We asked OnlineItalianClub.com members for their ideas on how to learn Italian and this is what they came up with!
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A tip for effortlessly fitting a bit of Italian into your lunchbreak: read up on Italian and international news on a newspaper website like Corriere della Sera. Or find an Italian website dedicated to your personal interests (for me, it’s dogs, for others it may be sports or egyptology). I find that because I’m interested in the subject, it makes me even keener to understand and learn new vocabulary.
Each week members of my U3A Italian class write a small passage in Italian. It could be about a book they’ve read, a film they’ve seen, or simply what they‘ve been doing through the week. Sometimes it could be a Who Am I? where clues are given and the rest of the class try to guess who the mystery subject is. The class member also hazards a guess as to which words or phrases may prove to be unfamiliar to the rest of the class and these are listed on the white board. The passage is then read out to the class. It is surprising how much new vocabulary you can be exposed to in this way.
When I first started learning Italian many years ago (back in the 80’s), I subscribed to La Gazzetta dello Sport and received it weekly. As a ‘grande tifoso di calcio’, it was a great way to start off learning the language. Reading and trying to decipher a foreign language was easier for me when the subject matter was familiar and of high interest. To this day, my strengths in my Italian language journey are my abilities to read and write. It is also a pleasant surprise when I meet people in Italy who find I am well-versed in Serie A… it makes for good ice-breaking conversation.
I’ve found that reading as much as possible ALOUD has helped. It helps me to remember stuff, as well as trying to improve my oral skills. (Yes! My husband does think I’m going crazy, talking to myself!)
Apart from group lessons, which are fun because of the interaction, and 1:1 on Skype (all in Italian), I find reading is most useful. I read the books or articles, then make a list of the vocabulary I don’t know so that I can learn it. I try to learn at least 2 new words a day. (This does not sound much, but it is better to do little and often than to overdose!)
I have a couple of learning tips that have helped me.
- Speak with native Italian speakers. My Italian has been greatly helped when I started pushing myself to find language exchange partners online. There are loads of sites. The way it works is to select a native Italian speaker who is learning English. Then you set up a time to talk, you agree on the amount of time you both have then off you go. You can do 10 mins Italian/10 English and so on or anyway you both feel comfortable with. I’ve been doing this for 1-1/2 years or so and it has given me a big boost. First, knowing I’m going to be speaking to Maurizio on Thursday keeps me motivated both to prepare material for our chat and in general keep working on my Italian. Second, there is nothing like actually surviving a conversation in Italian to boost your confidence! The thing for learners to remember is that my Italian companion is not there to judge my Italian – they are principally interested in working on their English and are usually happy to have someone to chat with. He/she genuinely wants to help me. Like any relationship, sometimes you hit it off and other times there’s no chemistry, you can’t find anything to talk about and it sputters out after a couple of attempts. So you just move on to someone else. These relationships also usually expand to include text messaging and email so I get practice in writing as well. WhatsApp is a godsend.
- There are also apps (HelloTalk) that are strictly text message. That might work for people intimidated by the thought of face-to-face conversation.
For anyone who has a smart phone you can add an Italian keyboard. This allows me to practice writing in Italian (with the predictive band on the bottom of the screen) and it also allows me to practice dictation (in both Notes and email). I can see how my pronunciation is doing – if the dictated text is a mess, I know my pronunciation was sloppy and I can keep trying until I get it right.