Are you trying to learn and master the Italian language quickly? Everybody wants to be able to hold a conversation in no time, but it is hard to decide on the exact steps to follow in order to learn to speak Italian confidently.
Below are eight tips and tricks to help you learn Italian from scratch to fluency.
Tip #1: You first need to get a general idea of the basics of grammar and key rules
Here’s a list of key grammar rules:
- Verbs are the core of Italian language, and the auxiliary verbs are essere and avere.
- Every single Italian noun has a genere (gender), either maschile (masculine) or femminile (feminine).
- Adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they are referring to, and they usually follow the noun (the opposite of English).
- There are way more articles in Italian than English. They can be definite or indefinite, singular or plural, masculine or feminine, depending on the noun they are referring to (they change gender and number, the same as the adjectives, however, they always precede the noun).
- There are few rules and many exceptions in the use of Italian prepositions. Do not worry, you will learn them with time.
- There is a difference between formal and informal context: if you want to address somebody you are not on familiar terms with, your boss or someone older than you, you will use the personal subject pronoun Lei (which is written with a capital letter, and not to be confused with lei, which means she) instead of tu, and you will also conjugate verbs in the third person singular.
Tip #2: Do not be afraid to ask questions (even silly ones) and start speaking from day one
Whether you want to learn slang words or botanical terms, you have to be bold enough to ask. Do not worry, your questions are not stupid. They just show that you care about the language you are learning, and that you are buckling down to master it as soon as possible.
Moreover, try to start speaking from day one following the KISS rule (Keep It Short and Simple). Once you know a few basic words, put them together and make sentences such as:
- Mi chiamo X (My name is X).
- Ho X anni (I am X years old). In Italian we use the verb to have instead of the verb to be to express our age.
- Come stai/va? (How are you? What is up?)
- Piacere (Nice to meet you).
Tip #3: Try to pronounce every word correctly, even if this slows down the speed of your speech
You do not need to speak fast to sound more like a native speaker, but you need to speak clearly and to articulate each sound. Speech rate will increase with confidence, which derives from the pleasant feeling of being understood when you speak, and in order to be understood, you need to speak clearly, not fast.
Everybody has the tendency to rush through the words when speaking a foreign language, and since we pronounce almost every single letter and sound in Italian, this can lead to mistakes in pronunciation. The only exception to this rule is the letter H, acca in Italian, which is always silent!
Moreover, when it comes to double consonants, you have to pronounce the same letter twice, since Italian is a phonetic language, and it actually makes a difference if you do not pronounce both letters, because it can mean a completely different word (Ex. sonno means sleepiness, while sono means I am or they are, depending on the context). Another sound that is tricky for non-native Italian speakers is the Italian R, which is always rolled, and you need to pronounce it by flicking your tongue against the back of your upper teeth.
Tip #4: Use conversational connectors: They give you a bit more time to think of things to say, and they also allow you to avoid awkward silences
Use these words to give yourself time to think before answering a question, or expressing your idea or personal opinion on a topic:
- Mmh (International connector)
- Cioè (I mean)
- Penso che (I think that)
- Forse (Maybe)
- Secondo me (In my opinion)
- Quindi (Therefore)
- Inoltre (Moreover)
- Sono d’accordo con te (I agree with you)
Tip #5: If you do not understand something, just say it and ask the other person to repeat or rephrase it
If you are not sure what somebody is saying when speaking your native language, you should ask them to repeat it. The same happens when you are trying to speak your target language, in this case Italian.
Do not be afraid to ask Scusa, non ho capito, puoi ripetere per favore? (Sorry, I didn’t get it, can you repeat it please?). If you are in a formal context, you can say Scusi, non ho capito, può ripetere per favore? (which means exactly the same, but it is the polite way of addressing somebody if you do not know them very well, if they are older, or if they are your boss).
If you do not understand one word, you can ask Cosa significa? (What does it mean?) or Qual è un sinonimo di questa parola? (What is a synonym for this word?).
Tip #6: Learn new words in context
In order to be sure of how to use a new word, it is better if you learn it in a context: it will easily stick in your long-term memory. And memorizing the meaning that a word has in a specific context will help you distinguish between the different uses of the same word in different sentences, helping you express your thoughts more accurately.
Tip #7: Ask for advice to find meaningful, relevant content at your language level
Practicing your abilities is the key to confidence in speaking, so you need to listen to or watch content at your language level. The same applies when it comes to reading and doing exercises. Ask a native speaker to suggest some content at your language level that might be interesting for you. For example, a TV show on Italian food if you love cooking and/or eating, etc.
Tip #8: Enjoy: Talk about different aspects of the language and be curious
Don’t forget to enjoy your learning process and be curious. Learning a language means getting to know different people, getting to know another culture with its peculiar traditions, and learning new perspectives on things. Therefore open-mindedness is required to both learn a new language and bond with the locals. Ask a native speaker to teach you conversational expressions and try to understand the way native speakers talk to each other. For example, Italian gestures are fun to learn and practice, and they are useful as well. Your friends, penpals, acquaintances, and teachers will be happy to show them to you.