Watching Italian TV shows is a fantastic way to practice, because you can do ALL the following things at once:

  • Train yourself to understand native speakers better by listening to realistic conversations.
  • Get into Italian culture and “visit” different places in Italy, without leaving your couch!
  • Lose yourself in a story – you build an emotional connection to Italian which helps you remember words and grammar.

However, there are a few things to watch out for.

First, it can be difficult to find the right show. You might not know which Italian TV shows are available or where to start looking.

Secondly, Italian TV shows are made for native speakers, so they’re difficili, even if you’ve been learning Italian for a while. Without the right techniques in place, you might get discouraged and give up too soon, without getting the benefits of this fun and relaxing way to learn Italian.

So in this article, compiled by Ermy from the Language Rose and Katie from Joy of Languages, you’ll find two sections.

The first section will help you find Italian TV shows to watch. The second will show you what to do with the show, including step by step guides on:

  • What to do when you don’t understand.
  • How to use Italian shows to train yourself to understand and speak to Italians in real life.
  • Activities to feel like you’re making progress, with tips on how to remember the grammar and vocabulary.

Let’s start with our top 53 Italian TV shows. Cominciamo!‌

Italian TV‌ shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime

We’ll start with Katie’s list because you can find most of them on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Below, you’ll also find a list of Ermy’s favourite Italian classics.

A couple of pro tips…

1. Not all series are available in all countries because of distribution rights. To see what’s available in your country, try typing Italian language TV shows in the search bar.

Do a quick search for “Italian language TV shows” to see what’s available.

2. For some of the Youtube clips in this post, you can turn on the subtitles. They can be a little buggy because they’re autogenerated, but they’re still a great help in understanding.

For some Youtube videos, you can turn on the subtitles to help you understand.

Made in Italy

Set in Milan in the 1970s, this drama follows the lives of interns, journalists, designers, and models during a period when Italy’s fashion industry was becoming world famous.

Wrapped up in the exciting new world of fashion, the series explores themes of the changing times, including sexuality, women in the workforce and the lifestyles of the stylists who built up the industry in Italy.

The pretty cinematography pulls you in, making you feel like you just spent the last hour walking around the historical buildings and chic streets of Milano.

Where:‌ Amazon Prime

Rocco Schiavone

A vice police chief is transferred from his home city in Rome to the small mountain town Aosta under mysterious circumstances.

Based on the novels of Antonio Manzini, Rocco Schiavone is the ultimate antihero – a rule breaking, weed smoking cop, who you immediately warm to.

Where: Amazon prime

L’Allieva

Medical student Alice has doubts about her future plans. After the death of her grandmother’s carer, she discovers a new career path in forensic medicine.

Based on the book by Alessia Gazzola, this light and very watchable series follows the every-so-slightly goofy Alice as she tries to find her feet in the world of work and love.

The narrations and dialogues are clearer compared to some of the other series in this list, so this is a good place to start for intermediate learners. When you watch the series, I’d recommend turning on the Italian subs for a helping hand so you can read and listen at the same time.

Where: Amazon prime

L’amica geniale (My brilliant friend)

Adapted from the well-loved novel by Elena Ferrante, this coming-of-age drama set in 1950s Naples is perfect if you want to immerse yourself in beautiful Italy from your sofa.

Follow the story of two girls growing up in post-war Italy and the complications they face as their lives become intertwined between the Camorra (a mafia-style organisation in Naples) and communist ideals.

You’ll find a solid story, talented actors and a gorgeous cinematography that makes you feel like you’re looking out over Vesuvius and walking along the cobbled streets right next to the characters.

There’s one catch – a lot of the dialogue is in the Neapolitan dialect, so it’s not ideal for beginner or intermediate learners. This one’s best for for advanced learners who want to get used to hearing how people speak in different regions of Italy.

Where: Amazon Prime, HBO. You can also find some clips of My brilliant friend in Italian on Youtube.

Liberi sognatori (Ordinary heroes)

This touching series explores the lives and deaths of four courageous Italian citizens who stood up to criminal organisations in Italy. Based on true stories, you’ll learn more about:

Libero Grassi, a Sicilian clothes manufacturer who refused to pay il pizzo, the protection money demanded by the mafia.

Mario Francese, a journalist who was killed after exposing the criminal activity of Toto Riina and the Corleone clan, and his son’s fight for justice twenty years later.

Renata Fonte, a politician and the first female victim in Salento, who opposed corrupt property developers and fought to save Porto Selvaggio, a natural park in the South of Italy.

Where: Netflix

Baby

Inspired by a true case that happened in Rome in 2013,  this dark teen drama is centered on the lives of two young private-school students who become involved in a prostitution ring to gain financial independence and fund expensive lifestyles.

While the real events caused a scandal in Italy, uncovering a number of high profile clients, including government officials, the fictional series focuses more on the psychology and relationships of the two characters. What could have driven two girls to choose this lifestyle? What consequences will their secret have on the people around them and their futures?

Some of the characters speak in the Romanesco dialect, so it’ll be handy to turn on Italian subs for this one.

Where: Netflix

Il miracolo (The miracle)

A police officer finds a statue of the Virgin Mary crying blood, which laboratory tests confirm to be real, human blood. The series explores reactions of police, politicians and the church, as the statue leads to unexpected complications in the personal lives of those involved.

Celebrated Italian author Niccolò Ammaniti made his TV debut with il Miracolo which did not disappoint. I loved this series – it kept me awake as I couldn’t stop myself from watching the next episode!‌

Where: Sky Atlantic, Apple TV. Sorry I cheated, I wanted the whole list to be shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave this one out!‌

First team Juventus

This documentary series follows Juventus players on and off the field as they attempt to win their 7th consecutive Italian title and prepare for the Champions League.

Players include Federico Bernardeschi, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa and Gonzalo Higuaín.

If you’re into football, this is a great way to learn more about the team and brush up on your Italian at the same time.

Where: Netflix

Romanzo criminale

This cult series, based on the novel and film of the same name, tells the story of three friends who are members of the Banda della Magliana, a mafia-style group based in Rome. Things get messy as they attempt to unite and gain control of the various criminal organisations in the city.

Inspired by true events, this violent series is not for the faint hearted, but you’ll like it if you enjoy a good gangster story. A lot of the dialogue is in Romanesco, the local dialect spoken in the capital, which means that this one is probably best for advanced listeners.

Where:‌ Amazon prime video, Sky Arts.

Il processo (The trial)

Public prosecutor Elena Guerra finds herself working on the case of a murder of 17 year old Angelica, and it turns out she’s linked to the victim.

I highly recommend this one – the series is well made and the actors are great.

Where: Netflix

Boris

This comedy is probably my favourite Italian show of all time. Set behind the scenes of a popular fiction (soap opera), this parody makes fun of the daily goings on between the directors, actors and production teams.

It’s one of those classics you can watch over and over with your friends – years later our conversations are still peppered with quotes from this show.

If you like cult comedy series like Arrested Development or Modern Family, you might appreciate the dry humor of this Italian show.

I’d also recommend checking out the film with the same name.

Where: The series used to be on Netflix but since it’s been taken down it’s pretty tricky to find. At the time of writing, the series is available on Daily Motion with English subtitles.

Gomorra

Back in Naples, this series is based on the book of the same name, written by journalist Saviano who infiltrated and exposed the criminal underworld in his home city. Written like a novel, but based on true events, Saviano – who’s been living under police protection for over 10 years – created a new, gripping genre, that exposed the Camorra (the mafia in Naples) to Italians, and later to the rest of the world in a way that had never been done before.

The TV series doesn’t maintain much of the investigative journalism style of the book, but it does show the gritty realism of gang life in Naples.

In 2008, the book was turned into an award-winning film of the same name. Many actors were non-professional locals with real gang connections, and some have since been arrested for crimes including murder and drug trafficking.

I‌ wasn’t sure whether to include Gomorra because both the film and the series are in the local Neapolitan dialect, a language so different from Italian that even Italians need subtitles to watch it. But the book, film and series have been an important part of the conversation in Italy, so I‌ thought you might like to know more about them.

Here’s a little more about the writer, who collaborated with the makers of the series.

Saviano is a well-loved personality in modern Italian culture and if you’re interested in learning more about his life, you should check out the documentary made by the famous – and extremely likeable – host and director, Pif.

Where:‌ Depending on where you are, the series may be available on Amazon prime or Sky Atlantic. You’ll find the documentary about Roberto Saviano on Netflix.

I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone (The bastards of Pizzofalcone)

Still in Naples, in this series a team of police officers arrive to replace their colleagues caught up in a drug trafficking case. Fished from the rejects of other police stations, the new team earn themselves the name i bastardi.

Where:‌ Amazon Prime

Skam Italia

This Italian remake of the Norwegian high-school series explore the dark side of being a teenager in today’s hyper-connected world. Told between Instagram and Whatsapp, the realistic stories deal with friendship, fall outs, sex and religion.

Where: Netflix

Nero a metà (Carlo e Malik)

In this cheesy cop series, stuck-in-his-ways inspector Carlo is forced to adapt when he starts collaborating with Malik, a 28 year old deputy born on the Ivory Coast.

The way the show deals with race is clumsy at times, but it does a good job at exposing the old fashioned assumptions and challenges that adopted and second generation kids face growing up as Italians in Italy. For example, when investigating a crime scene:

Carlo: In Italy, we make scaffolding with these.

Malik: I know, I grew up here.

The series is easy watching, with intriguing cases and a blossoming love story between Malik and Carlo’s daughter, Alba.

Where: Netflix

Il cacciatore (the hunt)

Loosely inspired by the real life story of antimafia judge Alfonso Sabella, this series follows a young prosecutor fighting to put members of the Sicilian mafia behind bars following a series of bombings in the early 90s.

Where: Amazon Prime

Luna nera

Based on the novels by Tiziana Triana, young midwife Ade discovers witches in her family. To complicate matters, the father of her loved one becomes involved in the witch hunt, accusing her and her grandmother of witchery.

Where: Netflix

Suburra

This criminal drama series, inspired by the 2015 film and the book of the same name, is based on real events of the Mafia Capitale investigation, which exposed a series of corrupt relationships between politicians and the criminal underworld in Rome.

The first Italian language TV series to appear on Netflix, the series is a prequel, exploring the lives and power struggles of those involved before the events came to light.

There’s a lot of dialect in this one, so it’s not the best series for learning standard Italian, but it’s perfect for training yourself to get used to strong regional varieties of Italian, and an overall gripping story to get lost in.

Where: Netflix

I segreti di Borgo Larici (Secrets of Borgo Larici)

After years in Paris, Francesco returns to his home in Piedmont, Italy, after receiving a mysterious note claiming that his mother, who committed suicide years ago, is still alive. This mini series, set against the backdrop of social unrest in 1920s Italy, is full of drama, great costumes and of course, a star-crossed romance.

Where: Amazon prime. If you’re in Italy, you can find it on Mediaset Play.

1992 (Berlusconi Rising)

This series is based on mani pulite (literally “clean hands”), the investigation that shook the entire country by exposing political corruption in Italy in the early 90s.

A wealthy business man attempts to turn the events to his advantage and rise to power. Perhaps thinking that the allusion might be lost on foreign viewers, outside of Italy they added the subtitle “Berlusconi Rising”.

Whenever I ask Italians for TV show recommendations, this one always comes up. If you like dramas like House of Cards, Westwing or Madmen, you’ll probably really enjoy this one.

Look out for the follow up series:‌ 1993 and 1994.

Where: Depending on your location, you can look for this series on Sky, Amazon prime or Apple TV.

Celebrity Hunted: Caccia all’Uomo

In this Italian version of the hit British TV show Hunted, eight Italian celebrities go on the run for 14 days with nothing but an old cellphone and a card to withdraw €70 a day. A team of professionals, including criminologists, hackers, cyber security experts and ex-police officers are tasked with hunting them down.

A fun way to learn a little more about Italian culture, the celebrities include footballers, musicians and actors. Also, because it’s a reality TV show, there’s no script – it’s great for hearing Italians speak in a natural spontaneous way.

Where: Amazon prime

Francesco de Carlo: Cose di questo mondo

Warm, funny and a little politically incorrect, Roman comedian Francesco de Carlo talks life, politics and global travel in this stand-up comedy show.

There’s only one episode, so it’s not technically a series, but it’s all good Italian listening material. And if you can understand stand up comedy in Italian, you can follow anything!‌

Here’s an example of Francesco in action, talking about how Italians are seen abroad (turn on the subs if you need a little help).

Where: Netflix

Edoardo Ferrario: Temi caldi

Similarly, you can try watching this stand up from Edoardo Ferrario, the first Italian comedian to get his own show on Netflix.

Between impressions and observational humor, he deals with various temi caldi (hot topics) including life in his 30s, social media and craft beer.

Next, I’ll pass you over to Ermy, a native Italian teacher, so she can share some of her favourite classic Italian TV shows.

Ermy’s favourite Italian TV shows

When I’m in Italy visiting family, I still watch some of these series myself as they’re fairly recent and there are always new seasons coming up. And if there’s no new season, it’s likely that in summer, when most Italian channels are “on holiday”, they rerun.

If you’re in Italy or you have a VPN, you can watch these series on the official websites of the Italian TV channels. You’ll also find links to Youtube clips so you can check them out.

Che Dio ci aiuti

This series is about the adventures of Suor Angela, an upbeat and fairly nosy (in a good way!) Italian nun who get herself involved in all sort of things, from love stories to crime stories to random people’s family business.

Regardless of the religious setting, this is a fun and uplifting series to watch suitable for all ages. What I love the most about it is Suor Angela’s character: she’s an unshakable optimist and, at times, rebellious spirit.

Where: If you’d like to check this series out, here’s a youtube playlist with some episodes from the first series: Che Dio ci aiuti.

It’s also available in Italy on Rai Play.

I Cesaroni

The name of this series comes from the surname of the family starring it. The Cesaroni are an enlarged family, made up of two different families coming together after a second marriage. They all live in the Garbatella, one of the main neighbourhoods in Rome. Themes like love, friendship, brotherhood and marriage are all nicely depicted in this series and if you like love stories with a fun twist, this is the series for you.

Cultural tip: in this series you’ll not only hear standard Italian but also Romanesco, the dialect of Rome. So this may be the right choice for you if you are a more advanced learner and also a wonderful way to find out more about how people in Rome really speak to each other.

Personally, I love this series because most characters are quite loud and very amusing.

Where: Here’s a playlist on Youtube with some popular scenes from I Cesaroni. If you’re in Italy, you can find the series on Mediaset play.

Provaci ancora, prof

“Provaci ancora” means “try again” and “prof” is the short for “professoressa” which means “teacher”. If you’d like to find out what school in Italy is like and at the same time enjoy crime stories, this series is for you.

The main character is Camilla Baudino, a high school teacher that likes getting herself involved in some crime stories and collaborating with policemen to resolve a variety of cases.

You can find parts of the episodes on You Tube:

Il Commissario Montalbano

Il commissario Montalbano is the chief of the state police station of Vigata, a fictional town in Sicily. He investigates various crimes in his area, which he manages to solve thanks to his intelligence and the help of various characters he encounters on his journey. If you love detective stories, you should definitely watch this series!

Here’s part of an episode of Commissario Montalbano on YouTube:

Where: This series is popular all over the world, so you might be able to find it on a broadcasting service in your country. For example, in the UK, you can find it on BBC iPlayer. In Australia, it’s broadcast on SBS.

You might also be able to find it on Amazon Prime, or if you’re in Italy, you can watch the series on RaiPlay.

Un Medico in Famiglia

This series depicts an average Italian family and their busy and funny family life. The main character of this series is a doctor (“un medico”) who lives with his family in the same house where everyone gets involved in each other’s business and the concept of privacy doesn’t really exist! 

The lively, united and amusing family of un Medico in Famiglia will show you the way average Italians deal with daily life issues (love, school, career…) and will make you laugh, cry, and also understand that sometimes, “Una parola è troppa e due sono poche” (one word is too much and two are too few), as Nonno Libero says!

You can find some scenes from Un medico in famiglia on Youtube.

Where: If you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you’ll also find Un medico in famiglia on Rai Play.

Italian TV shows: Soap operas and reality TV

Note from Katie:‌ Confession time – I’m a big fan of using soaps and reality shows to learn Italian! These kinds of series have a few advantages:‌

  • Simpler language: reality shows and soap operas are based on everyday life, so you learn vocabulary that’s more useful for real conversations.
  • No complicated plot to follow:‌ you probably have enough on your plate with the Italian, so the simpler the storyline, the better!
  • Guilt-free: you can indulge in this guilty pleasure for as long as you like because you’re learning Italian at the same time!

There are a couple of advantages when it comes to listening too. In soap operas, the over-the-top acting can actually be helpful for learning Italian because the intonation makes speech clearer.

Conversely, reality TV shows are a great way to train yourself to understand natural Italian. You’re a fly on the wall, listening to how Italians speak in real life. This means you’ll learn lots of common little words, expressions and natural pronunciation points that might not show up in scripted shows.

Un posto al sole

From Monday to Friday at 20:45, millions of Italians sit down to follow the lives of the residents of Palazzo Palladini, a villa by the sea in Naples. Running for over 20 years, this soap opera is an Italian institution.

Based on the format of the Australian soap Neighbours, expect the usual plots:‌ love triangles, paternity tests, criminal activity and other family secrets.
To date, there are over 5000 episodes, so you won’t be short of listening materials!

Where: You can find parts of some episodes on Youtube, or if you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you can catch the whole series on Rai play.

Italian Masterchef

Join wannabe cooks in the kitchen as they’re put under pressure by famous Italian chefs.

I’m not normally a big fan of the Masterchef format but the Italian one is brilliant, perhaps because of the importance of food in Italian culture. Expect stunning locations, lots of laughter and a few tears.

Where: Check out the Masterchef Youtube channel here.

The real housewives of Naples

Set amongst the beautiful backdrop of Naples, follow this group of rich and brash women as they go shopping, eat in fancy restaurants and spend most of the time fighting and bitching about each other.

Where: If you’re in Italy or have a VPN, you can find the whole series on DPlay – the perfect platform for trashy Italian TV!

Il paradiso delle signore

This series is a hybrid between a soap opera and a period drama, which follows the lives and loves of a group of women working in the first big department store in 1950s Italy.

Where: Amazon prime, Rai play.

Grande fratello (Big brother)

You know the drill – put a bunch of big personalities in a small house for a few months and sit back and watch as all hell breaks loose. This is an especially good one for eavesdropping on Italian conversations.

Where: If you’re in Italy or you have a VPN, you can watch the whole series on Mediaset play.

Uomini e donne (Men and women)

Running since 1996, this dating show is another Italian institution. Originally a chat show where couples would discuss their problems in public, it took on the format of dating show in 2001.

There’s a tronista (person who sits on the throne) and gets to choose between various corteggiatori or corteggiatrici (male or female suitors).

Italian trash TV at its best, this one’s perfect for if you want to switch off your brain and focus on trying to understand colloquial Italian.

Where: You can find lots of clips on the Uomini e donne Youtube channel, or the whole series in Italy on Mediaset Play.

Amici

This talent show follows a group of young aspiring singers and dancers as they practice and perform for judges and a studio audience.

Maria De Filippi, who also happens to be the presenter of the previous entry, wrote and developed the show and is a household name in Italy.

If you like shows like X Factor and America’s got talent, you’ll love this one. Bonus: compared to similar shows, Amici focuses more on behind the scenes moments between the contestants, which gives you more opportunity to listen to natural Italian conversations.

Where:‌ You can watch some scenes on the Youtube channel or if you’re in Italy you can find the whole series on Mediaset play.

Temptation Island Italia

You probably know the drill for this one too – put some couples and some singles together on an island and things start to get interesting!

Where: You can find the Temptation Island Youtube channel here and watch full episodes in Italy on Witty TV.

Una vita in bianco

This web series follows the lives of three friends in their early twenties as they navigate life between social media and romance.

It’s light (and pretty cheesy!) and the episodes are around 6 minutes long – perfect for squeezing in a bit of Italian listening around your day.

Where: watch some clips on youtube here, or see the full episodes in Italy on Witty TV.

Italian TV shows: Youtube

The big Italian TV networks also have Youtube channels, so you can check out some clips and sometimes full episodes. You’ll get a nice idea of what’s available on the channels and the chance to dip your toe into Italian culture.

La7

On the Youtube channels of this Italian TV Network, you’ll find full episodes of a lot of their shows, divided by genre. For example, on their news channel, La7 attualità, you’ll find full episodes of current affairs shows such as Otto e mezzo, Coffee break and Omnibus.

For straight up news, try TG La7 and for something a little lighter, try their entertainment channel La7 Intrattenimento where you’ll find shows like Uozzap (a play on the Italian pronunciation of “Whats app”) or gardening show L’erba del vicino.

Finally, you’ll also find La7d, where the network publishes their daytime and reality TV such as cooking, chat and travel shows.

For more cooking, you can also check out their channel Food Maniac.

La Rai

Rai is the national broadcasting company in Italy. On the Rai Youtube channel, you’ll find clips and sometimes full episodes of shows across their full network, including radio shows.

To immerse yourself in Italian culture, look out for Italia sì, a show which covers mini stories in the everyday lives of the Italian public. Or hone your general knowledge and vocabulary with the game show L’Eridità.

You’ll also find some classic current affairs and daytime TV shows such as Report and La vita in diretta.

Mediaset

On the Mediaset Youtube channel, you’ll find light “daytime TV” style entertainment, such as dating, chat and cooking shows.

Full episodes on youtube

Here are a few other series that, at the time of writing, are available to watch on Youtube with automated subtitles:

Dov’è mia figlia: A 4 episode mini detective series in which a young girl goes missing.

Amore pensaci tu: a drama centered on four fathers and their family responsibilities.

Le tre Rose di Eva: a telenovela style show – expect lots of drama and over the top acting!

La squadra: a nostalgic cop show set in Naples

For more Italian Youtube channels, check out this post:

14 addictive Italian Youtube channels to learn Italian (with subtitles)

BONUS: Dubbed series in Italian!

Did you know that in Italy, foreign films and series are dubbed in Italian? This means that there are loads of shows with Italian audio that you may want to watch (or rewatch!) too!

It helps to choose a TV series or a film you already know and love – this way you’ll be able to follow the storyline better and pick up new words whilst developing your listening skills.

Here are some examples:

  • Friends
  • Orange is the new black
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Stranger things
  • Westwing
  • House of cards
  • Madmen
  • Una mamma per amica – the Italian version of Gilmore Girls!

The list is endless… whatever your favourite show is, you can probably find it dubbed in Italian. Do a quick search on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky or any other platform you use and you should find many more series that you can watch in Italian.

Also, have a look at the old DVDs you have at home and see on the cover what languages they can be watched in. If Italian is featured, you’re set!

If you need more advice on dealing with the kind of fast speech that you find in TV series and films, you can watch Ermy’s video on how to train your listening:

How to learn Italian by watching TV shows

The shows above are all aimed at native speakers, which means that it’ll be easier for you to watch them if you’re already at an intermediate level or above.

At this level, you’ll gradually be able to start picking up more and more of what’s said (especially if you can find them with Italian subtitles)‌ and you’ll get lots of exposure to grammar and vocabulary to help everything sink in.

Not there yet?‌ Non c’è problema! You can enjoy Italian TV‌ shows at lower levels, all you need are a few extra strategies in place.

In the rest of this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose the right TV shows for your tastes and level.
  • Strategies for when you don’t understand.
  • Activities to help you make progress as you watch Italian TV shows.

Which Italian TV show should I choose?

When thinking about which show to choose, there are two things to bear in mind.

  1. Do I like the show?‌
  2. Is the language the right level/useful enough?

It’s important to choose a show that you really like. Why? Learning to understand the dialogues in Italian TV shows takes a lot of patience and effort. If you don’t like the show, you’ll lose motivation quickly.

On the flip side, if you pick a show you really like, you’ll be motivated to try and follow what’s happening. You’ll be happy to dedicate more time and energy to looking up words and rewinding bits to make sure you understood. This means that you’ll learn more Italian!

How to choose an Italian show at the right level

I have a Brazilian friend Fabricio who speaks fab English. One of his favourite series is “Game of Thrones”. However, he pointed out that this wouldn’t be a very useful series for learners, for a few reasons:

  1. The speech is difficult to understand, with lots of strong accents. 
  2. The language isn’t very useful. When was the last time you heard someone use the words “jester” or “dagger” in a conversation?
  3. The episodes last for an hour, which is a bit overwhelming.

His advice? To find out whether an Italian TV show is the right level for you is to try it out!

Choose a show and play an episode. If you can, try to find one with subtitles in Italian. These will help you follow the speech more easily, see words you already know in use, learn new vocabulary and get used to the sounds of Italian. If you need to pause to catch up and read the subtitles, that’s fine.

If you understood enough to get the general gist of what was going on, ottimo!‌ When you come across new words and phrases, you can pause the episode to write them down or add them to a flashcard app to help you memorise the words later.

Pro tip: Focus on understanding the general gist. Don’t pause to look up every new word because that’ll get old quickly! I’d recommend just doing it for:‌

1. Words which are key to understanding the plot – you can’t understand what’s going on unless you find out the meaning of this word.

2. Words or phrases that you feel drawn to and think might be useful in your own conversations.

Over time, you’ll get faster at understanding (pausing less) and when you watch a lot of Italian TV, you might reach the stage where you can ditch the subtitles altogether. But don’t feel like you need to rush this – watching TV without subtitles is for very advanced levels, and you can still learn a lot with the subtitles on.

Aiuto! What if I don’t understand anything?

If you find that Italian TV is impossibile to follow, that’s ok, and totally normal!

Italian TV shows are designed for native speakers. People who’ve spent their whole lives – at least 105120 hours for an 18 year old – listening to spoken Italian. It’s normal that they’re difficult to understand for learners!‌ Even if you’ve spent a few hundred hours listening, it’s likely that you’ll need a lot more practice before you can comfortably understand TV shows.

So in this section, we’ll look at activities you can do to make the dialogues easier to understand.

1. Try the Language Learning with Netflix app

There are two main reasons that Italian TV is hard to follow. Either:

  1. You don’t know the words.
  2. They speak too fast.

There’s a brilliant Chrome extension that can help. It’s called Language Learning with Netflix and it makes Italian TV shows easier to watch because it makes the subtitles interactive. Just click on a word you don’t know and the definition will pop up!‌

There are loads of other settings designed to help you learn too, for example:

  1. You can press the back key to hear the same line as many times as you like.
  2. There’s an optional side bar where you can quickly compare the sentence to the translation in your native language.

If you only do one thing after reading this article, give language learning with Netflix a try – it might be the best thing you ever do to improve your Italian!

2. Use Italian TV shows as a study resource

You might not be able to understand the show if you kick back and watch it as you would in your native language, but as long as you have subtitles (almost all the Netflix series do), there are lots of study activities you can do with the series to improve your Italian.

Here are a couple of posts with ideas:‌

5 smart ways to learn a language by watching TV and films

Improve your listening skills in a foreign language – the ultimate guide

This option isn’t as relaxing as watching a normal TV show, but it’s still a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom memorising verb tables.

3. Start with Italian shows designed for learners

When you learn Italian, it’s important to be patient and forgiving with yourself. Give yourself permission to be a learner for as long as it takes.

If normal shows are too much of a challenge at the moment, look for simplified series aimed at learners. For example, the Easy Italian Youtube channel has subtitles in Italian and English, to help you understand what’s being said.

If you find that people speak too fast in the street interviews, you can try the Super Easy Series.

Here are a couple of other series for Italian learners on Youtube that you might like too:

4. Join a video immersion service

If you’d like something a little more structured, there are platforms that take Italian videos, organise them, and add lots of features to help you learn.

For example, on the Yabla Italian video immersion platform, you can watch Italian clips such as music, interviews, news and Italian TV series. The videos are organised into levels, which takes out a lot of the work of having to look for stuff that’s suitable. They also have interactive subtitles you can click on to get definitions and a player which allows you to slow down the audio and skip back a few seconds. Finally, there’s also a system where you can record new words and play games to help you review.

5. Watch the Italian TV show with English subs

The final option is to watch the show with subtitles in your native language, or another language you speak well. This option isn’t ideal, because it can be too tempting to focus on reading the subtitles without listening to the Italian.

However, it can be good for immersing yourself in the culture, picking up a few words and getting used to the sounds of Italian.

As you watch, try to listen actively to the Italian and pay as much attention to the audio as possible. When you focus in this way, you’ll hear lots of common words that are repeated by the actors and start to be able to link them to words in your native language.

You can also write the words down and study them later. If you can’t identify the words by ear, try flipping over to the Italian subtitles to see the word written down.

In the meantime, keep studying Italian. Over time, you’ll be able to make more links between what you’re hearing and reading, until you’re ready for the next step: watching the series with subtitles in Italian.

Activities to boost your learning with Italian TV shows

Watching Italian TV shows is fantastico. You can get cosy with a glass of vino or a gelato and learn Italian at the same time. It’s a win.

But sometimes you might find a doubt creeping in…

  • Am I doing enough?
  • Shouldn’t I be “studying” harder?‌

Watching TV in itself is a great activity to boost your listening skills, vocabulary and grammar, but if you want to do something that feels more focused, there are some great activities you can do to boost your learning.

And the best bit – they still involve watching TV!

Check out the post below for some handy study strategies you can use to learn Italian by watching Italian TV shows:

Read this article for 5 smart ways to learn Italian by watching films and TV.

For more ideas on how to use TV series to learn Italian, you can check out Katie’s talk at the polyglot gathering in Bratislava:

Over to you

Have you seen any of these Italian TV shows?‌ What did you think‌?‌ Do you know any other good Italian TV shows or series dubbed in Italian that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below and let’s add to this list.

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Improve your listening skills in a foreign language – the ultimate guide

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The 38 best tools for learning Italian, from beginner to advanced

You know those “Giovanni checks into a hotel” style dialogues you find in most Italian textbooks?

They’re ok if you want to pick up a few polite phrases for travelling. But not so great if you want to actually have conversations with Italians.

Why?

Firstly, they’re not very exciting, so it takes a lot of willpower to use them consistently. And perhaps more importantly, because Italians don’t talk like that in real life.

If you want to understand Italians – and talk like them – the best way is to practise listening to Italians talking in real situations.

Luckily, in 2019 you don’t need to go to Italy to do it. You can create your own little immersion by watching Italian YouTube channels (and go down the YouTube rabbit hole guilt-free because you’re learning Italian at the same time!)

Why you should watch Italian YouTube channels to learn Italian

With Italian YouTube channels, you can listen to people speaking natural Italian, which is perfect for training yourself to understand Italian conversations.

Also, as they’re real human beings, they’re interesting to watch – they can get quite addictive which is great for your Italian!

Finally, many of them come with Italian subtitles, an invaluable resource for going deeper into your Italian study. Native speakers don’t come with subtitles in real life but YouTube is the next best thing – once you’ve listened, you can go back and read the Italian subtitles to look up new words and grammar points.

Some channels also have subtitles in both Italian and English so you can switch between the two and check that you’ve understood. If you need a little help finding the subtitles, there’s a mini-tutorial on how to use YouTube subtitles in different languages at the end of this post.

Once you’ve got subtitles on YouTube, there are tons of different activities you can do to get the most out of the video and learn loads of Italian. For some ideas about how to use these videos to improve your Italian skills, check out in this post with 5 smart ways to learn a language by watching TV and films:

Italian YouTube Channels

But first, let’s get into the best Italian YouTube channels to help you learn Italian.

Italian YouTube Channels for Beginners

Italy Made Easy

Manu is a native Italian based in Australia. In his videos, he explains concepts clearly and has a great understanding of the kinds of problems you’re likely to come up against when you start learning Italian. He’s also a polyglot (he speaks several foreign languages himself) and gives tips on how to learn Italian.

Although he’s in our beginner section, Manu has videos that go right up to advanced level, so you can keep learning with him as your Italian gets better.

He also has a great series of slow videos (with subtitles in Italian) so you can ease yourself into to listening to real spoken Italian.

 

Italian Pod101

Italian Pod101 is great for picking up some basics. Importantly, they give lots of natural examples so you can see how to use the words and phrases in real life.

One World Italiano

Veronica is the bubbly Italian teacher behind One World Italiano. Her videos are entirely in Italian so they’re towards the more difficult end of our beginner section, but she speaks in a slow and clear style. If you struggle to understand the audio, you can use the Italian subtitles to read along and look up any words you don’t know. The One World Italiano channel has a variety of levels, so you can start with the beginner videos and work your way up.

LearnAmo

On the LearnAmo channel, you’ll find mini-tutorials on Italian grammar, culture, expressions and commonly confused words. LearnAmo’s videos are 100% in Italian, so they’re not for complete beginners, however, they talk clearly, which makes them perfect for making your first steps into listening to natural Italian. Some videos have subtitles in both English and Italian, so you can listen in Italian first then switch to English to check your understanding.

Italian YouTube Channels for Intermediate Learners

Easy Languages

On the Easy Languages YouTube channel, we go out onto the streets of Italy and pose questions to passers-by. It’s a great way to get up close to Italian culture and get used to hearing natives speak in a natural and spontaneous way.

To help you follow along, there are big subtitles in Italian and smaller ones in English. Quick tip: try covering the English subtitles with a piece of paper while you listen the first few times, so you can get used to figuring out the meaning from the Italian.

There are loads more activities you can do with these dual-language subtitles to help you learn Italian faster. Check out this post for ideas on how to use YouTube videos to learn Italian.

Your Italian Teacher

With her calm and clear teaching style, Valeria of Your Italian Teacher makes mini-tutorial videos on Italian grammar, vocabulary, and phrases. She speaks Italian at a natural pace, which is great for training your listening. The majority of her videos focus on native-sounding phrases and details that foreign students often get wrong, so they’re perfect for refining your Italian once you can already speak it at a basic level.

 

Lucrezia Oddone

Rome-based Lucrezia Oddone’s love for her native language is contagious! On her YouTube channel, you’ll find grammar tips, handy phrases, Q&As and language learning tips. Her vlogs are especially lovely to watch because she brings you out onto the streets of Italy – it’s almost like being there yourself!

Most of Lucrezia’s videos are entirely in Italian so it’s great for getting the immersion experience. She usually adds manual subtitles to her videos so you can be sure that you’re reading correct Italian, without having to have to worry about the confusing mistakes that can sometimes pop up in the autogenerated ones.

Italiano Automatico

Alberto from Italian Automatico set up his YouTube channel for “people who already have some knowledge about grammar and vocabulary but they can’t speak well, or they can’t speak at all…” He creates super interesting videos in Italian with the help of a special guest, his lovely nonna! His unique approach to learning Italian is focused on listening and speaking without obsessing over the grammar, which is something I can totally get on board with.

Related post: Why so hard? How to learn a second language as an adult

At the time of writing, he already has a library of 503 videos, including a playlist of videos with Italian subtitles. Time for an Italiano Automatico YouTube binge!

Italian YouTube Channels for Advanced Learners

Now you’re at an advanced level, you can kick back and watch videos for native speakers. You’ll probably still come across bits and pieces that are tricky to understand (still happens to me and I’ve been living in Italy for over 6 years!). For this reason, here you’ll find 6 Italian YouTube channels with subtitles, so you can go back and read any bits you miss.

Sgrammaticando

Fiorella from Sgrammaticando started her YouTube channel to clarify grammar points for Italians (yep, even Italians need help with their own grammar sometimes!), but as her channel grew, she realised that she also had lots of Italian learners in her audience. In her fun and friendly style, she answers FAQs and gives tutorials to help both Italians and Italian learners avoid common mistakes and “defend themselves” from the common traps of the Italian language.

She’s also written a book on the same topic, so if you want to refine your Italian by correcting common grammar mistakes, Fiorella’s your girl!

Fan Page

With over 1 million subscribers, Fan Page is one of the most popular YouTube channels in Italy. Here you’ll find social commentaries, interviews, investigative journalism, and pranks. One of the things that makes Fan Page so popular is their ability to show current affairs and Italian culture with a personal touch  – like this “letter from Neapolitans to migrants in difficulty.”

Or this reportage on the meeting between vice-president Salvini and Gino Sorbillo, a famous pizza chef who has spoken out against Salvini’s right wing policies.

Wild at Earth

In her fun travel channel, Italian globetrotter Mery takes you around the world and documents her experiences in her native language. In addition to classic travel guides, she talks about interesting challenges she faces while travelling, such as living in a 14 square meter apartment.

Luca Lampariello

Luca Lampariello is an Italian polyglot who gives advice on how to learn a language on his popular YouTube channel. A few of his videos are in his native language, so you can pick up tips on how to learn a language and practise your Italian listening at the same time!

The Jackal

People often say that if you can understand humor in the language you’re learning, you know the language well. In that case, you can put your Italian to the test by watching the Jackal – probably the most popular alternative comedy YouTube channel in Italy.

Some of their videos have subtitles in both Italian and English, which means you can start with Italian and switch to English every now and then, just to make sure you’ve understood everything. And they have lovely Neapolitan accents – perfect for getting some exposure to regional varieties of Italian.

Get started with this video: 10 things you didn’t know about Italians (maybe you didn’t want to know but we’ll tell you anyway)

Cook Around

If you’re hoping to speak Italian like a native speaker, why not learn to cook like one too?  There are lots of Italian cooking channels on YouTube where you can get recipes and tips from Italian chefs – ecco an example of an original carbonara recipe from the Cook Around YouTube channel with subtitles in Italian.

How to use subtitles with Italian YouTube videos

How to turn them on

To turn on YouTube subtitles, click the little white box in the bottom right-hand corner.

I’d recommend listening without subtitles first so you can train your listening (native speakers don’t come with subtitles in real-life, sadly!), then watch again with subtitles so you can catch what you missed and look up new words.

Related post: Improve your Listening in a Foreign Language: The Ultimate Guide

How to switch languages

If you’re lucky, you might find a video with Italian AND English subtitles. This is handy for when you understand the words in Italian, but you’re still not quite sure what the whole sentence means – you can switch over to English and see how the pros translated it.

To switch languages, click on the little cog button at the bottom right-hand corner.

Then click on Subtitles/CC and you’ll see all the available languages.

What about you?

Which of these Italian YouTube channels do you like the most? Do you know any other good Italian YouTube channels that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

In August 2008, I had an Italian lesson that changed my life.

I’d already taken two years of Italian classes, but I still couldn’t have a basic conversation. Back then I hated languages (and wasn’t any good at them either).

Then I met Francesca. A tiny Roman teacher in her 50s who rode a scooter to school and didn’t believe in pens and paper.

There was something unusual about Francesca’s classroom. There were no desks or books, just chairs in a circle. And only one rule: NO ENGLISH.

Instead of spending hours explaining irregular verbs, Francesca made us have conversations in Italian.

At first, my brain melted. I spent half the time not understanding what people were saying, and the rest feeling awkward about making others wait while I strung a sentence together. But the more I practiced, the easier it got.

And after a few days… I was speaking Italian!

Not amazingly well, but it was an exciting start. I knew that if I kept learning Italian through conversations like this, I’d eventually learn to speak it well.

I’d discovered a simple key to fluency: Practice speaking Italian as much as you can.

It sounds obvious, but before I met Francesca, I’d never thought about it.

How to have a conversation in Italian
After Francesca’s lessons, I fell in love with learning Italian because I realised that I could learn it by socialising!

If you want to have conversations in Italian, you need lots of speaking practice

The idea is simple, but the reality is hard.

  • What if you forget a word and get stuck mid-sentence?
  • Or you say everything perfectly, but don’t understand the reply?
  • Or you get really nervous and your brain freezes up?
  • How can you find Italians to practice with?
  • Won’t people get impatient if you speak too slowly?
  • What if people keep replying in English?

These problems are all surmountable, with the right strategies.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start speaking Italian. From phrases to keep the conversation going when you don’t know a word, to strategies to help you deal with speaking nerves.

You’ll also learn:

  • The nuts and bolts of Italian conversation: basic greetings, simple questions and small talk
  • How to stop people from replying in English.
  • Where to find speaking partners to practice with.

Time-sensitive: We’ll also be sharing how you can learn to speak Italian in Italy, by joining us for our next Italian immersion vacation.

If you’d like to be involved, click here to find out more about our Italian immersion vacations.

But for now, let’s learn how to have a conversation in Italian.

Get ready to have a conversation in Italian

The fastest way to prepare for Italian conversations is to learn words and phrases that are likely to come up in everyday conversation.

This means going against the traditional classroom way of learning languages: you don’t need to memorise all the rooms in a house, or names of sports before you can start having conversations with Italians.

In this section, you’ll learn key Italian conversation skills such as:

  • Basic greetings and pleasantries
  • Asking and answering small talk questions
  • Talking about yourself in Italian
  • Stopping people from replying in English
  • Managing communication breakdowns

Let’s start with the most important skill – managing communication breakdowns – because once you’ve mastered this, everything else will be easier.

Managing communication breakdowns: The 6 most important phrases you’ll ever need in Italian

When people say they’re nervous about speaking a foreign language, usually they’re not scared of speaking it (that’s the goal!), they’re nervous about all the things that could go wrong, such as:

  • Long silences
  • Embarrassing mistakes

In other words, if you’re nervous about speaking Italian, you’re probably nervous about the communication breakdowns that could happen.

In the video below, you’ll find 6 phrases to help you deal with these situations smoothly. The more you use them, the longer you’ll be able to keep the conversation going in Italian. And the longer you can keep the conversation going in Italian, the better you’ll get at speaking.

Come si dice questo in italiano? How do you say this in Italian?
Che cosa vuol dire questo in italiano? What does this mean in Italian?
Scusi, non ho capito*

Scusa, non ho capito

Sorry, I didn’t understand (formal)

Sorry, I didn’t understand (informal)

Potrebbe ripetere, per favore?

Puoi ripetere, per favore?

Could you repeat, please? (formal)

Can you repeat, please? (informal)

Potrebbe parlare più lentamente per favore?

Puoi parlare più lentamente per favore?

Could you speak slower please? (formal)

Can you speak slower please? (informal)

Possiamo parlare in Italiano per favore? Vorrei imparare. Can we speak in Italian please? I’d like to learn.

*Note: Avoid using “non ho capito” (I don’t understand) in isolation, as people may see it as a cry for help and start speaking English. Be sure to follow it up with another phrase, such as “Puoi parlare più lentamente?” (can you speak slower?) or “Puoi ripetere?” (can you repeat?), so the listener knows how to help you.

Learn basic greetings in Italian (+ other pleasantries)

First things first – let’s start with names.

The easiest (and most natural way) to introduce yourself to someone is to shake their hand and say:

  • Sono… [+ your name]

For example:

  • Sono Katie (I’m Katie)
  • Sono Matteo (I’m Matteo)

An even easier (and very common) way is to just hold your hand out and say your name.

If you want to ask someone their name, you can say:

  • Come ti chiami?

Or the formal version:

  • Come si chiama?

Knowing when to use the formal address in Italian is not always easy (even Italians have problems with this!) but as a rule of thumb, use it with people over 50 who you don’t know very well and in formal situations such as in hotel receptions or fancy restaurants.

Here are some more lessons to help you master basic greetings and pleasantries in Italian:

Italian Greetings: How Italians really say hello to each other

How (and when) to say sorry in Italian

How to ask “where are you from?” in Italian

Could I have a coffee please? How to ask polite questions in Italian

Planning a trip to Italy and need to know how to order a gelato or buy a train ticket? You might find these episodes of five minute Italian useful.

How to get from the plane to your hotel (or city center) in Italian

How to ask for travel information in Italian

How to buy train and bus tickets in Italian

How to order gelato in Italian

How to buy food at the market in Italy

Una pizza grazie! How to order food in Italian

How to order wine in Italy

Learn how to ask and answer simple conversation questions in Italian

Once you’ve learnt the basic pleasantries, it’s time to pick up some common conversation questions in Italian.

As in English, the first two questions that are most likely to come up in conversation are:

  • Di dove sei? Where are you from?
  • Che lavoro fai? What job do you do?

You might also need the formal versions of these questions:

  • Di dov’è? Where are you from (formal)
  • Che lavoro fa? What job do you do (formal)

You’ll also need to know how to answer those questions…

Di dove sei? (where are you from?)

The simplest way to tell people where you’re from is to use “sono” (I am) + your nationality.

For example:

  • Sono americano (I’m American – for males)
  • Sono australiano (I’m Australian – for males)
  • Sono italiano (I’m Italian – for males)

If you are female, change the last “o” to an “a”

  • Sono americana (I’m American – for females)
  • Sono australiana (I’m Australian – for females)
  • Sono italiana (I’m Italian – for females)

If the nationality ends in an “e”, it’s the same for males and females

  • Sono inglese (I’m English – for males and females)
  • Sono scozzese (I’m Scottish – for males and females)
  • Sono francese (I’m French – for males and females)

If you want to give the city, you can say “sono di” (I’m from) + the city:

  • Sono di Londra (I’m from London)
  • Sono di New York (I’m from New York)
  • Sono di Roma (I’m from Rome)

Che lavoro fai?

To describe your job, use “sono” (I am) + your job.

For example:

  • Sono insegnante (I’m a teacher – for males and females)
  • Sono in pensione (I’m retired – for males and females)
  • Sono impiegato (I’m an office worker – for males)
  • Sono impiegata (I’m an office worker – for females)
  • Sono studente (I’m a student – for males)
  • Sono studentessa (I’m a student – for females)

To find your job (and check the pronunciation), try using a good Italian-English dictionary, like WordReference.

Learn how to talk about yourself in Italian

When you meet Italian people, they’ll probably ask you about yourself and your interests. It helps to have some pre-prepared soundbites so you can talk about these topics without having to stop and think too much.

One way to do this is to memorise a paragraph or two with basic personal information. Some ideas for topics that will come up frequently are:

  • Your hometown/country
  • Your job
  • Your family
  • Why you’re learning Italian
  • Your opinion of Italy and Italians (Italians love to ask this!)

If writing in Italian feels too tricky at the moment, you can start by writing the paragraph in English and translating it into Italian using google translate.

But don’t stop there!

Google often translates things too literally, so you’ll probably end up with a few bizarre sentences. Before you memorise your script, get it checked by a native speaker to make sure there are no mistakes.

Where can you find these native Italian speakers?

I’ll show you later in this article, in the section called: “where to find Italian speaking partners”.

Once you’ve found your Italian speaking partner, you can simply take your text along to one of your sessions and ask them to help you correct it.

If you prefer a digital solution, try submitting your text to the “notebook” section on italki, where a native speaker should stop by and give you some corrections.

How to make small talk in Italian

The stereotype is true – Italians love to talk about food!

Learning how to talk about food will give you a great basis for light conversation in Italian. Here are some good questions to ask.

  1. Quali sono i piatti tipici della tua regione? What are the typical dishes of your region?
  2. Mi puoi suggerire alcuni ristoranti buoni? Can you recommend any good restaurants?
  3. Ti piace cucinare? Do you like cooking?
  4. Che cosa ti piace cucinare? What do you like cooking?
  5. Che tipo di vino ti piace? What kind of wine do you like?
  6. Mi puoi suggerire un buon vino? Can you recommend a good wine?
  7. Preferisci la pizza napoletana o romana? Do you prefer Neapolitan pizzas (soft with thick crusts) or Roman pizzas? (thin and crispy)

Just in case you need them, here are the formal versions of those questions:

  1. Quali sono i piatti tipici della SUA regione? What are the typical dishes of your region?
  2. Mi PUÒ suggerire alcuni ristoranti buoni? Can you recommend any good restaurants?
  3. LE piace cucinare? Do you like cooking?
  4. Che cosa LE piace cucinare? What do you like cooking?
  5. Che tipo di vino LE piace? What kind of wine do you like?
  6. Mi PUÒ suggerire un buon vino? Can you recommend a good wine?
  7. PREFERISCE la pizza napoletana o romana? Do you prefer Neapolitan pizzas (soft with thick crusts) or Roman pizzas? (thin and crispy)

And making some nice comments about Italian food is bound to get you in the good books!

  1. Adoro + food name (e.g. adoro la burrata = I love burrata)
  2. Lo adoro! I love it!
  3. Che buono! How tasty!
  4. È molto buono.It’s really tasty!
  5. Mi piace molto. I really like it

Bringing up the Rome vs. Naples pizza debate will get Italians talking for hours (Just in case you were wondering – Naples pizza, obviously).

It’s also handy to learn some phrases to talk about food from your region because Italians will almost certainly ask you about this sooner or later.

  • Il piatto tipico della mia regione è… The typical dish of my region is…
  • Di solito mangiamo… Normally we eat…
  • È un tipo di… It’s a type of…
  • Si fa con… It’s made with…

How to talk about the weather in Italian

Another classic small talk topic is the weather – Italians talk about it just as much as British people do! Here are some handy phrases:

  • Fa caldo oggi It’s hot today
  • Fa caldissimo! It’s really hot!
  • Fa freddo oggi It’s cold today
  • Fa freddissimo It’s really cold!
  • Fa freschetto Literally, it’s a bit fresh – often used in summer when it’s not as hot as expected, or at the end of summer, when it starts to get cooler).

For more tips on talking about the weather in Italian, check out this episode of 5 Minute Italian: Fa caldissimo! Italian weather words.

Your own small talk topics

The best small talk topics draw from your own interests: if you love football, why not learn a few questions to chat about Italian teams? If you’re into music, asking about classic Italian bands would be a great way to get Italians talking.

Related post: 9 catchy Italian songs to learn Italian (+ lyrics and translations)

Once you find a speaking partner to practice with, you can ask them to teach you some phrases to help you talk about your favourite topics in Italian.

How to stop people from replying in English

You finally pluck up the courage to try speaking Italian, then something frustrating happens… They reply in English!

Getting Englished is a common problem for language learners and it can knock your confidence before you’ve even started.

Keep in mind that the reason Italians reply in English often has nothing to do with your language skills. I’ve been living in Italy for 7 years and my Italian is pretty good, but people still reply to me in English at times.

Italians normally speak English to foreigners for the following reasons:

  • They’re trying to be nice – they assume you’d rather speak English because it’s easier.
  • They’re working in a busy bar or restaurant and assume it will be quicker to use English.
  • They serve foreigners all day and use English out of habit.
  • They want to practice their English!

If you can see that a person is very busy and you’re not sure about your ability to speak Italian quickly, it’s probably better to go ahead and use English.

In other situations, there are a few techniques that will reduce your chances of getting Englished:

1. Have the first phrase ready in your head

You get to the front of the queue, your mind goes blank and errrhm… errrhm… errrhm…

Before you get your sentence out, the server has switched to English.

Deciding what to say and getting the phrase ready in your head will help you deliver it smoothly and increase your chances of getting a reply in Italian.

2. Sound confident

We’ve already seen that “non ho capito” (I don’t understand) is best avoided in isolation because it gives the listener a chance to jump in and start speaking English.

Sometimes, it’s better to say:

“Non ho sentito, puoi ripetere?” I didn’t hear, can you repeat?

Italians will be less likely to switch to English when you use this phrase because you sound more confident – it’s not that you didn’t understand, you just didn’t hear 😉

Another handy phrase is:

“Non mi viene la parola” The word doesn’t come to me

This is a phrase Italians use when they momentarily forget a word. When you say it, Italians will assume that you normally know the word, you just forgot it for a second!

You can learn more phrases like these in our free webinar:

How to have a conversation in Italian

19 essential phrases to keep the conversation going and sound more fluent when you speak Italian

The webinar is hosted in our private Facebook group – click on join and we’ll let you in asap.

3. Look Italian

If an Italian can tell that you’re a foreigner from your appearance, they’ll probably start speaking to you in English. You can reduce your chances of this happening by observing and copying Italians:

  • What do they wear?
  • How do they move?
  • What do they say in certain situations?

If you can give off an Italian vibe rather than a tourist vibe, people will be more likely to speak to you in Italian. Here are a couple of guidelines that will help you blend in:

  • Dress smartly – Italians like to keep it formal and rarely wear sportswear outside the house or gym. You’ll see some denim and trainers, but they’re generally smart or put together in a fashionable way. You’ll also see lots of leather jackets and sunglasses!
  • Avoid showing too much skin – Italians rarely wear skimpy clothes. Even in very hot weather, they opt for long and flowing rather than short and skimpy to stay cool.
  • When you walk into a shop, it’s polite to say “buongiorno/buonasera” to the staff when you enter and “arrivederci” when you leave. With young staff in informal shops, you can use “ciao”.
  • Don’t drink cappuccinos or lattes after midday – they’re considered a breakfast drink in Italy.
  • Don’t order wine with pizza – the traditional Italian combo is pizza + beer.

Italians never drink milky coffee like cappuccinos or lattes after midday – they’re considered a breakfast drink in Italy.

4. Avoid big cities

If you get the chance, visit small towns that aren’t popular tourist destinations. You’ll be less likely to run into Italians who speak English, which will give you a great opportunity to practice your Italian.

5. Ask people to speak Italian with you

If you’re a native English speaker, it’s doubly hard to learn Italian because you’ll find lots of Italians who want to practice their English with you.

Over the years, I’ve learnt that the best way to deal with this problem is to simply ask:

Possiamo parlare in italiano? Vorrei imparare.

Can we speak in Italian? I’d like to learn.


Once you’ve explained the situation, most Italians will be happy to chat with you for a little while in Italian.

That said, in the early days, it’s not always practical to insist that people speak Italian with you, as the conversation might be slow and stunted. When you’re just starting to speak Italian, it’s better to practice in situations where there’s a “learning agreement”.

5. Set up an Italian “learning agreement”

Speaking with random people in shops/restaurants/public transport can feel intimidating because:

  1. You don’t know the person
  2. There’s pressure to have a normal conversation, which might make you might feel embarrassed about mistakes and long pauses (a completely normal part of language learning!)

I sometimes feel awkward talking to strangers in my native language, never mind one I just started learning!

In the beginning, it’s better to find speaking partners where there is a “learning agreement”: a situation where you are the learner and your speaking partner is there for the sole reason of helping you speak Italian.

For example:

These situations are ideal for beginners because there’s no pressure to be perfect. Your speaking partner knows that you’re learning – they expect you to make mistakes and speak with long pauses.

These people can be your partners in crime along your Italian journey. If you don’t know something, there’s no need to feel silly, you can just ask!

But remember to ask in Italian: “Come si dice….?” How do you say…?

Get feedback from native Italian speakers

Some people think that speaking a foreign language is like a performance. You practice alone for months or even years, then, once you’ve mastered enough, you can unveil your skills to native speakers.

But languages don’t work like that.

They’re more like Bambi learning how to walk: you have start by making lots of mistakes and looking a bit silly.

Don’t try to hide the fact that you’re learning. Treat mistakes as normal and ask for corrections as you go along.

The following phrases will help you ask for feedback in Italian so you can check that what you’re saying is correct and learn from your mistakes.

  • Si dice così? Do you say it like that?
  • L’ho detto bene? Did I say it right? 
  • È corretta la frase? Is the sentence correct? 

Learn the Italian “thinking sounds”

When you start having conversations in Italian, it’s normal to have epically long pauses while you search your brain for words and combine them into grammatical sentences.

When this happens, it’s useful to have some Italian “thinking words” because they will help you sound more Italian when you pause.

The Italian “ehhhh”

Every language has it’s own “thinking sound”. In English, we say “uhm” a lot.

In Italian, it’s more of an “ehhhh” sound.

Switching “uhm” to “ehhhh” is a simple trick, but it instantly makes you sound more Italian.

Tipo..

This is… like… the Italian equivalent to saying “like”, “kind of”, or “sort of” in English. But a bit less annoying.

Diciamo…

Let’s say….

Come dire…?

How can I put it…? (literally: how can I say it)

To learn more words and phrases like these, check out our free webinar:

How to have a conversation in Italian

19 essential phrases to keep the conversation going and sound more fluent when you speak Italian

It’s hosted in our private Facebook group – click on join and we’ll let you in asap.

Read and listen to things that will help you have better conversations in Italian

It’s difficult to have meaningful conversations in Italian by memorising phrases alone.

You also need to get lots of exposure to the Italian language through reading and listening, so you can start to absorb common words, phrases and grammatical structures. When you read and listen to Italian regularly, things will often “pop into your head” when you need them, helping you speak in a more fluid way.

Here’s an article with 38 resources to help you learn Italian. In it, you’ll find lots of tools to help you start reading and listening to Italian.

The best 38 resources to learn Italian: from beginner to advanced

How to have your first conversation in Italian

You’ve got the basic greetings and small talk down, you know how to talk about yourself and manage communication breakdowns and you’re doing lots of reading and listening.

You’re ready for your first conversation in Italian.

Nervous?

What to do if you feel nervous about speaking Italian

Whatever you do, don’t try not to feel nervous about speaking Italian.

It’s a bit like trying not to think of a pink elephant.

If I ask you not to think of a pink elephant, what’s the first thing you think of? Nerves are the same – the harder you try not to feel nervous, the more nervous you feel!

It’s not possible to “think yourself out of” feeling nervous. The more you try, the more you focus on your nerves and the worse they get.

Besides, a bit of nervousness is a good thing – it’s a sign that you’re about to do something exciting that will help you grow.

The key is to start slowly and do something that gives you the right level of nervousness – think dipping your toe out of your comfort zone, rather than pole vaulting out of it.

Once you get used to doing that, try something else that makes you a bit nervous.

Conversation in Italian
The virtuous circle of confidence: To get comfortable speaking Italian, start with something that’s a teeny bit outside your comfort zone. Once you’re used to doing that, try something else. If you keep inching forward like this, one day you’ll look back and surprise yourself with how far you’ve come.

Follow this cycle and you’ll make sustainable progress in speaking Italian without traumatising yourself.

Next, you’ll find a few suggestions for how to gently nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and build up to having conversations in Italian.

Warm up by chatting in Italian online

Chatting online in Italian is a great way to ease yourself into real Italian conversations.

People can’t see your face (unless you want them too) and the writing format gives you plenty of time to think about what you want to say. You can even use an online dictionary to find the right words as you chat.

Here are a few resources you can use to practice your Italian online:

HelloTalk

HelloTalk is a bit like WhatsApp for language learners. You can use it to find native Italian speakers and do a language exchange via text messages. There are built-in tools to help you learn during your conversation, such as a translation button, which helps you understand the Italian messages. Once you get used to texting, you can practice speaking by sending audio messages (just like WhatsApp) and setting up video exchanges.

Follow Italian teachers online

There are some brilliant Italian teachers with online communities that chat together in Italian. Why not join them and practice your Italian by writing in the comments? Two of my faves are:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Buongiorno! Quick reminder on how to say ” Have a good time! Have fun!”⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Many of my Skype students translate “Have a good time” literally into “Hai un buon tempo”.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually mean anything.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ All you have to do, is say ” Divertiti” if you’re speaking to one person and DIVERTITEVI if you’re speaking to more people.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ This verb is tricky because it’s reflexive but I’d definitely work on mastering it because it has to be one of the MOST USEFUL verbs you’ll ever need to speak Italian.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Io oggi ho lavorato tutto il giorno ma mi sono molto divertita a portare 🐶Jaime a fare una passeggiata 🚶 perché ho incontrato molte persone e chiacchierato.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I worked all day today but I had fun taking Jaime out for a walk because I met a lot of people and chatted a lot.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Tu ti sei divertito oggi? Scrivi👇 sotto!⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Did you have fun today? Let me know all about it. #allabouthavingfun #allaboutitalian

A post shared by Elfin Waters (@allaboutitalian) on

Join the Language Diary Challenge

Another great way to practice your Italian online is to join the language diary challenge.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Not sure how this happened but it’s October already! Time for cosy jumpers, hot chocolate and… the language diary challenge 💕 The prize this month is brilliant – a “with ease course” from @editionsassimil in the language of the winner’s choice. They have been publishing courses since 1929 and are often the textbook of choice for many polyglots and prolific language learners, so I’m excited to be giving one of these away! Here’s how to join: 1. Post a picture or video and write/say something about your day in the language you’re learning, every day in October. 2. Use the hashtag #languagediarychallenge and tag @joyoflanguages. 3. Don’t forget to follow @joyoflanguages Tag a friend who you think should take the challenge with you! FAQS 1. Can I take part if I’m a complete beginner? Absolutely! You can write single words or basic sentences – everything counts! 2. Can I write in more than one language? Yep, it’s totally up to you which/how many languages you choose. 3. What happens if I miss a day? No worries! It’s fine to miss the odd day as long as you do as many as you can. Follow the link in my bio for more details 👆 p.s. Congratulations to Kath from @planningforadventure, winner of last month’s challenge!

A post shared by Katie • Joy of Languages (@joyoflanguages) on

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo or video and write/say something in Italian every day for 30 days. It’s a great way to get daily practice in Italian and meet a fab community of language learners (you might even win a prize at the end!)

You can join via Instagram or Facebook

The Language Diary Challenge on Instagram

Join the Language Diary Challenge Facebook community

Chat with us in the Five Minute Italian Facebook group

Inside the 5 Minute Italian Facebook group, you’ll find conversation questions to practice your Italian, cultural tidbits and a lovely bunch of Italian learners.

At the moment it’s private to give you a safe space to practice using your Italian – click on join and we’ll let you in!

Practice speaking Italian without native speakers

Did you know that there are lots of ways to practice speaking Italian before you meet native speakers? This post has 4 ideas.

4 unconventional ways to practice speaking without a native speakerconversations in italian

These techniques will help you organise your thoughts and practice expressing yourself in Italian so you’ll feel more comfortable and speak faster once you start having real conversations.

Where to find Italian speaking partners

Time for the real thing: having a conversation with a native Italian speaker.

Don’t fall into the trap of putting this off until you feel more confident – that day may never come! Remember, the best way to feel more confident speaking Italian is to practice speaking Italian.

Your speaking partner is there to help you learn, so there’s no pressure to be perfect. Give yourself permission to be a beginner and embrace your mistakes.

All you have to do is keep practicing and one day you’ll be speaking Italian like a pro.

italki

On italki, you can book private conversation lessons with native Italian speakers called “community tutors”.

It’s my favourite way to practice speaking a foreign language because:

  • The lessons are great value (sometimes less than $10 per hour).
  • It’s a private lesson, so you get way more speaking practice compared to normal classes.
  • You can book a lesson at a time that suits you.
  • You can speak to native Italian speakers from wherever you are in the world!

Lessons with community tutors usually cost less because they are not qualified teachers – they are knowledgeable and passionate native speakers who want to help others learn their language.

If you prefer to have a little more support, you can also book lessons with professional teachers. Here are 2 fantastic “insegnanti” I can recommend:

If you’d like to try italki, here’s a voucher to get $10 off after you book your first lesson.

And a handy tutorial post on how to use it:

italki: how to learn a language with an online tutor

Alternatively, if those options are outside of your budget, you can also use italki to set up online language exchanges. Find Italians who are learning your native language by selecting community > language partners, then set up a Skype call where you speak for 50% of the time in English and 50% of the time in Italian.

Conversation exchange

If you prefer face-to-face chats, try conversation exchange to find native speakers who live in your area.

If you’re in Italy, you can use conversation exchange to meet locals who will help you practice speaking Italian and show you the places they normally hang out. I did this in Paris and it was great – like having a  teacher and a local tour guide all rolled into one!

Italian immersion vacations

Italian immersion vacation

A fast and fun way to improve your Italian speaking skills is to join our next immersion vacation in Italy. In these vacations, we give you as much Italian speaking practice as possible so you can make a huge jump in your speaking skills after only a few days.

You’ll get:

  • Full Italian immersion in beautiful locations.
  • Patient Italian teachers who encourage you to speak.
  • New friends to speak Italian with!

If you’d like to join us, click here to find out more about our Italian immersion vacations

Guest Post by Ermy Pedata

Once my English friend invited me to a karaoke night. I accepted straight away.

I love karaoke so it was going to be fun for sure, I thought.

Little did I know that at the end of that night I would feel singled out and a bit embarrassed too.

Reason: while everyone was singing full out all those English songs, I didn’t know a single lyric.

I am Italian. I was raised in Italy. Yes, I learned English as a second language but I had no idea about the kind of songs you can find at a British karaoke night. I felt like I was missing a huge piece of a cultural puzzle.

My English friends had grown up with those songs and they knew all of them because those songs had been the soundtrack of their lives in that country. Which was completely different from mine.

Which brings me to you, and the reason why I wanted to write this article.

If you’re learning Italian and want to understand Italian culture, it helps to know a bit of Italian popular music.

These kinds of songs are such a big part of Italian culture that it’s not rare to make reference to popular songs in the middle of conversations. For example, I don’t know how many times one of my friends, called Laura, has heard a joke about her name with reference to Nek’s song “Laura non c’è”.

Or how many times I heard my Italian friends use the refrain of the song “Perdono ” by Tiziano Ferro to apologise for something in an amusing way! (more about this song and the singer later).

Plus, Italians love singing. In the 90s, we had a very popular TV show called Karaoke where the host Fiorello used to travel around Italy hosting massive karaoke parties in the main Italian cities ( I went to one of those myself!). A huge crowd of people would gather to sing along and everything would be broadcasted on TV. Because we Italians are not embarrassed about showcasing our singing skills!

So, today I’d like to invite you to an Italian Karaoke Party and introduce you to some popular Italian songs.

And, if you’re looking for strategies about how to use songs to develop your language skills, you’ll find a few helpful ideas in this article: 

Learn a language through songs

But for now, let’s get to know a little bit more about the Italian culture through some of the most popular Italian songs, the kind you’ll be very likely to hear at a karaoke night in Italy. Some of the songs and singers mentioned in this article can be found on LyricsTraining, a great website where you can train your listening skills and have fun with popular Italian songs of every genre.

You’ll also find a Spotify playlist of these Italian songs, put together by Rebecca from Irregular Endings.

So let’s get this karaoke party started.

Songs to learn Italian #1: 50 special 

This one is one of my all time favourite songs. If you go to an Italian karaoke night you can be sure you’ll hear (and sing!) this song.

As you may know already, 50 Special is a kind of Vespa, the popular Italian scooter manufactured by the Italian brand Piaggio, which has become one of the symbols of Italian culture. This super cheerful song sings about the good times you have when riding a Vespa and the singer, Cesare Cremonini also celebrates and sings about the beautiful, summery, landscape of his native Italian region, Emilia Romagna. I bet you’d love to travel around the “colli bolognesi” with a Vespa too!

You can sing along here:

And here’s the English translation of 50 Special 

 

About the singer 

50 Special is sung by the Italian group Lunapop, which split up a few years ago. But the main singer, Cesare Cremonini, is still very active on the Italian music scene. His songs have often a very relaxing rhythm, and the lyrics can be at times deep, but also inspiring, like this one:

Songs to learn Italian #2: Mondo (World)

 

Songs to learn Italian #3: Ragazzo fortunato   

Ragazzo fortunato means “lucky boy” (in Italian the adjective goes after the noun!). It tells the story of a young boy who feels lucky and grateful for the little things in life. A song to sing when you feel happy about life, and we Italians love celebrating life, aka the “dolce vita” (sweet life). Personally, I love this line of the song ” Se devo dirla tutta, qui non è il paradiso ma all’inferno delle veritá, io mento col sorriso,” (If I have to say it all, here’s not the heaven, but in this hell of truths, I lie with a smile.).

About the singer

This song is by Lorenzo Cherubini, aka Jovanotti, who is a famous Italian rapper. Despite having a cheerful and upbeat rhythm, his songs often carry an important message to make people aware of social issues and injustice. A very popular song that does this is: 

Songs to learn Italian #4: L’ombelico del mondo 

This song by Jovanotti can be translated in English as “the belly button of the world”

 

Songs to learn Italian #5: Ligabue certe notti

Certe notti means “some nights”.  This song describes a seemingly lighthearted Italian night amongst friends. In a way, this song has different levels of interpretation. On the one hand, it celebrates the lightheartedness of Italian people, on the other, it draws attention to the shallowness of some people’s lives. This song is so popular that has been parodied many times.

Here’s the English translation of Certe Notti

About the singer

Ligabue is one of the most famous Italian pop-rock singers, second only to Vasco Rossi (more about Vasco below). Ligabue has been on the Italian music scene since the 80s and if you love his voice and his songs, you can find quite a few of them on LyricsTraining. 

Ligabue songs on Lyrics Training

Songs to learn Italian #6: Vado al Massimo 

“Vado al massimo” means “I go full out” and is an evergreen Italian song by Vasco Rossi which you always find at Karaoke night. This is the kind of song that you’d listen to to give yourself a boost of energy and enthusiasm. The lyrics of this song are not particularly meaningful or deep but they play a lot with word sounds and assonance of words.

A little cultural anecdote about this song: The Italian world champion racer Valentino Rossi told in a few interviews that one of his rituals prior to a race is to listen to this song to get a boost of motivation…so he could go full out!

Here’s the song’s translation: 

English translation of Vado Al Massimo

About the singer

Vasco Rossi is a real rockstar in Italy and if you like pop rock music,you should definitely listen to his songs. Some of them are also on LyricsTraining for you to get some practice too.

Vasco Rossi songs on Lyrics Training

Songs to Learn Italian #7: Nel blu dipinto di blu

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” literal means in “The Blue Painted Blue”.  This is a very classic Italian song, which is super popular abroad too. You may have heard it in its English version (with the title of “Volare” or “Fly” too.). The singer, Domenico Modugno, born in the Italian region of Puglia, was inspired to write this song to celebrate his land, its sea and blue sky. Personally, I love this song because its lyrics conjure up a feeling of freedom and light heartedness.

You can find it on lyrics training here: 

Blu dipinto di blu on Lyrics Training

And here’s the song’s translation 

Translation of Blu dipinto di blu

About the singer

Domenico Modugno is considered one of the fathers of Italian music. He was born in Polignano a Mare, in Puglia, one of the most beautiful Italian towns, today Unesco world heritage. I travelled a few weeks ago to his birthpace (and I took a photo under Domenico’s statue) and if you get the chance I’d advice you to visit his town too as it’s stunning and one of the most perfect places to speak Italian (I wrote about it in this article)

Songs to learn Italian #8: Ma il cielo è sempre più blu 

Sticking with the blue theme, let’s listen to this song by Rino Gaetano . The title means the sky is always bluer. Once again, this is a controversial song. At a first glance, this song seems to be optimistic and lighthearted. At a deeper level, this songs actually highlights the issues and problems of Italian society in the 70s, such as corruption or social injustice – and some of the issues mentioned are unfortunately still true today. There is also a cover version of this song by Giusy Ferreri which I find energizing and upbeat.

Here’s the recent cover of this song by Giusy Ferreri 

Here’s the translation: 

Ma il cielo è sempre più blu English translation

About the singer

Rino Gaetano was an Italian singer famous for his rough voice and he used his songs as a way to report social and political issues. He also wrote a book with the same title of this song, “Il cielo è sempre più blu”, in which he collected some of his songs; some of these songs were dedicated to important historical personalities like Louis Armstrong, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Martin Luther King e Mao Tse-tung. A pretty cool guy, Rino, who used his art as a mean to serve society and so many Italian singers went down that path after him (see Jovanotti, above)

Songs to learn Italian #9: Perdono 

Perdono means “forgiveness” or “sorry” and, as you may infer from he title, this song is all about forgiveness within a love story. Most Italian popular songs are love songs because, you know, Italian people are fairly romantic and passionate. By the way, from a linguistic point of view, if you can sing this song at its real speed, you’re an Italian pronunciation master.

Here’s the song’s translation

English translation of perdono

About the singer

Tiziano Ferro is the author and singer of this song and is a worldwide famous singer, who has sung not only in Italian but also Spanish, French and Portuguese. When he first started his singing career, he was fairly innovative as he managed to bring a mix of different genres into Italian popular music, like Pop, Blues, Soul, Rhythm and blues.

So, did you like these Italian songs? They by no means reflect the vast and varied landscape of Italian music, but I hope they’ll give you a sneak peek into the way Italians think. In popular Italian music, you’ll often find the lighthearted Italian way of looking at life but you may also find more meaningful songs with lyrics which talk about social issues or rave about the beauty of our Italian land. And, yes, we have some love stories here and there too!

Over to you!

Do you know an Italian song that you love and you’d like to share with us? What do you like about it and how did it help you learn the lovely Italian language?

Share it in the comments below as I’d love to sing it along!

Keep singing and enjoy your learning,

Ermy

 

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Italian for beginners: how to learn Italian in 4 simple steps

How to roll your R’s in Italian

The Easy Way to Learn Italian Verbs

How to say “I love you” in Italian (and avoid an embarrassing mistake)

 

You love the country, the culture, the food and the people.

Maybe you’ve already been to Italy on holiday and are planning to go back, and this time you’d like to converse with the locals. Maybe you even dream of living there one day.

Or perhaps your family is Italian, and you’d like to learn it so you can reconnect with your heritage.

Whatever the reason, you know you want to learn Italian. The question is, how?

In this article, you’ll find 38 tools that will help you learn Italian, from beginner to advanced level. Some of them I used when I was learning Italian (some I still do!). Others I wish existed back when I first started.

The best Italian learning tools will help you:
– Use Italian in conversation, so you can start chatting asap.
– Practice speaking, reading, listening and writing in Italian.
– Get hooked, so that you feel motivated to keep learning.

Read on to find a list of fab Italian resources that do exactly that.

Italian learning tools that will help you pick up the basics

So you’re thinking about learning Italian, but all you can say is ciao.

What’s next?

When you’re learning Italian from scratch, you’ll need to pick up some basic vocabulary and grammar. But more importantly, you’ll need to know how to use that vocabulary and grammar, so you can build sentences and say what you want to say. These next 8 tools will help you out.

1. Assimil Italian with Ease

There’s a lot to like about the Assimil Italian course. First, it has a system where you do one chapter per day (around 30 minutes), which is ideal for getting you into a productive language-learning routine. Next, it introduces new vocabulary and grammar points little and often and keeps coming back to them so you don’t forget.

Importantly, each lesson is based on a conversation so you can get used to reading and listening to Italian in realistic contexts. Finally, the CDs are entirely in Italian, which means you get tons of Italian audio that you can download and listen to on your headphones as you go about your day.

2. Coffee break Italian

The Coffee Break Italian podcast is a delightfully relaxed (and very effective) way to pick up Italian. The lively and interactive lessons introduce new things at a nice pace, building on what you already know so you don’t forget anything. As well as teaching you the language, Mark Pentleton and his team throw in lots of cultural notes and anecdotes, which make the lessons a pleasure to listen to.

3. Michel Thomas

When you start learning Italian, it won’t be long before you meet the big bad world of Italian verbs. These can cause headaches for beginners because they change depending on who’s doing the action. To see what I mean, take a look at the difference between the English and Italian verbs for mangiare (to eat).

I eat

You eat

He/she eats

We eat

They eat

Io mangio

Tu mangi

Lui/Lei mangia

Noi mangiamo

Loro mangiano

But worry not. If you learn Italian verbs the right way, they suddenly get a lot easier to remember. The Michel Thomas Italian course organises verbs into logical groups which helps you pick them up fast. And perhaps more importantly, it shows you how to use this grammar to build useful sentences.

The course also shows you how to take advantage of the many English words that have an Italian equivalent (known as cognates), such as informazione, azione, conversazione, animale, originale, distanza… All you have to do is put on an Italian accent and you can already say loads of Italian words!

I’ve used Michel Thomas to get off the starting block for French, Italian and Spanish and I’m always surprised by how much I can say after only a few hours of listening.

3. Pilmsleur

Another challenge of learning Italian at the beginning is remembering all those new words and phrases. The Pimsleur course drills Italian into your brain by repeating things you’ve learned in new contexts and building gradually on what you’ve already learnt.

It can be a little old-fashioned in places (the plot follows someone on a business trip), but when used in combination with other resources, it’s a great way to fix the basics in your mind.

5. Italy made easy

On Manu’s Italian Made Easy YouTube channel, you’ll find oodles of easy-to-follow tutorials, travel and cultural tips, Q&As and live lessons. His videos start from beginner and go all the way up to advanced.

6. The Mimic Method

The Mimic Method Italian course has one goal: to help you master the Italian sound system.

Why would you want to do that?

Well, when you get the Italian sound system, you’ll be able to pronounce Italian better so you can make yourself understood more easily. You’ll also be able to hear Italian sounds more accurately, which will help you understand what Italians are saying to you.

And when you can understand and be understood in Italian, you’ll have better conversations with Italians (the reason you want to learn Italian in the first place, right?)

Lots of people make the mistake of thinking that pronunciation isn’t important at the beginning, but if you neglect it, you could find yourself with lots of fossilized mistakes that are difficult to correct later on. On the flip side, if you start focusing on Italian sounds from the get-go, every time you speak and listen to Italian, you’ll be reinforcing what you’ve learnt so your pronunciation will keep getting better and better.

7. Italearn

Luca-based Italian teacher Silvia posts Italian words, phrases and study tips on her Instagram page. There’s also an italearn website with free materials like video tutorials and lovely grammar infographics.

8. 5 Minute Italian

No article about Italian learning tools would be complete without our own 5 Minute Italian podcast! Hosted by myself and my partner Matteo from our home in Milan, 5 Minute Italian is a fun podcast which helps you pick up the basics in bite-sized pieces.

Check out our 5 Minute Italian podcast library, where you’ll find tons of mini-tutorials on grammar, vocabulary, cultural tips and pronunciation. And if you join our Italian club, you’ll also get weekly emails with bonus materials like quizzes, flashcards and invites to free speaking workshops.

Italian learning tools that will help you get conversational

Once you’ve got some basics under your belt, it’s time to practise using Italian in real-life situations.

Jump in and have a go at speaking (even if you don’t feel ready yet!) and gradually start using Italian to do things that you enjoy in your native language, like watching videos and reading.

As you bridge the gap between learner materials and real spoken Italian, you’ll need support from subtitles and slow, clear speech. You’ll also need a great dictionary and smart ways to remember all those new words!

9. italki

If you like the idea of improving your speaking skills quickly and cheaply without taking your slippers off, you should give italki a try.

It’s a website where you can find one-to-one Skype lessons with Italian conversation tutors (called community tutors) often for less than $10 an hour. And you don’t need to worry about speaking slowly, making mistakes or sounding silly – tutors are there to help you learn and most are friendly, patient and used to working with beginners.

If you’d like to give italki a try, you can get a free lesson by clicking any of the italki links on this page: once you’ve signed up and booked your first lesson, you’ll get a $10 voucher to spend on the next one.

I don’t get any commission if you sign up through this link, but I do get a free lesson with my Italian conversation tutor on italki. This helps me improve my Italian, save money and spend more time writing articles like the one you’re reading now – Grazie!

If you like the idea, but you’re not sure where to start, check out this post:

italki: how to learn a language with an online tutor.

Italki is also a handy tool for working on your writing skills: post your writing on the notebook section and a native speaker should come along and give you feedback.

10. HelloTalk

If you’d like a little practice before trying spontaneous conversations, try warming up with HelloTalk, an app where you can do language exchanges via text and vocal messages (a bit like Whatsapp for language learners). It’s the perfect way to get used to chatting with native speakers before having a go at face-to-face conversations.

11. News in slow Italian

Often the topics covered in language learning materials are either too boring or babyish. News in Slow Italian gives you something interesting to listen to by covering the week’s news in slow and clear speech (hence the name!). A great way to bridge the gap between beginner materials and real spoken Italian.

12. Easy Italian

On the Easy Languages YouTube channel, presenters interview people on the street, with questions close to Italians’ hearts like “what’s your favourite food”. It’s a great way to get up close to Italian culture and get used to hearing natives speak in a natural and spontaneous way.

The interview format is brilliant as you hear the same phrases repeated over and over and the answers are usually entertaining. To help you follow, there are big subtitles in Italian and smaller ones in English (quick tip: try covering the English subtitles while you listen the first few times, so you can get used to figuring out the meaning from the Italian).

Sadly there aren’t as many Easy Italian episodes as there are for the other Easy language channels like German and Spanish, but there are still quite a few to keep you busy!

13. Word reference

Once you start reading and listening to real Italian, you’ll need a good dictionary so you can look up the new words you find. Word Reference is my go-to Italian-English dictionary because it gives nice example sentences which help me see how the word is used in real life and remember it better.

The following video uses Spanish examples, but it has plenty of useful tips that you can apply to your Italian studies.

There’s also a brilliant forum where you’ll find answers to FAQs and a space to pose questions to Italian native speakers. Finally, there’s a verb conjugator, where you can check how to use Italian verbs in different tenses.

14. Memrise

Next, you’ll need to remember all those new words you learnt. One popular way is to use a flashcard app like Memrise, which quizzes you on words at specific intervals to help you remember better. It’s based on scientific studies which show that we remember information better when we space out the reviews, compared cramming them over a short space of time.

Memrise is huge in the language learning community and you’ll find lots of Italian courses with ready-made vocabulary lists already on there. However, it’s better to make your own course with example sentences that you’ve already seen or heard being used in real life, for the following reasons:

  • Learning words in sentences (rather than in isolation) helps you understand how to use them later.
  • Words are much more memorable when you associate them with real experiences, as opposed to a bunch of letters floating around on a list.

15. Use the google translate chrome extension to translate Italian words with a click

With the Google Translate Chrome extension, you can turn any Italian website into an interactive Italian dictionary. When you click on a word you don’t know, the English translation pops up on the same page, so you can read websites without constantly stopping to look up words. There’s even a little speaker symbol next to the translation so that you can check the pronunciation.

16. All about Italian

Italian teacher Elfin posts mini Italian tutorials and videos online. Her lessons are full of native-sounding phrases and tips on how to use them so you can sound more natural when you speak. The best thing? It’s all on Instagram, so instead of looking at pictures of what your old school friends made for dinner, you can boost your Italian skills!

17. Instagram language diary challenge

Speaking of learning a language on Instagram, why not improve your Italian speaking and writing skills by joining the #languagediarychallenge? Every month, a community of lovely language learners get together to practice using the language they’re learning. To join, all you have to do is post a photo or video to Instagram and write/say something in the language you’re learning for 30 days. Then use the hashtag #languagediarychallenge and tag @joyoflanguages. There’s also a cool language-related prize at the end!

The #languagediarychallenge starts today! This month, I’ll be writing and speaking in Spanish (and hoping to post more than last month, when I let things slide a bit😅) Are you joining? Which language will you be learning? Let me know in the comments. There’s still time to get involved! This month’s winner will get a $20 AUD voucher to spend on lovely language-themed paper goods from @irregular.endings. Here’s how to join: 1. Post a picture or video and write/say something about your day in the language you’re learning, every day in March. 2. Use the hashtag #languagediarychallenge and tag @joyoflanguages. 3. Don’t forget to follow @joyoflanguages Tag a friend who you think should take the challenge with you! FAQS 1. Can I take part if I’m a complete beginner? Absolutely! You can write single words or basic sentences – everything counts! 2. Can I write in more than one language? Yep, it’s totally up to you which/how many languages you choose. 3. What happens if I miss a day? No worries! It’s fine to miss the odd day as long as you do as many as you can. 

Un post condiviso da Katie Harris (@joyoflanguages) in data:

Related post: Learn a language and win free stuff with the #languagediarychallenge.

18. Italiano Automatico

Alberto from Italiano Automatico creates videos for Italian learners who already have some knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary, but can’t speak very well yet. The videos are entirely in Italian and he speaks slowly and clearly, making them a great tool for transitioning from learner materials to natural Italian speech. If you need a little help, after you’ve listened you can try switching on the auto generated subtitles, which are usually pretty accurate. On Italiano Automatico, you’ll find lots of ways to improve your Italian including explanations of common words and expressions, interviews with Italians and tips on how to learn a language. You’ll also find fun videos with Alberto’s co-host, his lovely nonna!

19. Learn Italian with Lucrezia

On Lucrezia Oddone’s YouTube channel, you’ll find tutorials, vlogs, Q&As and tips on learning Italian. You’ll also find handy recommendations for fun Italian resources like music, books, films and TV shows. I especially like her vlogs, where Lucrezia takes you on little trips around Italy, sharing her enthusiasm for all things Italian. Many of Lucrezia’s videos are entirely in Italian (with subtitles), which are perfect for the full immersion experience. She also has a podcast and an Instagram account where you can follow her adventures and learn Italian at the same time!

20. Italialmostalovestory

On her Instagram page, Italian teacher Elena posts handy Italian words and phrases with example sentences, as well as photos with bilingual Italian-English captions. You can also practice your writing by answering her questions in Italian!

21. 5 Minute Italian Facebook group

Practice chatting in Italian and connect with other learners by joining the 5 Minute Italian Facebook Group. If you have questions about the Italian language, you can post them to the group and we’ll answer them as soon as possible. You’ll also find handy resources like songs and YouTube videos to help you learn the fun way. And we often share photos and videos (in Italian of course) so you can see what we’ve been getting up to in Milan!

Italian learning tools

The group is private to give you a safe place to practice your Italian. Click here to join the 5 Minute Italian Facebook group and we’ll let you in asap 😉

 

Italian tools that will help you hone your skills

Evviva! Now you can have basic conversations and understand simple spoken Italian, it’s time to hone your skills by reading and listening to materials intended for native Italians, like books, newspapers, TV series and films. Moving onto native speaker materials is the most exciting part of learning a language. Now you can:

  • Learn how Italians really communicate with each other.
  • Immerse yourself in Italian culture.
  • Improve your Italian by doing things you enjoy, like watching films or reading the newspaper.

Here’s a selection of some of my fave resources for Italian native speakers.

22. Corriere della Sera

Corriere della Sera is one of Italy’s biggest newspapers. On their website, you’ll find articles and mini videos so you can keep up-to-date with current affairs in Italy and world news from an Italian point of view.

For a helping hand in understanding the articles, try using the google translate extension (see number 15) to translate the vocabulary by clicking on the word so you don’t have to interrupt your flow every time you need to look up a word.

La Corriere della Sera website is also famous for their gossip stories on the right-hand column that drag you into a web of trivial news (like what the latest Italian celebrities are up to) rather than reading about real current affairs. A time-waster for Italians, but great for learners because getting lost in a web of addictive reading material is good for your Italian!

Italian learning tools

23. Italian podcasts

With apps like podcast player, you can find a huge variety of Italian podcasts for native speakers. Just set the country to Italy and start browsing different shows until you find one you like. A few of my favorites are:

24. Sgrammaticando

Sgrammaticando is a YouTube channel about Italian grammar with a twist: it’s aimed at native speakers (yep, even Italians need help with their own grammar sometimes!) as well as Italian learners. In her fun and friendly style, Fiorella answers FAQs and gives tutorials to help both Italians and Italian learners avoid common mistakes and “defend themselves” from the common traps of the Italian language.

25. Netflix

I’m thrilled to see the growing selection of foreign-language TV programs and films on Netflix, it’s becoming an invaluable resource in any lazy language learners toolbox! The offerings will depend on where you are in the world, but you if you search for “Italian TV series” or “Italian films”, you should find some good stuff to watch. Make yourself a cuppa and put on your PJs, it’s time for an Italian TV binge…

26. The Jackal

The Jackal team is famous throughout Italy for their hilarious spoofs of Italian culture and other silly stuff. They have Neapolitan accents and throw in lots of local slang, so it’s a great way to train yourself to understand regional varieties of Italian.

Don’t worry if you find regional variations like this tricky to understand at first, that’s normal! For a little help, you can use the subtitles which are often available in both Italian and English. I’d recommend listening without subtitles first, then working with the Italian subtitles to pick out words you missed (only use the English ones for translations if you get really stuck).

27. FanPage

FanPage describe themselves as independent news reporters, but they offer so much more than you’d expect from a standard news channel. Here you’ll find social commentaries, interviews, investigative journalism, pranks and fascinating insights into Italian culture.

28. La 7

La 7 is an Italian TV channel that posts many of its programs online so you can catch the replay. Have a gander around the site, choose a TV show you like the sound of, then click the “RIVEDILA7” tab to find past episodes. There’s something for everyone, from politics to cooking shows.

At the time of writing, you can access these shows freely from abroad (no need for a special license or VPN). You can also find some full episodes of La 7 TV shows on their YouTube channel.

29. Rai

Rai is the national public broadcasting channel in Italy. Like La 7, they post replays of their TV shows online, which at the time of writing are available to watch from abroad. On the Rai website, you’ll find a  world of Italian TV at your fingertips including documentaries, dramas, reality TV, films and quiz shows. You can also catch up with episodes of the popular soap opera un posto al sole.

Tools that will inspire you to learn Italian

Now you’ve got the resources, but what about the motivation? To stay inspired throughout your Italian journey, it helps to have some encouragement and advice from other people who’ve already done it. The following are blogs and websites from italophiles who are teaching themselves Italian and are happy to share what they learn along the way.

30. Cher Hale

Cher Hale turned her passion for the Italian language into the delightful blog the Iceberg Project. In her articles and podcast, you’ll find fun grammar tutorials (that’s right, she actually makes grammar fun!) together with fascinating cultural and travel tips. On a mission to teach you how Italians actually talk, Cher’s also teaches you key words and expressions that Italians use all the time (and you won’t find in phrase books).

31. Studentessa Matta

Melissa, also known as the Studentessa Matta (crazy student), started her blog as a way of improving her Italian skills and connecting with other Italian learners. As well as writing bilingual blog posts, Melissa promotes the Italian language and culture through her podcast and YouTube channel, which are often recorded entirely in Italian. On her YouTube channel, you’ll find stories about her Italian adventures, grammar and idiomatic expressions explained as well as cultural tidbits.

32. Weilà Tom

On his bilingual YouTube channel, Tom makes videos in both Italian and English to help English speakers learn Italian and vice-versa. As well as grammar and vocabulary tutorials, Tom shares details about his own language learning journey and gives handy tips on topics like “how to learn a language from home” and “how to think in Italian”.

33. Briller

While studying in Italy, Brian uploaded a couple of videos of himself speaking Italian to document his language learning journey. Since then, he’s been making videos in Italian to help Italians pick up English and learn more about cultural differences between Italy and America.

Although his videos are aimed at Italians learning English, his comparisons and tips are useful for anyone who finds themselves navigating between Italian and English-speaking cultures, just like Brian did. If you’ve ever been in that situation, you’ll probably find yourself nodding along and laughing at his funny observations about the differences between Italy and the US.

34. Tia Taylor

4 years ago, American-born YouTuber Tia Taylor moved to Milan to study at the prestigious Bocconi University. On her bilingual channel, Tia explores American and Italian cultural differences, covering a range of topics, from beauty to politics. Her Italian is top-notch and her videos have Italian and English subtitles so you can go back and catch any words you might have missed.

35. Questa Dolce Vita

A few years ago, Canadian-born Jasmine left everything behind and moved to Bergamo to pursue her Italian dream. On her blog Questa Dolce Vita, she gives an articulate, honest (and often hilarious) insiders view of what it’s really like to learn Italian.

Jasmine is co-host of the DolceVitaBloggers link up, a place where Italy bloggers get together every month to write and read about their Italian experiences.

36. Mamma Prada

UK-based Kristie and her Italian husband are raising their kids to be bilingual in English and Italian. On MammaPrada, Kristie shares her story of learning Italian alongside her little ones. Across her blog and social media channels, you’ll find Italian articles, handy words and phrases, language learning tips, travel advice and cultural gems.

Kristie runs the DolceVitaBloggers link up, together with Jasmine from Questa Dolce Vita and Kelly from Italian at heart.

37. Italian at heart

On her blog Italian at Heart, Kelly shares her journey to learn her grandfather’s mother tongue, along with her culinary, travel and cultural adventures. You can also follow her on Instagram, where she posts bilingual photo captions in English and Italian.


Kelly runs the DolceVitaBloggers link up, together with Jasmine from Questa Dolce Vita and Kristie from MammaPrada.

38. Italophilia

On her blog Italophilia, Ishita Sood shares her love for the Bel paese and the Italian language through travel guides and how-to articles. Here, you’ll find a section on the Italian language with articles like learning Italian with cinema and charming Italian sentences I love.


 

So those were my 38 favourite Italian learning tools. I’m sure there are loads of other good ones I’ve missed so if you have any more, please share the love and add them to the comments.

E tu?

Have you used any of these Italian tools before? Which is your favourite? Which one would you like to try next? Let us know in the comments below!

Can you roll your Rs?

Have a go now. Go on, no one’s listening.

If you made a lovely rrrrrr sound, you can stop reading and go back to Facebook.

On the other hand, if you’re anything like me when I started learning Spanish, you may have blown a raspberry, or made a noise that sounds like a cross between Darth Vader and a flushing a toilet.

If this is you, and you’d like to learn how to roll your Rs, keep reading.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • Why you can probably learn how to roll your Rs, even if you think you can’t.
  • A simple method to train yourself to make the rolling R sound (that actually works).
  • A quick trick you can use right now to make your R sound more Spanish or Italian, even if you can’t roll your Rs yet.

Why can’t I roll my Rs?

The Italians and Spanish make it look easy, but the rolling R sound is actually pretty complex.

Also known as the trilled R, the sound is made by blowing air between the top of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. With the right tongue position, muscle tension and air pressure, this air causes the tip of your tongue to vibrate, creating a lovely rrrrrrrrrrr sound.

To get it right, you need to think about the following things:

  • Position: the tongue should rest on the little ridge behind your teeth (roughly in the same place as when you make the t sound).
  • Tension: the tongue should be relaxed enough that it can move up and down freely in the stream of air, but not so loose that the air passes straight over.
  • Air pressure: if you breathe too softly, your tongue won’t vibrate, but if you breathe too hard, your tongue won’t stay in the right position.

The rolling R sound requires you to coordinate your mouth muscles in a way that’s totally different from English (with the exception of some accents, like Scottish, which use the rolling R in words like grrreat).

If you don’t have this sound in your first language, learning to coordinate your muscles in this way can feel almost impossible.

Is the ability to roll your Rs genetic?

I always envied the kids in my Spanish class at school who could elegantly roll their Rs. Whenever I tried, I ended up with my face ended up covered in slobber. As my Spanish teacher (erroneously) explained that the rolling R is something you’re either born with or you’re not, I accepted the idea that I was not one of the lucky ones and decided to save myself the embarrassment of trying.

But 10 years later, when I was learning Italian in Italy, I found myself struggling with the rolling R again. I wanted a good Italian accent so I could blend in with the locals, but when you can’t roll your Rs, it immediately singles you out as having quite a strong foreign accent.

I’d always assumed that my problem was physiological – maybe something about the shape of my tongue meant I couldn’t do it – so I resigned myself to the fact that I would always have a crappy R in languages like Italian and Spanish.

Can I train myself to roll my Rs?

Luckily, a year or so later I met an Italian teacher at the school where I was working, who insisted that most people can train themselves to make the rolling R sound.

This was something I didn’t want to hear at the time because it felt like she was implying that I hadn’t tried hard enough. Didn’t she know that my problem was physiological?! No amount of practise would change the shape of my tongue!

I decided to practise the rolling R anyway, mostly to prove her wrong, so she’d stop being so smug around poor foreigners like me who couldn’t do it. I watched tutorials on the internet and started practising everywhere: waiting for my computer to load, washing the dishes, in the shower…

I didn’t expect it to work.

But it did. After a few days, I could feel my tongue getting closer to the rolled R. After a few weeks, I could do the Italian R quite well. I went from being irritated at the Italian teacher to wanting to hug her.

I could finally roll my Rs!

Why you can probably roll your Rs too

There was nothing wrong with my tongue, I just needed to retrain my mouth and tongue muscles so they could adapt to a new, complex sound.

You’ve had decades to fine tune your mouth muscles to make sounds in your first language. Training the muscles to make new sounds takes perseverance (probably way more than you think), so it’s easy to assume there must be some physiological reason why you can’t do it.

But in countries where Spanish or Italian is spoken, almost everyone can make the rolling R sound. Only a small percentage of people can’t do it because of physiological problems. The majority of us would’ve learnt just fine if we’d grown up speaking a language with the rolling r.

The good news: this means that with the right techniques and a good dose of perseverance, you can probably learn how to roll your Rs.

This tutorial will show you how.

Are you learning Italian? Learn to speak and understand faster with 5 Minute Italian.

You just watched a tutorial from our 5 Minute Italian course. You can learn to speak and understand basic Italian fast with weekly podcast lessons + bonus materials, by joining our 5 minute Italian crew. You’ll get:

  • The 5 minute Italian podcast delivered to your inbox each week.
  • Bonus materials that only members get access to, including: 
    • Lesson transcripts
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It’s free to join for a limited time. Click here to start learning!

 

 

So you’re thinking about learning Italian?

Molto bene!

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to get started, you’re in the right place.

When I first started learning Italian (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to learn words quickly, or that I should pay attention to things like prepositions.

Come to think of it, I probably didn’t know what a preposition was!

Had I known things like this from the get-go, it would have saved me loads of time and effort.

That’s why I’ve put together this complete guide to learning Italian for beginners. It has all the things I wish someone had told me before I started and the exact steps you can take to pick up basic Italian quickly.

You’ll learn things like:

  • Essential Italian travel phrases
  • How to roll your Rs
  • The best way to remember Italian words, phrases and grammar
  • Action points you can follow to make sure you succeed

Throughout, you’ll find links to audio files and mini-lessons you can use to start learning Italian straightaway.

A 4-step roadmap to learning Italian

What should I learn first? Which method should I use? How can I stay motivated?

When you learn a new language, there are so many things to think about that it’s easy to get lost. In fact, one of the main things that can slow your progress in Italian is a lack of clear direction.

If you want to get somewhere fast, it helps to have a clear roadmap.

Here, you’ll find a 4 step action plan you can follow to start learning Italian successfully:

  1. Find your motivation (know why you want to learn Italian).
  2. Learn the essential phrases (so you can start talking straight away).
  3. Go into detail (start learning grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation).
  4. Take action (so you can achieve your goal of speaking Italian).

Let’s get started shall we?

Cominciamo!

1. Find your motivation

Learning a new language takes time and commitment. If you’re not clear on your reasons for wanting to speak Italian, somewhere down the line you may find yourself wondering if it’s really worth it.

On the other hand, if you’re excited about learning Italian, that enthusiasm will pull you to your desk, even on days when you don’t really feel like it.

When you’re motivated, it’s easier to overcome the obstacles that normally get in the way of learning a language, like lack of time or tiredness. As the saying goes:

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse.

That’s why motivation is number 1 on our roadmap.

Before you start learning Italian, take some time to get excited about it. Think about all the awesome things that will happen when you speak Italian, and come back to them whenever you need a motivation top-up.

If you need a little inspiration, here are my top 3 reasons for learning Italian:

You’ll experience the real Italy

Italy is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and with good reason! With stunning countryside, Mediterranean beach towns, a rich history and arguably the best food and wine in the world, Italy has a lot to offer.

But if you don’t speak the language, it’s difficult to get out of the tourist bubble.

You’ll get so much more out of Italy if you understand and speak a bit of the language. It’s all part of the experience: laughing with the waiter, chatting to a little old lady on the train (with the help of a few gestures!) or playing with Italian kids at the beach. When you have a go at speaking Italian, you’ll come away with better holiday memories.

Even a handful of phrases can help you feel like a local. It’s a great feeling when you can order a meal or ice-cream in Italian and they understand what you’re saying.

You can also get insider recommendations from Italians about the best places to go in their town – no more frozen pizza and reheated pasta at tourist restaurants!

When you have a go at speaking Italian, you’ll come away with much better holiday memories. You can get to know some of the locals and you’ll feel more confident wandering away from tourist areas.

You’ll get to hang out with Italians

There’s an Italian saying: “il dolce far niente”, which means the sweetness of doing nothing.

Italians are masters of the art of living: most have a relaxed pace of life and love meeting new people. This is a huge plus when it comes to making Italian friends and practicing italiano with the locals.

When you have a go at speaking, Italians are usually patient and friendly. And many feel more comfortable speaking Italian compared to English (especially in small towns and villages). This gives you a real reason to use your Italian, which helps you learn faster.

Italian people know what’s important in life: they’re not constantly running from one thing to the next and they always have time for you. This is a huge plus when it comes to practising italiano with the locals!

You’ll feel a little bit Italian, too

Romantic, musical, expressive – people often say Italian is the most beautiful sounding language in the world. When you learn Italian, you can have loads of fun getting into the role and trying to adopt the distinctive accent.

 

2. Learn essential Italian phrases for travellers

Hopefully you’re now feeling excited about learning Italian and ready to get started. Before we dive into the details like grammar and pronunciation, it’s a good idea to get some essential phrases under your belt so you can communicate straight away.

Don’t worry if you say things a bit wrong, or you can’t understand what people are saying back to you yet – that’s normal at first!

Getting started is the hardest part. If you’re willing to have a go at using basic phrases, everything else will feel easier from there. And Italians will appreciate it if you make a little effort to communicate in their language! 

Phrases like “where is…”, “how much…?” and “can I have..?” will take you a long way. Once you learn the basic structure, you can adapt them to say loads of different things in Italian. 

For example, when you know how to say “can I have” = “posso avere”, you can use it to ask for anything anywhere: the bill in a restaurant, a pillow in your hotel, a ticket on the train… All you have to do is look up the name of the thing you’re asking for. 

Here are a few Italian travel phrases to get you started.

Essential Italian travel phrases

Dov’è…? = where is…?

Dov’è il bagno? = where’s the toilet?

Dov’è la stazione? = where’s the station?

Quanto costa? = how much does it cost?

Quanto costa il caffè? = how much does the coffee cost?

Quanto costa la pizza? = how much does the pizza cost?

Posso avere….? = can I have?

Posso avere il conto?=  can I have the bill?

Posso avere il menù? = can I have the menu?

Posso avere un caffè? = Can I have a coffee?

 

Numbers

Numbers are usually one of the first things people learn and with good reason – they pop up everywhere! From buying things to asking about public transport, you’ll need to master numbers if you want to get by in Italian.

You can learn how to count to 100 in Italian with the 5 Minute Italian episodes below.

 

Learn more Italian with fluency phrases

When you start speaking a language, it’s normal to have communication breakdowns, for example, when you don’t know a word, or when you don’t understand what someone just said.

With the right strategies, you can actually turn these moments into opportunities to learn more Italian.

Imagine you go into a bakery and you see a delicious pastry, but you don’t know what it’s called. You have two options:

  1. You can point and say “one of those please”.
  2. You can point to it and ask the barista in Italian “come si dice quello in Italiano?” (how do you say that in Italian?)

Most Italians will respond really well to this kind of curiosity. Once you open the conversation in this way, you’ll probably get the chance to chat to them a little more, and learn new words in the process!

There’s nothing wrong with using English when you get stuck, but the more you can use Italian to manage communication breakdowns, the longer you can keep the conversation going.

And the longer you can keep the conversation going, the better you get at speaking Italian.

Here are 5 fluency phrases that will help you turn communication breakdowns into opportunities to learn more Italian:

  1. How do you say X in Italian? = Come si dice X in Italiano? 
  2. Sorry, I didn’t understand. = Scusi, non ho capito.
  3. Could you repeat that please? = Potrebbe ripetere per favore?
  4. Could you speak slower please? = Potrebbe parlare più lentamente per favore?
  5. Can we speak in Italian? I’d like to learn. = Possiamo parlare in italiano? Vorrei imparare.

 

Want to learn more Italian so that you can get by in in Italy? In the 5 minute Italian podcast, you’ll learn how to deal with a common travel situation each week, like buying ice-cream or getting from the airport to your hotel.

Click here to subscribe to 5 Minute Italian on itunes.

 

Speak and understand Italian faster by joining 5 Minute Italian

Become a 5 minute Italian member to get bonus materials including quizzes, flashcards and cultural tips, as well as invites to online speaking workshops. It’s free to join.

Click here to become a 5 Minute Italian member.

 

3. Going into detail: Italian grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation

Now you’ve picked up some basic Italian phrases, it’s time to learn about the big 3: grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. 

At this point, it’s a good idea to get yourself a beginner’s textbook or audio course and work though it systematically so you can build up a foundation of these 3 aspects. Michel Thomas and Assimil both have great Italian courses for beginners.

This section will give you an overview of the main things you need to know about Italian grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, together with tips on how to learn them effectively.

You’ll be pleased to know that these aspects of Italian are relatively easy for English speakers compared to languages like German, Russian or Chinese because:

      • Italian grammar is simple-ish (no complicated case systems!)
      • 1000s of Italian words are similar to English
      • Italian pronunciation is quite straightforward: there aren’t many new sounds to learn and the spelling system is simple.

Italian grammar: How is it different to English?

In this section, you’ll learn about two very important features of Italian grammar which don’t exist in English:  verb conjugation and the difference between masculine and feminine words. 

 

Verb conjugation

Verb conjugation is just a fancy way of describing how verbs change depending on who’s doing the action (just in case you need a little reminder, verbs are words which describe actions or states, like jump, speak or be).

We can see this with the verb “be” in English: we say “I am” but “you are“.

But the verb be is actually a bit of an exception in English. Normally we don’t change the verb much, apart from in the third person.

To speak

I speak

You speak

He/she speaks

We speak

They speak

Italian verbs

Italian, on the other hand, uses looooads of verb conjugations. Here are a couple of examples (click below to listen to the pronunciation):

Essere = to be

Io sono = I am

Tu sei = you are

Lui/lei è = he/she is

Noi siamo = we are

Voi siete = you all/both are

Loro sono = they are

Parlare = to speak

Io parlo = I speak

Tu parli = you speak

Lui/lei parla = he/she speaks

Noi parliamo = we speak

Voi parlate = you both/all speak

Loro parlano = they all speak

If you’re observant, you may have noticed that there are 6 forms of the verb in Italian, while English only has 5. That’s because Italian has a plural “you” that’s used for when you’re speaking to more than one person. It’s a bit like saying you both/you all/you guys/y’all.

If you want to learn more about the Italian plural “you”, you can listen to 5 minute Italian episode 4: excuse me, do you speak English? and episode 24: how to order food in Italian.

 

Little by little

For many learners, verb conjugation is the most intimidating thing about Italian: one look at a list of Italian verbs and you might worry that you’ll never fit it all in your brain.

But you will.

Little by little is key.

And it’s not as complicated as it seems. Most verbs follow one of 4 patterns, which don’t take too long to learn. It’s true that there are quite a few irregular verbs, but many of these are similar to other irregular verbs, so you can learn them together in groups.

Importantly, don’t feel like you have to learn all the verbs at once. Focus on the ones you’ll use the most, then learn the others gradually as you go along.

 

Masculine and feminine words

The Italian word for “female friend” is:

“Amica

But for a “male friend”, it’s:

“Amico

Italian has gender, which means that nouns can change based on whether they are masculine or feminine (just in case you need a little refresher, nouns are words which describe people, things and places).

Feminine words often end in “a” and masculine words often end in “o”.

Here are some more examples:

Female Male
Ragazza (girl) Ragazzo (boy)
Bambina (female child) Bambino (male child)
Fidanzata (girlfriend)

Fidanzato (boyfriend)


The word for “a”, as in “
a girl” or “a boy” also changes depending on whether the word is masculine or feminine. To say “a girl” in Italian we say una ragazza, while to say “a boy”, we say un ragazzo.

The funny thing is, languages with gender use the same system for objects, like chairs and books.

In Italian, a chair is feminine: “una sedia”.

While a book is masculine: “un libro”

This can feel a bit strange at first – how can a chair be feminine and a book be masculine? 

Gender isn’t based on any logic about whether things have “feminine” or “masculine” qualities.

When it comes to learning the gender of objects,  just think of the words as being split into two arbitrary groups: masculine and feminine. When you know which group the word is in, it will help you make decisions about the grammar, like whether to use the word “un” or “una”.

How can you remember which group a word belongs to?

Try using imagery. For example, you could imagine “una sedia” as pink chair with a bow on it and “un libro” as blue book with a moustache on it (of course if you prefer to avoid gender clichés, you can choose different images!)

 

Common mistake alert! Prepositions

Prepositions are little words like “in”, “over”, “on”, “off” and “for”.

They’re not always logical: for example, if a light “goes off” it means that the light stops, but when an alarm “goes off”, the sound starts!

Because they’re not always logical, they vary a lot between languages. Here are some differences between Italian and English:

  • Italians don’t say “welcome to Italy”, they say welcome in Italy: benvenuti in Italia.
  • Italians don’t say “on the TV”, they say “in the TV”: in TV.
  • Italians don’t say “in the papers”, they say “on the papers”: sui giornali.

Italian learners often struggle with prepositions. But if you pay attention to them from the beginning, you’ll have a much better chance at getting them right in the long run.

Italian vocabulary: how to remember Italian words and phrases fast

Learn the words which are similare

One of the best things about learning Italian is that a lot of the words are very similar to EnglishIn fact, when you start learning it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to notice that you can already say loads of Italian words by simply saying English words in a hammy Italian accent. Similare (pronounced sim-ill-ar-ray) is one example – no prizes for guessing what it means!

How do you say fantastic in Italian? Try to say it in your best Italian accent.

If you guessed fantastico, you were right!

There are 1000s of words like this, and they’re handy because you can start using them almost straight away when you learn Italian. To learn some simple rules about how to convert English words into Italian, listen to 5 Minute Italian episode 1: Why Italian is easier than you think 

 

Coke for breakfast: Remember Italian words and phrases with memory hooks

What happens when you drink cola for breakfast? The combination of sugar and caffeine gives you an energy boost and you spring into action.

Colazione

You’ve just learnt the Italian word for breakfast, using a technique called mnemonics: a memorisation strategy inspired by the ancient Greeks and endorsed by memory champions as the most effective way to quickly remember large amounts of information.  The trick is to create a little memory hook, by linking the sounds and meaning of the new word to words you already know. 

Let’s learn another one. Imagine you’ve planned to go for a walk with your friend Arthur. He knocks on the door and you shout “come in Arthur” = kam-in-ar-ta.

Camminata

You’ve just learnt the word for “walk” in Italian.

If you want to remember new words quickly in Italian, try creating memory hooks like the ones above. Get creative – the sillier the image, the easier it is to remember!

It might take you a little while to come up with memory hooks at first, but the more you do it, the quicker you’ll get. And it will save you a lot of time and effort in memorising Italian words.

Italian pronunciation: why it’s easier than you think

Say what you see!

Italian pronunciation is relatively straightforward compared to many other languages, especially when you take into account the spelling system.

English has a complex spelling system where different combinations of letters can be pronounced in many ways. To demonstrate this point, George Bernard Shaw once pointed out that the word fish could be spelled “ghoti.”

gh = /f/ as in enough.

o = /i/ as in women

ti= /sh/ as in nation

Luckily for us, Italian has a very phonetic spelling system, which means that most letters can only be pronounced in one way. Once you learn a couple of spelling rules, you’ll be able to pronounce the words you read without difficulty.

 

The Italian spelling system: C and G

One of the rules you’ll need to learn is the pronunciation of C and G, as it’s not always the same as in English.

Generally, C is pronounced as a hard K sound, like in the word cake. Similarly, G is usually pronounced as a hard G sound, like in game.

Examples you may recognise

Carbonara

Origano

The same rule applies when C and G are followed by the letter “h”.

Examples you may recognise

Spaghetti

Gnocchi

However, when you see C followed by the letter I or E, it’s pronounced as a soft C sound, (like the ch sound in the English word chocolate).

Examples you may recognise

Cappuccino

Pancetta

Likewise, when you see G followed by the letter I or E, it’s pronounced as a soft J sound, (like the j in jeans)

Examples you may recognise

formaggio (cheese)

gelato

If you want to learn more about how to pronounce C and G in Italian, and hear some more examples, listen to 5 Minute Italian episode 11 and episode 12 on how to pronounce an Italian menu.

 

How to roll your Rs in Italian

You’re probably already familiar with the fact that Italian has a rolled R sound. Some people can do it naturally, but for others, it takes a bit of work.

I used to really struggle with the rolled R. In fact, I had just about given up, until one of my Italian teachers insisted that I could learn to do it. She was right! I practised and practised and practised until eventually, I managed it. 

So don’t get discouraged if you were born without this skill – most people can learn with the right techniques.

If you want to find out how I learnt to roll my Rs in Italian (and a quick trick to make your R sound more Italian even if you can’t roll it), listen to the tutorial below.

 

The smiley L

Another Italian sound which may be new to you is the smiley L (known formally as the palatal L). When you see the letters gli together, as in famiglia, it’s pronounced similar to an L sound, but instead of putting the tongue tip behind your teeth (like in the English one) you spread the whole tongue out across the roof of your mouth. If you smile when you say it, it helps to put the tongue in the right position, which is why we christened it the smiley L.

This sound is much easier to learn when you can hear it being pronounced and get some examples. Listen to the tutorial below for tips on how to pronounce the smiley L in Italian.

 

The smiley N

Italian also has a smiley N sound. When you see the letters gn together, as in lasagne, smile, push the whole tongue flat against your mouth (like in the smiley L) and try to make a N sound.

As with the smiley L, it’s much easier to learn with audio instructions and examples. Listen to the tutorial below for tips on how to pronounce the smiley N.

 

Common mistake alert! Double consonants

In Italian, when you see two of the same consonants in a row, you should make that sound longer. For example, the word “sono” (which means I am) has a single consonant: “n”, while the word “sonno” (which means sleep) has a double consonant: “nn”. The “n” sound is held for longer in the latter.  

Can you hear the difference?

Don’t worry if these words sound very similar at first, with practise, you’ll be able to differentiate them. 

Many foreigners continue to mix up single and double consonants, even when they speak Italian very well. If you pay attention to them right from the beginning, you’ll have a much better chance of getting it right in the long run (in fact, I wish someone had given me this advice when I first started learning Italian!) 

 

Common Mistake Alert! Not pronouncing the vowels properly

In English, we don’t always open our mouths fully to pronounce the vowels.

For example, in the word “responsible”, the letter “i” is pronounced as a kind of lazy “e” sound, which is produced with the mouth and tongue in a completely relaxed position. In the phonetic alphabet, it’s represented with the upside down ə sound (called the schwa).  

responsəble

However, Italian vowels are always pronounced fully. Can you hear the full “a” sound in the Italian version?

responsabile

The lazy “ə” sound doesn’t exist in Italian, so be sure to pronounce each vowel fully.

 

Time for some action: how to achieve your goal of speaking Italian

So far so good. You’re excited about learning Italian, you’ve got some essential phrases and you’ve started learning about the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. You even know which common mistakes to look out for.

But there’s one last step.

If you want to make real progress in Italian, it’s important to turn your good intentions into actions.

As Leonardo da Vinci says:

Being willing is not enough; we must do.

In this section, you’ll learn 4 strategies that will help you take action and get you closer to your goal of speaking Italian.

 

Use it or lose it

Bear in mind that no textbook or audio course will give you everything you need to speak Italian.  

Textbooks teach you a lot about the language, but they don’t really help you use it in real life. Think of them like a book on how to play the guitar. It gives you a lot of useful information, but unless you actually put your hands on the guitar, you’ll never be able to play.

If you want to be able to use Italian in real life situations, you need to practise first. Practising helps you turn the Italian words and phrases you learn in books into active knowledge that you can use to communicate with Italians.

If the idea of speaking straightaway makes you feel nervous, don’t worry. You don’t have to walk up to an Italian and start talking after your first lesson. There are other ways to practise using your Italian:

  • Take the new words and grammar points you learn in your textbook and try using them to write sentences about your life.
  • Write a diary entry about your day.
  • Talk to yourself in Italian in your head: What are people around you doing? What objects can you see?
  • Practise speaking with a language exchange partner or conversation tutor. If you don’t feel comfortable attempting conversation yet, you can tell them about new words or grammar points you’ve learnt and ask them to give you examples of how they’re used in real life.

These activities help you connect what you learn to real life, which makes them easier to remember.

If this feels tricky and you make lots mistakes at the beginning, don’t worry. It’s a normal part of being a beginner. The most important thing is to start – that’s how you get better!

Join 5 Minute Italian to get lots of beginner-friendly opportunities to practise, including:

  • Speaking workshops, where we’ll help you get over nerves and have a go at speaking Italian.
  • Access to our private Facebook community where you can practice chatting to other learners in Italian and get personal feedback and corrections from Italian teachers.

If you’re ready to take your Italian to the next level, click here to join 5 Minute Italian. It’s free. 

 

Get into the habit of learning Italian

In January, around 35% of people in Britain go on a diet. 

By February, most have given up.

When it comes to goals like losing weight or learning a language, most of us start full of optimism, only to run out of steam a few days or weeks later. This happens because willpower is a limited resource: when it runs out, we fall back on old habits, like eating peanut butter out of the jar (just me?). 

Even if you’re really committed to learning Italian at the beginning, your determination might fizzle out somewhere down the line.

You probably know that the best way to learn Italian is to study regularly over a sustained period, but that’s not always easy when your willpower waxes and wanes. The key to solving this problem is to make Italian a habit. Once you’re in the habit, learning Italian feels natural, so you don’t have to rely on self-discipline all the time. 

Here are a couple of things you can do to get into the habit of learning Italian:

  • Find little ways to introduce Italian into your daily routine. For example, you could listen to a podcast at breakfast, read a book on your commute, or review vocabulary while you’re waiting for your computer to load. 
  • Start small: just as bad habits can be difficult to break, good habits take time to make. Start with something so easy you can’t say no to, like 5 minutes a day. Then add an extra minute each day. Built up gradually until you find a length of time that a) slots easily into your daily routine and b) feels like you’re making good progress.

Related: Language Learning Habits: How to Learn a Language Better by Doing Less

Find a community

Science shows that if you work towards a goal as part of a group, you’re more likely to achieve it, compared to if you try going it alone. Joining a group of people who are learning Italian helps you learn faster for a couple of reasons:

  1. If you study alone, it’s easy to make excuses in your head and slack off. Teaming up with others who are learning Italian makes you accountable to other people, which gives you an extra push.
  2. The group gives you moral support, opportunities to practise and practical advice that will help you progress quicker.

Community is a powerful thing: if you’re serious about learning Italian, joining a group will help you succeed.

 

Join 5 Minute Italian (it’s free!)

If you want to learn basic Italian fast, you’ll get the exact steps and support you need by becoming a 5 Minute Italian member

Sign up to get all the bonus materials for free including:

– A weekly podcast, where you’ll learn how to deal with Italian travel situations.

– Quizzes and interactive tasks, so you can practise using what you learned.

– Flashcards to help you review and remember words and phrases.

– A “when in Italy” section with cultural tips.

– Lifetime access to our private Facebook community, where you can team up with your classmates and practise using your Italian.

– Italian teachers who are available to answer your questions 

– Invites to live workshops, where we’ll help you start speaking.

Click here to join 5 Minute Italian for free