5 Ways to improve your Italian

improve your Italian
me with friends in Rome back in 2008

For all of you learning Italian, I’ve put together 5 ways to improve your Italian using online resources. I use these all the time as I’m always trying to improve my Italian.

Even though I grew up with the Neapolitan dialect spoken at home, I didn’t start studying Italian until I was in my 20s. Up until then, whatever I spoke was a mottled broken dialect, learned all by ear and mixed with English and family members would laugh at me a lot whenever I tried to speak. I’d feel really bad so I just resorted to answering in English whenever someone spoke to me at home in Italian.

In moments when I felt really frustrated growing up, I promised to myself that I would learn to speak Italian one day and learn it so well that I would speak it better than anyone else in my family back in New York. After I graduated from university I took a two-month intensive course in Florence which gave me which gave me a solid foundation of the Italian basics. Then, about 8 years later, I took a 10 week advanced Italian course at the Italian Cultural Institute in London.

Aside from that, I’ve been studying on my own throughout these 20 years. And while I can say I’m an advanced speaker, I’m not close to being fluent and there is still so much for me to learn.  

I’ve also studied and learned Spanish and French, but Italian has always been my greatest love. I love the way it sounds and even how differently it can sound among the different regional accents across Italy. I love its history, how it developed from Latin and the fact that you can speak one version of Italian at home in the form of the dialect, another version of Italian called regional Italian with your peers in the surrounding towns, and then another Italian in school and at work where you have to communicate with Italians across the country.

My Italian has greatly improved living here and being fully immersed, but I’m always learning and my language ability waxes and wanes depending on my mood and how much sleep I’ve gotten.

These are 5 things I do to improve my Italian:

1. Read Italian Blogs and Websites

If reading books in Italian feels overwhelming and requires too long of an attention span, start off with Italian blogs and websites. If there’s a particular region or town that you love in Italy, you can follow their local news websites to keep up with what’s going on. Also Italians love Facebook and use it to get information, so follow some of the pages of those news websites and read the comments on particular posts that are interesting to you. You’ll get a mix between a more formal Italian written in the articles and a spoken Italian in the comments.

For Ischia-related stories and news, I love following Al Tavolo di Amalia, a blog by Laura Mattera Iacono who tells stories about the people who live her, and Isabella Marino’s Qui Ischia that covers more news and commentary about what’s going on around the island.

improve your Italian

If you like cooking Juls’ Kitchen is a fun read full of stories and recipes from Tuscany. She also has an English version of her website, so you can go back and forth to check.

2. Watch Videos on Youtube

In addition to watching movies and TV shows through online streaming, it’s also fun to watch short clips on Youtube.

Camera Café

Camera Café was a sitcom on Italian TV that ran for 6 seasons between 2003 – 2017. Each episode was made up of short 5 minute segments that take place around the coffee machine in the hallway of an office building where the office workers talk about their lives and work troubles.

It’s also fun to watch Italian TV adverts, you can search for ones from 50s and 60s or more recent ones from the 2000s. Just search for pubblicità italiane and youll find loads.

3. Listen to Podcasts

Con Parole Nostre is a podcast by three Italian teachers Elfin Waters, Barbara Rocci and Silvia Perrone. This is a short weekly podcast in which the three friends talk in Italian about various aspects of Italian culture ranging from whether they eat a sweet or savoury breakfast to whether they speak dialect at home. These are fun and informal conversations that can help you develop your ear for conversational Italian.

Morgana podcast with Michela Murgia

Morgana This is a podcast about bad ass women, which are called Morganas, that don’t care about pleasing people and just live their own fabulous lives. It’s hosted by a well-known Italian writer Michela Murgia and focuses on one woman an episode, talking about their histories and what makes them a Morgana. Women include Grace Jones, Madonna, and Zaha Hadid.

4. Instagram

Here are two of my favourite people on Instagram that I love to follow for learning Italian.

Cinzia Ferri as @instantlyitaly on Instagram (also has a website) has daily posts about adjectives of the day. Her Instagram stories are great in that she talks about the adjective and gives examples of how they’re used. It’s a fun informal way to learn new vocabulary and refresh words you aleady know.

improve your Italian

Sara of @mydearItalia has a wonderful Instagram page full of history, cultural references and Italian vocabulary. I’ve learned so much from following her on Instagram and reading her blog. I particularly love her #100Italyfacts.  

5. Online courses

I’ve followed a few Italian free courses on edx.org. Not only are there free online beginners to advanced Italian classes offered through Wellesley, but there are also courses in Italian offered through the Università di Napoli Federico II. I’ve taken some awesome classes on the Italian dialects and Italian language in the world. You can audit these classes for free and are available for a limited time or you can pay for a certificate and have access to the archive forever. It’s all at your own pace and you can watch lectures and read the section.

Let me know if you have other suggestions to improve your Italian, I’m always looking for new ways to practice.

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