“Se puoi sognarlo puoi farlo.” (“If you can dream it, you can do it.”)—Walt Disney
Do you dream of speaking Italian?
Maybe you picture yourself chatting effortlessly in fluent Italian—in Italy, perhaps—about your favorite Laura Pausini song. Or maybe you’re discussing the adventure potential of Florence with your Italian homestay family.
But then doubt starts to set in. Are you being overambitious? Is it really possible for you to learn Italian so fluently?
Before you talk yourself out of this wonderful dream, consider that the U.S. Foreign Service Institute gives Italian a Category I rating on their foreign language learning scale. That means that Italian is (officially!) one of the easiest languages to learn if you already speak English.
Good news, right?
So don’t give up on your dream to learn Italian!
If you’re not sure where to start, our guide will show you the way.
Why Learn Italian?
There are many reasons for wanting to learn Italian.
Knowing Italian can mean more employment opportunities, educational endeavors, exciting travel plans or relocation potential. Who knows? Maybe it’s even amore (love) that’s got you pondering taking the leap into the Italian language learning pool.
Whatever your motivation, you won’t feel lonely speaking Italian: It’s the native language of over 70 million people worldwide.
Plus, Italian is a global language that’s spoken in more countries than just Italy. Switzerland’s official language? You guessed it—it’s Italian! You’ll find the language in more than 30 other countries, sometimes where you least expect it, like South America.
And with more than two million people learning Italian worldwide (a number that’s constantly on the rise), you’ll always be able to find a fellow learner!
Is It Hard to Learn Italian?
Language learning is a matter of dedication, interest and a willingness to work to achieve the desired goal. Sometimes a “need”—such as employment or education—spurs a learner on.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Italian is one of the easier languages for English-speakers to learn because the languages share a similar sentence structure, tons of cognates and generally use the same sounds. Plus, unlike some other languages, you don’t have to learn a whole new alphabet!
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park. Learning any language requires time and effort. Learning Italian in particular means studying new vocabulary, verb conjugations, grammar points and even a whole non-verbal body language.
Still, realizing a dream shouldn’t be all work and no play.
It’s possible to make learning fun and interesting. Doing so is easy and will ensure that your motivation for learning is kept super high. No need to let enthusiasm lag if you personalize your language learning strategy—and tailor your path to achieve this dream.
There are so many resources available to bring this goal to fruition. Mix and match materials to create a program that’ll keep you counting the hours until your next Italian session.
It’s possible to do, I promise.
I speak from experience—I learned Italian as an adult solo learner. I had an interest, decided to put in the time and effort and ended up becoming fluent in this beautiful language. I loved every moment of the journey, speak Italian daily and just love the way this skill has enriched my life.
Sure, it took time and energy but it was a wonderful experience. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!
Now it’s your turn to get on the fast track to Italian fluency. Let’s check out some excellent resources and tips so you, too, can make this dream come true!
Learn Italian with the Best Methods, Apps, Resources and Tips
Learn Italian for Beginners: Where to Start
The first steps should be pleasant, fun and stress–free. Beginners are usually super excited about learning and that’s the perfect time to take advantage of that enthusiasm by choosing some appropriate resources.
Let’s not contemplate anything too difficult. Remember, we need to learn to crawl before we walk and walk before we run. Language learning is that way, too!
Choose starting materials that won’t overwhelm you with too much new information at once, but rather will ease you into the language by introducing some basic knowledge and vocabulary. Build a strong foundation as a beginner to make learning easier down the road!
Here are two great places to start, even if you have absolutely no prior experience with Italian.
The Italian Experiment
The Italian Experiment offers very basic Italian learning materials for free. It has some beginner lessons as well as children’s stories, paired with audio recordings of each word and story, a user-friendly layout and adorable illustrations.
It’s an ideal place to get a feel for the language!
L-Lingo’s 10 Italian lessons provide a solid way for absolute beginners to get started learning Italian. The lessons cover basic topics such as introductions, food, numbers, family, months and a few others.
Each lesson introduces core vocabulary through words, brief expressions and even short sentences. Audio examples are provided so learners can hear, then imitate, vocabulary correctly. There’s even an app for iOS or Android users so you can study wherever you are.
The Best Ways to Learn Italian on Your Own
Are you thinking of learning Italian da solo (alone)?
Maybe you’re not able to access a group learning situation. Or perhaps it’s more conducive to learn on your own if you have a busy schedule.
I do, and that’s why I chose to learn Italian on my own. Classes at the nearby college would have been great but my calendar just didn’t mesh with theirs. Honestly, I’m glad it didn’t. My personality embraces solo adventures. Maybe yours does, too!
If you’re going to learn Italian on your own, it helps if you create an immersive environment around you.
I mean it. Cook Italian food, listen to Italian music, watch Italian films and even label ordinary household items with their Italian translations.
It helps to think of la tavola (the table) or la mia forchetta (my fork) when you’re eating breakfast. Little changes to your routine add up and learning everyday vocabulary items is no work at all when they’re on little notes stuck to your things!
Also, no one is ever really alone if they have internet access. Go online to choose a course or join a chat. It’s still a solo journey, at its essence. You’re just branching out, resource-wise!
Solo learners benefit from old-school options, too. I used flashcards (I made them myself with a dictionary and index cards but there are plenty of app-based flashcards, too) to power up my Italian vocabulary and joined a local Italian cooking club. That fit into my schedule and gave me a chance to practice speaking in Italian.
If you’re learning Italian on your own, think about pulling one of these two resources into your program (or hey, use them both!).
“Learn Italian Beginner Bundle”
This is an audio course designed for on-the-go learning. This bundle offers over 1,200 basic words and phrases, 22 chapter lessons, hours of audio lessons featuring native speakers and more.
There are PDF file transcripts for all of the lessons, which can be used for review after each audio session.
If learning solo does get you down, consider pairing up with another solo learner via Conversation Exchange. You can also set up a language exchange, providing your English (or other native language) skills in return for Italian practice from a native speaker.
You can choose a pen-pal and work on your writing skills or chat via Skype. It’s even possible, depending on location, to have face-to-face meetups with your language partner.
Besides these resources and tips, there are many more ways to learn Italian on your own. Below, we explore some apps, podcasts, online courses and so many more options for learners. Enjoy your journey!
How to Learn Italian Fast
Do you have a tight schedule for learning Italian?
Do you need to grab some language skills ASAP? Like, maybe yesterday?
If that’s the case, have no worries. There are resources that can get you from zero to conversational in very little time.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. You can do this. You won’t be fluent but you can become basically conversant rather quickly.
The secret is finding the right resources. They’re not going to get you in-depth grammar lessons or go heavy on the finer points of speaking Italian. Instead, they’ll introduce you to some common phrases and “survival” Italian skills that you’ll be able to use right away.
Any of the following resources will give you a fast-track start on this language adventure.
This is a great site for anyone who wants the inside scoop on Italy. Rick Zullo is an American expat living in Rome who shares his knowledge of Italy, the language and even the finer details of life in Rome.
For some quick learning, Rick has a crash course in Italian that’s a super way to gain some skills rapidly. The “short and sweet” starter course will unlock knowledge you already have about Italian and didn’t even realize, from cognates to suffixes and prefixes.
It’ll also start you off on learning some basic grammar and pronunciation, and help you speak for communication, not accuracy. It reminds you that, especially when you’re just starting out, it’s okay to make mistakes!
Coffee Break Italian
This website is all about fast, bite-sized language learning. Whether you choose a course or decide to jump right in and tune into their 15-20 minute podcasts, you’ll pick up Italian skills quickly—and enjoy your coffee breaks more than ever before.
The podcasts cover topics from cooking to authors and everything in between, and they do so in a beginner-friendly manner. Episodes are presented both in English and Italian, allowing you to listen to some native Italian speech without the fear of not understanding something.
Dolce Vita’s “Learn Italian in 30 Days”
This YouTube series is an engaging way to quick-start your Italian language learning. The videos cover a multitude of topics and vary in difficulty from beginner to advanced. A bonus? The downloadable PDF files that accompany the videos. Save them to use for review!
The channel also has useful common phrases, travel tips in Italy and even some Italian recipes you can try out as you learn the language.
The key to learning Italian fast is keeping your eye on the goal—focus every bit of time and energy you have on gaining skills. Fill spare moments with music, podcasts, vocabulary drills and more. Put extra effort into your study and it’ll show!
How to Learn Italian Grammar
In the last section, we went light on the grammar. Once you’ve started your studies and have some basic vocabulary, phrases and basic sentence structure info under your belt, it’s time to tackle Italian grammar.
Grammar sometimes gets a bad reputation, simply because so many learners think it’s a huge challenge.
However, with the proper resources, grammar isn’t so tricky!
It does require attention to details, though. After all, grammar is comprised of rules. All you have to do is learn the rules (and their exceptions) and get comfortable applying them through use.
Review the essentials of sentence structure and verb tenses until you’re speaking and writing them like it’s second nature. This is a case of learning, then applying to gain competence.
Grammar drills (the kind that come with most courses) might seem tedious but trust me, they’re a learner’s best friend. Drill and drill some more!
There are lots of good resources out there but these are two that I recommend to my Italian tutoring students. And now, I’ll pass them on to you, too.
Radio Arlecchino: Italian Grammar and Culture Podcasts
These podcasts are wonderful. They aren’t new but let’s face it: Grammar doesn’t change!
Each episode shows grammar in action through dialogues based on traditional Italian carnival masks like the titular Arlecchino (which gave us the English word “harlequin”), noodle-loving Pulcinella and other colorful characters.
The topics are entertaining, the explanations are concise and easy to understand and the podcasts as a whole are ideal for all levels of learner.
“Schaum’s Outline of Italian Grammar”
This is a first-rate book on Italian grammar. It covers every essential, from how to correctly use diphthongs to which syllable receives emphasis—and why.
This volume provides more than rules; there are explanations, quizzes and review sections as well as an online audio component.
You should now have some Italian vocabulary, phrases and basic grammar in your toolbelt. Let’s dive even deeper and explore the many options for learning Italian online and beyond!
Learn Italian Online
The online Italian learning options available to learners are amazing!
Italian at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere—what’s not to love?
Be sure to make the most of these resources. Schedule time for learning (daily is the most beneficial!) and explore all the features each site offers.
Don’t forget to use online learning as a jumping-off point for real-life language usage. In other words, take the vocabulary you’re gaining from videos or reading practice and actually speak in Italian. The writing practice in your course? Turn that effort toward journaling, short story writing or even letter or email writing.
The point is to expand on what you learn online. Bring those new Italian skills into your daily life!
FluentU brings Italian immersion to learners! Leave your passport where it is; it’s not necessary to get on a plane to immerse yourself in the Italian culture or language if you’re learning with FluentU.
Curated videos make this internet option engaging and exciting. Authentic videos like movie trailers, music, news and culturally relevant talks make learning Italian fun and effective.
Authentic content can be a bit intimidating to beginners. FluentU makes real-world Italian approachable at any level through learner-oriented tools. Use the annotated subtitles, interactive vocabulary lists and multimedia flashcards to help you on your learning journey.
Plus, the program’s algorithm will keep track of your learning and provide you with a 100% personalized experience!
A great way to maximize learning with FluentU is to choose videos on subjects that you know nothing about. You’ll learn Italian and possibly gain skills in other areas, too. A win-win situation!
Innovative Language is a stellar spot for learning Italian online. Every week, Innovative Language puts out new Italian audio and video content. That keeps things fresh and interesting for learners. These audio and video lessons are accompanied by vocabulary, grammar and cultural notes, as well as transcripts and other useful tools.
Especially helpful is a dashboard for learners to track progress. We all want to know how we’re doing—this takes the guesswork out of learning!
Native speakers teach the lessons so this is also a good place to practice pronunciation. Model your speaking after the conversations in the lessons and you might get an Italian accent that’ll make you sound like a local in Italy!
One World Italiano
This online resource has so many options for Italian learners that the hardest part is knowing where to start! Culture lessons, idioms and proverbs, grammar exercises, videos, reading and listening practice… the list really is extensive!
Their Italian online courses are a sweet spot for any level learner to begin with. Finding the perfect level course is no trouble at all: The course homepage has detailed explanations of all their courses. Choose one that suits your skill level and needs.
One online course comes with a course completion certificate at its end so if you need that for work or school, that’s something to consider!
A neat feature of this site is the dictation section. It’s designed to help learners with writing and comprehension skills.
For fun, try some of the games on the language activities page. They’re divided into levels of difficulty, so begin at your level and gain some new skills while having fun!
Learn Italian with Lessons
Lessons are a time-tested way to learn a language. They introduce basic material first, then progress to more complex topics.There’s an orderly feel to moving from lesson to lesson, mastering early material before attempting to learn what comes next.
This type of studying is an ideal method for learners who may need to look back to earlier subject matter in order to grasp the intricacies of advanced lessons. It’s also a stellar method for those who are inclined to review what they already know before moving on.
There are good resources for this type of learning. They’re structured to move from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels. Fundamentals are introduced early, then built upon.
The best way to utilize a lesson-focused method is to do every lesson. In order!
You might be tempted to skip around, avoiding topics you might not want to approach (ahem, grammar, anyone?) but fight that urge. The lessons below are laid out in a particular order for a reason and they’re meant to provide solid results if learned in the order at which they’re presented.
If you’re not a basic-level learner, consider these introductory lessons a refresher course!
Learn 101 offers free lessons for beginning learners. The site covers basics like parts of speech as well as grammar, phrases, core vocabulary and more. The vocabulary and phrases are illustrated and accompanied by audio and English translations.
Learners can gauge their progress by doing the exercises in each lesson and taking the exam.
Use these lessons to build a core vocabulary based on the 500 Popular Words lesson. Take grammar notes from here; they’re explained in simple terms that make it a breeze to grasp the fundamentals.
Loecsen provides free online lessons that are worth a look! They focus on the basics, including travel phrases and standard conversational expressions.
There’s a downloadable audio practice file and PDF practice file pack—also free!—that makes lessons absolutely portable. The “express quiz” feature helps learners track how they’re doing.
Use this lesson plan as a beginning point or to complement other resources. The downloadable files are so useful; practice anywhere, anytime—even when you don’t have internet access. That means learning is never out of reach!
Learn Italian with Apps
Italian apps are a to-go language option.
If you’re like most of us (and I suspect you are!) your phone or tablet is usually close at hand.
This means that you’ve got some incredible resources right in the palm of your hand. And to be clear: This is a great time to “play” with your apps. That’s right—use them whenever you have a free moment. Tuck every bit of learning time possible into your day and watch how your skills power up.
Let’s check out some of the best apps out there. I have all of these on my phone!
Speak Italian—5000 Phrases & Sentences (Android | iOS)
This app is indispensable. It takes the whole vocabulary lists to another level.
The app separates levels by difficulty (beginner through expert) and topic (a whopping 145 subtopics within 20 categories) and uses 11 different games to help teach each word in a fun and memorable way.
Pronunciation is modeled by native speakers. Best of all, the entire thing is available offline!
Speaky (Android | iOS)
This app helps language partners find each other. On Speaky, a global community of learners comes together to share ideas and practice over 110 languages, including, of course, Italian.
Filter potential conversation partners by their availability, whether they’re native Italian speakers and their interests. Find someone who can be a language exchange partner—and maybe even a new friend!
Google Translate (Android | iOS)
Google’s giant of a translation app is always useful to have on your phone. It works offline and offers translation through typing, handwriting, audio or photos, making it super flexible.
The translations aren’t always exact so you might not want to use this app for anything that requires 100% accuracy (don’t write your college Italian essay with it!) but for a quick way to get the gist of something, Google Translate is an excellent choice.
Learn Italian with Podcasts
Podcasts are an ideal method for improving Italian listening and comprehension skills! They’re portable and easy to play any time, even while you’re doing something else. This means you can take any down-time you have—like commuting to work, cleaning the house or eating lunch—and infuse it with Italian learning potential.
I listen to podcasts on a daily basis. Between us, I really look forward to this hour or so I devote to simply listening and understanding Italian. Podcasts keep me entertained, teach me about cultural issues I might never have otherwise considered and honestly keep my fluency on point.
Any learner would appreciate the authentic content, cultural tidbits and native speakers that make some Italian podcasts truly stand out.
Looking for a couple to try? We’ve got you covered!
5 Minute Italian
5 Minute Italian is intended for beginners. The vocabulary and topics are uncomplicated, covering the basics of Italian—like how to use “the”—five minutes at a time.
The podcasts are interesting but straightforward. Plus, there aren’t any tricky sentence structures or complex phrases that might throw a beginner off track. It’s a great resource for any beginners who are ready to get into the details and fine-tune their skills.
Max Mondo is intended for intermediate level learners. This audio magazine is separated into individual podcasts.
While the episodes are free to listen to, a subscription also gets you access to supplementary transcripts, glossaries and notes.
Senza Rossetto (Without Lipstick)
Senza Rossetto will appeal to advanced learners. Some level of fluency is required as the speaking pace is rapid and the vocabulary isn’t basic.
Topics mostly deal with the realities of being a woman in the modern world, seen through an Italian lens—but listeners of all genders and from all walks of life can benefit from these podcasts. I listen to this often and learn a great deal!
Learn Italian with YouTube
You might know it as a place to find cute cat videos and fail compilations, but Italian language learners can really hit the jackpot with YouTube. There’s a ridiculously huge selection of material that can take anyone from beginner to fluent without having to search for relevant content.
It’s there for the taking—if you know where to look.
Here are a couple of videos to get you started. They cover important topics so sit down, relax and when you’re done with these, check out more content from the channels or let YouTube take you down a journey of related videos.
Italian Grammar Hacks
This video from MosaLingua is only a few minutes long but it covers a lot of grammar ground and some essential basics.
Italy Made Easy
Italy Made Easy is a series of videos that tackle diverse topics. From cultural events to auxiliary verbs, Italy Made Easy has many videos to explain and enlighten.
Learn Italian with Music
You might already know that children learn language through music. Think about the alphabet song or “Old MacDonald” and his farm. Songs entertain—but they teach basic vocabulary, too. An added bonus is that they give kids a chance to practice pronunciation skills.
Adults can get the same language-learning benefits from songs as kids do!
It’s so true that “Music is culture.” Adding music to an Italian program will infuse it with beauty, culture and endless language opportunities.
Turn on an Italian playlist as background for your daily activities. It’s an immersive addition that might have you humming along.
And don’t forget to practice your pronunciation skills. Think like a child, sing at the top of your voice and get your Italian groove on. You’ll be surprised at how much your comprehension and speaking skills improve when you let yourself be a rock star.
Easy Learn Italian—Learn Italian with Music
This collection of Italian classics has 38 old songs, along with their lyrics and translations, too. Get started with these!
Spotify is a great way to find new Italian music to love, and a lot of it comes with convenient lyrics.
Linked above are the current top hits of Italy (though not all are in Italian), but you can also find playlists with Italian songs in various genres like Italian pop and old Italian classics.
Learn Italian with Books
One of the core skills of language learning is the ability to read. Learning to read takes practice but getting this skill honed can affect your entire Italian program. Increased reading comprehension leads to improvements in speaking and writing skills, so read as often as possible.
Every kind of reading has value. There’s no singular reading material that’s better than others.
Side-by-side translations, books in Italian, course books, beginner-friendly articles, comic books—everything counts!
For best results, set aside a determined amount of time each day to devote to reading practice. I read in Italian every evening—and I look forward to this practice all day long!
Wondering where to get Italian language reading material? Try places like The Italian Bookshop for children’s books, which are great for beginners to reading in Italian!
Edizoni Farinelli specializes in Italian reading materials designed for English speakers learning Italian. The company offers readers, textbooks, workbooks and more!
If you’re overwhelmed by the huge variety of Italian reading options, may I suggest a few of my favorites?
“Short Stories in Italian”
This option is a parallel text reader. Eight classic pieces of fiction are presented with a side-by-side English translation. Great for when you’re pressed for time!
“Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale” (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
This classic by J.K.Rowling is one of the favorites I keep on my Kindle. I’ve read this story so many times that I know parts of it by heart, but that’s okay. All reading practice—including re-reading a beloved story—is beneficial!
“Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard)
“Il Gattopardo” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is a classic piece of Italian literature. It was written decades ago but somehow still feels socially relevant.
It isn’t the easiest piece to read because of its higher level of language, so make this a piece to strive toward as your Italian skills improve.
For a slightly easier but still classic option, try Italo Calvino’s works.
Learn Italian for Travel
If I hadn’t already learned to speak Italian before I went to Italy, learning the language for travel would have been a huge incentive! And I’m so grateful I was able to chat with locals—about anything and everything, including the weather, fashions and the best trattoria (tavern) in Rome!
So if you’re one of those adventurers whose motto is “Have passport, will travel!” this is for you!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of communicating in Italy or any of the other splendid spots on the globe where this romantic language is spoken. Honestly, to converse with the locals you’ll only need master minimally basic conversational skills.
You’ll want to be able to order food, ask for directions, participate in introductions and request emergency assistance if that becomes necessary.
Here are a few basic phrases to get you started:
Buongiorno. (Good day.)
Mi chiamo… (My name is…)
Per favore. (Please.)
Dov’è… (Where is…)
Va bene. (Very good, okay.)
The best way to get comfortable with traveling basics is to actually use the words and phrases. Don’t wait until you’re on the plane crossing the Atlantic to get a feel for them. Try them out at home, in your own neighborhood and among your friends and family.
Get comfortable introducing yourself. Also, think about what you do on a daily basis because there’s a good chance you might want to see or do those things in Italy, too. Do you go to the gym or yoga studio every morning?
Dov’è la palestra? Grazie!(Where is the gym? Thank you!)
Mi scusi. Dov’è il centro yoga? (Excuse me. Where is the yoga studio?)
Are you set on your breakfast menu? As in, are you a creature of habit who just can’t begin the day without your usual meal?
Vorrei succo d’arancia e pane tostato, per favore. (I’d like orange juice and toast, please.)
You see where I’m going with this. Whatever is essential to your day-to-day, note and learn those phrases. There may be a personal basic topic you need to be familiar with.
Knowing your essentials will certainly get the conversational ball rolling—and the coffee or juice flowing!
A few resources will help, too. Try some—or all—from this key collection.
Udemy has thousands of online courses for free or affordable rates, and among them are a couple of great Italian courses for travelers. They’re all designed to teach basic conversational skills and make navigating The Boot a snap.
One good course to try is called the “Learn Italian for Beginners and Travelers” course. It’s fast, fun and comprehensive enough that you won’t feel totally lost.
Train travel is one of the most enjoyable ways to see Italy. Ride the rails through small towns as you travel between bigger cities.
There’s a traveler’s vocab cheat sheet for visitors to facilitate communication. It’s definitely useful even if you never take the train ride!
Lonely Planet’s “Fast Talk Italian”
This tome is light enough to tuck into a purse or backpack. You’ll never regret having the ability to point to a phrase that just won’t come to mind but is, thankfully, on a page!
“Rick Steves Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary”
This phrasebook- and dictionary-in-one is a must-have for many travelers. The author’s insights and wit add to the core information so well that reading this guide almost feels like chatting with a dear friend. I have an old copy of this bestseller (which is still available to purchase) but a new version is available!
It’s awesome that you’ve decided to learn Italian.
And Italian is a relatively easy language to learn, especially when you’ve got so many excellent resources at hand.
In a classroom setting, it’s up to the teacher to grab and hold a student’s attention. It’s the instructor’s job to tailor meaningful programs to meet students’ needs. It’s great to have that consideration but many language learners aren’t in classroom situations.
When you take learning out of a classroom there are a unique set of obstacles that come with self-learning. You need to do alone what a teacher would assist in: keep motivated, focus attention and use resources to enhance the Italian experience.
Self-learners are both student and, in large part, teacher. That is a great set up for a number of reasons—but mostly, because you have the power to choose from materials, design your own program and decide how swiftly—or how leisurely—you learn.
Learning Italian is the perfect time to do your thing—totally your way!
Enjoy learning this “language of love”—and don’t forget that there are endless options to jazz up your journey!
Have fun and good luck!
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