Are you trying to learn to speak Italian? Or any other language for that matter. Maybe you’re taking classes or doing an online course, perhaps like I did in the beginning you’re teaching yourself. Whichever method you are using, in this week’s 5 Things Friday we are going to look at 5 things you can do to super-charge your learning process.
Over the years I have used multiple methods to learn to speak Italian. In the beginning I bought some text books from Amazon and started teaching myself. At some point I got Rosetta Stone (which I loved) but at the time as a single mom I could only afford the first DVD, so that one didn’t get me too far. Then I had a spell of taking a weekly lesson on Skype with a teacher in Italy, which was definitely more economical than trying to take classes here in the U.S. Then I ran out of money again and had to go back to trying to teach myself, and eventually I bought a good online course and worked with that.
Along the way I have learned that you need more than just one learning system to get you speaking another language confidently and well. Every method has its strengths and one way or another they all work. So along with whichever method you are using to learn to speak Italian (or any other language) try adding these 5 tricks and watch how quickly your Italian improves!
1. Watch Italian TV Shows
One of the best ways to enhance your learning and your speaking skills is to watch lots of Italian TV with English subtitles turned on. Find episodic TV shows – there are tons of them on Amazon and Netflix. As you follow a TV series you will learn the characters, their behavior and the cadence of their speech. This largely parallels conversation that happens in real life, so you’re not just hearing spoken Italian – your brain is picking up on the rhythm of the language, the inflections of the words, idioms and slang, and how it all flows.
When you find a good TV show – one that you enjoy – somewhere along the way you forget you’re reading subtitles. Instead you just get caught up in the story while your subconscious mind soaks it all in. I have enjoyed Don Matteo, Inspector Manara, and more recently Luna Park.
2. Listen To Italian Language Podcasts
This is another method I have found super helpful and very easy to take advantage of. There are literally tons of learn-to-speak-Italian podcasts out there. (Same with other languages.) Coffee Break Italian has been my go to language pod, and I know they teach loads of other languages too. The trick is to find a podcast where the host’s voice resonates with you, so you are happy to keep clicking in and following along. My brain responds to the timbre of the host Mark’s voice, and the format of the podcast works well for me.
Listen to a few different learn to speak Italian podcasts, find the one that works for you, and then become a regular listener. This is a great tool to add to your learning arsenal.
3. Get Italian Reader Books
I love these. Learning a language well involves not only being able to speak it, but also being able to read it and have some reading comprehension. Remember doing reading comprehension in grade school? You would read a passage and then answer questions about it, to make sure you were understanding it properly. Amazon has lots of different Italian reader series (you can see some of them here.) What I like about these is they are all short stories. They take up about 3 or 4 chapters, so you’re not buried in the weeds with some giant novel.
The short stories are in multiple genres, so one might be a murder mystery and the next might be a lifestyle story. You read a chapter or a section, then do a comprehension quiz to see how much you understood. Then you go back through it again doing various exercises and keep doing that small section until you get it. I have used this one and this one and this one. All of them have multiple books and I personally think that all three of these are great. You can make them a very inexpensive but effective addition to your Italian learning program.
4. Listen To Italian Music
This is another really effective way to boost your language skills and comprehension. Back in the beginning I used to play Radio Italia when I was working at my computer or doing work around the house. It was broad enough and general enough to give me a sense of artists whose music I enjoyed. When I found songs I liked I would use Lyrics Translate to learn the song and try to understand what was going on. If you think about songs in English, they don’t always make sense. Sometimes they’re just strings of words that would be hard for someone learning English to make head or tail of. It’s the same with Italian.
In the early days I found that artists like Eros Ramazzotti and Laura Pausini wrote lyrics that made sense to someone learning the language, and were in the rock/pop genres that I enjoyed anyway.
Listening to music that you enjoy, in the language you are learning is a great tool to add to your learning methods. When you find songs you really like, don’t just listen to them over and over, but also do the Lyrics Translate thing. This way you can follow along with the song as you listen to it, but also with Italian and English side by side you can understand what the story of the song is.
5. Join An Italian Conversation Group Online.
I haven’t done this for a while, but over the years I have joined online language groups where either everyone is learning Italian like I am, and you have a chance to practice on each other, or, Italians who want to improve their English will trade out with you. You take turns conversing in Italian and in English, so everyone benefits.
When you join an online conversation group it takes away the nervousness you get when trying to speak another language. Once you break through the fear/embarrassment stage of trying to speak a foreign language and are comfortable to just go for it, make mistakes and move on, speaking a foreign language becomes super fun.
Personally, my goal with learning Italian is not to speak flawlessly – most of us don’t even speak our own language flawlessly. I just want to be able to participate. I want to understand what’s going on around me, understand conversations and jokes, join in and be a part of it all. When I took the fluency pressure off myself and just made it all about fun, my Italian language skills took off.
One of my favorite things is practicing on taxi drivers in Rome. There is invariably traffic, so they’re stuck with me for a while. They always teach me new words and phrases that then surprise people when I drop them into conversation. For example, one day I was telling the driver I liked the “little wind” coming in the window, but I didn’t know how to say it in Italian. He told me the word for breeze is venticello. It’s kind of a gorgeous word really.
Employing all the things we’ve talked about here today has helped me improve my Italian so much. I hope they will help you to improve your Italian language skills too and act as a booster help you to supercharge whichever learning program you are doing!
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