Practicing Italian is your favorite part of the week, right?
You love the challenge of conjugation, you love learning how to have conversations with friends and family and you certainly love rollin’ them rrrrrr’s!
But there’s only so much practicing you can do on your own. So how do you take that feeling with you all day? How do you apply all the wonderful Italian you’ve learned to your everyday life?
Answer: You incorporate Italian immersion into your day.
And the easiest way to practice Italian immersion in your day-to-day life is by doing it online!
How Immersion Helps You Learn
Language immersion is exactly what it sounds like: immersing yourself in the ins and outs of a language. Surrounding yourself with the sound of native Italian speakers, proper Italian grammar and formal and colloquial vocabulary helps you keep your focus on the language consistently, instead of just occasionally.
However, it’s important to remember that it isn’t really immersive practice if you’re not focused. Streaming a series on Netflix in Italian as background noise while you go about your day probably won’t help you at all. You need to challenge yourself in order to learn. There are a number of ways to practice Italian immersion online while staying intellectually engaged.
Learning through online immersion has many benefits. It lets you go beyond theory and put into practice what you’ve learned, while taking in Italian culture and learning colloquialisms—all without the cost of a plane ticket to Italy!
A way to practice being Italian without the long flight and bank-breaking cost? Sign me up!
But how can you put Italian immersion into practice in your day-to-day life online?
Jump Right In: 4 Ways to Practice Italian Immersion Online
1. Online Courses
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.
FluentU is one of the most innovative language learning sites on the web, and it includes Italian in the range of languages it offers. Users can learn from native Italian videos for students at any skill level and geared towards a variety of interests.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Immerse Yourself in Italian Music Whenever You Can
Everyone loves singing along to a catchy song. So why not use the infectious nature of music to practice your Italian? There are several advantages to learning through music.
Instead of fast-talking conversation, you get slow, clearly pronounced sentences that are easy to follow. More than that, putting words (and proper pronunciations) to melodies will help you remember them better. Once you’re familiar with the lyrics of the song and can sing along, you can look at the translation of the song to understand the context, and learn the words that you’re singing!
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. Following and learning the lyrics to their music is great practice.
Plunge into Italian Television and Movies
Another entertaining way to get your practice in is to watch TV shows and movies in Italian. The easiest way to do this is by watching Italian movies on Netflix. There is a lot of content on Netflix that has Italian subtitles and/or Italian dubbed audio, including pretty much all of Netflix’s original content.
Netflix also makes it incredibly easy to find Italian movies and shows! All you have to do is navigate to “Audio & Subtitles” and choose Italian audio or Italian subtitles. It takes concentration and repetition to learn from TV and movies, but at least learning through entertainment makes it easy!
3. Change the Language on Your Most Frequent Websites
Are you a social media buff? If you spend time on sites like Facebook or Twitter, consider changing your language settings to Italian. 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 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).
Alternatively, if you use Google Chrome, you can install a free extension that will translate web pages for you. You can click on translated words to return them to English, and hovering over words lets you hear them pronounced by a native speaker. Or if you don’t want to translate the whole webpage, you can also translate little bits with Italian translator apps.
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.
4. Find Language Tutors or Conversation Buddies
The best way to improve your Italian speaking skills is to speak more! Fortunately, there are several options that let you find conversation buddies, without having to go to Italy.
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 up front, 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, 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 “Language Partners” option, through which you can connect with a native Italian speaker to help you improve your Italian, in exchange for you helping them improve their English. It’s an affordable (free!) alternative to private lessons from experienced tutors.
While this resource 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.
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!