“I’m terrible at learning other languages. I’m lucky to be able to speak my own.” How many times have you heard that? You may even have said it yourself. But for some reason, you’ve come to a point in your life when you need to figure out how to learn Italian. Business? Travel? Friendship or romance? It doesn’t matter – you’ve got all the tools you need to learn conversational Italian, and they’re positioned on either side of your head. That’s right – your ears.
Amazingly, research shows that listening is pretty much all you have to do. Children learn from listening to their parents. In the beginning we listen as babies to the sound our parents make when they speak their home tongue; we don’t understand the individual words, but we sort out the sounds that belong to our language from all other possible vocal sounds. Eventually we begin to attach meaning to certain sounds we hear; your Mother may ask “Where is your nose?” and we touch our noses. Finally we begin to try making some of those sounds ourselves. If our Father or Mother understands our speaking attempts, they will respond joyfully and will reward us verbally. If they do not understand our speaking attempts they will show it in their body language meaning we need to try again until they do. This is exactly how to learn Italian too!
But suppose you don’t have Italian parents, or even a neighborhood Nonni. It’s not too late. If there is a nearby school, university, or online language portal that offers Italian classes, consider taking advantage of the opportunity. But if there’s not, or classes don’t fit into your schedule, choose a good online language program to learn Italian. Make sure it’s video-based; you will never get a authentic Italian accent out of any text book learning. It is a good idea to learn Dostoyevsky by reading it, however when it comes to learn the Italian language then it is not such a good idea!
When you’ve learned some basic Italian words and phrases and got use to the sound of the language, then you must do everything you can to hear Italian spoken by authentic speakers and speak it yourself whenever you can. Try to watch as many Italian DVDs as you can with subtitles in the beginning and then without. Go to see an Italian opera, and try to understand what they’re singing about. Visit your closes Italian restaurant and find out if anyone there spoke Italian; they probably do, and would be happy to chat in their native tongue. If your community has a civic association or an Italian-American club, make new friends. They will be more than delighted to teach you how to learn Italian.
Italian is a dynamic, living language, the language of Dante just as much as it is the language of the Godfather. Learning it will give you a window on not only a beautiful country (which you may sometime want to visit), but on a wonderful culture made up of vibrant people. As you discover how to learn Italian, you’ll find you’ve opened the door to a whole new world.
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