A practical guide on how to learn Italian fast – 6 Learning strategies.
Are you interested in learning Italian and how to learn Italian fast? Maybe you’re in the process of planning your dream vacation to Italy. Maybe you want to read Dante in the original. Maybe you simply want to connect with your heritage.
Regardless of your motivations for learning Italian, you’re in good company with more than 60 million L1 and L2 speakers of the language around the world. Below are some tips and core concepts to understand in order to start learning Italian fast. With these practical tips, you will be well on your way to speaking Italian in no time.
1. How To Learn Italian Fast – Alphabet and Pronunciation
Italian is a very phonetic language, which basically means that words are spoken the way they are written. After learning the rules surrounding Italian pronunciation, you should have no problem correctly pronouncing words on your first try, even if you have never seen the word before! This differs from English, where words like “though” and “thought” may look similar but have completely different pronunciations for the same letter combinations.
The Italian alphabet contains the same letters as the English alphabet aside from J, K, W, X, and Y. While these aren’t part of the Italian alphabet, you could see them in loan words from other languages that have made their way into the Italian lexicon.
Let’s have a quick look at Italian pronunciation. This will not be an exhaustive list of all the particularities surrounding pronunciation in the Italian language, but rather a quick start guide to sounds in Italian. This basic guide will serve as a solid foundation for when you get into more complicated pronunciation as seen in diphthongs and triphthongs in Italian.
We’ll start with the vowels in Italian:
A: pronounced like “ah.”
- Example: pane
E: pronounced like “eh” (open vowel like E in the English word “pen”) or “ay” (closed vowel like A in “bay”). This will depend on the position of the vowel in the word.
- Example: vento (open vowel); cane (closed vowel)
I: pronounced like “ee.”
- Example: vino
O: pronounced similar to “awe” (open vowel) or pronounced like “oh” (closed vowel like O in the English word cone).
- Example: modo (open vowel); geloso (closed vowel)
U: pronounced like “oo.”
- Example: uva
Don’t stress too much about the difference between open and closed vowels. Regional variation may mean that the differences are more pronounced in some areas of Italy, but the correct pronunciation is also something you will develop over time.
Many of the consonants in Italian are pronounced like they are in English. However, there are some exceptions, which we will cover below.
The consonant H: the H in Italian is silent. However, it also has a special use with other consonants, which I will explain later.
The consonant R: in a word with a single R, there will be a slight rolling of the R, which is more exaggerated if there is a double consonant.
The consonant C: the letter C can make a hard K sound like the C in the English word “cat.” It can also make a soft sound like the CH combination in the English word “champ.” The pronunciation will depend on the letters that follow after C:
C + A, O, U: hard K sound.
- Examples: carta, corvo, curato
C + I or E: soft sound like English CH combination.
- Examples: cipolla, cena
CH + I or E: hard K sound
- Examples: chimico, orchestra
The consonant G: much like the consonant C, the letter G will follow a hard pronunciation (like the G in the English word “ghost”) or a soft pronunciation (like the j in “jump”) depending on the letters that follow. The rules are the same as they are for the letter C:
G + A, O, U: hard G sound.
- Examples: gara, gomma, gusto
G + I or E: soft sound like the English J.
- Examples: gita, gesso
GH + I or E: hard G sound.
- Examples: ghirlanda, ghetto
The consonant S: What happens when we throw an S in the mix? Let’s take a look:
SC + A, O, U: hard SK sound.
- Examples: scarpe, scorpione, scudetto
SC + I, E: soft SH sound.
- Examples: sciare, scena
SCH + I, E: hard SK sound.
- Examples: schiena, bruschetta
While there aren’t many Italian words with an SGH combination, this will yield a hard G sound, as in the word “sghiacciare.”
Hopefully, you’re starting to see some patterns emerge!
Double consonants: there are many words in Italian that are separated by the use of a single or a double consonant (sete and sette, for example). While these may be easy to recognize in writing, you’ll have to develop an ear for recognizing the difference when listening to someone speak. When a word contains a double consonant, the consonant sound will be held for a beat longer than a similar word using only a single consonant.
Finally, let’s take a look at some sounds that don’t exist in the English language.
GN: this combination is similar to the way the letters NY are pronounced in the English word “canyon” or the way the middle “onion” is pronounced. However, with Italian, try to squeeze your tongue to the top of your mouth when pronouncing the GN sound.
- Examples: gnocchi, pagnotta
GLI: the pronunciation of this letter combination most closely resembles how we pronounce the LLI in the English word “million.” However, it is a bit different. When pronouncing this sound, place your tongue at the back of your bottom teeth to more closely articulate the Italian pronunciation.
- Examples: figlio, maglione, meglio
Tip: Ready to learn a language? Browse our lists of best Italian courses or German courses or English courses or French classes or Portuguese classes or Mandarin classes or Japanese classes or Russian classes online.
2. Learn The Basics of Italian Grammar
When you begin your Italian language-learning journey, you’ll want to first master some basic grammar such as gender, articles, nouns (singular and plural), and present-tense verbs. Unlike English, all nouns in Italian are either masculine or feminine.
It’s important to understand the gender of a noun, as this will affect which articles, adjectives, or pronouns you use with that specific noun.
There are three types of verbs in Italian: -are, -ere, and -ire verbs, which are determined by the ending of the verb in the infinitive (the unconjugated form of the verb). Once you’ve learned how to form present-tense verbs (and learned the most popular irregular verbs), you’ll be able to be more creative with the language.
Although there are many other verb tenses and moods, a good understanding of the present tense will provide you with a solid foundation to navigate many situations in Italy.
Tip: Here is a general guide on how to learn a language fast. You can also dive into our guides of How to Learn Spanish Fast or How to Learn ASL.
3. To Learn Italian Fast, Use the Knowledge You Already Possess
In the beginning, it can be hard to internalize things like special pronunciation rules in Italian—this is where your prior knowledge can help! You probably already know a lot of Italian words that are regularly used in the English language, such as pizza, spaghetti, gelato, and orchestra. Because of this, you may have already internalized some pronunciation rules like CH + E makes a hard k sound.
But aside from the words that you already know, Italian shares many cognates with the English language. That is, Italian and English share many words with the same linguistic derivation. Some examples include fantastico and fantastic, organismo and organism, memorabile and memorable, and abilità and ability.
You should also be aware of “false friends,” or Italian and English words that look similar but do not share the same meaning. Some examples include fattoria (farm) and factory, libreria (bookshop) and library, and parenti (relatives) and parents.
Over time, you’ll figure out and memorize these false friends, so don’t get frustrated if you make a mistake when you encounter one of these words for the first time. In addition to drawing on the similarities the Italian language shares with English, you’ll also find many similarities with romance languages like French or Spanish.
If you’ve ever taken the time to learn a second language, learning a third language may not be as daunting. Take into consideration the strategies you used the first time around studying a foreign language and apply those best practices to Italian.
4. Start with Italian Words and Basic Phrases That You Find Useful
In the beginning, a lot of the Italian you will be learning and speaking will consist of common words and fixed expressions. This is okay! It takes time to harness the ability to produce creative expressions in another language, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t have meaningful conversations with the simple expressions you will quickly learn.
Start with things like basic greetings and introductions, and then move on to Italian vocabulary and simple Italian phrases that you will find useful for your own language-learning goals. If you want to learn Italian fast so you can travel to Italy, for example, it may be useful to learn phrases associated with getting around the city and completing basic tasks like ordering at a restaurant.
Feel free to skip between topics to tailor your learning to your own needs. If you’re traveling with an English-speaking tour group, for example, then maybe learning to ask for directions isn’t your number one priority. Instead, maybe you just want to be able to order a coffee in a café or buy something at the local market.
By learning Italian vocabulary and expressions that you know you’ll be using in the future, it’s easier to stay motivated when learning Italian. Feel free to keep a notebook with a list of new words in Italian or phrases you learned that you can return to and review.
You may be asking where you can learn some of this vocabulary and these basic expressions. In addition to picking up a dictionary or a phrase book, YouTube can be a great place to start learning Italian fast. The platform offers plenty of videos with phrases in Italian that every beginner should know.
Another great resource—and my personal favorite for getting started with a new language—is one of the language learning apps and services, such as RocketLanguages (visit website), Duolingo, Babbel, or Memrise. While using these apps on their own won’t make you fluent in any language, they’re still very useful and can help you to practice your language-learning skills in a meaningful way.
The Italian lessons are often organized thematically, just like they may be in an Italian language textbook, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and develop the Italian vocabulary that’s specifically relevant to you.
5. To Learn Italian Fast, Take a Deep Dive Into Italian Culture
In the fully digital era of the 21st century, there are endless opportunities to immerse yourself in Italian culture through music, podcasts, TV and cinema, sports, the news, and social media. When I was first learning Italian, listening to music and following along with the lyrics not only solidified my knowledge of Italian pronunciation but also greatly expanded my vocabulary.
It can be tedious (and ineffective) to repeatedly pore over a list of Italian vocabulary words in an attempt to memorize them. However, if you find an Italian singer or an Italian song that you particularly like, listening to music over and over may actually be fun AND allow you to build and review new vocabulary.
Creating an Italian music playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube and listening to it regularly—even as background noise while you’re doing other work—can help train your ear to learn Italian fast. This, of course, also applies to learning any other language.
Similarly, it can be helpful to watch Italian TV shows or movies in the original language with English subtitles. This is great practice for listening to spoken Italian with a natural rhythm and cadence—something you may not necessarily encounter when breaking up the language into smaller pieces on your own. LIngopie (visit website) is a great service here.
You’ll be surprised at the number of words you’re able to pick out even when watching your first film in Italian! You’ll also certainly encounter some Italian slang and common sayings that may not be taught in a textbook. Aside from the pure linguistic benefits, watching Italian TV and movies offer insight into life in Italy and its culture, which is also an important component of learning Italian.
We often think of speaking and understanding spoken Italian as the most important components of learning Italian, but you also need to hone your reading and writing skills. A digestible entryway into reading and writing in Italian might be through social media.
Oftentimes, as is the case with social media, content is broken up into shorter, arguably more understandable chunks. Furthermore, social media doesn’t generally carry the immediacy that a face-to-face conversation does. Thus, you can take your time to understand, reply to, or write your own content without the pressure of time constraints.
My recommendation is to use Twitter, as I think it is the most user-friendly for finding the sort of short-form content I’ve been talking about. In particular, you can change your settings to show trending content in Italy or a specific Italian city.
Of course, feel free to explore content in Italian on other platforms—you have to find what works best for you! Unsure about who to follow on social media? To start, look into your new favorite Italian singers and bands you’ve added to your Spotify playlist, media outlets, or famous movie stars.
Once you’ve learned the basics of reading and writing in Italian and are ready for a challenge, you can start reading news stories in Italian. The language used can be quite difficult at times, so when you start reading the news in Italian it helps to start with articles focused on news events or current events which with you are already familiar. This will help utilize your prior knowledge and context clues to work your way through any given article.
6. Immerse Yourself in Italian and Speak Daily To Learn Italian Faster
While completely immersing ourselves in a place where only Italian is spoken is not realistic for most of us, there are many little things you can do to immerse yourself in the Italian language daily, including strategies you can use in the comfort of your own home.
One idea is to write the Italian word for commonly used household objects on post-it notes and stick them around the house. Good places for this could be the microwave (microonde), the fridge (frigorifero), or on any door (porta).
You can also put them at the threshold of any room you enter so that you familiarize yourself not only with the names of objects but also with the places you spend your time in your home. When using that object or entering that room, repeat the Italian word written on the post-it.
You may also think about setting the default language on your phone, computer, or tablet to Italian and changing the language settings in any social media app you use. Given that these are objects and parts of our lives with which we are intimately familiar, you should not have too much trouble navigating around in Italian. However, be sure to note where the language settings are in case you want to change it back though.
In the end, the best way how to learn Italian fast is to find opportunities to speak it. If you live in a big city, check to see if any of the Italian cultural organizations host a roundtable or conversation hour. If not, look into Meetup organizations in your area (view) to see if there are any groups dedicated to language learning.
Not only is this a great way to practice your Italian language skills, but it’s also a fun way to meet other people who share similar goals. You can also try to recruit a friend or family member to learn Italian with you so that you can keep each other motivated and you always have a conversation partner.
If there aren’t any opportunities where you live to speak Italian in person, or if your friends and familiar are less than willing to embark on an Italian language-learning journey with you, there are plenty of resources on the internet to connect with other Italian speakers.
One of my favorites is iTalki (visit website), which connects language learners with both community tutors and professional teachers. You have to pay for lessons, but each tutor or teacher comes with their own approach to lessons and services offered, so you’ll be able to find the perfect person to fit your own needs.
How To Learn Italian Fast – Final Thoughts
Wrapping ou our tutorial on how to learn Italian fast.
Overall, have fun and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Learning Italian is a process and takes a lot of practice—you’re likely to get tripped up along the way. The good news is that, even if you do make a mistake, chances are the person you’re speaking with will know what you’re trying to say anyway.
That’s great! Your goal is to make yourself understood—you will have plenty of time to refine and perfect your skills as you continue to learn the Italian language.
How To Learn Italian Fast
- Learn Italian Alphabet and Pronunciation.
- Learn Basic Italian Grammar Rules.
- Use the Knowledge You Already Have To Learn Italian Fast.
- Start with Italian Words and Basic Phrases That You Find Useful.
- To Learn Italian Fast Take a Deep Dive Into Italian Culture.
- Deeply Immerse Yourself in Italian and Speak Italian Daily
Resources to Learn Italian Fast
- How To Learn Italian Fast – Italy Made Easy – YouTube – View
- Learn Italian Grammar – YouTube – View
- Learn Italian Pronunciation – YouTube – View
What is your learning experience? Have you got any additional practical tips on how to learn Italian fast?´ Please let us know or contact us via email if you have questions.
Sources: Overview Italian Language –1 | Italy – 2
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