5 Steps to Learning Italian More Easily & Effectively (and mini Italian vocabulary lesson)
We all know that (for most people, anyway) learning a second language does not happen overnight. Actually, for most people, learning a first language doesn't happen overnight either... as a rule it takes several years (the first couple comprised of more listening than anything) and lots of practice and mistakes. Being an Italian language lover and making it my "lavoro" as well as passion to help make the process of learning Italian as easy and effortless as possible for others, I've reflected a lot on this observation and come up with some ideas for making learning Italian easier and more effective.
Here are some ideas that you may find useful. Everyone is different and learns in his or her unique way, so please let what what draws and feel right to you be your ultimate guide. I simply offer a few suggestions that may or may not strike you. Take 'em or leave 'em! And, In bocca al lupo!
1.) Pace Yourself (Listen to Nonna...)
I've found that it can be easy for some of us to fall into Italian burnout: Studying fast and furiously and then giving it up, only to restart again and again but never feeling like progress is being made. It may be helpful to think long-term and pace yourself. I've noticed that the Italian students who tend toward the weekly 3-hour "cram" session the night before their Italian lesson in general do not progress as well over the long haul as those who commit to a short Italian study session every day — even for just 10 minutes! Think of it like brushing your teeth. Would you wait all week and then do a 2 hour brushing? Ok, maybe that's a little "esaggerato." I also admit that cramming may actually work for some us... for those of us who no longer have those college-aged super hi-flex brains, however, a little Italian language study every day goes a long way. Like my grandmother always said, "Pian piano, si va lontano." Slowly, slowly, one goes far. If you are feeling stuck, reset your study pace to 10 minutes a day and see if it gives your Italian language progress a boost!
2.) Have You Taken Your Italian Audio Vitamins Today?
Maybe it's because of how most of us in the US are schooled in regard to foreign languages. Che schifo! Many of us had foreign language teachers in high school who spoke to us entirely in English and our classwork was exclusively via textbook. Per carità! This would be the perfect formula for anyone interested in "How best to NOT learn to speak a foreign language." If all you are interested in is learning to translate Italian, go for it! Most of us, however, want desperately to learn to speak Italian... we want to travel to Italy, we want to converse and connect with our Italian relatives and friends in the Italian language. Whatever method you choose, if you want to learn to speak Italian, my suggestion is to supplement with as many Italian audio nutrients as you possibly can, on a daily basis: Italian radio, Italian CD's, Italian audio courses (we like this one for beginners: Easy Italian Audio Course for Beginners Set), Italian TV, Italian conversation groups, whatever you can think of! Remember that listening to Italian, even full-speed Italian which you are only catching bits and pieces, actually mimics the effortless way we learned our first language. It's a winner.
3.) Keep it FUN
Let's face it. Learning a new language is a lot of work. (Okay, all you smartie pantses, for MOST of us!) Let me just speak for myself. At the moment I'm having flashbacks of being in natural childbirth class and while I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND about this whole childbirth situation (OMG, what had I DONE?), I LOVED this class. I give all the credit to the teacher who (having had EIGHT children of her own... several AT HOME, to boot) cracked joke after joke about dads-to-be running out of the birthing room to check basketball scores, laboring mothers threatening the lives of all present, and just making what to me seemed to me a most horrifying thing into material for a downright comedy hour, all the while giving us such great, practical advice (that I remembered!). EVVIVA!!!
So, whatever works for your to keep learning Italian fun, I believe, does ease the pain: Bring out the Chianti (oh, yes, that will help!), put on the Rossini, invite your fellow Italophile friends and family, have a party and keep the Italian rolling, like my fun-expert friends Joe and Cindy Russo here.
4.) Verbs, Verbs and MORE Verbs!
Ok, did I just say to keep it FUN? Scusate, ragazzi. This is where your devotion to learning Italian must pass the test of honor. The truth of the matter is, while learning Italian verbs is not necessarily fun, verbs give you traction. And traction IS fun! You start moving more quickly.
Some suggestions (take 'em or leave 'em, Kids): Start with the present and get down (yes, that's memorize) a good 20-30 of the most common Italian verbs. I am talking AVERE, ESSERE, FARE, STARE, ANDARE (etc), in all six conjugations each: (io, tu, etc.). Attenzione: Make sure you've got a good handle on the pronunciation of each word, they can be tricky. Learning the proper Italian pronunciation (both recognizing them and reproducing them) is more important than being able to recognize the verbs on paper, as you will find out quickly with avere, just as one example. A good way to do this (we try to make it easy!) is in our Easy Italian Audio Course for Beginners, Volume 1, which you can find on Amazon and iTunes or included in our beginner's set Easy Italian Audio Course for Beginners Set on our web site which also includes a complete transcript. (Just one suggestion, there are many others, but we like ours of course). From there, if you are stufo of the present and want to pick your next Italian verb tense to attack, I would suggest the simple past / present perfect combination (passato prossimo), followed by the imperfect. Why two past tenses before the future tense? Because you will cover much more ground with them. (Our goal is to save you time). The two past tenses can also tricky to separate out, as we truly do not have an equivalent in English of the Italian imperfect tense. Again, we try to make it easy and lay it all out for you in our Easy Italian Audio Course, Intermediate Set. With verbs, we mean business, amici. And to learn Italian, you need to too.
5.) Hug Your Italian Language Partner
Allora, after the beating I gave you in #4, best to get back to the "Fun"! I've found that for many of us, learning is easier, more enjoyable and waaaaaayyyyy more effective when you are not alone. You have someone to consult about a class you've attended together, someone whose notes may be neater (more legible), and someone to have to account to for showing up for your weekly study jams. I'll speak for myself again, of course, but if I had to rely on my own willpower to show up for workouts, I would be in a sorry state of affairs. Though I enjoy workouts (no, that's not a COMPLETE lie, I do enjoy having DONE them), I honestly cannot say working out is something I ever look forward to. It can get like that with anything, even something we really love... like Italian. So, give it a shot. What do you have to lose?
My wish is that something here may help you and... che crepi il lupo!
Thanks so much for reading, carissimi amici.
Un bacione da Chantal XOXOX
Italian vocabulary glossary:
Lavoro - Job
In bocca al lupo - In the mouth of the wolf (good luck!)
Esaggerato - Exaggerated, "Far fetched"
Pian pian si va lontano - Slowly, slowly, one goes far.
Che schifo! - How disgusting! / How horrible!
Per carità - For Heaven's sake
Evviva - Hurray!
Scusate - You (plural) excuse me
Ragazzi - "Kids"
Attenzione - Be careful!
Stufo - Sick and tired
Amici - Friends
Allora - So
Che crepi il lupo - Response to "In bocca al lupo": The that wolf may croak (good luck again!)
carissimi amici - dearest friends
un bacione - a kiss
da - from