by Roberto Gamberini, translated by Daniel Stephens
If you’re reading this article, it’s because you’d like to learn Italian. But perhaps doing grammar exercises bores you? Or maybe you don’t have time to study, or you just don’t want too much pressure?
No problem. It’s possible to learn Italian even WITHOUT studying! Here’s how:
1. Day-to-day Italian
It doesn’t take much to make sure you come into contact with Italian every day.
For example, what language is your smart phone set up in? And your TV?
If you set your devices to Italian, you’ll be getting some Italian input each day. Over time, that can really make an impact! This small change won’t cost you anything but can really build your confidence with texts and help you develop your knowledge of vocabulary.
Do the same with instructions booklets for household products, which are often translated into many languages. Read the Italian version! Naturally, it’ll be hard at first, but it will get easier and give you a great sense of satisfaction!
2. Read a newspaper, watch the TV!
Reading an Italian newspaper is excellent practice, no matter what your level.
The principal Italian newspapers have free websites. You may need to pay for a smart phone or table app, but accessing the website from your computer is free.
Choose an interesting article, read the headline, look at the pictures and try to guess what the article will be about.
Then read the text and try to get the general meaning. Were you right?
Finally, choose three words to look up in a dictionary…
And here’s another tip – choose a topic that interests you: sport, politics, cinema… That’ll help a lot.
Or if you’re a beginner, choose a photo gallery. The short texts that describe the photos are much more likely to be understandable.
Now, try the same approach with Italian TV. RAI has a website with loads of programs that you can watch live or recorded.
3. Find an Italian friend!
Listening to an Italian speak is really useful!
Have you heard of ‘tandem’? They’re exchanges between two people who speak different languages and are willing to help each other learn.
For example, if you’re an English speaker, you’ll easily find a young Italian who wants to do a tandem with you.
You’ll meet at a fixed time each week (live, or on Skype) and speak for an hour in Italian and an hour in English.
OK, just because your partner is a native speaker, it doesn’t mean that he/she will be a good teacher (that takes training and years of experience!) But tandems are a fantastic way to practice!
What if you don’t have time to talk live for a couple of hours? In that case, try a tandem via e-mail – it’s the version 2.0 of having a pen pal!
4. Your hobbies in Italian!
Do you have a hobby? So work on it in Italian!
For example, if you love cooking, buy cookery books in Italian (there are lots!), follow a blog, subscribe to Italian cookery magazines, and so on.
This approach allows you to learn Italian while doing something that you love, and so is more likely to seem effortless!
If you like football, follow Serie A with commentary from Italian journalists. If you’re a music fan, you’ll find loads of Italian artists to listen to – and it’s a great way to learn new words and expressions!
5. Your piece of Italy!
If you don’t live in Italy, you’ll surely find a piece of it somewhere nearby!
If you live in a big city, there might be an ‘Istituto Italiano di Cultura’ or an Italian language school, where there are likely to be free events promoting the language. Go to them, as they can be good opportunities to work on your fluency, speaking Italian with native speakers.
And I bet there are pizzerias and Italian restaurants near where you live, right? Italians who live abroad are always happy to speak to someone in their own language. So go make friends!
Or perhaps you need a part-time job? In which case, apply to a real Italian pizzeria. Working in that sort of environment would be a real linguistic workout!!
Remember, Italian is all around you.
You just need to look for it!