That’s the distance between New York City in the US and Rome, Italy.
Even if you do not live in NYC, the fact remains: Italy can be quite far away from learners of the Italian language.
So how can you learn authentic Italian without buying an expensive plane ticket?
Well, for starters, there’s the internet.
But what if you want to bring authentic Italian everywhere you go so that you can learn the language anywhere and at any time?
The answer could be in the palm of your hand.
You need some Italian apps!
How to Learn Italian with Apps
A simple Google search will serve you a myriad of apps that promise to teach you Italian.
But how do you choose the best one?
And, once you have chosen, how do you make the most out of an Italian app to see your Italian level surge?
The good news is that most Italian apps are self-contained. This means that you do not need anything but the app to learn Italian. In fact, many apps provide all the materials needed to be successful within the context of the app, and that is why most of them can be taken anywhere without cumbersome textbooks, CD-ROMs or dictionaries.
That said, you can maximize your Italian learning potential with apps by doing supplementary learning activities. While not necessary, supplementary activities can help you make the most of what your Italian app is teaching you.
For example, you may choose to take notes on grammar. This will help you better understand the grammar that the app is trying to teach you because you will be able to put the concepts in your own words. This will make revision and remembering easier.
I also recommend making vocabulary lists or flashcards with learned new words. You should sort these by difficulty level and theme so you can learn them in logical groups.
You can even do speaking and writing exercises using the new words and grammar you have learned even if the app you chose has no opportunities for speaking or writing practice. These could include doing free-write exercises or speaking to yourself to practice new words or phrases you have learned.
To get the most out of your Italian apps, you should try to use your apps at least once a day. Aim for short sessions more frequently: This allows for manageable chunks that your brain is more likely to remember. In fact, apps are particularly good at creating bite-sized learning opportunities.
You should also check out whether your app has tracking features and push notifications. These may be helpful to keep you motivated and learning, and give you a helpful reminder when you forget to set time aside for your Italian studies.
What Is the Best Italian Learning App for You?
Now that we know how Italian apps can help you learn Italian, we need to find the best Italian app for you.
How do we do that? Let’s start by figuring out what a good Italian app includes and what you should do as a learner to be a good Italian app user.
What Makes a Good Italian App?
When deciding on a good Italian app, make sure to choose one (or a number of them) that has a balance of the four language learning skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. This means that the ideal app gives you the chance to practice and grow your competence in these four areas.
You should also choose an app that balances grammar and vocabulary. Think of grammar as the puzzle image and the vocabulary as the puzzle pieces: You need the words to communicate, but you also need to know the grammatical structure of the language to know where the puzzle pieces go.
Italian apps that are formatted like a language learning “course” app such as Duolingo complete with lessons may be useful if you prefer structured learning. These types of apps are good to keep track of what you have learned and where you are going. They also provide a stress-free experience because learners do not have to constantly be deciding the next steps in their Italian learning journey.
Make sure to choose an app appropriate for your Italian level, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner. This may be tricky, but you want an app that will challenge you without overwhelming you with content that is too difficult.
If learning vocabulary is your reason for installing an Italian app, you should aim for an app with a Spaced Repetition System (SRS). SRS uses your brain’s memory function to convert words and phrases from short-term to long-term memory by reviewing words at crucially timed intervals. You are scientifically more likely to remember a word or phrase that you have learned through SRS.
Through interactive subtitles, you can click on any Italian word in a video and get a detailed translation, grammatical explanation and examples of the word in context. You can also choose to make the Italian word into a flashcard and sort the flashcard into a deck.
When reviewing the flashcards, FluentU uses SRS to gauge your knowledge of these words, increasing the status of your progress bar until you have thoroughly memorized your target words.
Lastly, I strongly recommend that you read an app’s reviews to see what other users are saying. Pay special attention to any negative comments. You should ask yourself if the uncovered drawbacks will be a make or break for you, especially if you are paying for an app.
What Makes You a Good Italian App User?
It may seem counterintuitive, but a good Italian app does not just come down to the app itself: You are also part of what makes a good Italian app!
Namely, you should consider how you learn best to make the most out of an Italian app. That means learning whether you are a learner who learns best by listening and speaking, a visual learner who learns best by seeing or a kinaesthetic learner who learns best by doing. Once you know your learning style, you should find an app that focuses on your learning style.
Secondly, you need to find your focus. Ask yourself these questions: Are you looking for an app that presents information in a logical progression, or do you want to take lessons on a free-choice basis? Do you want a lot or no grammar? What about an immersive approach? Your answers to these questions should shape what app you choose.
Further, you should also consider how much you are willing to pay. There is a large selection of both free and paid Italian apps out there. Free apps can be just as good as paid apps, but even many free apps offer premium features you may want to opt into. Some paid apps require a one-time payment and others use a monthly subscription model. Know your budget before you go app-shopping!
Of course, you need to consider your device, as well: The app you download will need to be compatible with the device you plan to use, whether you choose to learn Italian with an Android app, an iOS app or a computer.
Lastly, you may also want an app that is available offline so that you can learn Italian even when you do not have WiFi or data available.
Types of Italian Apps for Learners
You cannot choose an app that is best suited to you as a learner without knowing what Italian apps are available. Check out the categories of Italian apps you can choose from!
Italian Language Learning Apps
The most common type of Italian apps is Italian language learning apps. These types of apps generally offer a complete program or course to learn Italian for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners, though most have a disproportionate focus on beginner level learners.
These types of apps are preferable for some learners because they take a lot of the guesswork out of learning Italian. They follow a pre-determined “path” for learning much like a language course, and the lessons are broken into logical sections that can be completed at regular intervals.
These apps often balance grammar and vocabulary as well as the four language learning skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. An Italian language learning app is a great place to start for a well-rounded Italian app learning experience.
Italian Vocabulary Building Apps
The second most popular type of Italian apps for learners are those which allow you to learn new words and phrases. In fact, there are tons of paid and free apps for learning Italian words that can help you build your Italian vocabulary, and many of these apps organize your new words for you depending on your level.
Additionally, these apps often sort the vocabulary by the topic. That means you can choose to learn Italian for travel, for ordering food at a restaurant or for topics like animals, nature or shopping.
Some apps even organize these groups of vocabulary as “lessons” in a logical progression that is easy for you to follow.
Italian vocabulary building apps do not just give you lists of words that you need to memorize—they also help learners remember and use the new vocabulary with games, lists or flashcards. As mentioned previously in this post, Italian flashcard apps often use a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) to optimize your learning of the vocabulary.
Italian Language Exchange Apps
Another type of app that is gaining popularity on the Italian learning scene is apps that allow you to speak Italian with someone else. Basically, these Italian apps use language exchanges to teach the Italian language.
In these apps, you can meet someone who speaks or who is learning Italian and start a learning relationship. It is remarkable how much progress you can make in Italian just by having conversations with someone else, and these apps maximize your chances of having a meaningful exchange.
These language exchanges can be short-term or long-term, meaning that you can chat in Italian on a one-off basis or set a date and time for a continued, regular Italian conversation.
To make the most of your Italian exchange, find someone who wants to learn your native language or another language you speak. Further, you should set expectations such as how often you will chat and what you want to talk about. Keep in mind that most of these chats happen on Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom, so be prepared to use those apps for the actual conversations.
Italian Translator and Dictionary Apps
While they do not actually teach Italian on their own, Italian translator or dictionary apps are useful to look up and find the meaning of Italian words and phrases while learning and communicating. Many other apps such as FluentU have Italian dictionaries and translation tools built into the language learning program, but there are plenty of translation and dictionary apps that function completely on their own.
There are generally two types of apps in this category. The first is an Italian dictionary app. These are used to look up specific words to or from the Italian language. They may also have grammatical information and audio samples. There are tons of Italian dictionary apps, so be sure to find the best Italian dictionary app for Android or iOS.
The second type of app is an Italian translator app. These are used to translate whole sentences or paragraphs to or from Italian. Conversely, there may be grammatical information included with Italian translator apps, but not nearly as much as with an Italian dictionary app.
Those 4,279 miles do not seem so far anymore, do they? With the best Italian apps, you can have a little bit of Italy in your pocket at all times!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.