It’s the obligatory post all expats write about. I’ve actually written about this very topic before but that was when I was still brand new. 8 years later, I have yet to master this language but I am amazed how much I learned. Most people are surprised to learn that the majority of Italian I learned once I arrived. As much as I tried to prepare ahead of time, it didn’t click until I got here. With that said, here are the resources I used and still use to learn Italian.
1. Dictionaries and books
So this one is kinda obvious but in the age of Google translate, there are some things that just can’t be replaced. I loved my dictionary and I found it so useful. There are plenty out there so anyone you get is fine as long as it’s user friendly. I also bought an easy reader for reading comprehension.
As the picture shows, it’s a 3 part book. The first part is easy to read a few vocabulary words and questions to answer at the end of each story. The second and third would then be a bit more challenging.
I also bought a grammar workbook. I have to say this is probably what I used the most BEFORE the move. It’s a standard workbook with vocabulary and grammar rules but it’s so easy to use and I found that it wasn’t overwhelming. You know it’s good when an Italian teacher asks to borrow your book to teach others!
2. Podcasts & Apps
There was a time when I couldn’t get enough of Podcasts. I would listen to them constantly. The trick is to find you that you actually enjoy and don’t mind listening to on repeat. Is the host annoying? Is the content actually useful? Is it being presented in an enjoying manner? These are all important questions to ask yourself. Unfortunately the podcast that I loved is no longer available but after a quick search through the iTunes catalog, it seems like Coffee Break Italian is one of the more popular ones. I’ve also hear that Duolingo is a great resource.
3. Cartoons, TV shows and YouTube
For the first 6 months of living in Italy, we didn’t have a television. Yes.. that is a correct statement. I honestly can’t remember how we survived but we did. During one of my many moments of despair, I was tired of studying in silence. I decided to just play a little Russian roulette with YouTube and type in different words and in Italian. One thing that popped up was make up tutorials. That’s how I found the now famous Italian guru Clio. I remember not understanding a single word she said and I had to pause every single second to look up each word. Even if I didn’t understand, her tutorials were easy to follow. Pretty soon, I was able to go into Sephora and have a conversation with the sales girls.
If you’re looking for something more along the lines of a beginner lesson, I highly recommend finding a cartoon that you’re familiar with. When Miss V was little, she loved watching Il Formidabile mondo di Bo. It’s full of easy to understand phrases.
Once you get comfortable with cartoons, try something a bit more difficult, like your favorite show or movie.
4. Learn a hobby
This is one I’ve begun doing this past year. I knew that if I wanted to have the a balcony with beautiful flowers, I would have to eventually learn to identify them and more importantly ask for advice. I picked up what looked like the easiest magazine to read and I took my time. Surprisingly, I understood quite a bit and only had to ask my husband a few time when I didn’t understand the word.
I approached photography the same way. While I do enjoy watching countless hours of YouTube videos, I knew that it would be too easy to just click an English language video. Buying a photography magazine in Italian forces me to commit to the language. I will read and reread every article until I understand it. Not only did I learn techniques, I was finally able to have a real conversation with other amateur photographers. It was so great being able to explain my experience regarding the Photo Marathon I did in the fall.
I hope these tips help you learn your target language. If you learned a language using other methods, what were they? Leave a comment and let me know!