Are you an Italian lover and learner? If so, you probably already know how difficult learning can be sometimes.
In this article, we’ve put together 7 fundamental Italian lessons than will change your approach to the language, making learning more enjoyable and easy.
Davvero? Magari! An adverb is worth a thousand words
If you have been learning Italian for a while, you must have encountered a number of apparently superfluous adverbs. However, if you’ve been speaking with Italians long enough, you have now realized how much they love their adverbs. In fact, some Italians could actually make an entire conversation simply using adverbs (and some gesture, of course).
Adverbs can be incredibly useful in a number of circumstances, as they can help you make statements and show agreement or disagreement, excitement or indifference.
Go back and have a look at your own Italian lessons about adverbs: you’ll now look at them with different eyes!
The vowel is never silent
Italian lesson number one: the Italian alphabet. You’ve been repeating it a hundred times, you’ve grown fond of all spelling exercises and you are now able to spell the longest Italian word backwards. Still, when it comes to thanking someone, that little e at the end of the word grazie ends up forgotten, swallowed by some mysterious alien.
The truth is, the rule here is quite simple: all vowels must always be pronounced. Too bad the devil is in the details. Try to always repeat out loud every new word and make sure you’re pronouncing all the vowels in it. See? Some words sound even different now!
Vocabulary: the more, the merrier
While the so-called Italian common lexicon includes around 47,000 words, studies have shown that only 6,500 words cover for 98% of Italian conversations. For reference, a beginner / pre-intermediate learner knows approximately 1,000 words. Not at all bad, if you consider that the more you get familiar with words, the easier it becomes to remember them!
The key to all Italian lessons should be lexicon: learning Italian is learning its vocabulary.
That’s why you should always look up for words you don’t know, write them down, repeat them out loud and try to use them in context. Those 6,500 words are not gonna grow spontaneously in your head!
Listening: when enough is hardly enough
The great majority of Italian learners complain about listening being their weakness. Well, here’s the good news: listening is a skill one can improve! There are countless resources out there to improve your listening ability. Songs, podcasts, Italian TV shows and movies, news broadcasting and much more.
The rule of thumb is to always perform active listening, rather than a passive one. Examples of active listening include dictation, repetition, word memorization, paraphrasing: any activity that involves the ability of the listener to work on the sounds.
If you’re just too lazy for all of this, try at least to watch movies (in Italian!) with Italian subtitles on, and make sure you understand how each word is pronounced. When you don’t, rewind and replay. Enough listening will hardly ever be enough.
Don’t be shy: speak up!
Speaking a foreign language is a rewarding accomplishment, made of a number of invisible finish lines. Indeed, there must be a reason why the overall knowledge of a foreign language is often summarized with the simple verb « speaking ». Well, the reason seems quite straightforward: your talent to converse in a foreign language showcases your understanding of the language itself and your ability to write and read it.
During all the Italian lessons you will be taking in your life, never be afraid of speaking. Teachers always do encourage verbal interaction in class, yet you can also do a lot on your own. Even if you’re alone, read out loud so that you can hear the melody of your voice: wonderful, isn’t it?
Break the record of broken records
When learning a foreign language, repetition is key. Verbal fluency is built upon the ability of a speaker to effortlessly produce sounds. Well, this is not some magic happening overnight.
As the Latins taught us, the « Divide & Conquer » approach comes right in handy. When practising your speaking, choose a relatively long sentence, but avoid repeating it as a whole at first. Instead, break it into smaller parts (two or three words at most) and repeat those parts separately. You should repeat them again and again until they gently and spontaneously flow out of your mouth. When you feel ready, start building the sentence by putting together the single parts. You’ll sound just as fluent as those guys on the news!
Practice makes proficient
Finally, this is probably the hardest of all the Italian lessons you will ever learn, but it is quite a crucial one. Practice makes perfect, they say. And proficient, we should add.
Studying a foreign language needs, like many other activities, regular practice and exercise. Rehearsing every now and then might work if you’re already a good speaker, but everyday exercise is what will take you to the next level.
If you haven’t started learning Italian yet, here are ten reasons why you should start!