During my time in Italy I was self studying Italian.
Two things have made it easier for me to learn Italian in a nontraditional way. First thing is that I studied Spanish at university, which automatically helped me to understand quite a bit of Italian even if all I could say was ‘sì or no’ in response. Italian and Spanish also have a similar grammar structure which has helped me greatly. The downside to having learned Spanish before was that at the start I always wanted to respond in Spanish or I mixed Spanish and Italian words up! Secondly, my boyfriend is Italian meaning I automatically had a tandem partner and someone to correct me. For two years of our long distance relationship we spoke English because I didn’t want to confuse myself when I was still studying Spanish at university.
1) The Duolingo app. It is actually amazing. You can use it for Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. If you have studied the language before you can take a test to skip the lower levels. It helps you build up a good vocabulary, as well as improve your listening, reading and writing. It also gives you reminders to use the app. However, I only recommend that you use this is you have studied or are studying the language as it doesn’t explain grammar to you. It’s better for reinforcing grammar points you have already studied.
2) Listening to podcasts. There are many good podcasts to help you learn Italian out there. It took me several tries to find one that suited my learning, keep trying until you find one you like!
3) Watching TV or films. This great to help your listening. Once you know a bit more Italian stop using English subtitles and use the Italian subtitles instead. Write down any words you don’t know and look them up. That will help you improve your vocabulary too.
4) Reading magazines. I only started reading magazines the last few months and I wish I had done at the start instead of struggling through books in Italian. I have discovered that I understand magazine articles easier than books, in fact I can understand the whole article without knowing every word. Books on the other hand I struggle to get the jist of the paragraph. When I am reading I like to highlight the words I don’t know, look the meaning up and write them down in my notebook to study.
5) Speaking as much as you can. Every chance you get speak! Don’t worry if you make mistakes, the important thing is that they can understand you even if you are using the wrong tense. The downside of being a native English speaker is that as soon as someone finds out they just want to speak to you in English. Try your best to continue the conversion in Italian. The way I see it is I am here to learn Italian and not help random people I meet with their English. The most annoying thing is when you tell them you are trying to improve your speaking yet they continue to speak in English. I always feel like saying ‘go to English class or do a language exchange if you really want to improve!’
So that’s the end of my tips. The best thing about these tips are that they can all be free! You don’t need to spend a fortune to learn a language and as always immersing yourself in it is always the best option.
Do you have any another tips to add?