You’re such a baby!
No really, you are. Not in a cute, newborn kind of way, nor in a gross, leaks-on-both-ends kind of way.
You’re a baby because you’re a beginner—someone who just made that noble and exciting decision to learn a new language: Italian.
In this post, we’ll look at some Italian learning material specially designed for beginners so you can quickly progress past the baby stage and waddle on to the next level.
But before that, let’s make sure that you get a good start by checking off a couple of things you should know about learning Italian.
How to Start Learning Italian as a Complete Beginner
1. Realize that speaking Italian is actually possible.
Really deep, I know.
But the very first step in learning Italian (or any language, for that matter) is the realization that your goal is actually attainable. It’s a huge mental hurdle you have to surpass.
Unless you have it in your heart that what you’re doing is really in the realm of possibilities, you’re going to be dealing with all kinds of resistance the rest of the way.
You won’t be as motivated to sit down and study and you’ll always find excuses to procrastinate. You might even end up going through the motions and feel like you’re getting nowhere.
But the good news is, your goal is attainable. Because Italian is really an easy language to study.
Italian is a Romance language. This means it has similar linguistic origins with Spanish, Portuguese and French. Because they’re all descended from Latin, these languages have high degrees of mutual intelligibility.
In other words, if you know even just a little bit of these languages, then you already know a little bit of Italian.
For example, when counting, “four” is quattro in Italian, cuatro in Spanish, quatro in Portuguese and quatre in French. See how similar they are?
Or if you want a more obvious 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!
Words like these, which come from different languages and have similar sounds and meaning are called “cognates.” And Italian has a lot of cognates in common with other Romance languages.
These are just some of the things you can point to and say to yourself, “Hey, I can do this.”
It’s a mantra that beginners must get into their heads.
2. Recognize that you already know a little bit of Italian.
“But what if I only speak English?”
Don’t feel too left out, my friend: Italian also has some English cognates.
And you’ll recognize them even without meaning to.
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.”
I mean, it’s impossible for you not to see them! They’re so visible. (And isn’t that a cause for celebration?)
You’ll quickly notice that there are really no absolute “beginners” with Italian. You already have a running start.
In fact, you may already have been dipping your toes in Italian all your life and not known it—from the food you eat to those stylish clothes you wear.
If you’ve shouted “Bravo!” during a concerto, or eaten your pasta on a table al fresco, or tapped in tempo while listening to the piano played by a great maestro… then you already know some Italiano.
So take off that Gucci and Armani and put down that Prada and Fendi.
Yo, it’s time to learn more Italian… pronto!
3. Start immersing yourself in Italian.
Italian native speakers all—and I mean all—started as newborn babies who just said “googoo” and “dada” and generally just drooled a lot.
But today, there are about 63 million speakers who fluently speak Italian. How did they get from “googoo” to fluency? By immersing themselves in the language for years.
They hear it everywhere they go, see it everywhere they turn and practice it every time they open their mouths.
Why not do the same things native speakers have done all their lives, so you end up just like them?
In this time and age, you don’t need to break the bank to fly to Italy so you can immerse yourself in the language.
You do, however, need to be proactive and place yourself squarely in front of Italian. Even if you do travel to Italy, for example, but stay only in English-speaking enclaves, you won’t get very far.
There are many things you can do, wherever you are in the world, to immerse in the language. From the people you associate with, to the media you consume: go Italian.
Listen to Italian songs. Sing along. (But maybe not too loud.)
Read Italian children’s books.
Change the language settings of your social media accounts. Google in Italian. Facebook in Italian.
Don’t worry if a large part of what you see or hear goes over your head. Don’t go for 100% comprehension; even native speakers don’t understand everything.
Just go out of your way to make Italian an integral part of your daily routine. Don’t let it be some exotic language spoken by a group of beautiful people. Try using the language, even though you might be butchering it to oblivion.
That’s what being a beginner is all about.
Are you ready to get into some materials for starting your Italian journey?
They’re coming next.
9 Italian for Beginners Resources to Launch Your Learning Journey
Read All About It: Italian Books for Beginners
Okay, if you insist that you’re an absolute beginner, then this book will act as your simple introduction to the language. It won’t take you to the heights of fluency or the depths of Italian intricacies, but it’ll teach you the most common Italian words you should have ready in your pocket.
One of the very first things the book mentions is how to pronounce Italian words. Pronunciation is really one of the reasons why Italian is such an easy language to learn. The basic principle of Italian pronunciation is this: Say it as it’s spelled.
The spoken form is often really faithful to the written form and Italian words don’t have very many cases where a letter is treated like a Mafia whistleblower—you know, “silenced.”
The book will also give you a taste of the most useful and the most basic grammar rules in the language. It also has topical lessons for when you find yourself in specific situations, like dating, eating at a restaurant, shopping and meeting people for the first time.
Again, the book isn’t groundbreaking, but it’ll be more than enough to start you off on a wonderful journey of learning.
“In a week” here doesn’t mean you’ll be so exasperated with Italian that you’ll completely abandon your quest after seven days. “In a week” means that after just seven days of dutiful study, you’ll be able to handle the Italian alphabet, numbers, distance, weight, directions and other conversational basics.
Let’s say you only have a week before you fly off to Italy for vacation and you want to make sure that you find yourself a nice bathroom in those moments when you need one. So you need to learn to interact with the locals with enough of the language so they don’t send you to the nearest alley. This book will get you where you need to go.
The book also features the most common nouns, adjectives, pronouns and verbs. You’ll be needing them to construct the most basic Italian sentences and expressions.
The book also comes with bonus audio, so you can hear how native speakers make magic out of those words. Pause and repeat the clips ‘til you hear from yourself that unmistakable Italian flair.
“Italian in a Week” is simply written and comes with no nonsense. It’ll make you truly believe that Italian is a language worth your week!
This one’s from the polyglot Olly Richards of the “I Will Teach You a Language” website. He’s a dude who knows what he’s talking about because he’s been in your shoes… eight times! No, it doesn’t mean he’s got stinky feet; it means he’s taught himself eight languages.
The book is a collection of eight stories that come in a variety of genres from sci-fi, to crime and thrillers, to history.
The idea is that you’ll learn the language as you read through the specially designed texts. You’ll meet words you’ve never seen before but you’ll be able to figure out their meaning from the context without needing to put down the book to go look at some dictionary.
Sentences are written in standard and simple Italian so they’ll be comprehensible to beginners and intermediate language learners alike. The stories are divided into manageable chapters to let you take a breather between them.
Comprehension questions, word lists and summaries are regularly interspersed for further support.
All that comes on the heels of an introductory chapter that gives you a “five-step plan” for reading the book, so that you not only enjoy the stories but also maximize the learning.
Watch and Learn: Italian Beginner-friendly Videos
FluentU videos aren’t your ordinary beginner videos.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Each FluentU clip comes with all the hand-holding that beginners need.
Each video is equipped with interactive transcription technology.
Need subtitles? You’ve got it. Need a translation for a word you don’t understand? You can see its meaning by just hovering over it… and a whole lot more, from example sentences to even a chance to hear it used in other videos.
Videos are carefully curated so you can learn any language topic on-demand. And hey, there are even flashcards and practice quizzes too!
In short, FluentU is a full learning system you can integrate into your language study. And it works with language learners at all levels, so you can increase the difficulty level as you improve.
Use FluentU in the browser or download the app for on-the-go learning!
This resource has a ton of videos and they’re all beginner-friendly. You don’t have to watch them in any specific order: just click on whatever catches your eye at any particular moment. (Yep, just like Netflix!)
If you do want some sort of order, ItalianPod101 has plenty of series that beginners will find particularly useful. “Tre Minuti” is where you dive into Italian for three minutes and come up a little bit wiser. “Italian Weekly Words” has teacher Ilaria introduce you to topical vocabulary like cooking words, family vocab, words about school and more.
These guys know what they’re doing. They have quality videos, coupled with cool graphics and clear sound. Best of all, the passion of their teacher/host is so contagious that it’ll definitely grab you.
There are just so many goodies here for the Italian beginner, you’d better bookmark their YouTube channel right now.
Imagine you’re attending class. But instead of sitting inside a classroom, you’re in your pajamas, slaying a round of pizza.
It that sounds perfect, then Thamatho’s channel’s the one for you. This series takes you from saying “Hi” in Italian (Ciao), to saying “Goodbye” in Italian (still Ciao).
These lessons comprise of dialogues spoken in natural but slightly slowed Italian.
Each dialogue is repeated a few times, with a different focus each time—for instance, the first time you just listen and pick up whatever you can, then you listen again and finally, you listen for the specific words and phrases.
This is all accompanied by fun graphics as well as the transcript and translations as you delve deeper into the lessons.
Lessons basically spoon-feed you the building blocks of Italian conversation, teaching common phrases, must-know verb conjugations, pronunciation tips and so much more.
The program works its way up beginner topics and concepts, throwing you into the intermediate level before you even realize you’re there.
Attend Classes from Home: Italian Beginner Online Courses
Your instructor for this one will be the effervescent Daniela Bartalesi-Graf of Wellesley College’s Department of Italian Studies. She’ll start you off and set you up to listen to, read, speak and write in Italian.
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.
You should also be able to read basic texts and write simple Italian—like emails and text messages.
The lessons don’t just focus on the language and grammar: There are cultural underpinnings throughout the course.
This means that you’ll learn, for example, about Italian cuisine, Italian movies and daily life in a small Italian town. You’ll also get a chance to hear native speakers talk about different aspects of their culture.
The course also includes “situational videos” where you follow eight Italian students (in a non-creepy way) as they go about their day. Look in on their interactions and witness a language coming to life.
This course is perfect for beginners. It’s been tested by at least 1,000 students and has proven successful in enriching learners’ grasp of Italian language and culture.
If you’re afraid because you have proof positive that you really know nothing about Italian, then this one’s got you covered.
It’s a great place to get a solid foundation in place: the very basic of the basics, the most common expressions, the most important grammar rules.
The program is further subdivided into six mini-courses, each with a particular focus. “Italian for Beginners 3,” for example, is all about time and covers many other relevant topics on that theme. Each mini-course takes about four weeks to finish, at four hours per week.
By the end of the 24 weeks, you should not only be a little older and wiser but you should also be able to communicate confidently about a good range of topics.
As with the previous course, Italian culture is also featured and you’ll get a chance to learn about Italy’s regions and its rich diversity.
This course is hosted on Udemy, where you can find thousands of courses on just about any topic—including, of course, Italian.
The lessons promise to take you from being an absolute beginner to an intermediate learner, regardless of your learning style.
Short and intense sessions are taught in Italian and make use of some cutting-edge teaching techniques so you can’t help but pick up the language. And hey, if classes taught in Italian makes you sweat a little, don’t worry too much because subtitles are available on demand.
This one includes eight solid hours of HD video, downloadable PDF’s and quizzes, and covers pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and communication skills. The lessons will teach you how to deal with everyday situations.
Lessons contain lots of illustrations and visual aids that make the topics stick. They’re also well-paced and involve plenty of repetitions.
This course also encourages listening and speaking practice. Do yourself a favor and be actively involved in the lessons. If the teacher tells you to repeat after her, then by gosh… open your mouth and speak!
If you want to gauge your comprehension, each lesson is followed by multiple-choice quizzes and exercises that help review what’s just been covered.
You may be a beginner today, but you won’t be for long.
With these materials by your side, you should quickly get to the next level of Italian—into a richer, more nuanced and even more exciting stage of learning.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.