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How to speak Italian like a native

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There are so many reasons to learn how to speak Italian

Italian is approximately the 20th most commonly spoken language in the world, with 63 million native speakers and an extra 3 million speaking Italian as a second language. You’ll find it everywhere too, as it’s an official language of Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, some parts of Slovenia and Croatia. There are also large communities of Italian speakers in the USA, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Puerto Rico, the UAE and Venezuela!

The prominence of Italian as a global language makes it naturally attractive to learn. Perhaps you aspire to work in Italy or Switzerland. Maybe you long to see Carmen performed at La Fenice in Venice, or to understand an Italian restaurant menu and order your farfalle al salmone and Panna Cotta with confidence? A trip on the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express or a visit to the vineyards of Piedmont will also be far more satisfying when you understand the language and can converse with the locals. In fact, a whole new world of friends awaits you when you learn this beautiful, musical and highly expressive language!

English speakers will also be delighted to know that learning how to speak Italian is relatively easy, as the two languages share Latin roots and plenty of common cognates. In fact, you’ll find that many Italian words are instantly familiar (or possible to guess) and easy to pronounce. Yes, it takes time to master the accent and the language’s famous musicality, but Italian has intuitive phonetics that can be picked up quickly from written words. Additionally, verb tenses in Italian are very similar to English tenses, so you’ll already have a head start and be ready to experience success.

Another great advantage of learning how to speak Italian is that it provides a stepping-stone to other popular European languages. This is because it is a Romance language, in common with French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian - mastery of one of these languages then makes it far easier to learn another.

What are the best ways to learn Italian?

So now that you know you want to learn how to speak Italian, what is the best way to begin, and what do you need to do to maximise your chances of success? There are plenty of options available to you, depending on what your objectives, timescales and resources are. These are some of the most common options and best tips:

1. Face to face classes

From language lessons in schools and adult education centres through to private language tuition and summer schools, there are plenty of face-to-face Italian lessons for speakers of all levels. These are the traditional way of learning and tend to focus on rote learning, with lots of grammar and vocabulary lists. Classes will tend to be structured and led by a native speaker. They can be useful for learners who like the structure and discipline of a regular class, but their quality depends greatly on the qualification level of the teacher, the accreditation of the course and the pace of your peers. After all, a group class can only progress at the pace of the slowest learners, and the structured nature of the lesson plan means that there will be little scope to tailor content to your needs and interests. Similarly, an individual tutor can offer language lessons either in person or by Skype, but availability will be set to a schedule.

2. CDs and books

Language instruction books certainly have their place and can help you if you want to practise certain points - such as grammar construction for written purposes - or to develop your written Italian. But they lack the immersion and immediacy needed for rapid spoken Italian and the material may be out-dated, so make you sure you get the most recent editions of any books you buy.

3. Podcasts and online content

There is certainly some very good content online produced by news organisations, language schools or enthusiastic individuals. Podcasts and radio stations - such as News in Slow Italian and I Provinciali - bring Italian news, food, rural life, the arts and culture to life and expose listeners to a wide range of dialects, local lingo and diverse Italian influences. These are great to listen to alongside a structured learning methodology.

4. Be consistent

Our first tip is to be consistent and aim to learn a little every day - even just a 15-minute module when you have some spare time at lunch or during tea break (perhaps an espresso break with a panini?) - or even when you are killing time on your long work commute… Choose lessons that build on your passion for certain key topics, or that will serve you well in your new Italian lifestyle. Name things that you see every day in Italian and say Italian phrases to yourself when you are out and about to consolidate your learning. As an added bonus, this daily ‘homework’ will keep your brain sharp and active, stimulating new neural pathways that stave off the effects of ageing and help to keep you curious, intelligent and on top of your game!

5. Enjoy the culture

Last but not least, find ways to enjoy the culture. Book a holiday to the Lakes, or find a local Italian group to meet other Italians and practise your conversation over a Prosecco! Visit authentic Italian restaurants and delight the waiting staff by practising your Italian vocabulary, read Italian books and newspapers and learn more about the country’s fascinating regions, history, art and cuisine. The more you can bring your Italian experience and passion to life, the more you will feel excited about fast-tracking your own language skills!

Learning Italian with Babbel

If you want a method that combines the best of all of these options when learning how to speak Italian, then Babbel, our app, might be for you. Our language-learning app may have a simple interface, but it is the result of intensive academic development. The language methodology uses the finest time-tested teaching approaches, combined with modern tech and a vast database of Italian words and phrases.

Because lessons are delivered via your smartphone, you can log on whenever you have a few minutes to spare and immerse yourself in the immediacy of spoken Italian. This modern and highly effective approach to learning a language means that you will be chatting away in Italian in no time at all, and you can choose lessons that are tailored to your interests and focus topics. With a responsive interface, fun design, fantastic learner features and a success rate that has seen 5 million users worldwide learn a new language, Babbel is the way to go.