Didn’t everything seem easier when you were a kid?
We’re not just talking recess and nap time here.
Learning your first language was straightforward—no flashcards or textbooks needed. When you first started talking, it wasn’t from using language study programs. It was from listening to the world around you and taking cues from natural speaking.
But did you know kids can even pick up foreign languages more easily than adults? According to research, the ability to learn new languages tends to shrink with age.
If you’ve got a little one in your life, you can take advantage of this and give them a linguistic leg up! Whether you’re a new parent, grandparent, guardian or cool aunt, you can help keep Italian alive for the next generation.
All you need are the right tools. We’ll show you six online resources—some made specifically for language learners, and some authentic Italian sites—that’ll capture any kid’s attention and teach essential Italian language skills.
The Benefits of Language Learning at a Young Age
So we’ve already established that language is easier for kids, but being easy isn’t everything. There are, however, truckloads of other benefits to teaching kids new languages. Not only does it broaden their cultural horizons, but it can also actually keep their brains healthy.
Plus, learning with your little ones offers an opportunity for some family bonding, and helps keep you on track in your own Italian studies as you work with your pint-sized study buddy.
So, great, teaching a kid Italian has loads of good stuff going for it. The problem is, where do you even start? It can be tough to teach a new language to even the most patient of children, especially if you’re not fluent yourself.
The good news is that there are plenty of resources and tools to benefit both kids and adults in your language study journey, and this post is going to run through some of the best.
The Top 6 Italian Learning Tools for Kids
Trying to get a kid to sit down and study something that they’re not even learning in school? That’s a tough one. Don’t panic, though. Language programs geared toward children often have a very fun-focused interface that makes the experience feel more like a game than studying. One popular tool for childhood language education is Gus on the Go.
This nifty little app follows the adventures of a big-eyed owl named Gus who’s making his way across Europe. In the Italian version of this app, he’s going to the Boot to learn something new about Italian language and culture.
With colorful, cuddly characters and an easy-to-understand setup, Gus on the Go provides children with a friendly gateway to basic Italian. The game provides native Italian audio to help guide students to pronunciation that sparkles.
They’ll also be able to learn about culture as Gus travels to some of Italy’s most famous cities along his trip.
Gus on the Go is a great place to start with your little Italian student. With a simple, child-friendly interface and easy mobile availability, it provides fun first steps into learning a new language.
Muzzy has been an institution in early language learning for decades now. You may have even heard of it. It was created by the BBC in 1986 to teach children different languages in a way that’s both entertaining and natural.
The program originally started as an animated film to teach English as a second language, but was later dubbed many times over to allow English-speaking children to expand their language skills. Muzzy has changed to fit the digital age and is now available on any of your devices with an internet connection.
The key to Muzzy’s success lies in its ability to immerse kids in the target language for effective learning. The animations they make are typically shown entirely in the language intended to be learned, spoken simply, allowing kids to take in languages as they might do when learning them organically.
Kids can watch in both English and Italian, allowing them to make associations and connect vocabulary.
The program includes two animated films along with a huge number of additional resources, such as nearly 200 games, weekly lessons, sing-along songs, an activity book and an online picture dictionary.
Muzzy provides a wealth of tools that can keep kids both entertained and educated, with characters they can grow to love. The program is also usable at all ages, which means even adults can benefit from tuning in.
Sometimes lessons that are plain and simple work best, and maybe your student is a little too old for some more cartoony learning tools. That’s okay, though, because there are still options for them to learn.
The Italian Experiment has a slightly more advanced, straightforward plan for teaching kids Italian. It’s a step up from some programs in complexity, explaining the language in terms that are more suited toward older children who might find other programs a bit too simple.
It also manages to not be too complex, engaging students and informing them in a way that isn’t overwhelming.
The site provides a number of free lessons on basic Italian terms and concepts, ranging from numbers to verbs. Along with cute illustrations, the lessons provide audio clips and vocabulary lists to make sure that accurate information can be easily studied. The site also has a number of children’s stories (with text and native Italian audio) that can be used to further engage students.
Like we said, immersion is key for effective language learning. Letting a young learner go headfirst into Italian while still having a lesson format to guide them can be a fast track to success. FluentU is an innovative and entertaining tool that can readily offer this.
On FluentU, kids (and adults!) can watch real-world Italian videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
While FluentU can indeed benefit adults and students of all ages, there’s plenty to find for younger audiences, too. You’ll find kid-friendly songs, cartoons and valuable language basics such as lessons on how to count.
Here you can see just a small selection of the kinds of Italian videos FluentU has to offer:
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.
It’s not only a great way to make Italian studies attention-grabbing and entertaining, but it also allows kids to get immersed in Italian while ensuring they actively learn.
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 with a 15-day trial.
Rai (that’s Radiotelevisione Italiana) is one of the biggest media presences in Italy. They provide TV programs and radio shows across multiple networks, and Rai Yoyo is the home for the network’s kid-focused content.
The advantage of using Rai Yoyo comes in its immersive learning opportunities, as it’s made by and for native Italian speaking children. The entire website is in Italian, but due to cognates and plentiful visuals you’ll find it’s not difficult to navigate.
On this site, kids can play games, watch TV clips and find activities and print-outs to help absorb authentic Italian while having fun.
That being said, this might not be the first place to go when trying to teach an English-speaking child Italian. As everything is indeed in another language, it might be an overwhelming place to start. Rai Yoyo is probably best used when a young student has already been engaged in learning Italian, and is ready to move up the ladder to something a little more challenging.
If you’re an Italian speaker yourself who can provide a guiding hand, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try during earlier stages. Just be aware that this might be tough.
At the core, of course, it’s highly immersive and a useful tool for any student.
Okay, so maybe your kid isn’t entirely receptive to studying a new language and you have to get them interested. Learning an entirely new way of speaking can be frustrating and daunting for even the most excitable of kids. There are definitely ways to get them to want to listen in, though. You can use their favorite characters to get there.
Disney is loved just the same in both Italy and English-speaking countries. Its Italian website offers beloved characters that your kids will likely be familiar with, such as Disney princesses and the Jedi of “Star Wars,” outfitted in Italian.
You can also find Italian recipes, video clips, games and other unique Disney-styled features in Italian.
Disney also has Italian YouTube channels that provide popular cartoons such as “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Doc McStuffins” translated into Italian. Disney Junior’s channel is perhaps the best place to start, as it has clips meant for preschoolers and therefore, the simplest language.
This is another authentic Italian resource that might need some getting used to. Even if kids don’t understand it at first, though, it’s a solid way to get them interested in the language by harnessing the characters, movies and shows they already enjoy. A lesson plan might not be so exciting, but sitting a kid down to sing “Let it Go” in Italian very well could be.
Learning a language can be difficult, but it’s highly beneficial to both kids and adults. Getting students started early can be a great way to help both their brain power and their cultural understanding, and some top-notch resources are all ready and waiting.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.