9 Powerful Apps That Are Crazy Good for Learning Italian
The Italian language is a vast world to explore.
But a search for Italian language learning apps will give you a bewildering array of options.
In this post, I’ll present nine favorites that I think should be considered for a spot in any Italian language learner’s pocket.
- Duolingo (iOS and Android)
- FluentU (iOS and Android)
- Busuu (iOS and Android)
- Tinder (iOS and Android)
- SoundHound (iOS and Android)
- Radio Italia (iOS and Android)
- Pocket Casts (iOS and Android)
- WordReference (iOS and Android)
- Anki (iOS and Android)
- Why Use Apps to Learn Italian?
Duolingo (iOS and Android)
Duolingo is a good resource for boosting your Italian vocabulary. It includes a variety of units for different levels of learners and based around various themes, such as education or work environments.
Instead of focusing on grammar, the app helps you learn vocabulary and structures that allow you to communicate in particular situations.
The exercises that get you there include repeating audio (and recording yourself!), phrase translation, matching photos to words and other quiz-type features. The app is cheerful and each lesson is designed to be short enough to fill in your spare moments with Italian learning.
FluentU (iOS and Android)
This app uses authentic Italian videos like movie clips and commercials to immerse you in the Italian culture and language.
Each video comes with subtitles in English and Italian that are vetted by language experts for accuracy. These subtitles are interactive: Hover over any word as the video plays to see an in-context definition, or click on it for more information, including a memorable image, a pronunciation guide, example sentences and other videos where the word is used. From here, you can add the word to your flashcard deck to practice later with personalized quizzes.
As you learn, you’ll have material presented in visual, audio and written form to target all of your language skills. You can even practice your pronunciation with the new speaking exercises.
Busuu (iOS and Android)
Like Duolingo, this app offers cheerful, quick lessons on a variety of topics and at different levels. The Italian lessons are not particularly culturally specific, but are an interesting resource to be used in conjunction with other methods that give you more access to Italian culture.
One of the great features of the app is its opportunity for interaction; you can write short texts using the vocabulary that you’ve learned in lessons and then have them corrected by native Italian speakers.
Tinder (iOS and Android)
I know, I know, this is not a learning app. But entering into the bizarre and compelling world of Italian romance will certainly get you practicing the language!
Not only is this a way to practice written Italian, but the romantic intrigue may well motivate you to pay closer attention to details, such as your verb conjugations.
If you’re not in Italy (sad! Move already!), you can buy the paid version of the app and change your geographical location to the area whose accent most interests you.
Also, in your profile, you can (and really should) be upfront about your intentions, so that you don’t lead people on if your goal is really just to chat and practice your Italian.
SoundHound (iOS and Android)
What is that Italian song? It used to be that if you heard something intriguing on the radio or in a film, it might take a bit of work to track it down.
With SoundHound, you can identify a song from its audio in a single tap, and from there have an easy path to the full song lyrics, so that you can follow along even if you don’t quite grasp a few crooned words. It also provides some basic information on famous Italian artists.
Radio Italia (iOS and Android)
Speaking of radio, this app gives you access to a whole world of native videos, podcasts, music and interviews from Radio Italia.
The app is in Italian only, so this is best for learners with an intermediate to advanced level who want to find more material to study, or just interesting programming to listen to.
Pocket Casts (iOS and Android)
There are lots of great Italian podcasts out there (which we explore in this post), and this is the app that I think Italian learners should be listening to them on.
You can use any podcasting app, of course, but this one offers the ability to significantly slow speech down, easily skip back ten seconds and synchronize what you’re listening to across devices, including in a web app.
WordReference (iOS and Android)
If I had to choose just one Italian dictionary app, WordReference would be it. It contains an excellent professionally edited Italian-English dictionary and, of often even greater utility, a vast Italian-English forum.
At the bottom of any dictionary lookup in the app, you’ll get a link to any relevant discussions of the word or phrase in the forum, and generally discussions there tend to be quite to the point and useful. If whatever you’re looking for still can’t be found, you can create a free account and ask a question yourself.
The app also provides helpful conjugations of any Italian verb as well as a link to Google Image searches for terms at the bottom of entries.
Anki (iOS and Android)
Paper flashcards are lovely for learning, but you may not want to lug around a deck of them all of the time. Anki puts the flashcards right in your phone.
Another advantage of Anki over paper is that you can add media to your flashcards—in particular, you can get your language teacher or Italian exchange partner to record a word or phrase that you want to remember, and then quiz yourself on it later.
There are dozens of user-submitted decks out there already for Italian but I encourage you to create your own. That way you’ll study the vocabulary that’s most important to you, and likely the process of making the cards will itself be useful for memorization.
Why Use Apps to Learn Italian?
Traditional textbooks and self-teaching guides are great, and should even be a main focus of your learning program. But apps can supplement your learning in powerful ways.
As alluded to above, you probably always have your smartphone with you, and you can thus add to the total amount of time you spend studying Italian by capturing that otherwise lost time.
Many of the apps below are multimedia; they allow you to connect to audio or video as well as text, giving you a fuller experience of the language.
A few of them even offer the opportunity to connect with native speakers. For most learners, this kind of experience is key; you’re likely not just learning Italian so that you can read more books!
Once you’ve got these apps in your pocket, I’m quite confident you’ll be improving your Italian in a variety of ways, both in study sessions and in spare moments.
There’s a mountain of Italian vocabulary and grammar out there, but having it all just a tap away and ready for you to practice can make your learning seem much more approachable.
When not flubbingly flirting in nearly flawless Italian, Mose Hayward reviews the best gear for digital nomads.