Updated: Oct 21
I still remember the first thing I ordered in complete Italian (cioccolata calda, anyone?). The feeling of those beautiful sounds rolling off my tongue, and further, being comprehended by the Italian barista, was addictive.
Before departing for my study abroad program in 2011, I studied Italian on my own between my classes because I knew I wanted to be able to communicate with the locals. I was surprised by how far my lessons took me and how much deeper my experience was because of it. The payoff is HUGE, ya’ll- you will not regret studying Italian before your trip!
You can learn Italian fast using some of the tips I’ve put to use in the past 7 years that I’ve been learning, from newbie to fluency!
First though, let me lay a disclaimer on ya.. “Fast” is relative. Some might think learning Italian in 2 years is fantastic while others want to be conversation in just 1 month. How quickly you really learn depends precisely on how often you’re practicing and the methods you’re using. The tools and methods presented here are a great way to give your studies a jump start and a sure way to progress quickly!
That being said, THE VERY FIRST THING to know is that you have to decide you want it and commit to a study routine. Whether it’s every afternoon during lunch or once a week, block the time off and find a mindset that keeps you excited about this new challenge and the extra beautiful moments it will bring you. And if that doesn’t work, my favorite way to motivate myself is thinking about ordering a gelato in Italian the first day I arrive in Italy (gah, the stuff of DREAMS)!
Without further ado, below are some of my all-time favorite tools for learning Italian fast:
This app is excellent for killing time during your commutes! It has an immersive approach, so you’ll learn vocabulary through familiarity and repetition more so than a direct translation. If you have patience for getting a lot of answers wrong in the beginning, it’s a good way to learn. However, I personally think it’s best for people who maybe studied Italian in high school or college and can recall the basics after a few lessons.
This is an excellent podcast to supplement any studying you’re already doing. It covers a lot of common mistakes, obscure vocabulary, funny sayings, cultural info, and generally more immersive conversation skills. I used to listen to this everyday on my way to work in NYC and now listening to it brings back all kinds of mixed emotions left over from that time…BUT it’s still a great podcast, haha!
While visiting the town of Pienza, I ordered a hot chocolate. Our art history professor overheard and complimented my Italian- the first time an Italian speaker gave my efforts a thumbs up. I was psyched!
I literally taught myself Italian using this book between classes the semester before I studied abroad in Italy. Don’t get me wrong, you have to put in the work, do the exercises and study the vocab, but it’s the most straightforward approach I’ve found and it worked great for me!
I recently came across these fun videos for learning Italian and they make me want to go back to the beginning and learn with Manu, the host, because he’s so energetic, charismatic, and fun! They have videos for every level.
Me with Arianna and her mom, Lucia, who I met on italki then later in person in Florence!
You can study all you want, but if you don’t have the courage to use it when you arrive, what’s the point? Being nervous is totally normal and the only way to break through that is to practice starting conversations with Italians. The better way? Do it before you arrive! This site helps you find someone who wants to learn English and you spend time speaking both of your languages.
This way, you’re both putting yourselves out there and supporting each other’s journeys. Just like in high school, it just takes one person to say you’ve got it to boost your confidence!
A note about studying vocabulary: Start slowly with just 10 words at a time. Anytime you’re commuting or waiting for something, run through the vocabulary in your head or whip out your studying tools. Get in the habit of carrying flashcards with you everywhere you go (I cut each notecard in half and write the Italian word on one side and the English word on the other). Another great way to do it (which also uses less paper) is to fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise, then list the words with Italian on one side and English on the other. Cover up the lines below so you don’t get a sneak peek while flipping back and forth.
In boca al lupo! (Good luck, or literally, in the mouth of the wolf.)
Need more accountability and support for learning Italian? Check out Monnalisa Language School to book live lessons online with my friend Elisabetta in Florence!
Did I miss something? Let me know your favorite tool for learning Italian below! Or, if you’re ready to put your practice to use, check out our upcoming trips!