Think fast: What could you do in four hours?
You could sit through the first “Lord of the Rings” movie.
You could relax with a couple cups of tea and endless YouTube videos.
You could even take some Italian lessons to improve your language skills.
Or, depending on where you’re located, how about a plane ride to Italy itself for some language and culture immersion?
That all sounds great. But there’s another option you might not have thought of: building well-rounded Italian skills, from home, in just four hours a week.
You wouldn’t believe me, right?
Well, you can do it, and I’m going to show you how!
Why 4 Hours a Week?
In our busy lives, it’s not always realistic to think that we can devote hours upon hours to Italian studies. Though you’ve probably heard that you should be studying the language as often as possible, between work and school and family and friends, extended concentration on the language-learning process is difficult to achieve.
So, instead of “as often as possible,” how about something more possible? Four hours weekly is attainable while still making an impact on your language process. Four hours might not seem like much, but consider the fact that it only takes 90 to 100 hours to achieve basic proficiency in a new language, according to the Association of Language Testers of Europe.
That works out to only 25 short weeks at four hours of study a week!
You can easily build up your four hours through a few study sessions in the morning, evening, on weekends or even during your lunch break or commute.
Each hour should focus on a different aspect of the Italian language, ones that I’ll detail in our four-step process below.
Remember, four hours of really fruitful Italian learning is better than 15 hours of subpar study. For this learning program to work, you’ll need to diversify your studies and make sure you’re hitting a range of skills.
Conversely, if four hours of study is still too much, you can also amend the four steps to make them shorter. Make them, for instance, only 30 minutes. Just make sure you do each step once a week!
Fluency in 4 Hours a Week: The Easiest Way to Learn Italian
Hour 1: Fun Vocabulary Apps
Words are the primarily building blocks of language, so having a large number to choose from is essential to communicating fluently in Italian.
That said, there are many ways to grow vocabulary. To get the most out of your weekly four hours, you’ll want to focus on the most engaging and rapidly effective tools. In our age of technology, that comes down to fun language apps:
- FluentU: This innovative app transforms authentic Italian videos—like movie trailers, news clips, inspiring talks and more—into a language learning experience. Each video comes with interactive captions, making it easy to pick up new vocabulary. Just click any unfamiliar word and you’ll get an instant translation, definition and native pronunciation.
After you watch a video, there are flashcards and exercises to ensure you retain the words. FluentU uses spaced repetition, meaning it provides vocabulary review at crucial intervals so words don’t slip out of your memory.
The videos are organized by genre and learning level, so it’s easy to find something that works for you. FluentU also remembers what you’ve watched and suggests new videos based on that info, for a truly personalized learning experience. Best of all for our four-hour learning plan, you can squeeze in practice anytime, anywhere with the FluentU mobile app for iOS or Android.
- Duolingo Italian: Duolingo is a well-known language app with millions of Italian learners. It’s free to download, although a paid option will remove the ads. The app allows you to start as a complete beginner or, if you already have some Italian foundations, you can jump ahead after taking a placement test.
Duolingo covers the most useful words for everyday life, and by the end of the Duolingo regimen, you can expect to have learned between 1,500 and 2,000 words.
- Memrise: Variety is the spice of life, right? With Memrise, you’ll have access to dozens of Italian courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. There are even courses for specific topics such as conversational Italian or survival travel Italian.
Like FluentU and Duolingo, Memrise uses a spaced repetition system to teach vocabulary quickly. Simply choose a course that fits your language goals and start memrise-ing!
- Busuu Italian: Similar to the apps above, Busuu Italian uses modules to introduce vocabulary that’s pertinent to Italian learners and then uses repetition to help the vocabulary stick. However, in addition to the basic app interface, Busuu also uses video and song to teach vocabulary. Further, Busuu offers learners access to native speakers to converse with or have their written work corrected.
In addition to apps, I suggest other vocabulary methods. This can include talking to yourself in Italian (it’s a weird method, I know, but it really helps discover where your gaps in vocabulary are) or labeling your space in sticky notes to keep vocabulary applicable to your everyday life.
To take the busywork out of it, try Vocabulary Stickers, which offers pre-made sets of durable, color-coded Italian vocabulary labels. There are more than 130 labels you can put all over your home and office. It’s a great way to naturally absorb new words without even working at it. And it doesn’t add any extra time to your weekly schedule!
Hour 2: Specific Grammar Topics
Hour two of your Italian language learning regimen should focus on a specific grammar topic. But don’t get overwhelmed! Nobody said you need to master the topic in an hour. If you’re working on a complex or difficult point of Italian grammar, don’t be afraid to let it carry on for a second or third week.
For this hour to be most useful, I suggest picking something super specific like memorizing Italian articles, or conjugating the Italian present tense of regular -are verbs. To completely understand the topic, write your own notes in words you can understand. Supplementary exercises are also a must!
So, how should you decide what grammar topics to focus on? I suggest pulling grammar topics from an Italian textbook. Focus on one grammar chapter/unit a week or every two weeks, and you’ll be through the book in no time!
More of a visual learner? You can also pick an Italian grammar tutorial from YouTube. I suggest the following channels for concise, easy-to-follow grammar explanations:
- Weilà Tom: Weilà Tom’s videos aim to teach Italian, and he has a complete playlist focused on different Italian grammar topics in a logical order for learners. He also has videos that are solely in Italian, which are perfect for practicing listening comprehension skills.
- Italy Made Easy: While not in as logical an order as Weilà Tom, Italy Made Easy also has many videos that act as mini-language tutorials. Topics include grammar points such as verbs, nouns and adjectives as well as videos that explore different vocabulary topics.
- Learn Italian with Lucrezia: Created by native Italian speaker Lucrezia, this YouTube channel also offers Italian-language tutorials. The videos focus mostly on beginner to intermediate aspects of Italian grammar.
Lucrezia’s channel also has a number of Italian-only videos, some focused on aspects of Italian culture and others that are real-life vlogs chronicling her everyday life. It’s a great way to see grammar and vocabulary in action!
Hour 3: In-depth Reading
Hour number three of our Italian learning regimen brings us to an activity that I love: Italian in the wild! Reading is a great way to review vocabulary and grammar as well as grow your competency in the language, so this is a natural progression from steps one and two.
But don’t just skim-read! I’m talking about an in-depth read, something that looks like this:
- Select a text that interests you and that’s at your level. Some places to find readings are listed below.
Don’t know if a text is right for your level? Do a quick test: Read the first couple of paragraphs and make a tally of all the words you don’t know. If you know 85 percent or more of the words in the selection, you’re at the right level! Anything with more unknown words will just be overwhelming.
- While you read your chosen text, keep a notebook handy. When you come across a new word or phrase, write it down in the notebook and translate it.
- Re-read the text with the words you’ve looked up. This should make for a smoother reading experience and help you solidify the words in your brain.
- Next, take those new words and create flashcards. You can use traditional paper flashcards or download a flashcard creation app such as Chegg’s flashcard app.
- Lastly, once you’ve read the text a few times, write a summary. It doesn’t have to be long, merely a couple sentences, but it’ll help you practice your Italian comprehension and writing skills. Don’t forget to incorporate as many new words and phrases as possible.
Need to find some in-depth reading in Italian suggestions? Here are my top three:
- One World Italiano: This website is mainly for beginners. Each reading has accompanying audio for pronunciation tips and short quizzes to test comprehension.
- Saber Italiano: This one is best for pre-intermediate learners. There’s only a small selection of readings, but each reading has a comprehension quiz.
- Italian newspapers: Here’s a great resource for advanced learners. I suggest reading an Italian newspaper such as La Repubblica (The Republic) or Corriere della sera (Evening Courier). Both of these newspapers have online versions for easy access, and they have articles that cover topics such as politics, the economy, lifestyle, fashion and travel.
Hour 4: Authentic Italian
To draw your week to a close, I suggest getting some native Italian language exposure. For many learners, the most fun way to do this is to watch Italian movies and TV shows. I suggest checking out Netflix’s Italian selection or starting with a station like RAI (Italy’s national public broadcasting company), which has many of its videos and news broadcasts online.
You can also listen to Italian radio stations. There’s a huge selection of Italian radio stations available at TuneIn.com.
And once again, FluentU is a great resource for authentic Italian media that’ll actively teach you while entertaining you.
Whether you choose TV, movies, videos or radio I suggest a regimen to tune your ear to the Italian language:
- Pick a specific vowel sound, consonant sound or blend. For example, for week one, focus on the difficult Italian gl sound. Choose a new sound each week.
- While watching or listening to your chosen native Italian media, look out for all the words that have your selected sound or blend and write those words down in a notebook.
- After you’ve written it down, listen to the word again. Focus in on the pronunciation and repeat after the speaker. Try repeating them again without the speaker’s prompt. This will improve your pronunciation and train your ear!
- Once you’ve done this for individual sounds and blends, follow the same regimen for whole words and phrases.
In addition to this process, I suggest joining the language exchange site italki so you can talk to real live native Italian speakers. You’d be amazed at how quickly your speaking will improve with a real Italian teacher, tutor or learning buddy!
Okay, Italian learner: I’ve laid out the groundwork for you! Get ready to conquer the Italian language in four hours a week!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.