My Italian Language Journey and Favorite Italian Language Resources
Getting to a point in my life where I can have full conversations in Italian, text back and forth with friends, use formal language on the phone with clients, write long form essays and overall feel like I’ve finally got somewhere with my Italian language learning journey has not been easy. I’d go as far as to say it was one of the things I struggled with most during my college years (come through beginner Italian courses), study abroad and at least the first year and a half of living in Italy. And while I’m by no means an expert (like, at all) and I have what some would say are unfair advantages (like living in Italy and having an Italian boyfriend to practice with), there are many other things I’ve used along the way to brush up on my skills.
If you’re just interested in learning enough Italian to get by on your trip to Italy, I’ve already put together my list of important expressions to know in Italian, but for anyone seriously interested in gaining at least a conversational level of Italian, these are the resources that I’ve used along the way to improve and largely maintain my level of Italian.
I spend A LOT of time online, considering my job as marketing/social media consultant. Naturally, I gravitate towards online media when I’m studying Italian. One of the easiest ways I find to get a good dose of the language in my everyday life is by following Italian speakers on Instagram. That way, it’s almost forced on me while doing my mindless scrolling and I’ll stop to read a caption or listen to stories in Italian. I love Lucrezia’s account on Instagram (@lucreziaoddone) and her YouTube where she explains topics in further detail. She speaks wonderfully clearly, uses a variety of vocabulary, and knows what points to explain further because of her experience teaching the language. I’d encourage everyone to give her a follow and see what other Italian accounts you find as well!
Of course, I’ve used apps to study Italian before. The ever popular Duolingo was one thing I used right before moving here, when my Italian had degraded to the point of nonexistent. It’s nice to study a set amount of words and verbs in Italian, and mixes written and auditory Italian prompts.
I also am obsessed with podcasts, especially anything that could be classified as “self improvement”. It’s so easy to listen to a podcast in Italian when I’m on the bus or walking somewhere and it does make a different in listing comprehension. My favorites so far center around listing to the news in Italian because it also gives me a prespective on what’s going on in Italy, with different voices and accents. I’m currently listening to “News in Slow Italian: Advanced”, but they also offer beginner and intermediate levels. “Coffee Break Italian” is another news-based option and there are also plenty of Italian grammar and vocabulary podcasts to try as well.
If you get enough conversation practice but are still struggling with verb tenses and other grammatical mistakes, a grammar book might be the best way to brush up on your knowledge. I’ve found that while living in Italy, I get a lot of opportunity to speak in Italian (with friends, at work and with Edoardo) but have been pretty stagnant in the types of verbs that I use and the grammatical structure of my sentences.
To start pushing past my current limits (what’s the trapassato or congiuntivo again?) I’ve (reopened) my grammar book. I use the “Complete Italian Grammar Book” from Practice Makes Perfect which work well for me. And it’s kind of fun doing the exercises because it reminds me of how far i’ve come since the last time I studied this language in college.
My summer goal is to start reading more in Italian and I plan on doing that with a mix of news stories and fiction books that will hopefully keep me interested. If you know me, you know I’m serious about my reading material (I exclusively read intense, long, epic fantasy series in English) but I’m trying to push myself a bit and try a novel in Italian. First on my list are the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels, set in Naples, because I imagine they’ll be even better in the original language of Italian. If you have any recommendations for interesting, relatively simple books in Italian, leave me comment below!
Italian language swap
For anyone who doesn’t have a built in language practice buddy (highly recommend a S.O. who speaks Italian ;) ) I’ve heard people have success going to language exchange meet ups, or tandems, that they find on Facebook. Living in Italy, it’s easy to find opportunities to practice, but from outside the country you can also try out Skype or italki lessons with a teacher like Lucrezia or other people who offer online lessons.
Ideally: An immersive language experience
Obviously if you want to improve your Italian language level as soon as possible and in the most comprehensive way, you’ll need to make living in the country a priority. There’s no replacement for the daily speaking practice that you get living here and the more immersive you make it, the better.
I had the biggest jump in level going from a very basic, beginner level when I first moved here, to a good intermediate level, with 6 months of living with Edoardo’s family. I was speaking the language every day, with people who wouldn’t just switch over to English when I started having trouble. I’ve also improved my formal Italian (giving the “Lei”) since I started working in Italian more frequently and speaking over the phone.
So those are my top tips for improving your Italian, and the resources that I’ve personally used to improve mine. Language learning is, of course, a journey and teaching English has taught me that more than anything. Patience and consistency is absolutely key, but I don’t kid myself in thinking that if I moved back to the States tomorrow, my Italian wouldn’t suffer. But for my life, and my current situation, it’s one of the things that I need to focus on and I definitely take enjoyment in it more so than when I was first starting out.
Please, leave your tips and recommendations for reading or listening material below! It always helps to get advice from others on their own journeys.