Italian for Beginners: Top 5 Strategies for Building a Strong Foundation
So you’ve just made a noble decision to learn Italian.
Whether you’re fascinated with the culture, you want to connect with Italians or you’re thinking of moving to Italy, it’s the start of an exhilarating journey.
In this post, we’ll look at some Italian learning material specially designed for beginners so you can build a good foundation and work up to intermediate!
- 1. Realize that speaking Italian is actually possible
- 2. Start immersing yourself in Italian
- 3. Check out books about Italian for beginners
- 4. Watch Italian beginner-friendly videos
- 5. Attend classes from home with Italian beginner online courses
1. Realize that speaking Italian is actually possible
The very first step in learning Italian is the realization that your goal is actually attainable.
After all, Italian is a Romance language. This means it has similar linguistic origins with Spanish, Portuguese and French. If you know even just a little bit of these languages, then you already know a little bit of Italian.
For example, the color “green” is verde in Italian, verde in Spanish, verde in Portuguese and vert(e) in French. So there goes your basic Italian vocabulary!
Even if you don’t know any Romance language, this works for English too.
Do you know what the words impossibile, visibile and celebrazione mean? You can cover one eye and still know that these words are the English “impossible,” “visible” and “celebration.”
You’re not an absolute beginner with Italian—you already have a running start.
2. Start immersing yourself in Italian
There are more than 80 million speakers who are fluent in Italian, and they reached that by immersing themselves in the language for years.
You can immerse in Italian too, wherever you are in the world. A simple way to do this is to use social media in Italian:
Go to Facebook and look up “Italiani a (the of your city or town).” Chances are, this search will turn up a Facebook community of Italians who have emigrated to your city. Start up a chat and you’ll be sure to have a number of Italian friends in no time!
If you can’t find a local Italian Facebook community, just join some Italo-centric Facebook groups like Made in Italia. From here, you can branch out to more specific interests.
Keep up with all the latest news, politics, gossip and more by following Italy’s biggest personalities on Twitter. Here’s a head start.
Since you probably turn to your phone a lot to kill time, try downloading language games like MindSnacks. Alternatively, switch the language of your favorite games to Italian. If you have a console (Xbox, Switch, Playstation) you can do the same.
3. Check out books about Italian for beginners
One book that’ll get you up to speed fast is “Italian Quickly!” “Quickly” means that after seven days of dutiful study, you’ll be able to handle the Italian alphabet, numbers, distance, weight, directions and other conversational basics.
Another great book is “Italian Short Stories for Beginners.” This one’s from the polyglot Olly Richards of the “I Will Teach You a Language” website.
It’s a collection of eight stories that come in a variety of genres from sci-fi, to crime and thrillers, to history. As you read through each story, you’ll learn the language, with comprehension questions, word lists and summaries.
Once you’re more used to reading, you can even do a light translation exercise. Find literally any paragraph in English and translate it into Italian using Google Translate or ChatGPT. Next, cover the English version and try to translate the Italian version back into English. This is one of the best exercises to help your brain form associations between English and Italian.
4. Watch Italian beginner-friendly videos
If you’re looking for high-quality videos that tackle Italian for beginners, ItalianPod101 will give you plenty to watch. Their beginner-friendly series include “Tre Minuti”, where you dive into Italian for three minutes, as well as “Italian Weekly Words.”
There’s also the “Absolute Beginner Italian for Every Day,” which has videos for the top 25 Italian nouns or the 25 must-know Italian verbs:
Another fun (and very popular) YouTube channel is Learn Italian with Lucrezia. You’ll find all sorts of videos here, from grammar lessons to daily-life vlogs.
Make sure to check out the series Learn Italian for Absolute Beginners, which takes you through pronunciation, verbs tenses and more:
Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you can’t start exploring native Italian media too! For instance, the FluentU program offers an array of bite-sized Italian clips with learning support.
FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday Italian by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles.
Tap on any word to instantly see an image, in-context definition, example sentences and other videos in which the word is used.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.
Once you've watched a video, you can use FluentU's quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
FluentU will even keep track of all the Italian words you’ve learned to recommend videos and ask you questions based on what you already know.
Plus, it'll tell you exactly when it's time for review. Now that's a 100% personalized experience!
The best part? You can try FluentU for free!
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
5. Attend classes from home with Italian beginner online courses
Online Italian courses give you a step-by-step plan, with specific learner goals. Three of the top online course platforms are edX, FutureLearn and Udemy, and all of them have high-quality Italian courses:
- edX: Italian Language and Culture — This edX course covers all four Italian language skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing. At the end of the course, you should be able to handle different social situations like introducing yourself and describing what you do for work. It also includes “situational videos” where you follow eight Italian students as they go about their day.
- FutureLearn: Italian for Beginners — Perfect for pure beginners, this course tackles the very basic of the basics, the most common expressions, the most important grammar rules. The program is further subdivided into six mini-courses that take around a month each, with a particular focus. “Italian for Beginners 3,” for example, is all about time.
- Udemy: Italian Course for Beginners — This Udemy course promises to take you from being an absolute beginner to an intermediate learner. It includes eight solid hours of HD video, downloadable PDF’s and quizzes. Focused on everyday situations, this course encourages listening and speaking practice and comes with multiple-choice quizzes and review exercises.
Another course worth bookmarking is BBC Learn Italian. Although the content isn’t updated anymore, its Italian beginner lessons have enough material to keep you going for months, with engaging bite-sized activities that’ll teach you key survival Italian phrases.
Maybe today you’re a beginner, but you won’t be for long.
With these strategies and materials, you should quickly get to the next level of Italian—into a richer, more nuanced and even more exciting stage of learning.