How Fast Can You Learn Italian? A Guide to Different Study Methods, Plus Hacks to Speed It All Up
Whether you’re just starting out in your Italian journey or you’ve been studying for months, you might be wondering, “how long is this going to take, anyway?”
Well, the answer to that question is different for everyone. But by understanding the primary study methods available—and by picking up some expert study hacks—you can get a pretty strong idea of how fast you can learn the language of love.
Let’s take a look!
- Why You Already Have a Head Start
- Different Language Learning Methods and Their Timeframes
- Online Lessons
- Expert Study Hacks to Speed Up Your Learning
Why You Already Have a Head Start
So you want to learn Italian fast? Luckily, there’s no shortage of materials and courses out there. Clocking in at number four on the list of most studied languages in the world, there’s a huge demand for Italian, and therefore you can find a ton of learning resources—several types of which we’ll cover later in this post.
Want more good news? Italian is reportedly also one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Italian contains a lot of words that have similar counterparts in English (we’ll look at this more later), and while Italian can have some pesky grammar rules, it’s generally less complicated than some others like Polish or even German.
Different Language Learning Methods and Their Timeframes
Before you get all excited about finding your latin lover by the end of next week, let’s take a look at how long it takes to learn Italian, realistically.
There are many ways to learn; some are faster and others are slower. Which is best for you? Well, that depends on a variety of factors including time, money and ability.
Here are some of the most popular methods for learning Italian and how long they take:
How fast: three months.
This is the most intense option for learning Italian, but it has the best and quickest results. Total immersion typically means moving to Italy; you can even take part in an immersion language learning program with roughly four hours of study each day.
It’s not easy or cheap, but if you work hard, you’re guaranteed to learn Italian fast.
Intensive Group Course at Home
How fast: one year.
Taking an intensive group course at home (about six hours of lessons per week plus homework) is the next best thing to immersion. It forces you to make Italian a part of your everyday life, which is the essential factor in learning Italian quickly. You’ll also be working with trained educators who can help you quickly notice and overcome language obstacles.
ItalyinUS.org has a helpful list of U.S.-based Italian organizations, many of which serve an educational function and could help point you to Italian courses in your local area.
Standard Group Course at Home
How Fast: four years.
Taking a non-intensive group course is one of the more affordable and least time-consuming ways to study Italian seriously. This type, of course, includes about three hours in the classroom plus homework each week. This is an ideal option for working people, but as you can see, it takes more time.
Individual Lessons (One-on-one with a Teacher)
How fast: roughly four years.
In reality, you could learn much faster with individual lessons, but it depends on how many hours you do each week. With one 90-minute lesson per week, you could likely learn Italian in four years. This method is more expensive but great for people with busy schedules.
How fast: depends.
There are a large number of online Italian courses and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more intense (like this one from the University for Foreigners of Siena), so you’ll learn faster. Others are more relaxed and convenient, (like the lessons at Online Italian Club) but less conducive to speedy learning.
How fast: depends.
Many people succeed at learning Italian through self-study methods, but how long that takes depends completely on you. This is usually the cheapest way to learn, but without support and motivation from a teacher or classmates, it can be challenging.
If you choose this method, remember to stay positive and use lots of high-quality resources!
Expert Study Hacks to Speed Up Your Learning
Your brain might not be as fast as your iPhone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn Italian fast. There are plenty of tips, tricks, secrets and hacks to turn Italian verbal spaghetti into a recipe for success.
But before we get into our list of Italian language hacks, we’ve got to get one thing straight: the key to learning Italian fast is to commit and study daily. Our hacks can show you the right path, but you’ve got to be the one who takes each step!
1. Start Now
There’s no better time than the present. While this tip doesn’t apply expressly to the Italian language, it’s the universally best tip for language learners. Everyone dreams of sharing a gondola with a sexy Venetian while whispering sweet Italian nothings into their ear, but if you don’t start today, the closest you’ll ever get to an Italian conversation is saying ciao! (hey!) and grazie! (thank you!) to the confused pizza delivery guy.
2. Learn Your Vowels
This is a pronunciation tip that’ll put you ahead of the curve.
Vowels in English are known for being confusing because they can be pronounced in a variety of ways. Italian vowels, on the other hand, are pretty straightforward. Each letter has only one sound, so by memorizing them, you can improve your pronunciation dramatically.
Let’s look at an example.
Take the verb pretendere (to expect/command). This verb contains the same letter (“e”) four times, but English-speakers will naturally want to pronounce the word like this:
Do you see how we take the same letter and turn it into three distinctly different sounds (plus a silent one)? That’s because we’re used to our own ingrained pronunciation rules. If you take a minute to memorize the vowel sounds in Italian, you can easily recognize that the Italian “e” is always pronounced eh, and your pronunciation will improve instantly.
3. Find Common Ground with Cognates
Cognates are words that have the same meaning and the same (or very similar) spelling in two different languages (problem and problema, for example).
Italian has a lot of these, so cognates are a great way to get started or boost your vocabulary skills.
Here’s a little cognate pro-tip:
Most words that end with “-tion” in English are cognates in Italian. The spelling is virtually the same; all you need to do is turn the “-tion” to -zione (singular) or -zioni (plural) and you’re all set.
Take a look:
It’s that easy!
4. Use Diverse Learning Tools
Clicks and likes sure make us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but if you want to be spittin’ Italian Formula 1 style, they just won’t cut it. It would be like wanting to get buff fast but doing only one exercise every time you go to the gym. The key to learning Italian fast is to be comprehensive, which means finding diverse learning tools to study from.
How exactly this will look for your study schedule depends on your personal interests, learning style and goals. To get started, follow these basic guidelines:
- Look for some straightforward, textbook-style resources. That might mean anything from actual textbooks to online Italian grammar tutorials. The key is to find something practical that’ll explain essential Italian language concepts to you.
- Then look for something entertaining. These are your learning tools to break up more formal studies and keep you motivated. Try out Italian learning podcasts or fun, catchy language apps.
- You’ll also need something authentic. These immersive resources will show you how native speakers really use the language, so you can start sounding like a native yourself. Another option is to use an online immersion platform. FluentU, for example, takes culturally-relevant short videos and turns them into language lessons. The videos include interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards and personalized review quizzes.
5. Memorize Italian Idioms
Idioms are some of the most fun parts of learning Italian, but they aren’t commonly taught until you reach a higher level.
But why let the older kids have all the fun when we can start now?
The truth is that you can start learning Italian idioms right away, and in fact, this will actually help you improve faster.
Memorizing fun phrases like in bocca al lupo (break a leg/good luck) or una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno (an apple a day keeps the doctor away) will help you internalize Italian grammar structures.
As you continue to study, you’ll realize that thanks to the idioms, you’ll have already been using some of the grammar you’re starting to see in your book or course. This is helpful in providing an instant real-world application and a fun example to ground your studies.
6. Take an English Grammar Crash Course
Wait a minute—English grammar?
That’s right. Italian grammar and English grammar are closely intertwined due to the Latin influence in both languages. This means that you’ll be able to draw a lot of parallels between the two languages if you understand basic English grammar.
“Yeah, okay, I got it.”
Do you really? Most native English speakers don’t ever study their own grammar, and this can really slow down the Italian learning process. That’s because both languages share many of the same grammatical language (passive, conditional, imperfect, etc…) and meta language (adjective, verb, noun, etc…). So when you encounter grammar terms in your Italian studies, if you have no idea what they’re referring to even in English, you’ll hit a major roadblock.
Think of it like knowing how to read a map. You don’t need one in your own town because you grew up there. You can’t even imagine what it would be like to not know your home turf. But when you travel to another city, the ability to read a map will be the key to acclimating yourself to your new environment quickly.
Think you’re a grammar whiz? Here’s a little English grammar quiz for you:
- What is a modal verb?
- What is the difference between a simple and a perfect tense?
- What is an object pronoun?
If you don’t know the answer to one or more of these questions, you should probably head here for a quick brush-up.
7. Memorize One Verb (Plus Its Endings) Each Day
Our last Italian language hack concerns the “verbiness” of this melodic language.
Italian is very verb-centric, and as such, you can’t do much without knowing a lot of verbs. In English we use as few verbs as possible to express a lot (get up, get in, get dressed) while in Italian they have a different word for everything (alzarsi, entrare, vestirsi).
Not only that, but Italian verbs also change for every person! In English, our verbs change very little (I go, you go, he goes, we go, they go), but in Italian things aren’t so easy (io vado, tu vai, lui va, noi andiamo, voi andate, loro vanno).
All of this means you’re going to have to put in the proper leg work if you want to be able to express yourself.
Get a calendar and write one verb in every day of the month. When you wake up in the morning, write the verb down while having your coffee and repeat it in each of its present forms. Try to memorize the verb by the end of the day, and at the end of the week, go back and quiz yourself again.
Challenge a friend or classmate to keep you motivated. You can even turn it into a competition to see who buys the first round on Saturday night!
Learning Italian fast through Italian language hacks, great materials and serious courses is more than possible. Students of Italian are finding success every day and enjoying the benefits of speaking this beautiful language.
But there’s one rule that everyone who has passed from mono- to bilingual generally agrees on:
If you want to learn Italian, you have to accept it as a part of your life.
In truth, there’s no end to your Italian studies, but this isn’t a bad thing! Studying Italian consistently will only lead to a continuously richer and more fulfilling experience. Before you know it, it’ll go from a challenge to a hobby and then to one of the most enjoyable parts of your life.
So, if you want to learn Italian fast, the more power to you. But remember to do it for the journey and not the destination, because you don’t want to miss a single sight on this long and scenic road.