It feels like you have no free time—until you realize you’ve spent three straight hours on your smartphone.
You were scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but you could’ve been learning Italian.
So, shouldn’t you peel your face off the screen for once and go do something with your life?
Wait, not yet! Maybe just after this post.
In our age of ultimate convenience, it’s amazing that we somehow all find ourselves with no free time. According to the old sci-fi movies, shouldn’t we all be sipping on lemonade, playing croquette and pursuing our dreams while the robots do all the work?
Well, it’s time we take our free time back and make the robots work for us!
That’s right: You can learn Italian easily with the help of modern technology.
Just follow this guide for absolute beginners and discover how to learn Italian online in your spare time.
You’ll be speaking the language faster than a southern Italian can say il tempo perduto mai non si riacquista (lost time can never be found).
Learn Italian Online in Your Tempo Libero (Free Time)
Here are a few things that don’t fit into the category of “hobbies” (despite what Instagram will lead you to believe): watching clips on YouTube, taking pictures of your food, sleeping, binging a show on Netflix, clicking away on Farmville, laughing at memes.
Whatever happened to taking up a sport, a musical instrument or a new language?
These activities may not offer the alluring instant gratification of our logged-in lives, but as they say in Italy, tutto arriva a chi sa aspettare (good things come to those who wait).
Don’t panic. We’re not asking you to do something crazy like put down your phone and pick up a book. Instead, we’ve found a much better way for beginners to learn Italian.
What if we told you there was a way to combine our modern internet addiction with a bit of old-school study? What if you could keep your apps, games and filters and learn Italian all the while?
Too good to be true? Read on!
Better in Minutes: The Beginner’s Guide to Learning Italian Online in Your Free Time
Grab those power banks, upgrade your data plan and put on your Google Glass (ew… wait, don’t do that), because once you see how easy it is to learn Italian online, it’s going to take a super crazy episode of “Black Mirror” to pull you away from your on-screen studies.
Before you know it, you’ll be getting meglio in minuti (better in minutes).
Harness the Power of Social Media
Yep, go ahead and log into social media. It’s how the world communicates these days, so why wouldn’t boisterous, talkative Italians be all over it? Newsflash: They are.
Did you know you could access Facebook groups and pages from all over the world and in all languages just by using the search bar? It’s that easy.
Just type this into the search bar:
“Italiani a (the name 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. Many of them will probably be very happy to exchange some Italian for English.
If you can’t find a local Italian Facebook community, just join some Italo-centric Facebook groups like Made in Italy. From here, you can branch out to more specific interests. When you’re browsing in another language and the subject matter interests you, you’ll learn new words without even realizing it.
If you’re not a fan of Facebook, why not try another network like Twitter or Reddit?
Keep up with all the latest news, politics, gossip and more by following Italy’s biggest personalities on Twitter. Here’s a head start. Twitter is also a great place to practice your writing and grammar skills. How many Italian retweets can you get?
The Italian community on Reddit is very active and supportive of newcomers. You can expect a lot of opinion posts, jokes, beautiful photos and fresh Italian memes on the subreddit r/Italy. Reddit posts usually contain just a few lines of text, which means the Italian is very digestible. After reading, leave a comment! Real Italian users will respond to you!
Add Some Fun to Your Learning with Games
Do you really want to take your gaming to the next level? Try doing it in Italian. There are a lot of great language games out there, like MindSnacks, that are designed to be as fun and addictive as your favorite angry bird and candy-related time-killers.
If you’d rather not play a language game, just switch the language of your favorite games to Italian. Sometimes you can do this within apps, and other times you need to change the language preference on your phone. Both are good ways to learn naturally.
If you have a console (Xbox, Switch, Playstation) you can do the same. Complex console games that require you to form associations with commands and actions can offer an immersive learning experience.
Watch Videos on FluentU
There are a lot of great Italian channels on YouTube, but when it comes to learning Italian by watching videos, there’s no better choice than FluentU.
All the videos feature interactive subtitles that you can click on for definitions and pronunciation tips.
After watching, there are exercises and flashcards you can use to help reinforce the new words. FluentU learns as you do, and provides you with a personalized learning experience that takes your previous learning into account.
Trying to expand your vocabulary? Create a vocab list and use the interactive flashcards to see each word in use within different contexts in other videos. Want to hone a certain grammar skill? Simply find a few videos that feature your target grammar and watch them for a deeper understanding of the concept.
Next time you feel like spending 10 minutes (or, you know, two hours) surfing YouTube for cat videos, why not head to FluentU instead? It’s just as fun, except you’ll come out of it with mad Italian skills.
Get Cookin’ with Giallo Zafferano
No matter what Guy Fieri tells you, eating is not a hobby. Cooking, however, is. Double down on this delectable hobby by prepping some delicious Italian dishes with the help of Giallo Zafferano.
Giallo Zafferano is one of the most famous Italian cooking sites. They feature recipes from all over the boot (and the world) along with detailed descriptions, images and video tutorials.
Start by visiting the site and clicking “Video Ricette” (“Video Recipes”) in the menu at the top of the screen. You’ll then be able to choose from hundreds of videos that are so tantalizing that they should be considered pornographic.
There are no subtitles to these videos, but it’s not hard to associate the instructions given by the chefs with the images displayed on the screen. You may only pick up a word or two at first, but you can slowly build your vocabulary as you watch, read and cook your way through the site.
Hone Your Language Skills with BBC Learn Italian
You probably have at least one news app on your phone already, so why not add one that can double as an Italian guide? The BBC language center provides interactive beginner lessons in a variety of languages, and the Italian page is one of the most engaging.
Most of the activities only take a few minutes, but there’s enough material to keep you going for months. You’ll be able to participate in a video course, assess your progress with a free skills test, learn key survival Italian phrases and even find links to tons of popular Italian websites.
The BBC Italian page is a great place to start learning Italian online as a beginner because everything has English descriptions and directions. You won’t have to sweat about getting lost, so you can get straight to the good stuff.
Backward Translate with Google’s Translation Program
Some of us can’t wait to get our hands on the latest app while others are sick and tired of the whole thing. How many messenger apps do I need just so you can tell me what time we’re meeting for the brunch you’re going to flake on?
This exercise is one you can do without the need to download anything. Much like a classic spaghetti al sugo di pomodoro (spaghetti with tomato sauce), there are no bells, no whistles and no artificial flavors. All you need is Google Translate and you’re good to go.
Here’s how it works: Find literally any passage or paragraph in English and translate it into Italian.
First, cover up the Italian version and read the passage in English. Next, cover the English version and try to translate the Italian version back into English. You may want to use a pen and paper to help.
This is one of the best exercises to help your brain form associations between English and Italian.
As you get better, the next step is to find an Italian passage and try to translate it into English yourself. Then, take your English version and translate it back into Italian. Once you get to this point, you can do it all without Google.
Think you’re a Twitter queen or a Candy Crush dominator? Well, you don’t know nothin’ until you do it in Italian.
Because Italians. Do it. Better.
None of the sass or shade you threw or any trolling you did online before will compare to what you can do once you have Italian in your holster. This language is so spicy from centuries of trolling the pope, the prime minister and the chef, that Italians can’t help but gesture wildly to cool off.
Not only can you do it better in Italian, but remember all those things we said weren’t real hobbies? In Italian, they are. (Actually, sleep is still not a hobby). By doing all the same stuff you would do anyway, but in Italian, you’re effectively studying while you’re soaking in that sweet blue light.
You don’t have to spend all your free time in the Italo-sphere, but the time you spend YouTubing, Snapchatting and meme concocting in Italian will boost your language level and cultural immersion. Candy Crush might be more nutritious than you thought!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.