.
- Christmas in Italy // History, vocab and a recipe in a guest post from Chiara Grandola.
A Quick Note
If you’ve been learning Italian, I’d love to hear about your experience and some of the language learning tools you’ve found helpful. Please leave me a note in the comments! The same goes for if you have any questions. I will be more than happy to respond and I look forward to hearing from you!