8 Hot, Fresh Ways to Get Complete Italian Immersion at Home
You want to live like an Italian. You want to be surrounded by the sights, smells and boisterous lifestyle that can only be found on the boot-shaped peninsula.
There’s a way to do that without the jet lag.
Immersive language learning is achieved by surrounding yourself with grammar, vocab, authentic pronunciation and colloquial speech in order to force your brain to actively live in that language.
With a little effort and imagination, you can have an immersive Italian experience no matter where you live!
- 1. Become an Italian Foodie
- 2. Grab the Popcorn
- 3. Jam to YouTube
- 4. Flip Your Phone
- 5. Get the Scoop
- 6. Find an Amico (or Amica)
- 7. Find a Tutor
- 8. Try Online Courses
1. Become an Italian Foodie
If you study Italian but don’t like to cook, you’re missing out on the biggest part of Italian culture!
Choose one evening a week and deem it the official Italian foodie night. Go out and pick up a chef’s hat, then get online and search for an authentic Italian cookbook in Italian! That’s right. The immersion experience is all about living in Italian. It might be tough at first, but forza! (you can do it!)
Before long, you’ll be sauteing, grilling and slow-cooking your way to Italian ecstasy. Learning to navigate your way around an Italian cookbook has huge benefits for your language skills—and your stomach.
You’ll learn the names of all the ingredients, measurements and kitchenware. You’ll also get lots of practice with verbs, and not just cooking-specific ones! Many high-frequency verbs are used in cookbooks, like mettere (put), lasciare (leave/let) and aprire (open).
And the best part, of course, is sitting down at the table and belting out a hearty “buon appetito!” (have a good meal!) before plunging into a heap of cheesy risotto or a tender scaloppine.
2. Grab the Popcorn
After you’ve finished chowing down on your Italian culinary creation, grab a spot on the couch and relax with a glass of wine and an Italian movie. Italy has produced some of the most entertaining and highly-acclaimed movies of all time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a film buff or not, Italian cinema has every genre covered. Are you a horror fan? Hit up Dario Argento. Into comedy? Roberto Benigni got you covered. If you’re worried about not understanding, just put the English subtitles on and make a note of new words as they cross the screen.
Another entertaining way to get your practice in is to watch Italian TV shows. Plus, there’s a lot of content on Netflix that has Italian subtitles and/or Italian dubbed audio, including pretty much all of Netflix’s original content. All you have to do is navigate to “Audio & Subtitles” and choose Italian audio or Italian subtitles.
Try to distinguish the words as the actors say them and write them down in your notebook. Eventually you won’t have to use any subtitles at all!
3. Jam to YouTube
YouTube is a great resource for Italian learners. The list of Italian-language videos available is practically endless, and you can choose anything from viral sensations and movie trailers to vlogs by native speakers and educational Italian videos made by professional teachers.
One great way to hone your skills is to watch music videos with their lyrics. Italian music is rich in culture, humor and emotion, and you’ll be surprised how fast you become addicted! Start surfing through videos until you find something you like, and then let YouTube’s suggestions take you from there.
There are several phenomenal Italian singers, from operatic/adult-contemporary stars Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Boccelli, to Italian pop stars Mina and Patty Pravo. There are also non-Italian artists who sing songs in Italian (as well as several other languages), such as Josh Groban and Il Divo.
Before long, you’ll have a whole library of new favorites! Watching, reading and singing along with Italian songs is an excellent way to improve your pronunciation and vocabulary, and it only takes a few minutes a day.
4. Flip Your Phone
Your phone is a huge part of your life, and you never realize how much that’s true until you change your phone’s language to Italian. All you have to do is go into the “Settings” of your phone.
Learning Italian this way mimics how children learn—using simple cause-and-effect relationships to form connections in your mind. You might want to jot down the steps necessary to change the language back beforehand, just in case. Your phone is a great learning resource, so take advantage of it!
Are you a social media buff? If you spend time on sites like Facebook or Twitter, consider exploring the Italian side of social media. Doing this helps you practice everyday vocabulary and see conjugations in action! Plus, once you’re comfortable with your screen being full of Italian, you can gather up your courage to interact with other Italian users.
If you’re not ready to switch over your social media to Italian just yet, you can start with translating individual websites and articles.
Pasting a website link into Google Translate will translate that web page into Italian for you (or you can go in the other direction if you just need a little help understanding a website in Italian). Or, alternatively, you can get the Chrome extension for your browser.
Another option for site translation is Readlang. This website lets you import all kinds of content, from websites and short articles to full books. You can swipe to translate unfamiliar words and phrases, and it creates flashcards of your translations!
It’s compatible with computers, laptops, tablets and even phones. There are two versions available: a free version with limited daily translations, or a ridiculously cheap option that gives you unlimited translations.
5. Get the Scoop
It may amaze you to find this out, but there’s a lot more going on in Italy than beautiful people, stunning architecture, pristine beaches and delectable cuisine. Italy has the fourth largest economy in Europe and is an important member of the EU. If you want to be immersed in Italian culture, you should probably have an idea of what’s going on over there!
You don’t have to bore yourself to death reading the economics section of La Repubblica every day. Instead, search for some news stories that genuinely capture your interest. Italians love gossip and sensational exposés just as much as anyone else, so you’ll find a juicy story to follow sooner than you think.
If you have trouble reading in Italian, pick one story and use a dictionary to make your way through the first paragraph. That should be enough for one day. Don’t overwork yourself or you’ll turn a pleasurable experience into a chore! After a bit of Italian practice, head to an Italian news outlet or blog and continue reading.
Another way to improve your Italian reading as you browse topical subjects is with the MosaLingua app. This is a flashcard app with pre-selected vocab, but if you use it in conjunction with the web version, you can explore authentic resources with a translator tool and make flashcards from any new words or phrases you find along the way.
6. Find an Amico (or Amica)
Italian immersion isn’t worth much if you don’t find a way to pump up your productive skills (which are writing and speaking). Finding an Italian-speaking friend is hands-down the best way to get you chatting, laughing, writing and learning in another language.
Scores of Italians are dying to find penpals and Skype buddies to do language exchanges with for the simple fact that there are far fewer people trying to learn Italian than there are Italians trying to learn English. You’re in demand! Head on over to a website to find a penpal, create a profile and strike up a conversation.
Another way to talk with a native speaker is to do an Italian language exchange! While HelloTalk is only available as a phone app, it is still a very useful tool. Once you set up your profile and select Italian as your language to learn, you will be instantly presented with a list of Italian native speakers.
The list can be sorted according to who would be a good conversation partner for you, or even just who is currently online. It has a translation feature that saves your translations in a notepad, and even has a “moments” timeline where people can share photos, thoughts and questions for other users. Check out our full review here.
7. Find a Tutor
The best way to improve your Italian speaking skills is to speak even more, this time with a professional tutor or teacher! Fortunately, there are several options that let you do this.
Offering one-on-one video chat lessons or group classes with carefully vetted teachers, Verbling is a great way to practice with a real person. Lessons can be paid for in increments, so if you’re not comfortable paying for ten lessons upfront, you can just get one to begin with.
Teachers are available 24/7, so Verbling works to fit your schedule. It’s a standard video chat application, but teachers and students can also share learning materials. Verbling is available on the web and as iOS and Android apps.
Like Verbling, Wyzant offers one-on-one lessons with qualified tutors online, but they also place an emphasis on in-person lessons. Students fill out a short questionnaire, and their answers help to pair them with suitable tutors.
All Wyzant’s tutors are vetted, so you can check their qualifications and background before contacting them. From there you can chat with your chosen instructor and book a lesson!
Their whiteboard feature lets you share files, the text editor lets you and your tutor make changes in real-time and Google Chrome users also have the option of screen sharing. The price point for tutors varies, which means that there are some affordable options for most budgets.
Another highly-lauded tutor website, italki lets you browse through hundreds of teachers and connect with real people to practice with and learn from.
They also offer a Community section, through which you can connect with other learners and native Italian speakers to help you improve your Italian. It can also be another place to find language exchange partners. It’s an affordable (free!) alternative to private lessons from experienced tutors. Check out our full review here.
8. Try Online Courses
If you prefer studying on your own for a bit, another thing you can do is try some online programs in the comfort of your home. Here are some of our favorite ones!
This online program is a full package deal. There’s a very basic free version, but if you really want to get into it, check out their premium membership.
When you go premium, you get typical grammar exercises and flashcards, opportunities to have conversations with native Italian speakers as well as official certificates. According to the website, 22 hours of Busuu premium is the equivalent of one college semester of Italian study. Check out our full review here.
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.)
By applying Italian immersion to your online habits, your day-to-day practice will grow by leaps and bounds, as will your skill level.
That way, when you get the opportunity to visit Italy, you’ll be ready!