5 Tools That Helped Me Learn Italian

In November of 2018, my family and I moved to Milan, Italy from Southern California. We had known for a few years that there was a possibility we would make the move so I prepared as best I could. One of the ways I prepared was by learning Italian. It was important to me that I be able to speak Italian fluently. I wanted to be able to adapt to my adopted country and navigate my everyday life without the fear of not being able to communicate. I also wanted to develop genuine relationships which, of course, requires in-depth conversation. 

At first, learning a new language seemed daunting. I struggled to make time to study. As a busy mom, I found it really hard to carve out time to attend a class. I eventually did attend a class at my local Italian Cultural Center but to be honest I found the following five tools more engaging and convenient. Classes and textbooks are certainly helpful but they’re not the end-all. For me, the combination of apps, online lessons, and podcasts proved to be very helpful. I loved that I could listen to a podcast while I did dishes or folded laundry. Using an app while I sipped my morning coffee or waited in line at the grocery store helped me maximize my time. I hope you find these tools helpful as well!

“Una nuova lingua è una nuova vita.”

1. Duolingo

Duolingo is a language learning website and app that offers free language lessons. I started using the free app years ago when it first came out. It was the first language app I had ever used. It’s engaging but weak on grammar instruction. I think this is a great place to start if you’re just beginning to learn Italian but I would not recommend this be your only method of learning. If you want ad-free lessons, offline access, and more lessons available, you’ll have to buy Duolingo Plus for $9.99 (US) a month.

2. Babbel

Babbel.com – I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of Babbel. It’s a website and an app for language instruction. I love this app! I really appreciate the progressive lessons, grammar lessons, and wide variety of topics including culture, idioms, business phrases, and more. Their listening and speaking lessons are fantastic. Overall it’s well worth the price. You can use it on as many devices as you want! They offer different payment options. The best deal is a year subscription for $83.40 (US). If you prefer a shorter subscription period, they have multiple options (6 months, $44.70, 3 months $26.85, and a monthly membership for $12.95). Once I started using Babbel on a daily basis for 20 to 30 minutes a day, my Italian skills took off. The format makes it easy to be consistent in learning on a daily basis.

3. Coffee Break Italian Podcast

Coffee Break Italian Podcast – Radiolingua.com is a language learning website that offers online courses for a fee and free podcasts. They have great resources for beginner and intermediate learners. Their podcast focuses on grammar and conversation. I appreciate their format of listening to a conversation then hearing the English translation with a grammar explanation.

4. Italiano Automatico Podcast

Italiano Automatico Podcast – Alberto Arrighini is a young, twenty-something Italian who is passionate about teaching others his mother tongue. Once you get past a beginner level, I highly recommend Alberto’s podcast. He also has a youtube channel and a website. He succeeds at producing content that is entertaining and very useful. Alberto steers away from traditional methods and prefers to talk about everyday subjects and includes members of his family in his shows. Listening to him talk to his Nonna about her childhood and various subjects is priceless. 

5. Preply

Preply.com – This is a language tutoring website. Via their platform, you can pay for personal tutoring in just about any language. Once I arrived in Italy I wanted to continue taking lessons and opted for private online lessons via Preply.com. You can browse from a list of tutors and try a lesson for free before committing, just be sure to select a native speaker. I was surprised at how many Russians want to teach Italian! I found a great tutor from Rome who is very well qualified. During lockdown here in Italy I used the time to increase lessons with my tutor and asked her to focus on the areas I struggle with, namely the congiuntivo! Of course, the obvious benefits of tutoring via the web are that I can choose a time that is convenient for me and I don’t have to leave home. Prices range depending on the tutor. The more experienced and better-rated tutors cost more but in general, it’s very affordable. 

Learning a new language is an ongoing endeavor that takes time and dedication, but it’s made easier with these helpful tools. Wherever you’re at in your Italian language learning, I wish you success! Buon lavoro! 

  1. Similarly, i also moved to the US with small children from italy. I did speak English already, … i mean “English”, but in the US nobody understood my accent, nor what a “lift” (elevator) was, and i didn’t understand that sidewalk was the equivalent of pavement, and so on…
    i needed to built my dictionary, but back then there were no Apps, never mind cell phones. But bookstores were plenty! At every occasion i would go to a book store and read all the books about self improvement. Like “how to become a good mother in six weeks” and the like … they required no thinking, but had a lot of adjectives, improper nouns, and expressions.
    The second main source were the TV re-runs; from I love Lucy, to Full House, to Night court.
    I made it without “General Hospital” and “Dallas” I could not take those!
    Somehow i made it. I thought i never got a real American accent, but when in NYC people detect (or they used to), my accent as a Washingtonian.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I can imagine how difficult that was for you. We have similar methods! I watch Italian cooking shows. I figure I can learn more Italian and get some great recipes!

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